The past few months have felt like years due to all of the chaos happening in the world, but the one consistency has been the amount of good music that’s dropped in 2020. During July, some of Hip Hop’s heavy hitters released singles. Fans received new music from J. Cole, Eminem, Kid Cudi, Black Thought and more.
Every month, HipHopDX is putting a spotlight on the tracks that stand out from the overabundance of releases throughout the year, highlighting everything from Billboard chart-friendly singles to essential album cuts. Check out our other lists below and follow our playlist, which includes all of the songs mentioned in this article:
For your listening pleasure, here is HipHopDX’s The Best Hip Hop Songs of 2020 … so far.
Contributing writers: Trent Clark, Kyle Eustice, Justin Ivey, Josh Svetz, Dana Scott, Brandon Caldwell, David Brake, Kenan Draughorne, Jeremy Hecht.
The Top Hip Hop Songs of Jan – July 2020
“The Woo” – Pop Smoke f. Roddy Ricch & 50 Cent
Pop Smoke was doing something special. We saw snippets of his true artistry on Meet the Woo 2, but on the commanding Shoot For The Stars, Aim For the Moon he ascends to new dimensions with full dexterity. Multi-generational track “The Woo” connects Pop with one of his idols and shines a spotlight on another artist primed to take over the next decade.
“Wishing Well” – Juice Wrld
Juice Wrld’s tragic legacy is challenging to grapple with. His posthumous releases have continued to emphasize his troubles with addiction with “Wishing Well” serving as the latest heartbreaking window into his torment, featuring the most gut-wrenching line of 2020: “Let’s be for real/If it wasn’t for the pills, I wouldn’t be here/But if I keep taking these pills, I won’t be here.”
“May I” – Flo Milli
“The Adventures Of Moon Man & Slim Shady” – Kid Cudi f. Eminem
In an unexpected collaboration of Hip Hop greats, Mr. Rager tapped the real Slim Shady for Cudi’s first single since the Travis-assisted hit “The Scotts.” Em pulled inspiration from a variety of pop-culture moments, including the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Drew Brees’ controversial comments. Cudi and Eminem are sonically different, but the two blend together exceptionally well for a shit-talking anthem.
“Thought Vs. Everybody” – Black Thought
On the powerful single “Thought vs. Everybody,” Black Thought personifies the rage and fire that burned in several of America’s major cities during the Black Lives Matter protests before and during this Summer of Discontent. In his calm yet incisive demeanor, The Roots co-founder parallels the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movements of the 1960s and 70s to the present day plight of racism for his most political solo record to date.
“Bands In Da Basement” – 03 Greedo f. Chief Keef & Ron-RonTheProducer
One of 03 Greedo’s greatest strengths is his superior ability to show not tell, preferring to let audiences interpret the implications of what he’s expressing rather than spelling it out. His collaboration with Chief Keef “Bands In Da Basement” continues to showcase this talent, rapping about his preference for keeping money anywhere but the bank. The chorus and Greedo’s Auto-Tuned harmonies make for an irresistibly catchy track straight from the basement of the trap Greedo used to break down ounces in.
“Only You Freestyle” – Headie f. Drake
Drake released a handful of singles in the past month but none top his collaboration with North London rapper Headie One. Produced by M1OnTheBeat, the Drill-inspired track lays the foundation for four minutes of unbridled bars. Say what you will about the ethics and authenticity of Drake’s continual interest in British slang and cadence, the spitting heard on “Only You Freestyle” is the closest Hip Hop fans have seen of the mixtape-era 6 God in years.
“Lion King On Ice” – J. Cole
Hip Hop fans happily stepped into the Cole World after his single “Lion King On Ice” melted on their ear drums in hot-ass July. The track is co-produced by jetsonmade, T-Minus and J. Cole himself, consisting of subtle trap hi-hats and snares, an ethereal 45 RPM R&B vocal high note sample with Cole’s melodic tenor singing. It counterbalances his initial polarizing song “Snow on tha Bluff” released in June and makes fans get ready for a possible new outing from the rap legend of the fall season.
“Black Sheep” – Sheff G
“Soul Food II” – Logic
“Soul Food” sounded great the first time and its successor is a fitting sign-off to Logic’s career. He touches on the overconsumption of music and his full-circle journey, while using the beat switch to reference the extraterrestrial storyline from The Incredible True Story. The double time flows and frequent call backs are vintage Logic, allowing him to do what he does best one final time for his fiercely loyal fanbase.
