Jheeez, 2020. Despite all the madness, one thing that was consistent this year was music and enough great releases to get us through some trying times. Here are our best albums of the year. 2021, let's go!
SHOOT FOR THE STARS, AIM FOR THE MOON - Pop Smoke
5 months after Pop Smoke's tragic passing, his debut album - ‘Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon’ was released. Produced by 50 Cent, consisting of powerful drill beats and a cocky lyrical demeanor it is evident the tracks on this album were made to be enjoyed and it was. Many tracks off the album became worldwide hits and were heard everywhere during the second half of 2020. While the release of this album can be considered bittersweet, it reinforced how much of a true musical legend Pop Smoke already was before his passing.
HUNCHOLINI THE 1ST - M Huncho
This album came out earlier this year when the world was in relative order, January 31st to be precise. When first listening to the album the thing that stood out to me initially was the length of the album, 13 songs. Normally albums these days are 20 songs minimum, but I feel 13 was the appropriate number as it is not too long but it was enough songs to satisfy. My favourite songs that came from this project is, “Blow Off My Cover” and “Growth”. These songs are great examples of what Huncho is. Catchy flows with meaningful lyrics. The album as a whole is a great addition to what Huncho has already put out in his career. After his last project Utopia this shows progression in the way he has developed as an artist.
ALFREDO - Freddie Gibbs x Alchemist
ESGN / ALC / EMPIRE
Stepping out with little fanfare or spectacular marketing rollout, Alfredo – much like the fettuccine on the album cover – conceptually takes the Italian ethos of using minimal ingredients to create something outstanding. Grossly uncomplicated, it plays out as a masterclass by a Michelin chef over smooth-as-butter beats, never wavering from the centre. Gibbs with his statesmanlike polish sails over exquisite production, brought to the table by veteran beatmaker Alchemist. Equal parts gritty and smooth, menacing but light; it’s everything underground hip-hop afficionados want from an album in 2020. Soul loops, movie samples and coke raps – not necessarily a new recipe per se but the duo cook up something fresh, inventive and truly classic. None of the features sound out of place, with Tyler, The Creator and Rick Ross seasoning off two of the best songs from the LP in ‘Something to Rap About’ and ‘Scottie Beam.’ Clocking in at 35 minutes it’s a tight, concise in-and-out lunch booking rather than a dull and laborious 3 course meal, it’s just a shame we can’t stay for dessert.
C2C – KwolleM
The Newham producer who established ‘mellow grime’ with his Mellow EP in 2017, decided to finally bring that sound back to listeners in 2020 . Using grime and turning it into a mellow sound by using soul samples, is a genius idea in itself. Whether you’ve taken the c2c train route or not, it would be difficult to not feel a strong sense of nostalgia from listening to this project. KwolleM takes us on a journey, and with the help of Essex rapper Joe James, he has created a staple sound that no-one else can mirror.
Best songs: ‘West Ham’, ‘Fenchurch St’
INSOMNIA – Skepta, Chip, Young Adz
‘Insomnia’ featuring Skepta, Chip and Young Adz was unexpected, yet it proved to be one of the best projects that came out of the UK Rap scene in 2020.
Chip’s opening line on the single ‘Waze’ set the tone for what was to come ‘“if three man link up and do an album, it’s not gonna sound like this”.
Skepta, a veteran of the grime scene demonstrates his adaptability as an artist. He is comfortable on any instrumental, ranging his flow and lyricism throughout the album.
Chip is a lyrically gifted MC. Such talent is particularly potent on tracks such as ‘Waze’ and ‘Sin City’.
D Block Europe and Young Adz have shown that they are one of the most promising acts to come out of the UK Rap scene in recent years. Influenced by the US trap scene, Young Adz has provided UK Rap a new sound. This is demonstrated on ‘Insomnia’ with the auto-tune effects that are used with precision.
Adding to this, the sound is benefited by the efficient production. From Skepta himself to DaBeatFreakz and The FaNaTiX, the project boasts a range of exciting producers that makes each track unique.
Combined together, it creates a fusion of sounds that brings out the best of the UK Rap genre.