30. Sa-Roc: “The Sharecropper’s Daughter”
With her first full-length release in five years, Sa-Roc delivered one of the most lyrical and thoughtful albums of 2020. From start to finish, the project is consistent with a relentless delivery and passion, as well as constant lyrical quality. The only restraining factor on this project is the production, which in some points feels outdated or less captivating. From a pure rapping and lyrical standpoint, there were few releases as impressive as “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” last year.
Favorite Songs: “Grounded,” “Deliverance,” “Forever,” “Goddess Gang,” “EmergencE,” “40 And A Mule”
29. Royce Da 5’9: “The Allegory”
Detroit lyricist Royce Da 5’9 capitalized on his renowned penmanship and created one of the more intellectual albums of the year. Although the lyrics and rapping remain proficient throughout, the content gets controversial at some points, most notably his repeated anti-vaccine lyrics on the album. Despite this, there are many worthwhile themes and concepts presented by Royce. The production is solid, and some of the features on the album really help to build the album incredibly well. From Conway the Machine’s guest feature on “FUBU” (one of the best features of the year) to Vince Staples’s verse on “Young World,” “The Allegory” gathers a collection of sounds, themes and stories that make it a worthwhile listen.
Favorite Songs: “FUBU,” “Overcomer,” “On the Block,” “Thou Shall,” “I Don’t Age”
28. Marlowe: “Marlowe 2”
A charismatic and energetic collaboration, “Marlowe 2” sees North Carolina rapper Solemn Brigham and producer L’Orange develop a promising follow-up to their initial 2018 joint project. This is an album that is truly fascinating, and provides a sound that is incredibly refreshing and unique to the scene of 2020 rap music. L’Orange effortlessly creates instrumentals that combine elements of lo-fi, boom-bap, jazz and psychedelic hip-hop. Sounds on this album vary widely in use, but rarely feel out of place. Solemn Brigham’s energy and passion is evident on every beat, and the chemistry between the two is very apparent. “Marlowe 2” is one of the best underground projects of 2020, and one that lends creativity and vigor to the genre at a high level.
Favorite Songs: “Future Power Sources,” “Spring Kick,” “Small Business,” “Same Team”
27. Chris Patrick: “From the Heart, Vol. 2”
Chris Patrick is one of the most gifted up and coming rappers, and “From the Heart, Vol. 2” helps to solidify that. With an incredible flow, great lyricism, melodic vocals, versatile delivery and meaningful content, Chris Patrick helps to set the foundation for his career with a project that is very solid and well constructed. The way that he is able to weave so smoothly between singing and rapping over versatile production helps to keep the project engaging. Chris Patrick’s debut album establishes him as a must-watch rapper for years to come.
Favorite Songs: “Seattle Interlude,” “Typical Shit,” “3 AM,” “Dreams”
26. Oddisee: “Odd Cure”
2020 obviously featured many references to the COVID-19 pandemic all across music, but very few, if any, artists were able to take the greater situation of the year and make as cohesive and timely of an album as “Odd Cure” out of it. Short and sweet, Oddisee is able to create an endearing and worthwhile story in a runtime of only 30 minutes. This is one of a select few projects that I have ever listened to where the skits are genuinely enjoyable to listen to multiple times, and definitely worth listening to as parts of the collection on repeat listens. With soulful and quality production, thoughtful writing and content, and great and relevant skits, “Odd Cure” was certainly one of the more enjoyable and most fitting albums of the year that was 2020.
Favorite Songs: “The Cure,” “No Skips,”“I Thought You Were Fate”
25. Nas: “King’s Disease”
Although 2020 was a year that was largely void of releases from some of the largest current artists in hip-hop, we were able to get an album from one of the all-time greats in the genre. “King’s Disease” illustrated the maturity in Nas’s artistry and creative personal adjustments to fit the modern scene of rap. Nas has constantly fallen victim to the expectations that come with releasing one of the greatest debut projects of all time (over 25 years ago), so there is often the expectation that he will somehow meet the greatness of “Illmatic” with his next album. The truth is that we will almost certainly not receive any albums from Nas of that quality (or from hardly any rappers for that matter). The reality also is that Nas is still a quality artist and “King’s Disease” proves that he has the ability and skills to create a good album this late into his career.
Favorite Songs: “King’s Disease,” “Ultra Black,” “All Bad,” “The Cure”
24. Logic: “No Pressure”
Logic’s retirement album served as the final piece of what has been a rollercoaster ride of a career. The beginning of Logic’s career saw a rise to underground acclaim and then later large commercial acclaim with the release of quality projects such as the “Young Sinatra” mixtape series and then later debut album “Under Pressure” and follow-up album “The Incredible True Story.” However, these went pretty quickly downhill after that, after a string of releases ranging from bad to horrible and becoming placed on the wrong end of many jokes in rap. “No Pressure” was a welcome and triumphant return to making quality music before closing the book on what has been an eventful and an important career in rap. Great production handled by legend No I.D. was met with Logic returning to quality writing, delivery and style. The result was a very satisfying exit from music for a prominent figure.
Favorite Songs: “man i is,” “Hit My Line,” “Celebration,” “Heard Em Say”
23. D Smoke: “Black Habits”
“Black Habits” was one of five rap albums nominated for Best Rap Album of the year, and with good reason. Despite sometimes static and even tiresome production, D Smoke shows great writing and the ability to build an album from front to back. The Inglewood native is able to put his strengths into the forefront at different parts of the album. “Black Habits” is certainly not lacking in soul and passion, and also shows a versatility of style from D Smoke. The transitions between r&b/neo-soul and rap are smooth and effortless, and are all great complements to the narrative of the first studio album for an emerging and truly promising artist.
Favorite Songs: “Seasons Pass,” “Fallin’,” “Closer to God,” “Black Habits,” “Black Habits II”
22. Lil Uzi Vert: “Eternal Atake”
Arguably the most anticipated rap release of 2020, “Eternal Atake” was met with years’ worth of hype built up from fans who had fallen in love with the Philadelphia rapper’s style and sound. Naturally, the insane expectations for this album were going to be almost impossible to meet. However, even getting close to those expectations is an impressive feat, and it is hard to say that Uzi did not achieve many of his aims on his second studio album. It is hard to listen to Uzi and not have a great time, as there is a consistently great energy present on nearly every track. Impressive rapping meeting innovative production is never going to lead to bad results, especially when one of the larger figures in modern rap is at the helm of the album. “Eternal Atake” captures entertaining thematics and Uzi’s magnetic personality to make an album that is a must-listen.
Favorite Songs: “Prices,” “Urgency,” “Chrome Heart Tags,” “Silly Watch,” “Bust Me”
21. Hit-Boy: “The Chauncey Hollis Project”
Very few producers had as successful of a year as Hit-Boy. 2020 saw Hit-Boy executive produce Benny the Butcher’s “Burden of Proof” and Nas’s “King’s Disease,” contribute to the albums of Jay Electronica, Big Sean, and Polo G, and producing hit singles such as Freddie Gibbs and Big-Sean’s “4 Thangs.” However, maybe the most impressive feat of Hit-Boy was the curation of a great solo project of his own. With rapping that has greatly improved over time, “The Chauncey Hollis Project” sees a passionate artist tell soulful stories over consistently great production to create one of the better rap albums of the year.
Favorite Songs: “Nominated,” “Waterman,” “Ice Cold”
Click here for a Spotify Playlist of some of my favorite songs across the year 2020.
Contact Nick Sligh at nick1019 ‘at’ stanford.edu.