2020 was a rough year for everybody, including Stay Up News. We stopped posting pretty much anything once the pandemic started, and for that we apologize. As concerts dried up completely, and in-person interviews became unsafe, our content was quickly run through and not replaced. However, with a light at the end of the Covid tunnel, Stay Up News is officially back with what is at this point a tradition, the best albums of the year list. Please enjoy this, and take it as a promise that we will be back with more articles and videos later this year.
25. Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon – Pop Smoke
The late New York Rapper’s unique style is posthumously refined on this album. Pop Smoke brought the New York drill scene to the United States mainstream in a way that UK drill rappers struggled to do. Pop’s one-of-a-kind deep, raspy voice produced some of the year’s biggest smashes. Before Covid took over the United States, 2020 was already off to a tough start with losses like Pop Smoke in February.
Favorite Tracks: Aim for the Moon (feat. Quavo), Dior
24. Top Shotta – NLE Choppa
The recently 18-year-old’s major label debut album comes out more polished and mainstream ready than any of Choppa’s previous efforts. His overly aggressive delivery is still often present in the harder tracks on the album, but he shows he can tone it down for some of the slower, softer cuts on the record. A great start for the teen, there are plenty of avenues for growth arrayed before this promising star.
Favorite Tracks: Double Bacc, Walk ‘Em Down (feat. Roddy Ricch)
23. Limbo – Aminé
The Portland rapper’s sophomore effort finds itself even more dynamic and mature than his first. Aminé’s laid back flows and great beat choices lay a fantastic soundscape for the perfectly trim 14-track album. It’s tough not to get wrapped up in the artist’s infectious energy.
Polo G has a way with words that is deeply emotional and at the same time head-nodding and even catchy at times. The Goat explores Polo’s true lyrical ability. The whole record starts with a specific vibe and rides that trajectory for most of the runtime. The young rapper still has plenty of potential growth in him, but albums like this are a fantastic foundation to a hopefully long and prolific career.
Favorite Tracks: Don’t Believe the Hype, Flex (feat. Juice WRLD)
21. Funeral – Lil Wayne
The 38-year-old has been at this for decades now. He’s still got it. Spending plenty of time rapping his ass off, he shows that he’s the progenitor of today’s face-tatted hype rappers that cannot hope to come close to the skill that Lil Wayne has consistently shown since his freedom from release limbo a few years ago. The lengthy album does fall off at points, but its high points reach some of the heights of rapping prowess shown this year.
Favorite Tracks: Funeral, Mamma Mia
20. Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God – Busta Rhymes
Busta Rhymes is undoubtedly one of the greatest MCs of all time, and this year decided to bless us with the sequel to his 1998 effort. Plenty has happened in hip-hop since then, and the record understands that, blending the boom-bap origins and modern influences into beats that Busta can easily flow quickly or slowly over with his commanding, husky voice. The album rarely falters throughout its incredible runtime, assuring a long but satisfying listen from front to back.
Favorite Tracks: Slow Flow (feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard), Look Over Your Shoulder (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
19. King’s Disease – Nas
Many hip-hop heads favorite rapper of all time is still active into the new decade, releasing another third act career album full of wisdom and Hit Boy production. The flows are still there, but this time from an almost god-like perspective that Nas has earned through the many years of his rapping. Perhaps not anyone’s favorite Nas album, but another great addition to Nas’ rollercoaster of a discography.
Favorite Tracks: King’s Disease, Replace Me (feat. Don Toliver & Big Sean)
18. Ho, Why is You Here – Flo Milli
The just-turned 21-year-old Alabama native has an infectious attitude that is hard to resist throughout the entire album. The somewhat static record hits a note and rides it, with hard, minimal production leaving plenty of room for Flo Milli to display her personality. With some more dynamic tracklists and development, Flo Milli could easily become a household name.
Favorite Tracks: Beef FloMix, Pockets Bigger
17. No Pressure – Logic
The Maryland native released what he dubbed his final album in 2020, and it turned out to be one of his best penned and produced efforts. Fantastic No I.D. production lays the groundwork for Logic to do what he does best at its best. Heavy on lyricism and light on corniness, the final Logic music project marks a high mark in his career, wherever it may go from here.
Favorite Tracks: Hit My Line, GP4
16. Savage Mode II – 21 Savage & Metro Boomin
Four years after the first, 21 Savage and Metro Boomin pair together once again for another full length album, a sequel to 2016’s Savage Mode. Where the first Savage Mode saw a younger, less mature 21 hit a single vibe throughout the project, the past half decade or so has seen exponential growth from the Atlanta-raised artist. Metro’s production has also grown since, and the two come together for a more dynamic and interesting project overall.
Favorite Tracks: Runnin, Slidin
15. Detroit 2 – Big Sean
Detroit’s Big Sean has been consistently releasing projects since 2007, and in 2020 saw fit to release an album-length and quality sequel to his 2012 mixtape. Sean shows his lyrical prowess throughout the run of the album, and his production choices serve as excellent backdrops. Big Sean’s consistency pays off here with a solid effort front to back.
Favorite Tracks: ZTFO, Friday Night Cypher
14. Circles – Mac Miller
The unfortunately final effort from Mac Miller is arguably his best yet. The late Pittsburgh native’s crew and closest producers and musicians took a great amount of care in finishing these ideas and putting them into the album this turned out to be. Mostly a sung album, the production is truly beautiful and lyrical tear-jerking with the knowledge that Mac Miller is gone.
