2020 was a good year for Hip Hop and music in general. Mainstream artists like Drake, Big Sean and Lil Uzi Vert all put out albums. Underground greats Freddie Gibbs and Jay Electronica blessed us with grammy nominated offerings of their own. Even legends like Nas put music out. However, I’m not here to talk about any of those artists. With so much music released this year, there’s a good chance you missed out on some classics. Below are 11 songs from 11 artists who may have flown under your radar in terms of 2020 Hip Hop. My goal with this post is to inspire you to dig deeper into these artists’ respective catalogs and discover some great music. Enjoy…
- by Kota the Friend f/ Lil Kota
- Album: Everything, released May 22, 2020
- Kota the Friend has slowly been gaining more and more recognition. This year he put out his 2nd full-length studio album (also called Everything) and appeared on Statik Selectah’s phenomenal album The Balancing Act. Kota is one of the hardest working individuals in the industry right now and his passion shines through in his music. You may have heard “B.Q.E” but “Everything” is the song that brings it all together.
- by Chris Keys and Quelle Chris f/ Earl Sweatshirt, Merrill Garbus, Denmark Vessey and Big Sen
- Album: Innocent Country 2, released April 24, 2020
- Chris Keys and Quelle Chris’ collaborative album Innocent Country 2 is the music we needed for the anxiety we’ve been feeling all year. It’s a beautiful collection of sounds and voices that coalesces with “Mirage.” Earl says sums it up best with one line: “The bittersweetness of times I wish to capture.” Innocent Country 2 was one of the most underrated Hip Hop releases of 2020.
Requiem of Blue
- by Blu & Exile f/ Fashawn
- Album: Miles, released July 17, 2020
- Blu & Exile remain the most under-appreciated duo in music. Quietly, the duo has put out 3 classic albums: 2007’s Below the Heavens, 2012’s Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them and this year’s Miles. Blu is one of the smoothest rappers in the game and he flexes that ability on “Requiem of Blue” as he takes us on the journey of his upbringing in Los Angeles. Exile’s production remains impeccable and the Fashawn feature harkens back to this classic song from 2010.
- by Teezo Touchdown
- Released as a single on July 1, 2020
- You’re going to hear about Teezo Touchdown soon. The Texas rapper/singer/songwriter/crooner is one of the most electric personalities in music. His style can’t be defined by any of the usual methods but that’s what will make him great. From scathing diss tracks, Andre 3000 impersonations or songs like “Strong Friend” which sees Teezo crooning over surf rock; he’s hits on all of them. He’s an incredible talent and a guy you should start buying up the stock of immediately.
- by Ab-Soul
- Released as a single on April 20, 2020
- I’ll continue to tout Soulo as the best member of TDE until my dying day. The man straight-up raps his ass off. I just wish he did it more frequently. We were blessed with his feature on Russ’ “Who Wants What?” but “Dangerookipawaa” is Soulo in his rawest form. Matter of fact, I’ll let the man himself tell you what he’s about…“Raw backwards on all of you rappers, you heard it before//The rawest rapper of the planet’s name is Herbert IV.”
Weight of the Word*
- by MIKE
- Album: weight of the world, released June 21, 2020
- MIKE’s 2020 album weight of the world is a somber, soul-crushing ode yet it never feels depressing. MIKE has a way of making his listener believe that even in their darkest days, there’s always a way out. “Weight of the Word*” is longer than most of MIKE’s songs but it needs the time. It’s soulful and real and a fantastic encapsulation of his album and who MIKE is as an artist. weight of the world was one of my favorite Hip Hop releases of 2020.
- by Conway the Machine & The Alchemist
- Album: LULU, released March 30, 2020
- Griselda has been blowing up the last couple of years but I still feel like casual rap fans may not know about Gunn, Benny and Conway. Out of all their releases this year, Conway’s LULU was my favorite. Alchemist provides the perfect soundscape for Griselda’s grittiest member and Conway brings it on every song. “Let’s toast to my enemies, no, let’s toast to my injuries//Turned my negative to positive, I don’t need no sympathy.”
- by Roc Marciano f/ Kool Keith
- Album: Mt. Marci, released November 30, 2020
- You should know Roc Marciano… but if you don’t, it’s not too late. Marci is the father to a lot of styles in today’s rap and his album Mt. Marci reasserts that point. As he says on my personal favorite cut: “Motherfucker you know my steeze”. Throwing Kool Keith on here (yet another father of styles) was an inspired choice.
- by Open Mike Eagle
- Album: Anime, Trauma and Divorce, released October 16, 2020
- I wrote about Open Mike Eagle’s Anime, Trauma and Divorce album in October and I’m still bumping it here in December. As we head into another quarantine in my home state of California, the cyclical theme of “Death Parade” becomes even more relevant. The whole album is relevant and OME is the voice for those of us feeling trapped in the monotony of daily life in a pandemic.
Surf & Turf
- by Boldy James & The Alchemist f/ Vince Staples
- Album: The Price of Tea in China, released February 7, 2020
- Boldy and Alchemist’s The Price of Tea in China was one of my favorite albums this year. Picking a single song was difficult but I ultimately landed on “Surf & Turf”. The Vince Staples feature does it for me. Boldly’s voice does it for me and the rhyme scheme from both emcees is ridiculous. You can start with this track but listen to the whole album. You owe it to yourself.
- by Deante’ Hitchcock f/ 6LACK
- Album: BETTER, released May 13, 2020
- Deante Hitchcock is an artist you should start to familiarize yourself with. His 2017 album So Much For Good Luck was my first experience with him but his 2020 album BETTER really showcases the growth he’s made as an artist. “How TF” brings 6LACK along for the ride and it’s one of my favorite singles from 2020.
For Spotify users, here’s the link to my playlist with all of the songs in one place: