Words: Dylan Murphy
With a light emerging at the end of the tunnel and shows being announced once again, we’ve curated the 21 albums and projects we’re most excited to drop this year.
With a third of 2021 under our belts, the sun is raising its head again and with it comes a renewed sense of optimism. It’s an open secret at this point that in the absence of live music, big names acts are withholding music until they can tour again.
So in the meantime, artists have been exploring other avenues to stir emotional responses in an increasingly digital world. Denise Chaila lit up the National Gallery of Ireland in a livestream performance that gave everyone a much needed adrenaline shot. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift dropped two surprise projects in 2020, simultaneously breaking the internet and throwing a welcome spanner into the neatly defined experience of listening to music in a global pandemic.
Now, with the world making tentative steps to reopen and the murmurs of live shows growing louder, album rollouts are going into overdrive with the hopes that in the aftermath of their release there will be scope for in person shows.
Looking towards the future, we’ve shortlisted the 21 albums and projects that we’re looking forward to this year. Starting first with bodies of work that are confirmed to land this year but yet to have an official release date followed by the projects that are locked in, ranging from exciting homegrown releases to studio albums from the biggest stars on the planet.
To celebrate his 34th birthday, Drake revealed on October 24, 2020, that Certified Lover Boy would be dropping in January of 2021. Using a nostalgic trailer that recreated his previous album covers, the Toronto spitter had the wheels in motion for his follow up to Dark Lane Demo Tapes. After suffering an ACL injury the Toronto spitter pulled the brakes on the rollout, but did confirm on his Instagram story that it would be landing in 2021.
Supergroups can often fail to live up to expectations. However, Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak. hit the sweet spot with their soul-cleansing ‘Leave The Door Open’ in March of this year and simultaneously built anticipation for one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year.
Despite the mo-town inspired nature of their first effort together, the possibilities for sound are endless.
It’s been nearly three full years since Chicago wordsmith Noname released her sophomore LP Room 25, since then she’s talked about retiring, had run ins with J. Cole resulting in ‘Song 33′ and even started her own bookclub. More recently though, she’s more or less confirmed the next full length album, updating her Twitter bio to say, “factory baby 2021”.
Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro/Afp/Getty Images
Ahead of the release of their fifth studio album ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT NEW MACHINE BROCKHAMPTON frontman Kevin Abstract revealed that another album would follow and it would be the boyband and’s last.
Rejjie Snow appears equally confused as listeners to when his next LP will hit the shelves. Though he shared ‘Cookie Chips’ with the late MF DOOM and ‘Mirrors’ with Snoh Aalegra at the tail end of last year, the release date for the bigger body of work seems no clearer.
In November of 2020, he replied to a question about when his forthcoming album was dropping on an Instagram post saying “the next music related post”. So it’s fair to say the album does exist. After releasing ‘blkpower’ this month, he said, “off the beat album im gonna put out! Lots of sounds this year blessings & light 2 all”. Perhaps at this rate we’ll get two projects before the year is out.
Flatbush Zombies rapper Meechy Darko is up there as one of hip hop’s raspiest voices. He’s been teasing his debut solo project for a minute. Having collaborated with the likes of Freddie Gibbs on Piñata and appeared on Joey Bada$$’s ALL-AMERICAN BADA$$, there’s a palpable demand for an album of his own. He confirmed that it was on the way and would be featuring heavy hitters including Denzel Curry and Rick Ross in an Instagram live a few weeks ago.
Photo: Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Pusha T remained relatively silent in 2020. The Virginia rapper didn’t share any solo work during a difficult year, but did hop on a livestream with Steven Victor to reveal that his new album in its current state features production from only Kanye West and The Neptunes.
“Listen as of right now, it’s only Ye and Pharrell and The Neptunes. That’s it”, he said.
With Kanye producing Daytona in its entirety and The Neptunes behind the classic ‘Grindin’ it’s not hard to imagine why this is a mouth-watering prospect.
Soft Boy Records season is fast approaching. Label co-founder Kojaque is three singles deep into his album rollout, with ‘No Hands’, ‘Coming Up’ and ‘Shmelly’ sticking the landing in tricky circumstances.
With a mooted summer release we’re ready for the debut album from the Irish rapper.
Orla Gartland has garnered a devoted following with the release of her two EPs thus far. 2019’s Why Am I Like This? EP and February 2020’s follow-up Freckle Season have only whetted the appetite for a full-length album from the Dublin songwriter.
Executively produced by none other than Vegyn, John Glacier’s biographical debut project will lift the veil ever so slightly on an act shrouded in mysticism. Having worked with Frank Ocean and JPEGMAFIA, Vegyn will no doubt provide a compelling backdrop for what is a de facto introduction to one of the underground’s most elusive acts.
Photography: Udoma Janssen for Crack Magazine
All we know is Doja Cat’s new full length LP is set for a summer release and if her latest candy-cane sizzler with SZA is anything to go by we are ready for Doja season.
Kobina and MuRli’s soul-cleansing collaboration was a breath of fresh air in 2020. ‘Terrified‘ gave a snapshot of the endless possibilities to the pair’s sound and a mooted summer album is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Like many during the course of the last year, Rushes took some time to slow down and reconnect with his roots. Heading back to Cork, the singer flipped a period of uncertainty on its head and produced Glowchild which is expected to land in the coming months, marking his first independent release and announcing a new chapter for the crooner.
AJ Tracey tided fans over during lockdown with the surprise release of his Secure The Bag 2 mixtape, but shortly after he announced the main course due out April 16th. Flu Game is the follow up to his 2109 self-titled debut album and sees the London spitter link up with the likes of Digga D, T-Pain and more.
Two of Dublin’s finest linking up for a collaborative tape at the end of the month. Expecting slick rhymes, chemistry and head-nodding beats.
Legendary Drummer and afrobeat trailblazer Tony Allen sadly passed at the age of 79 last year.
Since his team have released posthumous collaborations with Skepta and Sampha The Great ahead of his final album There Is No End which will land on the anniversary of his death this year. Featured artists include Danny Brown, ZelooperZ and Koreatown Oddity among others.
India Jordan’s ‘And Groove’ is one of 2021’s most infectious releases. It landed ahead of Jordan’s forthcoming EP Watch Out! which is releasing via Ninja Tune and we’re salivating at the prospect of the project soundtracking beer gardens and a return to normality.
Despite only three official songs to his name, Toronto-based poet Mustafa has been making waves with his meditative songwriting, earning co-signs from Drake and working with the likes of Usher.
His first full-length project, When Smoke Rises is due to drop on May 28 via Regent Park Songs and speaks to the grief of his community and the anger he has to contend with.
Landing via Hyperdub, Loraine James’ forthcoming project Reflection comes after a difficult period without live music that saw the producer pour her emotions into making music.
BBC Sound of 2021 nominee Greentea Peng‘s debut album MAN MADE is set to drop via AMF Records this June. Exploding onto the scene with her jaw-dropping Colors performance, the London-based songstress’s kaleidoscopic take on soul and penchant for blending genres has cemented her spot as one of the UK’s most exciting voices.
Having been in the studio the likes of Dubstep legend Mala and with the album executive produced by long time collaborator Earbuds, everything points towards an exciting and unpredictable record.
Hiatus Kaiyote are returning with their first album in nearly six years this summer after signing to Brainfeeder. The Melbourne group’s new record follows front-woman Nai’s battle with breast cancer and speaking on the record she said:
“When you think your life is going to be taken away from you, it makes you think about who you are… I guess after the breast cancer scare I decided that I needed to prove to life that the offering I have is genuine. My only wish is to live and offer my experience of time and beauty.”