Our Favorite Rap Albums of the Year [2020 in Review]

Written by on December 29, 2020

[ArtByShake]

Earlier than we actually dive into the principle level of this put up, take a second and congratulate your self with a pat on the again, a shot of liquor, a drag from some inexperienced you’ve gotten laying round, or no matter you deem becoming for your self. You made it by means of this hellish 12 months that proved to be tough, exhausting, and past worthy of two center fingers within the air. From the coronavirus pandemic to social justice protests, to a president that did something however lead this nation to the land of milk and honey that it was as soon as proclaimed as, there are greater than sufficient causes to need nothing to do with something 2020 associated ever once more.

However right here we’re. Prepared to show the chapter to hopefully one thing higher. Nevertheless, earlier than we do this, there’s something we are able to recognize about this 12 months and that’s after all: music. Over the previous twelve months, we obtained an important assortment of hip-hop initiatives, lots of which helped us neglect the fact that surrounded us. As we’ve accomplished yearly, the writers for this website have narrowed down the listing of 50+ albums we loved in 2020 to our favourite ten (daring, italics, underline, and emphasis on “favourite”).

A few of these albums function timestamps for us this 12 months. Jay Electronica reminded us that every one issues are potential with the arrival of A Written Testimony with Jay-Z, Westside Gunn blew our minds with Pray For Paris, Freddie Gibbs continued his scorching streak on Alfredo with Alchemist, and Steve God Cooks turned a newfound favourite on the DopeHouse.

Sufficient from me although. Go on and scroll to take a look at our ten favourite hip-hop albums from the 12 months. As soon as once more, these are our favorites. Have I warned you? Sure. Will somebody learn this and nonetheless ask why [insert artist] isn’t on the listing? Sure. Will they specific their grievances within the c-section? You possibly can wager on it. Regardless, get pleasure from and comfortable holidays. – Wongo

FREDDIE GIBBS & ALCHEMIST, ALFREDO
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

I didn’t suppose it might be that simple for Freddie Gibbs to observe up his elegant 2019 album Bandana (with Madlib), however did he ever with Alfredo. Now paired with producer Alchemist, the 2 have made possibly the most effective album of their careers. Gibbs assaults the haunting synths of “God Is Good” with a sinister bounce, earlier than jetting to Miami looking for a “Scottie Beam” with Rick Ross and gliding effortlessly all through “Look At Me.” The tip end result? Alfredo gave the pair their highest-charting album thus far, and their very first GRAMMY nomination besides. – Meka

WESTSIDE GUNN, PRAY FOR PARIS
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

If you understand me, you understand I really like luxurious drug rap in all types. And a visit to Virgil Abloh’s Off-White vogue present in France impressed one among Westside Gunn‘s finest releases thus far in Pray For Paris. Some of the soulful and indulgent rap albums of 2020, Gunn balanced Griselda grit (“George Bondo”) with stylistic exuberance (the album standout “Versace”) and radio-ready sensibilities (“French Toast”). Increasing his vary by inviting DJ Premier, Wale, Joey Bada$$ and even our greatest buddy to the runway, Pray For Paris was one of many prime drops to return from the Griselda camp this 12 months. – Meka

RELATED: Westside Gunn is Embracing the Moment on ‘Pray For Paris’

BENNY THE BUTCHER, BURDEN OF PROOF
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

There’s a motive Benny the Butcher bears the title he does. Nevertheless, if for some motive you forgot, his Burden Of Proof album is the proper reminder. Bringing the identical stink-face-bars to the desk, Benny’s second album obtained a extra trendy backdrop because of manufacturing from Hit-Boy. Because of tracks like “Commerce It All,” the introspective “Thank God I Made It,” and the quotable-heavy “Sly Inexperienced,” Benny’s newest physique of labor is undoubtedly a top-three effort from any hip-hop act this 12 months. And with an extra provide of bars coming from Conway the Machine, Freddie Gibb, Rick Ross, Westside Gunn, Lil Wayne, and extra, it’s onerous to disclaim the fantastic thing about this album. – Wongo

CONWAY THE MACHINE, FROM KING TO A GOD
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Conway the Machine‘s From King to a God is only one of a number of initiatives to reach from the Griselda collective this previous 12 months. And for those who ask me it’s among the best. Whereas there’s no must pit every member towards one another, it’s onerous to disregard the standard of the Machine’s newest physique of labor. His second launch of 2020, following LULU with Alchemist, the album is alleged to be an “appetizer” to his Shady Information debut (God Don’t Make Errors, dropping in early 2021) however FKTG is well a full course meal.

