Out with the old and in with the new. 2009 has come and gone, taking with it some unforgettable music and a few songs we’d rather forget. But 2010 already looks promising with new albums from heavy-hitters including Usher, Eminem, and Drake. While some projects are still uncertain (Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Dr. Dre’s oft-delayed Detox), we’ve put together a list of 10 albums that have us excited for the year ahead. These are in no particular order.
Usher – Raymond vs. Raymond
Usher is back to claim his throne with his first album since 2008’s Here I Stand. Audiophiles have been able to sample the R&B crooner’s sixth album with the leak of several tracks including “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home),” “In My Bag,” “Little Freak,” and the buzz single “Papers,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Songwriter Rico Love has already called the album “classic” and Ester Dean compared it to the biggest success of his career, 2004’s multi-platinum Confessions.
The-Dream – Love King
The man with the Midas touch’s sophomore album Love vs. Money landed on many critics’ best of 2009 lists and he assaulted the charts once again by penning hits for Beyoncé and Rihanna. Yet The-Dream still hasn’t received his props as an artist. Will the Radio Killa, who wed Christina Milian last year, be able to change that with his third album, Love King?
Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
It wasn’t too long ago that Lupe Fiasco told Rap-Up.com, “I just don’t really feel like rapping anymore.” But thankfully the Grammy winner has changed his mind. Last year he fed our appetites with his mixtape Enemy of the State: A Love Story and leaked songs “Shining Down” and “I’m Beaming.” Now hip-hop heads eagerly await the Chicago MC’s first album in over two years, Lasers (Love Always Shines Every time Remember 2 Smile).
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part II: Return of the Ankh
Ms. Badu picks up where she left off on 2008’s stellar New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War with New Amerykah Part II: Return of the Ankh, due February 23. The soul sister enlists The Roots’ ?uestlove (“Window Seat”) and samples Biggie (“Get Money”) on her fifth studio album, which features contributions from James Poyser, 9th Wonder, Sa-Ra, and Madlib.
Young Jeezy – Thug Motivation 103
Although he didn’t release an album in 2009, Jeezy maintained a high-profile with appearances on Rihanna and Jay-Z’s albums, and a spot alongside Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy on one of the hottest tickets of the year, the “America’s Most Wanted” tour. Now the Snowman gets back to making his own music with his fourth effort Thug Motivation 103. Buzz tracks “Scared Money” featuring Lil Wayne and “I Got This (Don’t Worry)” have us looking forward to a cold winter.
Game – The R.E.D. Album
West Coast rap makes a triumphant return in 2010. Compton rapper Game rededicates his life to hip-hop with his fourth album, which boasts production from Dr. Dre and Timbaland. Pharrell recently signed on to executive produce the set and collaborations with Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, and Gucci Mane are already in the bag. We’ll be seeing R.E.D. this February.
Ciara – Untitled
Although her latest album Fantasy Ride was recently released in May, Ciara is already in the final stages of recording her fourth as-yet-untitled LP. Hitmaking duo Tricky Stewart and The-Dream take up executive-producing duties this time around. While she has remained mum about details, Tricky hinted at the project’s direction. “It’s just her returning back to her strongest form.”. “It’s gonna be Ciara at her best. It’s gonna be indicative of how much people love that first album [Goodies] and how people love ‘Promise’ and other records when she’s had those really serious connections.” Tracks include “Gifted” and “Speechless” featuring The-Dream.
Eminem – Relapse 2
Eminem is switching lanes and working with new producers such as Just Blaze and Mr. Porter on the follow-up to last year’s Relapse. Em claims the new album is more “emotionally driven” than its predecessor. And what would a sequel be without bankable co-stars? Dr. Dre and 50 Cent join the cast for what’s sure to be a blockbuster.
Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley – Distant Relatives
While it was originally scheduled for 2009, Nas and Damian Marley’s rap-reggae album should finally see the light of day this March. A snippet of one cut, “As We Enter,” had us begging for more when it surfaced last year. African influences bolstered by appearances from K’naan, Erykah Badu, and Snoop Dogg make this one of the most anticipated joint efforts since Jay-Z and R. Kelly’s Best of Both Worlds.
Drake – Thank Me Later
2009’s hip-hop rookie of the year could easily have the most anticipated album of 2010. Jay-Z (“Light Up”), Kanye West, and Lil Wayne are already on board, but Drizzy is taking his time selecting material for his full-length debut, set for March. “It’s gotta be a real great song.” “It’s gotta be something that I feel is timeless and is better than anything that I’ve ever done.” Will Young Money’s shining star be able to meet the great expectations?