Music can be considered one of our greatest contributions to American culture and Western counterparts. Hip hop, soul, jazz, and beyond are artforms that seep from every facet of the creative Black being, offering a myriad of perspectives: self-reflection, imagination, observation, and emotion. Music is a realm where we can thrive and become anything we want to be, including ourselves, and draw acceptance and adoration to make the world feel something. 

Here are our top choices for Best Black Albums of 2023.

Angel Bat Dawid, “Requiem for Jazz”

Jazz clarinetist and vocalist Angel Bat Dawid composed, engineered, and produced this new power work. This high-sensory album, as a whole, is a critique of American racial politics and includes portions of audio capturing neighborhoods of Chicago and enriching sounds of experimental jazz, woven within the penetrating overtures of her chrysalis clarinet playing, driving jazz compositions and thought-provoking interrogation of the treatment of Black American citizens.

Big Freedia, “Central City”

The postmodern queen of New Orleans bounce, Big Freedia has released her sophomore full-length album, “Central City,” nearly 10 years after her debut, “Just Be Free.” This well-produced, anthem-laden record reveals Freedia’s gift of consistency, glamor, grit, and sensibility. Not only is the album fun, high-energy, and full of Freedia’s individuality within the structured bounce space, “Central City” features Lil Wayne, Kelly Price, Faith Evans, and other impressive, iconic, and supportive artists. Freedia deserves it. Her contributions to mainstream music include samples on “Break My Soul” and “Nice for What,” and recreated the blueprint of popular music in the late 2010s and 2020s.

El Michels Affair & Black Thought, “Glorious Game”

The successful house band El Michels Affair, known for their accompaniment and collaboration with Raekwon and, later, other members of the Wu-Tang Clan (and creating the widely embraced cover album, “Enter the 37th Chamber”), teamed up with Philly’s lyricist, Black Thought, to release “Glorious Game.” The smooth, soulful musical tidings of Michel’s tasteful and well-rounded jazzy hip hop sound blends seamlessly with Thought’s wise and laidback flow.

Cécile McLorin Salvant, “Mélusine”

Three-time Grammy Award winner Cécile McLorin Salvant returned this year to release another pristine Grammy-nominated  work of art, “Mélusine.” She sounds like Billie Holiday if Holiday had been born in a small village in France during the Baroque era. McLorin Salvant functions as a beautifully crafted sonic time machine as she channels several centuries, ethnicities, and memories that span from moments ago to the halls of cathedrals built long ago.

Irreversible Entanglements, “Protect Your Light”

A free jazz favorite of listeners from their inception, Irreversible Entanglements (IE) released their Impulse! Records debut, “Protect Your Light.” The group consists of core members: vocalist and poet Camae Ayewa, also known as Moor Mother; bassist Luke Stewart; drummer Tcheser Holmes; and saxophonist Keir Neuringer and trumpeter Aquiles Navarro, who continue their journey into high art creation by composing soundscapes of intellectual and spiritual proportions. IE happens when you bring together five profoundly eloquent, introspective, introverted, accomplished, and emotionally intelligent artists to send musical messages throughout the Universe. This time the message is “Protect your Light.”

This article originally appeared in the New York Amsterdam News.