Updated: Jan 1, 2021
If there's two things we can all agree on in 2020, it's that it was an extremely tough year for a lot of us, and it was also a great year for Hip-Hop. The genre continues to grow and has more sub-genres than ever before, which is evident with this list here. As far as year end lists go, this one here is about as biased and subjective as any you will see. So don't expect to agree with a lot of it!
25. 21 Savage & Metro Boomin - Savage Mode II
Standout track: Rich N**** Shit
Best line: "I just made an opp do the running man
Keep an FN in my Cullinan" ~ 'Slidin'
The highly anticipated follow up to 2016's Savage Mode finally arrived from two of the biggest names in trap. At this point I don't think there's anyone as prolific as Metro Boomin in his lane. The 27 year old Missouri born producer is showing even more sides to his production on this sequel, most notably on the luxurious 'Rich N**** Shit' and the classic sounding 80s Hip-Hop sample on 'Steppin on N*****'. 21 Savage is always showing improvement as a rapper too, being more topical throughout and maintaining the charisma he's known for. Also, who else can say they have Morgan Freeman narrating their album?
24. Freddie gibbs & The Alchemist - Alfredo
Standout track: Frank Lucas
Best line: “Just let me go cause my license, insurance proper, sir
I’d hate to be on the run for smokin’ an officer” ~ ‘Scottie Beam’
Two of the very best at what they do, Gibbs & Alchemist came through with one of the most highly acclaimed albums of the year. I'm convinced that Freddie Gibbs has an unlimited amount of flows in his vault that he can flex on any given track ('God Is Perfect' backs this up). Alchemist provides a rich sound on Alfredo for the most part, but the dark and sinister beat on 'Frank Lucas' is the pick from the bunch. Give them the Grammy!
23. H31R - velocity
Standout track: big luv
Best line: "Try to disrupt the peace and I bet you won't take it from me
I will pull up to your mom and tell her, her baby ugly" ~ 'whatweleftwith'
This is the first project from Maassai & JWords as a pair, known together as H31R. JWords beats are spacey and have an ethereal feel to them, which leave plenty of room for Maassai to show her capabilities on the mic. This album definitely feels like its gone under the radar this year but if you're into experimental rap, then this might be for you.
22. Run the Jewels - RTJ4
Standout track: out of sight
Best line: “One time in the big ‘ole South, lived a lil’ chubby kid with a big ‘ole mouth
Lame writers gave him big ‘ole doubts, now the same lil’ boy in a big old house” ~ ‘holy calamafuck’
Once again, Run the Jewels deliver another strong album after a 4-year lay off. El-P was in his bag throughout this, as he still manages to innovate with his production. Tracks like ‘out of sight’ and ‘holy calamafuck’ raise the bar for all of the producers out there. Of course it comes as no surprise that both, he and Killer Mike don’t waste a single line on RTJ4. They offer their social commentary on the world today, which has them sounding like they’re going to lead the revolution more than ever.
21. Armani Caesar - THE LIZ
Standout track: The Countdown
Best line: “Fuck busting out your windows
Ima put a bomb in your Benz, do harm to your mental” ~ ‘The Countdown’
Griselda’s First Lady breaks down stereotypes of what people expect from females in rap with a very solid debut. Armani’s show stopping verse on Westside Gunn’s Flygod is an Awesome God 2 put everyone on notice for what she’s capable of doing on the mic. She then followed it up with THE LIZ which has now cemented her name as a rapper, and with it she brings enough attitude to cover the state of New York.
20. Rome Streetz - Noise Kandy 4
Standout track: Prophet and a Pusher
Best line: "I been had it clicking, doing numbers like a statistician
Me and you will never match
My swag different, I need the bag fast and that’s tradition” ~ ‘My Reality’
There’s not many guys keeping it as real as Rome Streetz. Noise Kandy 4 is a no nonsense Hip-Hop album with a classic East-coast boom-bap sound, hard bars, and crazy flows. Artists like this are necessary to keep the essence of Hip-Hop alive and Rome Streetz' music keeps that flame alight as much as anyone.
19. Jay Electronica - A Written Testimony
Standout track: A.P.I.D.T.A.
Best line: “They say it was gon’ never happen
but I survived Neverland just like the Jacksons
You never swallow slanderous lies for the devil’s satisfaction” ~ 'Ezekiel’s Wheel'
It wasn’t the album we were expecting after a decade of anticipation but nevertheless (with the assistance of Jay-Z) Jay Elec finally delivered his debut album. It may lack some consistency but there are plenty of highlights throughout. ‘Ghost of Soulja Slim’, ‘The Neverending Story’ & ‘The Blinding’ all showcase top tier lyricism whilst the closing track A.P.I.D.T.A. is one of the most heartfelt songs of the year.
18. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats - Unlocked
Standout track: DIET_
Best line: ‘Know too many n***** that got semi rounds and cold like ice,
Put thorns to your crowns, you go out like Christ” ~ 'DIET_'
This was a match made in heaven between Denzel and Kenny which saw them both elevate each other’s talents to a new level. With only 8 tracks they don’t waste much time - ‘DIET’ & 'So.Incredible.pkg' show the two sides of what they're capable of doing together. A larger project to follow this up would be most welcomed.
17. Navy Blue - Song of Sage: Post Panic!
Standout track: 1491
Best line: "They killing us blind but notice our colour
They televise the demise of our brothers" ~ 'Moment Hung'
Navy Blue a.k.a Sage Elsesser has been making a name for himself as a producer over the past couple of years, but 2020 has seen him really come into his own as both a rapper and an artist. Sage taps into his conscious and speaks on important issues, ranging from personal struggles with his mental health on ‘Self Harm’ to African-American suppression on 'Moment Hung’. He’s even managed to get a Yasiin Bey feature which really speaks for itself. What’s most amazing, is that it feels like he’s just getting started.
16. Pop Smoke - Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon
Standout track: Snitching
Best line: “It’s a ginger ale and Henny day, eased up on the crème brulee,
38’s on the block, a n**** won’t hesitate” ~ 'Gangstas'
Pop Smoke had so much star quality and with his most eclectic album Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, it sounds more like a greatest hits compilation, which is a testament to his hit-making abilities. Pop delivers banger after banger presented in a variety of different forms. Whether it be the hard hitting tracks like 'Snitching' & '44 Bulldog' or the more melodic sounding songs such as ’For the Night’ & ‘What You Know About Love’, the native New Yorker adapts comfortably without ever sounding forced. I'm sure this album will be remembered for years to come.
15. Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin - FlySiifu's
Standout track: Richard Pryor
Best line: "My baby girl was made in the world where welfare was living well
My Pops came to show and tell, I know it well dawg" ~ 'Mind Right'
This right here is one of the most necessary albums of the year. After all the chaos that 2020 has brung, FlySiifu’s offers some resolve and restores peace to the world for its 47-minute runtime. Centred around an imaginary record shop theme, the calming sound of this album is birthed from that of J Dilla, and has credits from notable producers such as Madlib, Animoss and Jay Versace. Siifu and Anakin's contrast in styles manage to compliment each other perfectly.