Proper out the gate, Conway is in go mode on “From King,” earlier than buying and selling bars with Methodology Man (“Lemon”), doubling up with “Dough & Damani,” addressing police brutality and systematic racism inside Amerikkka on “Frontlines,” pouring his coronary heart out on “Eternally Droppin’ Tears,” and taking Khrysis manufacturing to process on (the far too quick) “Jesus Khrysis.”

Backed with assist from Methodology Man, DeJ Loaf, Freddie Gibbs, Benny the Butcher, Westside Gunn, Lloyd Banks, and others, Conway excels whereas leaving followers with greater than sufficient confidence that the Griselda rapper will as soon as once more ship the products on GDMM. – Shake

STOVE GOD COOKS, REASONABLE DROUGHT
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

“Hey Mek, it is best to hearken to Affordable Drought when you’ve gotten the possibility. I believe you’ll prefer it so much.”

Shake had no concept how proper he’d be.

Earlier than it’s all stated and accomplished Roc Marciano‘s legacy will likely be perpetually etched within the annals of hip hop, rejuvenating New York’s road rap scene and galvanizing many artists (whereas reminding everybody who he’s on his personal venture, Mt. Marci). Drought is a “full circle” second for Roc: the previous protégé of Busta Rhymes, now working together with his newest protégé in Range God Cooks. Combining Roc’s signature manufacturing with Cooks’ controlled-yet-unhinged brick discuss made for some of the entertaining crack rap albums of the 12 months. Over the course of 12 songs, the God compares his work to Cinderella’s glass slippers (“Rolls Royce Break Lights”) earlier than getting it baptized in a church parking zone (“Bread Of Life”), treats the bottom like a San Diego Padre (“Jim Boeheim”), manufacturers himself because the “Celine Dion of the kitchen” (“Burt & State”), and boasts that he can get somebody to shoot his title right into a detractor’s automotive door… in cursive (“John $Tarks”).

Women and germs: meet my favourite rapper of 2020. – Meka

JAY ELECTRONICA, A WRITTEN TESTIMONY
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Story time.

Roughly twelve years in the past I attended a panel in Los Angeles with the likes of Simply Blaze, Pete Rock, ninth Surprise and some different deejays/producers, after I would see — and in the end converse to — Jay Electronica, who was standing quietly to the aspect. After our dialog, one other attendee requested me who he was. I merely responded, “You’ll know quickly sufficient.”

It might have taken roughly ten years, a number of Winter and Summer season Olympics, and one notorious Roc Nation announcement, however in the end Jay delivered the primary anticipated rap album of the pandemic with A Written Testimony. And but, the primary voice you hear doesn’t come from the reclusive rapper, it’s from the one that signed him all these years in the past: Jay-Z. Uncredited all through the album, Jay trades the Roc chain for a 5-% Nation pendant and acts because the Ghostface Killah to Jay Elec’s Raekwon on eight of the album’s ten tracks. Some have criticized the options, as at instances Jay can seemingly overwhelm his up to date on tracks like “Ghost Of Soulja Slim” or “Shiny Swimsuit Principle” (which has aged like high quality wine, ten years after its preliminary launch). Nevertheless, Jay Elect’s personal affect, his private beliefs, and teachings buoy the majority of Testimony, as the 2 wax poetics about The Final Judgement (“The Neverending Story”), their respective legacies (“Ezekiel’s Wheel”), loss of life (“A.P.I.D.T.A.”) and even Jay’s personal reluctance to drop an album (“The Blinding”). It might have taken 13 years since he first arrived on the scene, however Jay E. was lastly capable of meet these lofty expectations.

