20. Meet the Woo 2- Pop Smoke
Pop Smoke’s highly aggressive gritty flows make Meet The Woo 2 one of the most intense listens of the year. Expanding his team of producers gives his sophomore album an array of different instrumentals causing it to have a more distinct feel then Pop’s previous works. While there are some A-list features, Pop Smoke remains the star of the show for most of the album with his ground shaking vocals. Meet The Woo 2 is a perfect album for anyone craving classic New York hip hop energy with a modern trap spin.
19. Heaven Or Hell- Don Tolliver
After his standout performance on the JACKBOYS compilation album, Don Tolliver’s debut album had high expectations, which he certainly lived up to. Don’s able to distinguish his sound from other artists in his lane as he uses his powerful singing voice to indulge the listener in what he is trying to get across. He already has a full arsenal of flows and pockets he can tap into, making each track feel like a completely different experience. On the instrumental side, Heaven or Hell utilizes more Latino and reggae samples so it can ultimately feel like a tropical blockbuster. Heaven Or Hell isn’t just helping keep the struggling trap genre innovative; it is pushing hip hop in a new direction.
18. LUV vs. The World 2- Lil Uzi Vert
LUV vs. The World 2 is everything a trap album should be. After his darker themed Eternal Atake, it’s a refreshing change to see Lil Uzi Vert having his usual fun on this record. Despite the similar subject matter, each track has a distinct feel due to Uzi’s vibe altering vocals and beat selection. To assist Uzi, the album is loaded with A-list features from artists such as; Future, Young Thug, Chief Keef, and many more. The laid back fun of LUV vs. The World 2 gave the world some much needed 2016 vibes in a year of chaos.
17. H.A.R.D.- Joell Ortiz and KXNG CROOKED
Since their guest appearances on Eminem’s January released Music To Be Murdered By, the unsung Slaughterhouse MCs seemed to be rejuvenated with something huge up their sleeves. Both artists rap tenaciously as they talk about an array of subjects such as hood politics, family issues, and current events. The production leaves almost nothing to be desired, as each instrumental conveys a different sonic pocket from soul to boom-bap. Even though there will most likely never be a full Slaughterhouse reunion, H.A.R.D. is certainly enjoyable enough to keep KXNG CROOKED and Joell Ortiz relevant for years to come.
16. Gorilla Twins- Ill Bill and NEMS
The full collaboration of underground hip hop legends Ill Bill and NEMS has finally arrived after years of speculation. As evident in the name Gorilla Twins, the two make the listener feel like they are being attacked with their raw aggression and tenacity. The production coincides with the duo’s performance as it feels like you are in the middle of mass destruction with its gritty sound. Features from Jedi Mind Tricks leader Vinnie Paz and the legendary Immortal Technique add even more depth to the album. Overall, Gorilla Twins is an excellent example of two established artists coming together for a full-length album and reaching heights they have never seen previously.
15. WUNNA- Gunna
Since his signing to Young Thug’s YSL Records, Gunna has struggled with extremely underwhelming solo projects. Despite his poorly received work, fans have held out hope due to his remarkably consistent feature catalog, which has ultimately paid off as his newest album WUNNA is a critical success. What separates WUNNA from the rest of Gunna’s work is its distinguished production which is still very trap oriented, but each instrumental carries loads of character with their innovative samples or chord patterns. Gunna came into his own vocally as he plays to his strengths and keeps his weaknesses hidden. With well-picked features from guys like Young Thug and Roddy Rich, WUNNA is one of the most focused and enjoyable trap albums of the year.
14. All My Heroes Are Dead- R.A. The Rugged Man
After his critically acclaimed Legends Never Die, R.A. The Rugged Man broke his seven-year hiatus with All My Heroes Are Dead, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. R.A. has been lyrically fueled with various personal and social struggles on this album as he spits tormented bars ranging from topics like social injustice to the passing of his little sister. The production is relatively consistent with its New York underground sound, but it rarely feels bland. Another strength of the album is the star-studded feature list, which includes contributions from Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah and Inspectah Deck along with Atmosphere , Vinnie Paz, Immortal Technique, Chuck D and many more. Even with a slightly bloated soundtrack, All My Heroes is Dead is a great album and solidifies R.A. The Rugged Man as one of the most consistent in the game.
13. No One Mourns The Wicked 2- Conway and Big Ghost LTD
Shortly after his critically acclaimed Lulu, Conway The Machine returns with his second collaboration of the year this time with producer Big Ghost LTD. Conway’s lyricism takes an even darker turn then his usual subject matter as he recites street tales from the darkest crevices of his mind. The instrumentals are a lot nastier on this record as they incorporate mainly rock and soul samples, but Big Ghost adds his signature dark undertone to them. No One Mourns The Wicked 2 captures the troubled life of one of Buffalo’s biggest stars better than most.
12. Circles- Mac Miller
After Mac Miller’s tragic death in September of 2018, fans grieved the loss of one of hip hop’s most beloved MCs. Almost two years later, his first posthumous album Circles serves as the mournful farewell fans deserved. The album is a real tear-jerker as Mac’s chilling vocals of his self-aware depression and addiction make it seem as if he knew his unfortunate fate. Handled by the legendary John Brion, the production utilizes strings predominantly to convey a bittersweet feel. While Mac Miller is no longer with us, Circles truly feels like his last words to us.
11. Everything- Kota The Friend
Since his emergence towards the late 2010s, Kota The Friend has always been a prominent mc with extreme potential but, he’s failed to blow fans away with any of his solo albums yet. His newest album Everything, blew its expectations out of the water as Kota indeed found his artistic niche and style. Kota feels like a modern poet with his mournful stories and experiences, yet he has such a peaceful and smooth approach to the mic. The production on the record feels bright and sunny, but there’s a dark undertone, which makes the listener question what is going on in Kota’s mind. Kota addresses various stories ranging from themes such as love, betrayal, and loyalty. Walking away from the record, Everything contains a thought out concept with the emotional ups and downs that every excellent conscious hip hop record needs.
