Mariah Carey’s 1997 album “Butterfly” saw her continue to veer more into R&B and hip-hop sounds and depend less on the pop sound that she used at the beginning of her career, which began seven years earlier.

Twenty-five years sure does pass fast these days.

It seems like yesterday that President Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office.

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman led the Chicago Bulls to their second straight championship.

The Bulls would wrap up their second three-peat the following year.

Kirk Franklin had taken gospel mainstream with networks like MTV playing his video.

And seemingly, every high school graduating class chose “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly as their class song.

Unfortunately, R. Kelly and high schoolers should have never occupied the same sentence.

But when you know better, you do better.

Regardless, 1997 produced some of the best hip-hop, R&B and gospel music to date.

Therefore, would like to take a stroll down memory lane to three years before the new millennium to honor the 10 best albums of 1997.

Honorable Mention: “Ghetto D” by Master P—Say what you want about Master P’s lyrical ability, but there was no escaping the No Limit Soldiers in 1997 and 1998. The tank took over hip-hop once “Ghetto D” dropped with classics like the title track, “I Miss My Homies” and “Make ‘Em Say Ugh.”

  1. “Supa Dupa Fly” by Missy Elliott—When Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot dropped her debut album in 1997, no one in the industry sounded like her. Before her, female rappers had to wear certain clothes and be a certain size. However, Elliott turned all the rules of hip-hop upside down thanks to her futuristic videos, baggy/crazy clothes and out-of-this world beats from Timbaland. Hits like “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and “Sock It 2 Me” featuring Da Brat still bang to this day.

  1. “Get it How You Live” by Hot Boyz—Before Cash Money went nationwide, they released some of their best music. In 1997, Juvenile teamed up with some of the youngsters from the Cash Money Clique (Lil Wayne, B.G. and Young Turk) and formed one of the greatest groups in rap history, especially in the South. Louisiana and Texas, specifically, were bumping the heck out of songs like “We On Fire,” “Neighborhood Superstar” and “Dirty World.”

  1. “It’s All on U Vol.1” by B.G.—Before Juvenile and Lil Wayne blew up as solo artists, B.G. held it down for Cash Money Records as a solo artist. At the time, he was the best lyricist on the label. On this 1997 release, B.G. released his best complete work with anthems like “Get Your Shine On,” “Uptown Thang” and “Retaliation” featuring Juvenile and Bun B.

  1. “Butterfly” by Mariah Carey—Before the “Butterfly” album dropped, Mariah Carey had shown her love for hip-hop with a Wu-Tang collaboration. But in 1997, she truly merged her golden voice with the sound of the streets with songs like “Honey,” which had Mase and The Lox on the remix. Additionally, “Breakdown” featured Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony, which merged pop with hip-hop. However, she did not totally abandon the ballads that made her famous back in 1990 with classics like the title track and a cover of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones.”

  1. “No Way Out” by Puff Daddy and the Family—Life for Sean “Diddy” Combs in 1997 had to be the most bittersweet time of his life. His solo debut album became an instant classic. However, he lost his flagship artist when Biggie Smalls got murdered in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. But the album remains a banger with such hits as “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” “It’s All About the Benjamins,” “Victory,” “Been Around the World,” and the ode to The Notorious B.I.G, “I’ll Be Missing You.”

  1. “My Way” by Usher—Many artists battle the sophomore jinx. However, for Usher, his second album made him the star that his debut album did not. When “You Make Wanna” dropped as a single, Usher became a star. And that star has not dimmed at all in 25 years. On his second album, Usher Raymond IV also dropped hits like the title track, “Nice & Slow” and a cover of Midnight Star’s “Slow Jam” featuring Monica, which also appeared on the soundtrack to the movie, “Soul Food.”

  1. “Share My World” by Mary J. Blige—The singer from Yonkers, N.Y. remains the undisputed Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Her first two albums were classics. And the hits like “I Can Love You,” “Love Is All We Need,” “Seven Days,” “Everything” and “Not Gon’ Cry” (originally from the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack) kept coming in 1997. The album also boasted features from Nas, Lil Kim, George Benson, R. Kelly, her homeboys The Lox and Roy Ayers.

  1. “Baduizm” by Erykah Badu—When artists like Maxwell, D’Angelo and Erykah Badu dropped their debuts in the mid to late 1990s, a new genre of R&B christened neo soul emerged. When Maxwell and D’Angelo dropped, it turned the urban market on its head. However, when Badu dropped “On & On,” the entire industry took notice, and a superstar was born. The Dallas native also dropped hits like “Next Lifetime,” “The Other Side of the Game” and a remake of Atlantic Starr’s “4 Leaf Clover.” Badu became such a star that her “Erykah Badu: Live” album in 1997 blew up too, alongside the women’s anthem, “Tyrone.”

  1. “From Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation” by God’s Property—Whenever a gospel video gets played regularly on MTV, then that’s truly a crossover blessing. But that is what happened when God’s Property dropped “Stomp” featuring Kirk Franklin and Salt of Salt-n-Pepa. But God’s Property did not stop with one song. While “Stomp” had hip-hop sensibilities, songs like “My Life Is In Your Hands,” “More Than I Can Bear” and “Love” tugged at people’s heart and soul. The mainstream audience and the gospel audience both were with G.P.

  1. “Life After Death” by The Notorious B.I.G.—Biggie Smalls released one album in his lifetime and one album shortly after his death. But those two studio albums (“Ready to Die” and “Life After the Death”) contained some of the best lyricism of any album in hip-hop history. Those two albums got Biggie into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Those two albums, arguably, made Big the best rapper of all time, according to many rap fans. And that second album, which earned a perfect five mic rating from The Source magazine, gave fans classics like “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” “Hypnotize,” and “Sky’s the Limit.” The sky would have definitely been the limit had the Brooklyn, N.Y. emcee lived past the age of 24 years old.
Latest posts by Richard Francis (see all)