“The Bigger Picture” – Lil Baby
The ongoing Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have inspired music from plenty of rappers. But none have quite captured the collective feeling of the moment as well as Lil Baby on the anthemic “The Bigger Picture.” Rapping with a beleaguered delivery about the systematic oppression caused by our broken institutions, Baby’s call-to-action strikes the right balance of being fed up with the police’s abuse of power with being cautiously optimistic that people uniting together can usher in the change this country so desperately needs.
“What’s Poppin (Remix)” – Jack Harlow f. Tory Lanez, DaBaby & Lil Wayne
“WHAT’S POPPIN” became Jack Harlow’s biggest song on its own, yet the track got a major co-sign when three of Hip Hop’s biggest stars jumped on the remix. DaBaby, Lil Wayne and Tory Lanez brought their respective styles to the cut and only made it better in the process. But most impressive of all is how Harlow still stands tall, proving he’s more than ready to compete alongside the heavyweights in the rap industry.
“Song 33” – Noname
Although Noname later expressed regret for issuing this response to J. Cole’s perceived “tone deaf” single “Snow On Tha Bluff,” the Chicago rapper seized her moment and murdered the Madlib-produced beat while setting the Dreamville boss firmly in her crosshairs. With lines such as, “But niggas in the back quiet as a church mouse/Basement studio when duty calls to get the verse out/I guess the ego hurt now,” she made it abundantly clear she can handle her own.
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) June 18, 2020
“Lockdown” – Anderson .Paak
The acidic mix of coronavirus blues and red-hot racial tensions has left plenty of Americans feeling empty and deflated. On his soothing protest anthem “Lockdown,” Anderson. Paak offers the world mild sedative for their rage while keeping them on course to upset the bigger system.
“Something To Rap About” – Freddie Gibbs f. Tyler The Creator
Freddie Gibbs and Alchemist’s surprise album Alfredo is filled with excellent music, but the soothing sounds of “Something To Rap About” make for one of the best listening experiences in Hip Hop this year. Gangsta Gibbs floats on ALC’s beat, dropping jaw-dropping lines such as “God made me sell crack, so I had something to rap about. Tyler, The Creator’s guest verse is icing on the cake, adding a little extra flavor to this delicious Alfredo cut.
“City On Lock” – City Girls f. Lil Durk
“Make It Rain” – Pop Smoke f. Rowdy Rebel
Ahead of Pop Smoke’s highly anticipated first posthumous album, the late Brooklyn rapper’s estate released “Make It Rain,” featuring the currently incarcerated Rowdy Rebel. The lead single from the forthcoming album contains everything you’d want from a Pop Smoke track: deep growls, a thick underlying bass and that inimitable Flossy cadence.
“JU$T” – Run The Jewels f. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha
The collaborations between Run The Jewels and Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha have been some of the best parts of RTJ’s albums … and RTJ4 is no different. El-P and Killer Mike switched up the formula a bit for their latest team-up, recruiting Pharrell and de la Rocha for the standout cut “JU$T.” Having Pharrell join in the slamming of capitalism makes for an unexpected but pleasantly surprising wrinkle to the string of collabs from RTJ and RATM”s frontman.
“WELFARE” – RMR f. Westside Gunn
The masked singer proved that he’s worth the hype on his debut album DRUG DEALING IS A LOST ART. The genre-bending album has whiffs of Pop and Country, all while remaining undeniably Hip Hop. “WELFARE” puts RMR toe-to-toe with Griselda’s Westside Gunn for a trap ballad. Gunn’s belligerent adlibs paired with RMR’s smooth, soulful vocals make this track one of 2020’s best.
“ROCKSTAR” (BLM Remix)” – DaBaby f. Roddy Ricch
“MOVIN’ DIFFERENT” – Wale f. McClenney
Between nationwide protests and coronavirus quarantines, there is no doubt that 2020 is unlike any other year in history. At such a unique time, there isn’t much music to capture the feeling, but Wale’s new EP The Imperfect Storm portrays the mood of so many living through this year. On “MOVIN’ DIFFERENT” Foloron tackles complex issues like the media’s portrayal of protests, riots, Los Angeles curfews, the militarization of police and not-so-sober quarantining.
