Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Soul & R&B Albums

8. SZA
(Top Dawg Entertainment)

In a year that saw Top Dawg Entertainment make a strong push to release material from each artist on their roster, New Jersey-based SZA's Z was the most intriguing of them all. The calibre of TDE MCs was a mystery to no one, with notable returns from ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar on top of a captivating debut from Isaiah Rashad. Z represents the label's first major foray into the world of R&B, one that was made even more delightful through the inclusion of hip-hop and electronic sounds.

Incredibly smooth, soulful production from the likes of Mac Miller, Toro Y Moi, XXYYXX and DJ Dahi tastefully suit the young artist's delicate rasp, which manages to remain commanding all the while. Such diversity could only be expected from one who identifies both Billie Holiday and Björk as influences. The strong crossover appeal results in a satisfying debut from TDE's new R&B poster child. (Calum Slingerland)