CWHT’s Top 10 Hip-Hop & Rap Albums of 2020
Aminé’s sophomore album met expectations while simultaneously taking an existential turn towards the serious and morbid that was not present on his 2017 debut Good For You. Limbo showcases Aminé’s impressive ability to make his vocals (which sway between hard-hitting verses and syrupy cadences) effortlessly melt into quirky melodies.
Compensating (featuring Young Thug)
I Can’t Decide
Fetus (featuring Injury Reserve)
9. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats—UNLOCKED EP—Loma Vista
The third EP from Denzel Curry finds the Miami emcee’s persona unbridling itself in real time. I do believe that Alphonse Pierre summed-up this EP best by saying “it’s good, sure. Curry is rapping his ass off. But Kenny Beats’ production isn’t anything new. There are no imperfections, no colors outside of the lines, and with that, it misses some of the heart that makes regional rap special.” In summation, this EP is great to put on at the gym. Throughout the quick and dirty seventeen minute runtime of UNLOCKED, Curry’s harsh vocal inflections juxtapose Kenny’s hyper-polished production.
‘ Cosmic ‘ .m4a
8. Little Simz—Drop 6—Age 101
Little Simz (Simbiatu 'Simbi' Abisola Abiola Ajikawo) solidifies her place as one of the UK’s most talented entertainers. She left us hungry after 2019’s GREY Area, and Drop 6 does a wonderful job satiating us while simultaneously leaving us craving more.The Drop 6 EP reminds listeners that Little Simz is one of the most cerebally empowering and steadfast musicians of our time. This EP is recommended for fans of Noname, $uicideBoy$, Injury Reserve, & Quelle Chris.
Each of them, in order preferably. It’s only thirteen minutes long.
7. Action Bronson—Music For Dolphins—Loma Vista
Action Bronson hasn’t sounded this authentic since 2011, which saw the release of promontory projects Well Done & Dr. Lecter. I genuinely love the rustic piano instrumentals that populate Music for Dolphins. Especially some of the more gravely textures that emerge in the second half. Truth be told, I once again find myself liking his production more than Bronson himself—lush, splashy touches of New York smooth jazz with a lot of horns and warm bass, which might be luxurious with the watery touches, splashy pianos and dolphin squeaks, but it’s not quite giving me enough to get around Action Bronson at the center in the same way Statik Selektah pulled it off with Well Done.
6. Statik Selektah—The Balancing Act—Mass Appeal
Every couple of years, Boston-bred DJ Statik Selektah releases an album to remind us that he truly is one of the greatest instigators of genuine collaboration in the hip-hop sphere. Whereas DJ Khaled cannot waste an opportunity to tell you that “[he’s] da best”, Statik prefers to let the music speak for itself. The Balancing Act is exceptional in that it features legends such as Black Thought, Method Man, and Nas—while also allowing the ample room needed for equally meaningful contributions from hungry contemporary emcees like Kota the Friend. The final result is an utterly organic battalion of North-America’s strongest emcees firing on all cylinders.
Keep It Moving (featuring Nas, Joey Bada$$, & Gary Clark Jr.)
Time (featuring Jack Harlow)
Welcome To The Game (featuring Marlon Craft, Kota the Friend, & Haile Supreme)
5. Princess Nokia—Everything Is Beautiful / Everything Sucks—Self-Released
February 26th saw the release of two albums from New York’s Princess Nokia (Destiny Frasqueri). Each album feels like it could be an entirely different type of concert. These albums are an exercise in gratitude. The brightness of Everything Is Beautiful is only highlighted from the emotional trap needed on Everything Sucks. This is an ambitious interchangeable diptych with the substance needed to pull it off.
Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T.)
4. Spillage Village—Spilligion—Dreamville/Interscope
The extended Spillage tribe shares an intense devotion to craft, making Spilligion an achievement. The arresting full-length is proof of the octet’s intoxicating animus and remarkable artistry.Rapping in animated fusillades, EarthGang’s deviation between conversational deliveries and idiosyncratic singing evokes Stankonia-era André 3000, and their scope has increased as they’ve refined their mechanics.This record is chock-full of dynamically crafted posse cuts.
PsalmSing (featuring Mereba)
End of Days (featuring Jordan Bryant, Mereba & Hollywood JB)
Jupiter (featuring JID, Jordan Bryant, Mereba, Hollywood JB & Benji)
3. Kota the Friend—EVERYTHING—Fltbys LLC
Brooklyn’s Kota the Friend (Radhames Rodriguez) invites the listener on an intimate victory lap on Everything. Kota’s genuine lyrics and non-auto tuned delivery are complemented by horns and undulating chill-wave beats. This is what Chance’s “Big Day” could have been. In a year full of uncertainty and a pragmatic veer towards the pessimistic, Everything is positively alleviating and is a much needed avenue for escapism. Kota really does make you feel like a friend of his with the infectious optimism present throughout his sophomore record.
Long Beach (featuring Hello O’shay & Alex Banin)
Always (featuring KYLE & Braxton Cook)
Everything (featuring HIS LITERAL CHILD)
2. Westside Gunn—Pray for Paris—Griselda Records
Pray for Paris, the critically-acclaimed 2020 release from New York’s Westside Gunn (Alvin Worthy), overflows with renaissantian production and old-school sensibilities. There is not a trap beat to be heard across all thirteen cuts. Such clean production makes Gunn’s distinct voice and contemporary filth register with unmistakable clarity. Lyrical substance ranges from the dark and sultry to the downright disturbing. Even the World Wrestling Federation sample from the Million Dollar Man in 1989 found on ‘Allah Sent Me’ that goes on for too long still feels like it fits.
Party wit Pop Smoke
1. Run the Jewels—RTJ4—Jewel Runners LLC
Killer Mike (Michael [the Brave] Render) and EL-P (Jaime [the Yankee] Meline) released RTJ4 in advance of its intended release date because they felt a strong sense of obligation in the wake of mass civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. As protests across the country swelled to their apexes, the duo released the album accompanied by the statement “Fuck it, why wait. The world is infested with bullshit so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all.”
With a healthy four year hiatus between RTJ albums, the duo had time to make their most succinct and best sounding record to date. Noteworthy collaborators include 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, Mavis Staples, and Zack de la Rocha (of Rage Against the Machine). The thirty-nine minutes of aggressive bass-laden tracks and harsh truths make for a phenomenal protest album. RTJ4 should be written about in the history books post-collapse the same way James Cameron’s Avatar should get a full page; *look at what these people made in response to what the U.S. was doing*
RTJ released their first three albums within a period of four years(2013 to 2016). It is telling of the quality of RTJ4 that an equal of time transpired between the third and fourth album. That said, it still was released early. Right on time, in fact.
out of sight (featuring 2 Chainz)
JU$T (featuring Pharell Williams & Zack de la Rocha)
never look back
H O N O R A B L E M E N T I O N S
Sa-Roc—The Sharecropper's Daughter
Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin—FlySiifu’s
KYLE—See You When I Am Famous!!!!!!!!!!!!