“FTP” – YG
Once again, Compton-bred rapper YG has used his power for good. Instead of calling out Donald Trump like he did with 2016’s “FDT,” now he’s taking aim at corrupt police with “FTP (Fuck The Police).” Again, timing played an integral role in the unharnessed power of the track. With protests and riots breaking out across the globe in the name of George Floyd and racial equality, YG’s words resonate louder than ever, especially lines such as, “Murder after murder after all these years/Buy a strap, bust back after all these tears/Mommas cryin’, how they gon’ heal? (How they gon’?)/How you would feel?”
“GTA VI” – Drakeo The Ruler & JoogSzn
The gritty and violent tales from some of the most traumatized street rappers endlessly fascinate those who haven’t experienced that life. To these wannabe hustlers, selling drugs, dodging bullets and shooting Glocks would be “so lit, bro,” leaving them wishing they could live out their gangsta fantasies. What’s forgotten, as allegedwrongly incarcerated L.A. rapper Drakeo The Ruler points out on “GTA VI,” is most don’t live that way because it’s fun: they do it to survive. Drakeo’s sobering cautionary tale of what happens when you treat life like it’s Grand Theft Auto haunts the listener long after the cracks of the GTL phone line fade out; a reminder there is no respawn if you fuck up in real life.
“Black 2” – Buddy
“State Of The Union (STFU)” — Public Enemy f. DJ Premier
Much like Run The Jewels’ RTJ4, Public Enemy’s first song since 2017 seemed to arrive right on time. With production from the inimitable DJ Premier, the in-your-face, anti-Trump anthem erupts with Chuck D’s booming voice and Flavor Flav’s familiar ad-libs as Preemo and DJ Lord tear up the 1s and 2s. The groundbreaking Hip Hop group followed up the track with an explosive rendition of “Fight The Power” at the 2020 BET Awards alongside Nas, Questlove, Jahi, YG, Black Thought and Rapsody.
“Skinny Suge” – Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
Given the way Freddie Gibbs has been Deebo’ing the rap game in 2020, it’s only right the bluesy yet cocky “Skinny Suge” is his new national anthem. Overtop The Alchemist’s stingray guitar loops, Gangsta Gibbs literally raps his way out of a paranoia-driven psychosis to emerge as Hip Hop’s top draw this year.
“Girls In The Hood” – Megan Thee Stallion
“Wishing For A Hero” – Polo G f. BJ The Chicago Kid
The climax of Polo G’s sophomore effort feels analogous to a song that precedes it by 22 years. “Wishing For A Hero” takes on the same tenor and piano loop that made Tupac’s “Changes” a resonating reminder of how much truly hasn’t changed even in the face of optimism. “Cops kill us and we protest, what type of shit is that?” Polo asks before settling underneath BJ The Chicago Kid’s own hymnals, “I’m from where we unheard but we can’t speak.” He may be referencing Chicago, but in America, he’s referring to millions of people who want basic decency and respect.
“BALD! REMIX” – JPEGMAFIA f. Denzel Curry
JPEGMAFIA bolstered his already impressive cut “BALD!” by enlisting the help of Denzel Curry for the track’s remix. Peggy’s new version maintains the original production but replaces his second verse with an excellent effort from Zeltron. Curry fits seamlessly on the track, particularly while rapping on the sparse section of the beat featuring nothing but hand claps.
“495” – IDK f. Rico Nasty, YungManny, Big Flock, Big JAM & Weensey
IDK served as the music supervisor on Kevin Durant’s Showtime documentary Basketball County: In the Water and slipped a new song, “495,” into the film. The posse cut features Juicy J’s production, which proves he’s still a master of the vintage Three 6 Mafia sound. But with IDK and Acyde also contributing to the beat, the song morphs at one point from menacing banger into a breezy anthem by the time Rico Nasty starts rapping.
“Savage (Remix)” – Megan Thee Stallion f. Beyoncé
Megan Thee Stallion has been building her Hot Girl brand over the past couple of years and continues to grow into one of the most prominent new artists in the game. If her status wasn’t already cemented before, a fellow Houston native sealed the deal for Meg. Beyoncé not only hopped on the remix, she also provided multiple rap verses, adlibs over the hook and new melodies to take the song to the next level. “Savage (Remix)” reached No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100, giving Megan her first-ever chart-topper.