Favorite Tracks: Blue World, Good News
13. Purple Moonlight Pages – R.A.P. Ferreira
RAP Ferreira a.k.a Milo once again shows his incredible jazz rap chops with this project. The instrumental and vocal atmosphere created on this project is palpable. The verbose and esoteric lyrical prowess that RAP Ferreira shows on the album allows multiple listens to slowly reveal the true intentions of the records over its runtime.
Favorite Tracks: OMENS & TOTEMS, DOLDRUMS
12. Everything is Beautiful/Everything Sucks – Princess Nokia
Technically two albums released simultaneously, Princess Nokia shows two sides of her personality on these records. One side is nice and happy, the other dark and twisted. Bother records do bleed into one another due to Nokia’s incredible personality coming through on each of them. However, the production choices on each lend themselves to the vibe set perfectly by the album covers attached to each piece of work.
Favorite Tracks: Harley Quinn, Gross
11. Unlocked – Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats
Stay Up News’ most consistent artist at the end of the year seems to go to Denzel Curry, locked in with this short, entirely Kenny Beats produced project. Denzel’s incredible flows and attitude continue to impress, and Kenny Beats outdoes his already incredible track record with this hard, glitchy, effort. Not only is this project great, but Denzel’s early January 2020 EP-type project 13LOOD IN + 13LOOD OUT MIXX also deserves a mention.
Rico has refined her already solid sound this time around. Her production is better than ever, featuring Take a Daytrip and 100 Gecs all over the place. Rico’s Nasty attitude is harder than ever, as well, shouting, rapping, singing and more throughout the project, Rico does not let up on listeners, even on some of the slower cuts through the record.
Favorite Tracks: Girl Scouts, OHFR?
9. Legends Never Die – Juice WRLD
Perhaps one of the most talented young rappers and songwriters in the game was lost late in 2019, and his absence is still felt today. Fortunately, his prolific studio presence allowed his producers and label to posthumously compile an excellent batch of tracks. It’s a shame that such a great performer will never be able to perform these tracks live.
Favorite Tracks: Conversations, Wishing Well
8. Miles: From an Interlude Called Life – Blu & Exile
Blu and Exile come together once again for another jazzy, soulful effort. The incredible production allows Blu and his contemporaries to spit wordy, name-dropping flows that often span the entirety of black history. This deep album requires several listens to fully appreciate the layered lyricism and potent production. Blu’s storytelling is on point as usual, and he puts it to incredible use this time around.
Favorite Tracks: Bright as Stars, Roots of Blue
7. From King to a God – Conway the Machine
Griselda records member Conway the Machine demonstrates why he should be your favorite of his trio with this album. Topping even WWCD in quality in many instances, this effort is more dynamic than what Griselda offered last year. Conway’s emotional delivery and simple lyrical realism paint a grim picture of Buffalo and the world that surrounds it.
Favorite Tracks: Lemon (feat. Method Man), Front Lines
6. Shrines – Armand Hammer
Billy Woods and ELUCID come together again as Armand Hammer to deliver another esoteric, wordy, cryptic album. With plenty of features and collaborators, many turn out perfectly fitting for the duo to bring in. Another album and frankly artist that requires several listens to fully appreciate and understand, the time that is mandatory for this album is well worth the investment.
Favorite Tracks: Pommelhorse, Slew Foot
5. Man on the Moon 3: The Chosen – Kid Cudi
Not many artists have had a discography quite as interesting and spotty as Kid Cudi. Recently, however, Kid Cudi has been on a roll since his excellent collaboration with Kanye West in 2018, “Kid See Ghosts.” Now, in 2020, we get the third part to perhaps his best albums, his Man on the Moon series. The third edition sees itself come into the modern era, coming full circle with its influences. Each track is meticulously crafted to give an otherworldly vibe perfect for escaping the 2020 world the album found itself in.
Favorite Tracks: Heaven on Earth, The Void
4. Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
Freddie Gibbs once again pairs with an incredible producer, this time The Alchemist, for a full project. The results are just as fireworks as Freddie and Madlib’s several collaborations. Full of excellent verses, features and beats, what makes this album great is straightforward and obvious. Freddie Gibbs raps some of his hardest bars, his collaborators step their game up, and The Alchemist blesses the background with his incredible style.
Favorite Tracks: Frank Lucas (feat. Benny the Butcher), Skinny Suge
3. RTJ4 – Run the Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P are back from their longest break yet with their trimmest effort since their first in 2013. They take the political times they live in and turn a mirror on them, as well as offer some self reflection in the short time they have. El-P’s production is banging on all cylinders as usual, while at the same time morphing itself into the perfect fit for each song. Both rappers bars are on point and political as usual, but this time with an even more refined pen tip.
Favorite Tracks: Ooh LA LA (feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier), JU$T (feat. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha)
2. Visions of Bodies Being Burned – clipping.
A sequel to clipping’s effort last year, this album may even top that incredible horror-themed feat. Drawing from many of the same influences of horror films and noise, the duo of producers and Daveed Diggs know exactly how to create a threatening soundscape. Often horrifying, the tracks on this album can be harrowing as well as beautiful. Riding the line between catchy and overwhelming, clipping push the envelope in an incredible way as usual.
Favorite Tracks: ’96 Neve Campbell (feat. Cam & China), Check the Lock
1.God Has Nothing to do with This, Leave Him Out of It – Backxwash
The best album to come out this year clocks in at only 22 minutes, but packs so much into that ride that it could truly hold no other place on this list. Backxwash’s incredible, noisy production lays the perfect backdrop for her intense, witchy lyricism. Backxwash takes us through hell, heaven and the occult in the short journey we have with her. This is an underground release that is not to be missed.
Favorite Tracks: Black Magic (feat. Ada Rook), Amen
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