10. The Allegory- Royce Da 5’9
The Allegory is the next chapter in the long artistic evolution of Detroit’s Royce Da 5’9. His newest LP is his first take at an entire album centered around the concept of the corruption embedded in the nation we live in. Royce uncovers various controversial topics such as racism, poverty, and how to counter some of the acts and regulations the system tries to trap many in. In one of the most chaotic years in America’s history, The Allegory will serve as a direct piece of history, commentating on the chaos we lived through.
9. Lulu- Conway and The Alchemist
For most, Griselda’s Conway is an extremely talented rapper who suffers from lack of focus, but thankfully, his collaboration with The Alchemist, Lulu, breaks this standard. Through only seven tracks, the duo can create a hardcore gangster rap album loaded with detailed metaphors and fist-clenching world play. The Alchemist’s production is intimidating and dramatic as it constantly builds up tension through the record. In the big picture, Lulu is another example of why Alchemist is a top producer in the game, and, it may just be Conway’s best project to date.
8. Eternal Atake- Lil Uzi Vert
Living up to fans’ expectations isn’t an easy task to pull off but, Lil Uzi Vert managed to do so with Eternal Atake. The album pushes Uzi’s artistic ability to new bounds as we see him explore a sci-fi horror story where he is abducted by aliens and attempts to break free. The production drowns the listener in spacey instrumentals, which make them feel like they are genuinely experiencing something out of this world. Uzi’s near solo performance is able to hold the whole project intact as he is constantly changing his flows and tone from track to track. In perspective, Eternal Atake is a thrill to listen to and is one of Lil Uzi Vert’s best albums to this day.
7. UNLOCKED- Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats
Despite its short length, UNLOCKED sets the standard of how a rapper-producer duo should sound in 2020. Handled by Kenny Beats, the production on the album is always displaying various styles while continually morphing into new sonic pockets. Completing the album, Denzel Curry goes on an 18-minute lyrical exercise utilizing a plethora of rhyme schemes and flows. While his bars don’t contain a lot of substance like on Imperial or TA13OO, they’re still super enjoyable to listen to. Even though there’s no narrative or overlying concept, UNLOCKED’s fantastic production and lyricism makes it some of the best music the year offer.
6. High Off Life- Future
Future restores the culture’s faith in him with High off Life. Hendrix was able to blend his classic druggy, misogynistic vibes with clever wordplay and more versatile production than usual. On top of his typical braggadocios tracks, the album contains multiple cuts where he dives deep into his complicated personal life and mental struggles. All and all, the combination of enjoyable trap bangers embedded with dark lyrics makes High Off Life is one of Future most well-rounded albums to date.
5. Descendants Of Cain- KA
Descendants Of Cain is the newest installment in one of hip hop’s most mysterious artists ever-growing catalog. Evident in the tracklist, KA is focusing this project around iconic religious references and phrases. The deep meaning behind this is KA’s goal to tie an ancient storyline of injustice and failure to our current world. It can be drawn that KA is hurt, and all he wants is for the word to be a better place. The minimalistic production only supports this narrative as it feels very cinematic and propelling with its various tempo and tone switches. Descendants Of Cain is the tragic story of a man trying to tell a story much bigger than himself for the overall betterment of our future.
4. A Written Testimony- Jay Electornica
With help from the legendary Jay-Z, Jay Electronica was able to form an astounding and impactful debut. The album covers various topics, such as why Electronica finally decided to return to hip hop along with Jay-Z’s thoughts on grief, depression, and the tragic passing of his dear friend Kobe Bryant. The production on the record is grand and immersive, which genuinely makes A Written Testimony feel like a once in a lifetime experience.
3. Alfredo- Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist
Despite being not even a year apart from his 2019 LP Bandana, Freddie Gibbs was able to reinvent himself and show his artistic maturity with faster and more aggressive flows and also topping it with more mature lyrics than ever. In addition to Gibbs’s phenomenal pen game, features from Tyler The Creator, Rick Ross, and Griselda’s Benny The Butcher and Conway add additional content and substance to the album. The Alchemist’s production utilizes soul and funk samples predominantly from the 70s to create a vintage feel throughout the record. Looking back on Alfredo, another collaboration is in the books for Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist showing how they both have the unique ability to work with almost any artist in the industry.
2. Pray For Paris- Westside Gunn
Westside Gunn’s most star-studded effort to date is nothing less than exceptional. Gunn brags about the luxurious lifestyle he is now exposed to while also staying true to his street roots. Sonically, contributions from legendary producers such as Dj Premier, The Alchemist, and Tyler The Creator make the instrumentals intricate and enveloping. In addition to the star-studded producer list, rappers such as Joey Bada$$, Freddie Gibbs, and Roc Marciano contribute with show stealing feature performances. As a whole, Pray For Paris shows Westside Gunn’s artistic growth making it, possibly his best work to date.
1. RTJ4- Run The Jewels
El-P and Killer Mike gave fans the fourth installment of their critically acclaimed Run The Jewels series, and it may just be their best album to date. The duo managed to reinvent themselves with their most conceptually focused record to date. Addressing topics such as racism, poverty, and systemic corruption, El-P and Killer Mike delivered social commentary with an intriguing dynamic due to their contradicting physical traits. Mostly done by El-P, the production is hectic, which is only furthered by contributions from the legendary Dj Premier and Pharrell Williams. Overall, RTJ4 is an incredible verbal assault on our corrupt world agenda, and it will go on to be immortalized as one of the most important and polarizing albums of our time.