“Social Distancing” – Lil Baby
Many rappers incorporated the coronavirus’ forced reality into their music, but none did it with the grace of Lil Baby. Backed by a beat that feels six feet away from Section 8 and Chi Chi, Baby raps with precision, using the social distancing term as a metaphor for carving out his lane and cutting off all that oppose him. Baby understands with great wealth comes intense jealousy and fake admiration; his distrust building. It’s the type of song built for isolation as we tune out our grim reality, hoping for the day when we can escape with the ones we love and just go away.
“Body Count” f. G Herbo & King Von – Mozzy
Over the past decade, Mozzy has become one of the best rappers at portraying the grim circumstances of street life. “Body Count” off his Beyond Bulletproof album is another example of his proficiency in this area as he displays on the hook and first verse. The West Coast MC gets assists from Chicago’s G Herbo and King Von, the latter of whom delivers one of his finest performances to date, proving he shouldn’t be stuck in the shadow of his OTF boss Lil Durk.
“Will (Remix)” – Joyner Lucas f. Will Smith
After releasing the music video for his single “Will,” which finds Joyner professing his admiration for Hip Hop legend Will Smith and comparing his own journey to Smith’s celebrated career, the man who inspired the song jumped on the remix. The Fresh Prince tells his story over the beat while shouting out all of the people who inspired him along the way, from Muhammad Ali to his wife Jada.
“H.A.R.D.” – Joell Ortiz & KXNG Crooked
The demise of Slaughterhouse was unfortunate for Hip Hop, but Joell Ortiz and KXNG Crooked reminded fans of why the supergroup was special with the release of their “H.A.R.D.” single. The two have always been elite lyricists yet what really makes The Heatmakerz-produced cut shine is Ortiz and Crook’s chemistry. These veteran MCs arguably compliment each other better as a duo than they did within the four-man lineup of Slaughterhouse with the track emphasizing their strengths. Still, both artists have great fondness for their days rapping alongside Royce Da 5’9 and Joe Budden and make sure that’s known on the single.
“Basquiat” – Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas
Mr. Lif and seasoned producer Stu Bangas — collectively known as Vangarde — pay tribute to Gang Starr with “Basquiat,” the duo’s second offering from their upcoming self-titled EP. The track weaves ‘90s boom bap with Lif’s signature laid-back flow, a proper follow-up to the inaugural single, “The New Normal.”
“FYTB” – Key Glock
Have you ever spent the night up in the trap house? Key Glock has. He lives that life, no matter how successful he becomes. Glizock’s authenticity is one key to his rise; the other coming from how lively he makes his grim tales of detachment sound. “FYTB” isn’t ominous like many of his other cuts. The flex lines fire off like a Mac-11. He cops a Benz and Rolls truck: paid in cash, of course. And can make your girl faint just by walking into the room. This is Key Glock at his most boisterous without compromising himself. But this was all predestined — He was born to ball.
“And I Still” – Rod Wave
“Dangerookipawaa Freestyle” – Ab-Soul
A comeback in Hip Hop is never promised, even if you are prominent of the greatest group to never officially do it. Such is life for Ab-Soul, who hasn’t released a project since before Kendrick Lamar had everyone saying “damn.” All that changed on 4/20 as smokers baked their brains and Ab dropped “Dangerookipawaa Freestyle” as part of TDE Appreciation Week. The track begins sinister enough as Ab drops thunderous theorems over a wailing Charles Bradley sample but soon melts within its own lava with a beat switch whose barrage of horns can’t contend with Soulo’s lyrical barrage. He’s back.
“Leader Of The Delinquents” – Kid Cudi
Beginning the song off with his now infamous humming adlibs, Kid Cudi made a triumphant return in 2020 with a brand new single. The song sees the Cleveland-bred artist delving deep into his psyche while battling his inner demons. Cudder aptly dubs himself the “leader of the delinquents” on the track as he reminisces over past drug abuse and failed relationships. This was the first new song from Cudi since his Kanye West collab album Kids See Ghosts and as always, “Dat Kid From Cleveland” continued his streak of being vulnerable and honest within his music.
“George Bondo” – Westside Gunn
Westside Gunn’s “George Bondo” might just be the quintessential Griselda Records song. The Flygod, Conway The Machine and Benny The Butcher rapping over a Daringer beat has proven to be a winning formula, and this Pray For Paris is damn near perfect. With no hook in sight, each MCs tries to outdo his predecessor with overpowering rhymes. The trio gets to bar out while referencing everything from pro wrestling and Patrick Kane to moving from drug deals to Roc Nation brunches.
