The year in Black culture: our favorite albums and movies from 2023

AJC reporters’ favorite movies and music from last year
From left, John Boyega, Teyonah Parris and Jamie Foxx in "They Cloned Tyrone." (Parrish Lewis/Netflix/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

From left, John Boyega, Teyonah Parris and Jamie Foxx in "They Cloned Tyrone." (Parrish Lewis/Netflix/TNS)

As the world looks back at 2023, AJC staff members are taking stock of what mattered in Black culture. In this story and others, we’re reviewing ATL’s year that was, for what it meant for the Black community and what might be next, because what happens in Atlanta never stays inside 285.

In this story, our staff shares the music and movies we loved. Read below and check out the recommendations on films and albums representing a range of Black creativity — some from household names you’ll surely recognize and others you might not have discovered yet.

Let us hear from you: Fill out this form and tell us your thoughts on the year in Black culture, and your answers could appear in a future AJC story.

Happy Holidays!

What album will you remember most from 2023, and why?

Back in 2020, when we were quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Victoria Monét’s “Jaguar” made staying inside more bearable. So when she dropped “Jaguar 2″ a few months ago, I was a part of her unofficial hype team. The album did not disappoint and neither did her concert at Buckhead Theatre. The Atlanta-born artist is nominated for seven Grammys and I’m hoping she racks up a few. Can you believe the VMAs told her she wasn’t ready to perform on their stage? Tuh! — Najja Parker

Lil Yachty is turning to acting in the near future.

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“Let’s Start Here” by Lil Yachty. Yachty went and zigged while the rest of hip-hop zagged during the 50th anniversary year. This album saw the young artist go psychedelic and experimental, pleasantly surprising lot of folks with his versions of “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Awaken My Love.” Folks wrote this kid off years ago, and he’s still here. — Gavin Godfrey

Killer Mike performs at ONE Musicfest at Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Sunday, October 29, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

“Michael” by Killer Mike. Michael Santiago Render really went out there and made the best hip-hop album of the year with a great shot of winning an Oscar, by showing his soul and taking us to church. — Ernie Suggs

Andre 3000′s “New Blue Sun” has been a called a “meditation banger.” It is an album that one can put on from start to finish and feel fully satisfied. Each time you listen, you can hear something new. — Todd Duncan

This is a loaded question for me because there were so many great albums released this year, from Noname to Musiq Soulchild to Ken Carson. I think the one that really struck me the most was Amaarae’s “Fountain Baby.” Weaving pop, afrobeats and R&B, the album sounds like the breath of fresh air I really needed. The Ghanaian-American artist was partially raised in Atlanta, too. — DeAsia Paige

“Magic 2″ by Nas. Count me in as another Gen-X dude who says Nas is the greatest rapper of all time. It’s hard to argue after this recent six-album run he and producer Hit-Boy went on, since releasing “King’s Disease” in August 2020. What I loved about “Magic 2,” beyond the incredible lyricism and the premium beat quality, is that it incorporated the theme of magic throughout the album in sneaky ways, from the intro track featuring famous pimp Bishop Don “Magic” Juan, to song titles like “Earvin Magic Johnson,” an easy, bouncy track that’s clearly inspired by Southern hip-hop. I also loved the usage of that weird quirky music used historically in silent films featuring magicians like Harry Houdini performing their craft. That’s what you hear on the song “Abracadabra,” which had Nas performing all sorts of lyrical dark arts in ways that almost no other emcee would even attempt, with the addition of bass-heavy beats and rap-specific sound styles to keep a proper level of funk. On top of that, hearing Nas with one-time nemesis 50 Cent on the song “Office Hours” was one of my favorite rap moments all year. It’s a short, amazing album that’s light on tricks and heavy on amazement. — Mike Jordan

Which 2023 movie will you remember most, and for what reason?

“They Cloned Tyrone” is a delightful popcorn sci-fi movie that has fun with powerful ideas, with a nod to Blaxplotation movies of the 1970s. John Boyega and Teyonah Parris are so fun to watch in this film. — Todd Duncan

Chris Tucker returns to the big screen in 'Air' movie

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Hmmm maybe “Air,” the film that explores the backstory behind the Air Jordan sneaker. Viola Davis as MJ’s mother, a.k.a. the real brains behind his success? C’est magnifique! — Gavin Godfrey

“American Symphony” was a moving watch. The incredibly intimate documentary follows five-time Grammy-winning artist Jon Batiste as he prepares for his Carnegie Hall debut, while standing by his wife, musician and New York Times bestselling author Suleika Jaouad, as she fights cancer a second time. It’s a lesson on how to navigate the highs and lows of life. Yep, you’ll need a tissue for this one. — Najja Parker

As of right now, “Rustin,” led by the remarkable Colman Domingo, but I am certain that will change to “The Color Purple” by the end of the year. — Ernie Suggs

Probably “Barbie.” I liked all of the messages within the film. The soundtrack was great too. — DeAsia Paige

The panel for the discussion on "Documenting the Movement" was one of many that preceded the premiere of the AJC's first full-length documentary "The South Got Something to Say" at Center Stage on Nov. 2, 2023.

Credit: Lauren Hubbard

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Credit: Lauren Hubbard

Y’all might think I’m capping because there’s a clear bias, but I really loved watching The AJC’s documentary “The South Got Something To Say.” If you’re an Atlantan and love hip-hop but haven’t seen it, you’re tripping. I didn’t watch a lot of movies this year and in general I don’t. I’m one of those folks who re-runs movies I love from years past, over and over again (currently I keep watching “The French Dispatch”). But seriously, you should watch the documentary. The Horne Brothers, our own DeAsia Paige and Ernie Suggs, Sandra Brown and the entire team did an outstanding job making it. It made me proud to call Atlanta home, and even more motivated to defend and promote the culture of hip-hop, especially the kind we make here in The A, and across the South. — Mike Jordan