Below is my list of the ten best rap albums of the year through September.
2020 has been a chaotic year for everyone. Many people have had their lives severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this year has been a great year in the Hip Hop/Rap industry. My quarantine has been made much easier by an abundance of stellar projects released this year!
On top of the plenty of projects released already, this year could become even more legendary, with Kanye (fingers crossed) and Drake set to release projects later this year.
Without further ado, here is my list.
My honorable mentions are Juice Wrld’s posthumous “Legends Never Die” project, Gunna’s “Wunna”, Chris Brown and Young Thug’s joint “Slime & B” mixtape, Lil Uzi Vert’s “Eternal Etake” , A Boogie’s “Artist 2.0” and the Kid Laroi’s “F*ck Love”.
Juice’s posthumous album is one of three on this list. Despite lots of hype, along with the support of a near cult-like following, this album hovers around a solid 7/10 for me. I have never considered myself the biggest Juice Wrld fan, but his talent and unique voice are impossible not to commend. There are a couple stellar features on the album, but apart from 3-4 tracks there just isn’t that much replay value for me. RIP Juice Wrld.
Gunna simply can not seem to match Lil Baby, his Atlanta counterpart’s growth. “Wunna” is fine, but quite boring. He effortlessly floats upon brilliant beats, yet in terms of subject and wordplay he is not so musically inclined. The project is everything I expected it to be; a mediocre attempt at a Young Thug album.
Chris Brown, ignoring personal faults, is one of the most gifted pop singers. Young Thug is the father of trap music. The two combined for a fun, but not spectacular summer mixtape. Production is consistent, and it was an entertaining listen. Highlights include “Go Crazy”, where the two legends’ talents go hand in hand.
The Kid LAROI has decades to carry on Juice’s legacy. Uzi released a solid, well produced album which didn’t live up to the hype. I actually thoroughly enjoyed the later released deluxe album, and I considered putting EA in the top 10 because of this. “Artist 2.0” did not match the same quality as its predecessor, but it is still a solid listen.
The 10 best Rap Albums of the Year
10. Pop Smoke- “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon”.
I really enjoyed this project, and I was impressed by a newfound versatile side that Pop Smoke showed off throughout it. I am deeply saddened by his loss, but am grateful that he reportedly has more posthumous music coming. It would have been much appreciated if there were more drill-beat based tracks on the album, and in a way a lot of his vocals seem mismanaged. 7.5/10.
9. Lil Baby- “My Turn”.
Lil Baby’s rise to greatness has been a joy to watch. He shows new levels of maturity on this tape, with more self-aware and thoughtful lyrics. His constant improvement is comparable to that of the NBA’s Brandon Ingram. Ingram was doubted earlier in his career until a string of high quality performances. The best “Baby” rapper on the planet has run the mainstream rap game this year. 7.75/10.
8. Westside Gunn- “Pray for Paris”.
The Griselda rapper and Buffalo native boosted his mainstream profile with this intriguing and thought provoking album. This album has several standout songs including “327”, “George Bondo” and “No Vacancy”. Gunn’s old-school style works perfectly, but features from several high-profile artists (including Tyler the Creator) elevate the project even further. To me, “Pray for Paris” was one of the more thought provoking albums of the year. However, a lack of comparative replay value keeps it in the 8 spot. 8/10.
7. Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats- “Unlocked”.
This off the wall, angry, 18 minute project lives up to the chaos portrayed in the cover. It is warped and experimental, but not too out-of-whack to the point where you can’t bump it. Kenny Beats brilliantly uses samples throughout the 8 track mixtape. Vocally, the ever-polarizing Curry creates a rollercoaster of emotions and energy. The 25 year old is not even in his prime yet, and that is encouraging. 8/10.
6. Mac Miller- “Circles”.
Wow! This album really made me emotional. It screams “Mac Miller” so loudly that you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it was a posthumous album. I’m devastated by the loss of Mac, as he is one of the more groundbreakingly thoughtful artists of this generation. This album is beautiful, touching, and well produced. A moving end of Miller’s musical career. 8.25/10.
5. Polo G- “The Goat”.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that Polo G emerged from nowhere, but he definitely surprised us with this high quality project. “The Goat” stands out to me mainly due to its consistency. Each and every one of the features are of substance, and I can’t name a skip on the album. He is witty with some truly clever bars, while he also clearly tells meaningful stories about his upbringing. The Chicago rapper is only 21, oozing with potential. I’m excited to see what he has in store for his next tape. 8.5/10.
4. Aminé- “Limbo”.
This quirky Portland rapper is a personal favorite of mine. I was thrilled to see what he had in store after two 8+ projects, and boy did he deliver! “Limbo” is a fun, intriguing album. Aminé can switch flows as cleanly as anybody can, and he continues to be extremely versatile. He effortlessly transitions from more melodic to old school flows, and phenomenal features only accentuate “Limbo”. Highlights include a bouncy track in “Woodlawn”, and features from JID, Vince Staples and Charlie Wilson. 8.75/10.
3. Jay Electronica- “A Written Testimony”
Jay Electronica is an enigma of hip hop. Hey may not amass as large of a following as more mainstream peers, yet he is respected utterly by many of the greats. These include Kendrick Lamar, Kanye, Jay-Z, Nas, and many more. Perhaps he has not reached the same heights as many others due to a lack of quantity in his discography. That said, this album is beautiful. It is spiritual and moving, and Jay-Z provides a brilliant one-two punch on nearly every track. 9.5/10.
2. Freddy Gibbs and The Alchemist- “Alfredo”.
As soon as I heard the guitar loop at the beginning of the opening of the album, I knew this would be special. Gibbs, a member of the 2010 XXL Freshman Class, is a true talent. The Alchemist sets him up for greatness with perfect beats and samples to cruise over, and there are zero skips on this album. Zero. There was no filler at all in the 35 minute project, while features from Miami’s Rick Ross, Benny the Butcher and Tyler The Creator bring “Alfredo” to a whole other level. 10/10.
1. Run The Jewels- “RTJ 4”.
The beloved duo of El-P and Killer Mike hit the mark yet again. In true RTJ fashion, “RTJ 4” is a brash, angry tape that shouts “F*ck the System”. Released at the beginning of the surge of Black Lives Matter protests in June, it is a frustrated social commentary with excellent replay value. The production is phenomenal, and the two possess a one-two chemistry like no other. Pharell, Rage Against the Machine’s Zach de la Rocha, 2 Chainz and more further accentuate this masterpiece. “RTJ 4” caps off this list and goes head to head with “Run the Jewels 2”. 10/10.
Thank you for reading my opinions on the 10 best rap albums of the year! Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment below!
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