“Pyro (leak 2019)” – Denzel Curry
Like much of Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats’ album, “Pyro (leak 2019)” leaves listeners wanting more due to its short runtime. Despite clocking in at less than two minutes, the track is filled with potent bars and stylistic flair. From altered vocals on a Mario reference and hitting high notes like ODB to witty wordplay about Goodie Mob and Malcolm X, Curry packs a heavy punch on the lone verse of “Pyro (leak 2019).”
“The Blinding” – Jay Electronica f. JAY-Z, Travis Scott & The-Dream
Jay Electronica and JAY-Z perfectly complement each other on A Written Testimony, particularly on the Travis Scott-assisted “The Blinding.” Both rappers come out swinging, starting the song off with spiritually laced bars over a hard-hitting instrumental. But when the beat switches midway through the track, Jay Elec displays true vulnerability and laments his fear of criticism. It’s a revealing moment that sheds light on why fans waited so long to hear his debut album.
“Yankee and The Brave (ep. 4)” – Run The Jewels
It appears Run The Jewels are gearing up for the release of their fourth studio album as they returned in March with a new single. From the production to the lyricism, everything about this track is unique, yet the song is quintessential RTJ.
“Carefree” – Mick Jenkins
Mick Jenkins has the ability to sound completely laid back on a beat while still making sure he’s concise with his lyrics. “Carefree” delivers a catchy hook, clever bars and a smooth instrumental.
“They Got Sonny” – Conway & Alchemist f. Cormega
Conway The Machine and Alchemist make for a deadly combination as proven throughout their LULU EP. But their formula was made even more potent with the addition of Cormega, who helped the duo craft a street rap gem in “They Got Sonny.” Conway’s verbal smack to the face and Mega’s equally hard-hitting bars are right at home on ALC’s brooding beat. Hopefully, this is just the first of many more songs from this trio.
“Life Is Good” – Future & Drake
Future and Drake teamed up once again, this time to remind everyone they’re doing well in life. This song brought the best out of the duo and left fans anticipating a potential full-length follow up to their 2015 effort What A Time To Be Alive.
“Yah Yah” – Eminem
Eminem recruited some of the best to ever do it — Black Thought, Royce Da 5’9 and Q-Tip — for an epic posse cut that stands out as one of the shining moments of Slim Shady’s surprise album Music To Be Murdered By.
Below is a list of more songs that we loved and still have on repeat. Check back so that you don’t miss the best songs of 2020!
- “End of Daze” – Spillage Village
- “Memorial Day” – Kxng Crooked & Joel Ortiz
- “Riri” – Aminé
- “Dangerous” – Thurz
- “Can’t Sleep” – Big Boi & Sleepy Brown
- “DEALER” (Remix) – RMR f. Future & Lil Baby
- “Me Vs. Me” – Moneybagg Yo
- “Nominated” – Hit-Boy f. Dom Kennedy (Eric Diep)
- “Lost” – Tha Chill f. MC Ren
- “Dollaz On My Head” – Gunna f. Young Thug
- “Black Savage” – Royce Da 5’9”
- “@ MEH” – Playboi Carti
- “1997” – Key Glock
- “Rockstar” – DaBaby f. Roddy Ricch
- “Why Worry” – Isaiah Rashad
- “Dealer” – RMR
- “No Questions” – 22 Gz
- “Ion Rap Beef Remix” – Drakeo The Ruler
- “DND” – Polo G
- “Golden Oldies” – RA The Rugged Man
- “Blue World” – Mac Miller
- “Shells Kitchen” – Raekwon
- “Crunk Ain’t Dead (Remix)” – Duke Deuce
- “Anna From Woohside (Beat Suite)” – Stretch & Bobbito
- “I Do It” ft. Big Sean & Lil Wayne – Lil Wayne
- “Invincible” – Pop Smoke
- “What’s Poppin” – Jack Harlow
- “Prices” – Lil Uzi Vert
- “Angels Getting Pedicured” – Jadakiss f. 2 Chainz
- “John $tarks” – Stove God Cook$ & Roc Marciano
- “PTSD” – G Herbo f. Juice WRLD, Chance The Rapper & Lil Uzi Vert
If you want to see our lists from past months, here they are: