I have problems with Apple’s best albums list, but I love that ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ is No. 1

OPINION: There's a lot of love for Black artists on Apple's top 10 albums of all-time list, and I love that.

Glastonbury Festival 2019 - Day Three
Lauryn Hill performs on the Pyramid Stage on day three of Glastonbury Festival on June 28, 2019, at Worthy Farm, Pilton in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I would love to brick Apple Music’s list of the top 10 albums of all time, but I mostly respect it. There are some mistakes for sure, and my personal top 10 looks different, but overall, I’m not mad. 

Putting “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” at No. 1 is a smart choice. It’s a cohesive album that blends both hip-hop and soul, both rapping and singing and it dives into conversations about romantic love, familial love and self-love. It’s a beautiful testament to Hill’s genius. And there’s Lauryn’s incredible spirit shining through. She was a sister we respected and admired for the way she carried herself and that came through on this album. I can respect Apple saying this is its No. 1 all-time. For my list, I would put Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In the Key of Life” as my all-time No. 1, but putting Lauryn up there is very cool. She made this album to prove to the world that she was a genius and “Miseducation” definitely proved that. 

Putting Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at No. 2 is a mistake because it’s not even his greatest album. “Off the Wall” is MJ’s greatest. “Off the Wall” is a deep dive into disco, and it’s so focused on disco and dance and losing oneself in music that it becomes a singular sonic statement. It’s an album with a thesis where all the songs are there to help tell a single story. That’s what an album is: a cohesive sonic statement about music and sound and where the artist is at that moment in their life. “Off the Wall” is a cohesive statement about disco, dancing and longing for love. “Thriller” is more like a greatest hits album with different sounds, moods and meanings. The cohesiveness of “Off the Wall” makes it a much more impressive piece of art. 

Similarly, I think putting Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” at No. 10 is a mistake only because it’s not Beyoncé’s best album. “Renaissance” is her best album because, like “Off the Wall,” it’s a cohesive sonic statement that tells a story about dance, house, LGBTQ culture and self-esteem in marginalized people. “Lemonade” is extraordinary for sure, but to me “Renaissance” is an even greater achievement.

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I respect how much love this list gives to modern Black music from Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” to Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” to Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” which is a smart take on Black music.

I revere Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Of course I do; I wrote a whole book about Prince. Actually, I wrote two. “Purple Rain” is a massive album that has to be very high on any list like this. That said, it’s a rock album, and I’m just a little more partial to “Sign o’ the Times” because it’s a soul music album. But “Purple Rain” is one of those transformative albums that changed his life and changed the lives of so many of us who were there when it dropped. It was an instant cultural phenomenon. 

What would I put on my own top 10 list? I think it’s hard to do a top 10 like this without including Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which is an extraordinary experience of sound and a brilliant conversation about protesting the Vietnam War. I think Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is an unbelievable musical statement that pushes the boundaries of hip-hop in fascinating ways. I think “De La Soul Is Dead” is another monumental conversation about the boundaries of hip-hop, but this one also dives into what it means to be Black and the group’s reflections on who they are as they grow out of the hippie image of their debut album. I adore that album. We had a deep dive into De La and this album on “Being Black: The ‘80s.” I also think D’Angelo’s “Voodoo” needs to be mentioned in an all-time albums convo like this. It’s the zenith of one of the great soul men of our time. I’d also argue in favor of Radiohead’s “Kid A,” The White Stripes’ “Elephant” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” among others. 

Overall, I dig how this list gives a lot of love and respect to a broad swath of hip-hop from its most artful wing (Frank Ocean) to its West Coast wing (Kendrick) to its most soulful wing (Lauryn). I never need to see outsiders give critical respect to hip-hop because I only care about what true hip-hop heads think about this culture. But it’s appreciated when outsiders recognize the genius of hip-hop. 

Touré, theGrio.com

Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.