It’s been a great year for new music—especially over the past six months. As COVID restrictions started to lift this summer, some of our favorite artists finally released the albums they’d been holding onto. Nearly every week, there was a flood of great new music to sift through. There were blockbuster releases from A-list artists—dueling rollouts from Kanye West and Drake dominated the summer—and standout albums from rising stars like Baby Keem, Summer Walker, and Don Toliver. On any given Friday, we were greeted with long-anticipated projects from veteran acts like Silk Sonic and stunning debuts from newcomers like Yebba.

For brief moments this year, as concerts made a return and major album releases resumed a regular cadence, things even started to feel (a little) normal again for music fans. As we do every December, we put together a list of our favorite albums of the past year. Hand-picked by the Complex Music staff, these are the albums that resonated with us the most in 2021 and defined the year in music. These are Complex’s picks for the best albums of 2021.