Now, can it not take one other 13 years for a follow-up? – Meka

ROYCE 5’9, THE ALLEGORY
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Surely, Royce 5’9 is likely one of the extra underrated rappers within the recreation, however the Detroit legend is lastly getting his flowers in a 12 months the place he dropped off his first self-produced album. The Allegory arrived on the prime of the 12 months and has been heralded as a few of Royce’s finest work. Its 22 songs current Nickel as a real outdated head who’s skilled rattling close to the whole lot a life has to supply. He now returns to ship these classes to listeners in an hour-long presentation with high quality appearances from T.I., Cyhi The Prynce, Vince Staples, Benny the Butcher, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, and extra. Along with all of it, the venture even gifted him a Grammy nomination for “Finest Rap Album” as properly. – Wongo

BODLY JAMES, THE PRICE OF TEA IN CHINA / MANGER ON MCNICHOLS / THE VERSACE TAPE / REAL BAD BOLDY
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Boldy James has been one of many hardest working artists in rap, and the grind paid off in not one, not two or three, however 4 obligatory listens within the final calendar 12 months: The Value of Tea In China, The Versace Tape, Manger On McNichols, and Actual Unhealthy Boldy.

Reuniting together with his My 1st Chemistry Set co-conspirator Alchemist (who’s within the working for the most effective hip hop producer of the 12 months), The Value of Tea In China finds Boldy showcasing his relaxed and virtually conversational circulation throughout songs like “Carruth,” “Surf & Turf” and “Scrape The Bowl” as he took listeners on a trip by means of his aspect of Detroit.

From there, he and longtime producer Sterling Toles breathed new life into vocals first recorded between 2007 and 2010 on the superbly ominous Manger on McNichols (arguably the most effective of the bunch).

In August, James then made his official Griselda debut with the discharge of The Versace Tape, the place he enlisted within the skills of social media personality-slash-beatsmith Jay Versace (who was chargeable for sending us to heaven on Westside Gunn’s Pray For Paris standout “Versace”) – who in flip ran roughshod behind the boards. The tip result’s Boldy flexing over a number of the most soulful backdrops in current reminiscence, from the sexy goodness of “Maria” and “Lengthy Stay Julio,” and the head-nodding burns of “Nu Wave” and the piano-driven “Cartier.” The Versace Tape is that if crack rap met The Rat Pack on the nook of a darkish Detroit road. Plus, “Brick Van Exel” is well one among Mek and my favourite tune titles of 2020.

And if that wasn’t sufficient, James capped off his already good 12 months with Actual Unhealthy Boldy, the place he shed much more mild onto his life earlier than rap over some atmospheric manufacturing from Actual Unhealthy Man. We additionally received one other Range God Cooks function; and who can complain about that? Significantly, thought, Boldy James is in consideration for MVP of the 12 months. – Shake

LIL BABY, MY TURN
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

After a robust breakout in 2018, the next 12 months concluded with out a lot of an look from Lil Child. Nevertheless, 2020 barely received underway earlier than the ATL rapper set to work and dropped his second album, My Flip. Its launch kicked off a grasp Lil Child would maintain within the hip-hop world, pushed by the success of “We Paid” and the plain replay worth of the whole venture as a complete. Once you’re capable of faucet into life’s struggles like Child does on “Emotionally Scarred,” whereas flexing huge muscle on a observe like “No Sucker,” and make all of it a seamless expertise? This author will at all times be right here for it. – Wongo

REASON, NEW BEGINNINGS
Apple Music | Spotify | Tidal

Now, this is likely one of the initiatives many people — particularly people who pledge allegiance to the TDE collective — spent a lot of the 12 months ready for. After a string of delays, REASON’s New Beginnings lastly arrived within the fall and the wait was very a lot value it. The Del Amo native’s TDE debut is a brutally trustworthy story that appreciates the brand new horizons he’s landed upon whereas revealing the fears he holds for the long run. REASON’s pen leaves a streak of fireside on tracks like “I Can’t Make It” and “Fall,” whereas its finest show comes on the outro observe, “Home windows Cry,” a close to five-minute confession to each new artist’s worries and fears as they formally enter the music enterprise. – Wongo

On prime of our Prime 10, beneath you will discover one other spherical of releases all of us respectively rocked with all year long. And on a extra selective be aware, all three of us will likely be sharing our private favorites later this week.

RELATED: Our Favorite R&B/Alt Albums of 2020

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