These Full-Length Projects Helped Us Get Through 2020: Please Consider Them For Your Year-End Lists
At its heart, hip-hop is a communal artform, one that found its origin in Bronx block parties and spread to West Coast functions and Southern clubs. In a year where a pandemic kept us from gathering, hip-hop played a different role in our lives–it was a source of comfort during hardship, it brought grandeur to previously mundane at-home activities, and reminded us of the harsh realities that many in our country face every day.
At Audible Treats, we are proud to work with artists who pour their hearts out into every track, allowing us to see the world through their unique perspectives. And though we couldn’t congregate in person, these albums brought us together in appreciation of the stories that would go untold if it weren’t for rap music. See some of our favorite albums of 2020 below.
The Audible Treats Team: Michelle, Gavin, Andrea, Dan, Erin, Kerry, Kevin, Ari, & Destiny
Young Dolph is a self-made industry titan, rising up from difficult circumstances to become the CEO of Paper Route EMPIRE, one of the rap game’s most respected indie labels. His most emotional, political album yet, Rich Slave explores Dolph’s rags to riches story, mixing his trademark flex-heavy witticisms with his thoughts on the responsibility that comes with mogul status.
The album boasts myriad highlights, including “Death Row,” in which the proudly independent artist salutes one of hip-hop’s most legendary indie labels, and “Blue Diamonds,” which perfects Dolph’s conversational flow. Most notable, however, is “The Land,” a searing political statement inspired by the George Floyd protests and a real-life encounter between Dolph and the police: “The police pulled me over for nothin’, just because she racist/Two minutes later, it’s five police cars, they got me face down on the pavement/Just ’cause I’m a black man in America/That’s what give them permission to treat us terrible.”
Von was robbed of the chance to make multiple classics, but he still left us with this animated, visceral account of his life. And though he left us too soon, Welcome To O’Block will remain a testament to his tremendous abilities, and an inspiration to inner-city kids in O’Block and beyond.
Starting life as a type-beat factory, Taz Taylor’s Internet Money collective has grown into an industry powerhouse, collecting Billboard chart placements, Grammy nominations, and RIAA plaques as if they were bottle caps. Released in August, their debut album B4 The Storm has one of the most star-studded lineups of any rap album this year, boasting appearances from Juice WRLD, Future, Swae Lee, Kevin Gates, Lil Mosey, 24kGoldn, and many more.
The album is home to runaway hit “Lemonade” ft. Don Toliver, NAV & Gunna, currently sitting in Billboard’s Top 10, and other highlights like the high octane “Really Redd” ft. Trippie Redd, Lil Keed & Young Nudy, and the spritely “Lost Me” ft. iann dior, Lil Skies & Lil Mosey. B4 The Storm also reflects Taz Taylor’s passion for finding new talent, showcasing up-and-comers like TyFontaine, LilSpirit, and TheHxliday with their own tracks.
Packed with the well-drawn characters, single-line stories, and earworm-y melodies for which Durk is famous, JCYW2 expertly balances the Only The Family CEO’s emotional rap ballads with snarling “no auto” missives, presenting a picture of a mature emcee in complete control of his vast talents. Released before Durk helped Drake make “Laugh Now Cry Later” one of the year’s biggest hits, JCYW2 debuted in the top 5 of the Billboard 200 and hosts Hot 100 hits like “3 Headed Goat” and “Viral Momentt.”
Retreating into his hoodie with a me-against-the-world mentality, Florida rapper $NOT complements his anti-social rhymes with sharp and infectious melodies. On his new album Beautiful Havoc, $NOT digs deep into the roots of his misanthropy, exploring his psyche with percussive cadences and lilting flows on highlights like “Revenge.” On other tracks, like “Mean” ft. Flo Milli and “Sangria” ft. Denzel Curry, $NOT leans into his prickly persona, delivering blunt-force bangers that benefit from his quick wit.
With production from the likes of Powers Pleasant, Eem Triplin, Woodpecker, and more, Beautiful Havoc offers a bright and diverse sonic palette, allowing $NOT to showcase his elite melodic instincts and provide a contrast to his dark, self-hating lyrics. With a co-sign under his belt from fellow Gen Z icon Billie Eilish, $NOT is a good bet to reach household name status in 2021.
With production from Kenny Beats, Tay Keith, and especially PRE’s own Bandplay, the tape finds Glock in attack mode, methodically making a case for his rap supremacy: “Knock off your feet and put you on a t-shirt,” warns Glock on saxophone-driven highlight “Word On The Street.” The project debuted in the Top 20 of the Billboard 200 and earned praise from Pitchfork, who called it a, “work of wicked truths and unfiltered confidence, a book of genesis that feels like a post-mortem.”
With the help of producers like Tae Beast, S1, Illmind, and especially Kal Banx, who had a hand in 8 of the album’s 14 tracks, REASON crafts a soundscape that twinkles like Los Angeles at night, complete with syncopated bass, sparkling keyboards, and eerie vocal samples. Featuring appearances from Vince Staples, ScHoolboy Q, JID, Rapsody, and others, New Beginnings earned positive mentions in The FADER, Complex, Billboard, XXL, and more, and charted at #167 on the Billboard 200 during its debut week.
One of the originators of Brooklyn’s ascendant drill movement, Flatbush native Sheff G continued to improve in 2020. Released in May, his debut album One And Only provided an excellent showcase for the 22-year-old rapper’s deep, resonant voice, brutally honest lyrics, and a skill with lilting melody.
Though it is heavily informed by the Brooklyn drill sound Sheff helped popularize–especially on album highlight “No Surburban Pt. 2,” the sequel to his incendiary debut single–One And Only attempts to expand drill’s horizons, enlisting producer Great John and his gentle guitar melodies and thumping low end to provide a diverse sonic palette for Sheff to paint with. The album features the local anthem “Moody” (15 million combined streams on YouTube and Spotify) and multiple duets with his frequent sparring partner Sleepy Hallow.
With a conversational rhyming style and revealing lyrics, Atlanta rapper Deante’ Hitchcock offers a soulful and muscular take on his city’s rap tradition. After a slow and steady build, complete with quality singles and engaging live performances, Deante’ released his debut album BETTER in 2020. Produced in its entirety by Brandon Phillips-Taylor, BETTER boasts reflective and spiritual jams like “Flashbacks” and “Growing Up/Mother God” with dirty south stompers like “Gimme Your Money” and “Attitude.”
Throughout the project, Deante’ is an unflappable tour guide through the recesses of his mind, painting a picture of a young man trying tirelessly to become a better person. The subject of a glowing review by UPROXX, the album is home to singles like the soulful “How TF” ft. 6lack and “I Got Money Now” ft. JID, a rapturous ode to the hustle.
Mafia Bidness excels when members OhGeesy, Fenix Flexin, Rob Vicious, and Master Kato ping-pong off each other on anthems like “Change Ya Life,” “Ride Out,” and “Perc Popper.” Dedicated to the memory of their friend Mac P Dawg, the album establishes Shoreline as the lodestar of the L.A. rap scene, making room for tributes to incarcerated heroes Drakeo The Ruler and 03 Greedo and offering beats from local sound architects like Ron-Ron and Ace The Face.