1. Westside Gunn – Pray For Paris

5 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: George Bondo, French Toast, Allah Sent Me

A masterful piece of work from beginning to end, Gunn plays chess master on this reformed dope dealer turned avant grade trendsetter rap symphony – carefully placing all pieces on the board. Prison flashbacks and inner city angst have rarely sounded this beautiful over a stellar backdrop from A-List producers.

2. Conway The Machine – From King To A God

4.75 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Juvenile Hell, Lemon, Jesus Khryshis

Lyrically, FKTG cements Conway’s place as not only a rap titan, but arguably states his claim as the best emcee in the game. The gamut of bars is dizzying from the current strenuous political climate and social unrest on “Frontlines” to the personable reflections of “Forever Dropping Tears”, to the outright bust your shit open bars on “Jesus Khrysis”, many consider FKTG to be this years best release and given Conway’s stellar performance as an emcee, it is hard to argue that claim.

3. Freddie Gibbs – Alfredo

4.5 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Scottie Beam, Baby $hit, 1985

After a decade in the game, Gibbs pairing with the legendary Alchemist, produced career defining moments for both. This is easily the best project of Gibbs long-tenured career, and arguably will go down as Al’s seminal production manifesto. Gibbs is a monster of a no frills emcee, but never before has his gruff style been so intricate and carefully woven in the writing and delivery. The packaging of mafioso lifestyle and the unpacking of how Italians gangsters traditionally looked down upon the black community via the skits is a finishing touch on a masterpiece.

4. Nas – KIng’s Disease 

4.5 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: 27 Summers, All Bad, Full Circle

Just when you think there is nothing left behind the mic for one of the true top 5 dead or alive emcee’s, Nas checks in with his best project in over a decade (sorry Life Is Good fans). King’s has something for everyone and the surprise pairing with producer Hit-Boy for the whole project allowed for both artists to step out of their boxes (a little) with stunning results. Nas goes from on some rap shit “Blue Benz”, to mid contemporary radio “Car 85” to black power poet “Ultra Black” seamlessly. There is even something for the younger crowd with bangers like “Spicy” and “27 Summers” 

5. Busta Rhymes – E.L.E. 2

4.5 purple tapes out of 5 

Standout Tracks: E.L.E. 2 Intro, Don’t Go, Master Fard Muhammad

Three decades into the rap game the unfukwittable Busta Rhymes returns with tour de force effort that echoes shade of it’s predecessor.  The guest appearances are plentiful and powerful, with Busta showing off all the tools in his toolbox that come with his long tenured run as one rap’s prominent figures. Some of the year’s best collaborations can be found on this one album. Whether it’s Rick Ross, Rakim, Q-Tip, or Rhapsody riding shotgun, Busta proves himself to be a pilot that has traveled terrains few rap artists have seen.

6. Boldy James – A Price Of Tea In China

4.25 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Surf & Turf, Pinto, S.N.O.R.T.

That kid who got his start with The Cool Kids stepped his game up in a major way linking with long time collaborator The Alchemist for this dense and murky effort. Boldy is cold and determined, his slow pitch side arm style is disarming, and he is alarmingly good at describing the detailed nuances of the street trade. Heads will argue if the production job by Alchemist is better here than on Alfredo. Surf & Turf is the type of record that makes believers out those who don’t.

7. The Lox – Living Off Xperience 

4.25 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Gave It To Em’, Move, Think Of The Lox

A testament to the epic year 2020 has been for hip-hop, this album could have easily won AOY last year. A more balanced effort than We Are The Streets, and re-invigorated Sheek in tow, these three sound like they came out with their first album closer to 2017 than 1997. The chemistry is undeniable, the bars are stock-piled, and this concise effort is their best to date. 

8. Royce The 5″9 – The Allegory

4.25 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Thou Shall, I Don’t Age, F.U.B.U.

No rap album in recent memory shares the ethos of the current black condition in America than this carefully put together project by Royce. Pulling double duty by handling the production himself, Royce stepping behind the boards did not hinder the rhymes nor concepts. Royce navigates his vision with precision. Arguably the sleeper of the year.

9. Black Thought – Steams of Thought Vol. 3: Cane and Abel

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Steak Um, Thought V. Everybody, State Prisoner

The walking standard for bars delivers the best effort in his Streams series. Royce the 5″9 says Thought’s rhyme books should be in The Smithsonian and after hearing vol.3 it’s hard not to echo the sentiment.

10. Big Sean – Detroit 2

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Why Would I Stop, Full Circle, Guard Your Heart

Big Sean’s latest offering, an ode to his hometown roots and the album that made him “hood famous”, is consistent, enjoyable effort that showcases Sean’s excellent song making skills.

11. Future & Lil Uzi Vert – Pluto & Baby Pluto

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Marni On Me, That’s It, Real Baby Pluto

Let’s state the obvious, Future sounds good with any damn body. He and his brightest (possibly) drip ridiculous through the solar on an effort with arguably the best production of the year.

12. Benny The Butcher – Burden Of Proof

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: War Paint, Sly Green, One Way Flight

Solid Roc Nation debut effort from the Griselda crew member many feel has next in the rap game.

13. Lil’ Baby – My Turn

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Get Ugly, Commercial, Gang Signs

The biggest breakout artist this year moving almost 2 million units. The album hit pre-pandemic, but Lil Baby’s year did not stutter with a GQ spread and momentum from one of the year’s best albums. 

14. Armani Caesar – The Liz

4  purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Ginger Rosthein, Drill-O-Rama, Simply Done 

Stellar debut from Griselda’s First Lady, backed with excellent production and rap’s current we got next crew. Armani holds her on with the heavyweights leaving anticipation for what she has up next.

15. Westside Gunn – Who Made The Sunshine

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: 98 Sabres, All Praises, Butcher and the Blade

A creatively sparse and ambitious effort, Gunn’s scope is far reaching on this Shady Records debut. The Griselda crew come in and through full force. A not so surprising scene stealing verse from Jadakiss on the Boldy assisted “All Praises” shows off Gunn’s improved hook game.

16. Statik Selektah – The Balancing Act

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Keep It Moving, Ralph Laurens Closet, Hard Living

The guest list will make heads salivate: Thought, Nas, Conway, Method Man, Kiss, Styles, Benny, and Talib Kweli. Sound intrigued? Indeed. The Nas/Joey collaboration was one of this year’s pleasant surprises.

17. RTJ – RTJ4

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Walking In The Snow, Oh La La, Holy Calamafuck

Killer Mike was emcee of the year before Conway’s soon to be legendary bar run. Rhymes galore on this project. Production is ambitious as usual with mixed results.

18. Gunna – Wunna

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Argentina, MOTW, Met Gala

No sophomore slump here. Atlanta native Gunna’s spaceship odyssey Wunna is a hypnotic albeit drug induced voyage of young star mired in fame. The beats here are some of the best this year track to track.

19. T.I. – The L.I.B.R.A.

4 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Family Connect, Hit Dog Holler, Ring

The King returns with his best full-length effort in quite some time. Heavy on guest features, Tip still shows the prowess and ability that has made him one of the greatest ever.

20. Westside Gunn – Fly God Is An Awesome God 2

3.5 purple tapes out of 5

Standout Tracks: Jose Canseco, Michael Irvin, Buffs v. The Wires 

Griselda’s run to prominence could not be signified any further than Gunn having his third offering crack the top 20. Jose Canseco is an instant classic.

Armaud Cooper
Armaud Cooper

East Atlanta raised West Charlotte made Keeper of the FIRE

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