By Nick Sligh
Although this year has largely been void of high-profile releases in hip-hop/rap, the third quarter of 2020 has continued to provide quality releases across the rap scene, making these past months an exciting time for fans. Here are some of my favorite hip-hop/rap albums (listed in no particular order) that were released in July through September 2020.
Spillage Village: “Spilligion” (Sept. 25, 2020)
“Spilligion” truly captures the essence of 2020 in a masterful and incredibly creative way. With layered production, genre-bending sounds and heartfelt performances from so many talented artists, the album feels like exactly what fans needed at this point. With a mostly Atlanta-based roster that features incredible artists such as rap duo EARTHGANG, R&B superstar 6lack and JID, it is not surprising that the result of the collective’s fourth project is of such high quality. One of the most impressive aspects of the album is that so many genres and musical elements are combined experimentally, but is done so effortlessly that it is often hard to even notice. Every song serves a specific purpose and uniquely contributes to the listening experience of this album. There are certain moments of darkness and harsh reality in parts, but there is an underlying theme of spirit and hope. “Spilligion” not only highlights the harsh realities of 2020, but it also creates a beautiful and uplifting listen that makes this odd year feel a little bit warmer.
Favorite Songs: “Baptize,” “Mecca,” “End of Daze,” “Shiva,” “Hapi,” “Jupiter”
Blu & Exile: “Miles” (July 17, 2020)
At this point, Blu is truly an iconic underground rap figure. With an expansive discography featuring acclaimed projects like “Below the Heavens,” “Her Favorite Colo(u)r” and “Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them,” “Miles” not only lives up to some of his greatest quality but also firmly establishes itself as some of the best work of his career. Exile, Blu’s frequent producer/collaborator, provides a fantastic array of jazz- and soul-influenced beats with which Blu fits perfectly. Often, especially over recent years, it is hard to reconcile an album containing over 20 songs, as it is usually done now as a ploy to increase streaming numbers. There is not a song on this entire project that is out of place, however, and every song contributes strongly to the story that Blu & Exile are hoping to portray. Storytelling, soul, samples, versatility and creativity lead “Miles” to being one of the best releases of this year, and one of the best projects in the discography of both Blu and Exile.
Favorite Songs: “Requiem of Blue,” “Miles Away,” “African Dream,” “Troubled Water,” “Dear Lord,” “Music Is My Everything”
Conway the Machine: “From King to a God” (Sept. 11, 2020)
Conway continued Griselda’s impressive run of projects over the past two years with his release of “From King to a God.” A project that is gritty but refined, Conway is on point throughout, and showcases a high level of delivery, creating a cinematic listen that has a vintage feel to it. This creation is certainly one of the strongest efforts from the Griselda trio, and helps to cement Conway as more than just a rapper with brief trends of underground acclaim. “From King to a God” is more than a cult album for fans of Griselda’s style — it is an anthem that is now a top-tier release this year.
Favorite Songs: “Seen Everything But Jesus,” “Dough & Damani,” “Front Lines,” “Nothin Less”
Aminé: “Limbo” (Aug. 7, 2020)
After initially gaining fame through very lighthearted music, “Limbo” sees Aminé keep some of the lightheartedness and energetic nature that made him popular while also developing much more mature and existential perspectives. “Limbo” seems like a fitting piece in the evolution of an artist — the compilation follows a comedown and mature steps after initial fame and prominence. Aminé has always been a figure who is simply fun and entertaining to listen to because of a certain swagger, persona and energy. He was really able to maintain all of these positive traits while still developing his musical ability and the album’s quality. “Limbo” certainly doesn’t feel just like a typical or random collection of tracks, but rather a project that, at this point of his career and life, helps to pinpoint just where Aminé is.
Favorite Songs: “Burden,” “Fetus,” “Roots”
Tkay Maidza: “Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2” (Aug. 7, 2020)
Tkay Maidza is an eccentric figure who is becoming a must-know in hip-hop. “Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2” is one of the most charismatic, versatile releases of the entire year, and it is certainly not lacking in quality. The 23-year-old Australian artist has already shown incredible potential, with a variety of passionate and entertaining performances coming from the front to the back of the project. Blending pop, R&B and rap effortlessly, Tkay shows she is an artist who is purposefully pushing boundaries of genres and defining a new sound that should carry a prominent career for her in the coming years.
Favorite Songs: “Awake,” “You Sad,” “Shook,” “Don’t Call Again”
Click here for a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite hip-hop and R&B tracks of 2020 so far (even outside of these listed albums)!
Contact Nick Sligh at nick1019 ‘at’ stanford.edu.