2020 been a tough year around the world. It started with Kobe’s death, to fires in Australia, and then the Covid-19 pandemic. There were complete lockdowns, more than a million lives were lost from the virus, hundreds of thousands of businesses shut down, protests rocked the US, Nigeria, Peru, Uganda, Hong Kong and so many other countries. I also experienced a personal loss as my beloved sister transitioned.
As though as it has been, there was still a lot of activity in hip-hop. Especially in the second half of 2020.
Here’s a list of my personal favorites, mostly based on replay value.
Hopefully, you’ll find something to bump in 2021.
Elzhi – 7 Times Down 8 Times Up
The JR Swiftz produced album is an example of excellence in simplicity. It showcases a more confident and at peace Elzhi, who breezes through the tracks effortlessly, resulting in an album with a majority of 5 star tracks.
Roc Marciano – Mt.Marci
One of the pioneers of the newer wave of underground hip-hop returns with 8th solo LP. Roc Marci is never one to disappoint, and as usual always delivers one of the best albums for any year he drops an album.
Common – The Beautiful Revolution (Vol 1)
The veteran MC Common, returns with his best work since 2011’s The Dreamer The Believer.
Accompanied by his August Greene band mates, Robert Glasper and Kareem Riggins, also by singer PJ, the collective manage to craft a soulful soundtrack to the upliftment of black people all over the world.
Curren$y & Harry Fraud – The Outrunners
Supported with stunning visuals by Yuset Rozo and Rafael Medina, the Outrunners is a refreshing listen by one of the, if not the most consistent independent artist and his frequent collaborator.
Action Bronson – Only for Dolphins
Action Bronson has had a very successful career, from having his own food show to appearing in the Irishman with Robert Deniro and Al Pacino. Musically, he stepped off a bit, but has finally gotten his mojo back with the exceptional “Only for Dolphins”.
Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol 3One of the most prolific MCs to ever touch a mic comes with the third installment of his “Streams of Thought” series. Each installment is exclusively produced by a producer. The first was produced by 9th WOnder & the Soul Council, the second by Salaam Remi, and this, by Sean C, of the Sean C & LV fame (Jay Z’s ROC Boys). This one capitalizes on the flaws of the previous ones, and delivers on par with what is expected from the veteran artist.
Conway – From King to God
Griselda Records is always in the building, as shown by their numerous releases and new signees. And Conway tops their releases with “From a King to God”. The production credits and features are heavy, with production from Havoc and Eric Sermon as well as his regulars The Alchemist and Daringer, to features from Method Man and Dej Loaf. Conway does a good job and expanding his sound without losing his element.
Benny the Butcher – Burden of Proof
The Hit Boy produced album is Griselda Records’ artist, Benny The Butcher’s most high performing album till date. It surpasses expectations, and showcases Benny’s range, however, I personally wasn’t drawn to replay it as often as I would have liked. I suspect it has to do with beats not sticking. Songs didn’t linger in my memory, even as I know I greatly enjoyed the album.
Che Noir & Apollo Brown – As God Intended
Che noir has been doing her thing for a while now, but this project with Detroit producer Apollo Brown has increased her radar. Soul always gets me, so once Apollo drops, I show up. Che Noir’s distinct voice and story telling ability gives for a great and fulfilling listen.
KA – Descendants of Cain
KA remains consistent as on his 6th s album, he uses the biblical story of Cain and Abel to tell his own stories through his outstanding writing and calm delivery, plus minimalistic cinematic production by himself, with support from Animoss, Roc Marciano, and DJ Preservation.
Eto – The Beauty of It
Eto has been doing this thing here for a very long time. He fortunately is now able to get top tier producers and artist features to assist him in producing some of his best work. The Beauty of it is outstanding from start to finish, with a few exceptions that don’t upset the overall album quality.
Boldy James & The
Alchemist – The Price of Tea in China
Boldy and Alchemist have done it before, and it was fire. The heat remains as they return for a very unique sounding LP. The vibe created by this two is very hard to replicate, and it trumps also in listenability.
Westside Gunn – Who Made the Sunshine
Westside Gunn had multiple releases in 2020, but this stood out for me, though the featured YouTube video is from his Pray for Paris LP. What I love about West is his confidence in his taste and intuition, the cover art is a drawing by his daugther, his sound is very definitive, and he’s unapologetic about his approach. His self awareness spills allover his work, which gifts hip-hop fans with hard-hitting songs to consume.
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
After Gibbs successful run with collaborative albums with Madlib, and with Curren$y & Alchemist, he shows no signs of changing switching it up. As it’s popularly said, if it’s broke don’t fix it. This time, he collaborates with The Alchemist without Curren$y, to deliver a dope piece of work as expected.
Planet Asia and 38 Spesh – Trust the Chain
38 Spesh is one of the hardest workers in Hip-hop. Producing and MCing, through multiple solo projects and collaborative albums. This time, he teams up with another hard working veteran MC, Planet Asia. On this one, 38 Spesh does the production, and leaves the rapping to Planet Asia. Everything these guys touch is gold, and this project is no different.
Jazz & Vodka – No Chaser + Double Shots
The French and Nigerian, Producer and MC duo return with their third and fourth EPs simultaneously, No Chaser and it’s sequel, Double Shots. The pair’s chemistry continues to strengthen as shown in these EPs.
Nas – King’s Disease
Nasty Nas returns after the very disappointing Nasir with Kanye West. This time, he teams up with Hit Boy to handle the entire production. The collab results in Nas’ freshest work since 2012’s ‘Life is Good’
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
If you watched Netflix’s Ozark season 3 finale, the episode ends with an energetic track with Greg Nice of Nice and Smooth singing his signature “Oh la la, ah we we” from Gang Starrs 1994 track DWYCK, but this time it’s on RTJ’s track Oh la la. The energy on the album is fairly consistent. And RTJ’s fourth album only further establishes them as the standout artists that they are.
Busta Rhymes – ELE 2After 8 years, Busta releases another studio album. The big budget album follows the blueprint of releases before the streaming era, 22 songs, big name producers, and top tier features which include Kendrick Lamar and Mariah Carey.
Sa-Roc – The Sharecroppers Daughter
In her long awaited RhymeSayers debut, Sa-Roc recruits Sol Messiah to handle the entire production, except for the Evidence produced track “Deliverance”. Dope beats to lay dope vocals over, which result in an excellent album.
This list is limited to what I came across throughout the year, as well as my taste in music. If you notice we share similar tastes, I’d recommend you check out most of the list.