In 2020, with so much uncertainty in the world, music fans are in search of a simpler time. Nothing brings back early 2000’s nostalgia like the idea of mixtapes.
The distinction between albums, mixtapes and EPs seems to get blurred more and with each year that passes. Some artists claim they released a mixtape despite it being a studio LP and others will label a 15-track project an EP. Simply put, there’s not much rhyme or reason anymore.
But whether it’s just a label or artists releasing mixtapes and EPs in the traditional sense, plenty of these projects are still being delivered despite the ambiguity. HipHopDX has compiled the best of the best in an effort to help fans keep track of what’s dropped in 2020. In October, fans received new releases from rookie NLE Choppa and veteran Black Thought.
You can also check out our album lists below:
Best Mixtapes and EPs of 2020 (January – October)
Dessert – Dinner Party
Earlier this year, Jazz and Hip Hop titans Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin and 9th Wonder linked for their new supergroup Dinner Party. After dinner comes Dessert, a remix of the original tracklist, now featuring rappers Buddy, Punch, Cordae, Snoop Dogg, and Rapsody. The intimate and emotional instrumentals elevate the rappers as they wax atop silky horns and keys from Washington and Glasper.
Flag – KXNG Crooked
Streams Of Thought Vol. 3 – Black Thought
Black Thought delivered his third installment in the Streams of Thought series on October 16, his most personal project to date. Songs such as “Good Morning” featuring Killer Mike, Swizz Beatz and Pusha T find The Roots frontman reflecting on his arduous Philly upbringing with lines such as “Yeah, I’m from the home of the ghost/There’s water plugs and wokeness/Water bugs and roaches, drugs and overdoses/How you approach this? Philly is where the dope is.” It also illustrates a story of perseverance and triumph while further solidifying Thought’s status as one of Hip Hop’s brightest lyricists and most vicious MCs.
Occupational Hazard – Mozzy
From Dark To Light – NLE Choppa
In recent months Memphis up-and-comer NLE Choppa has undergone a sort of spiritual metamorphosis. Choppa, whom as his name suggests, is a shooter. But he found meditation, and positive thinking within the chaos of this year. On his latest mixtape From Dark to Light, Choppa proves he can still sound hard while rapping about vegan plates and crystals. FDTL is an ambitious effort from the 18-year-old rapper that presents a possible new career path for the rising star.
Black Soprano Family – Benny The Butcher
Benny The Butcher and DJ Drama teamed up this past month to compile The Respected Sopranos, a continuation of the Griselda movement which has revamped New York Hip Hop through the East Coast’s seminal gritty and grimy sounds. With verses from up and comers Rick Hyde, Loveboat Luciano, Dwayne Collins, Heem B$F and the Griselda godfather himself, The Respected Sopranos is 26 minutes of NY realness.
Load It Up, Vol. 1 – 03 Greedo & Ron-RonTheProducer
Nothing can hold back 03 Greedo–not even prison. The Watts, CA native has been behind bars since the summer of 2018, but has consistently released quality music, including his latest, a collaboration with Ron-RonTheProducer, Load It Up Vol. 1. Throughout the project Greedo’s rowdy verses will often devolve into belligerent ramblings, perfectly suited for Ron-Ron’s eerie production. Bump “Home VLONE” for the duo’s best offering.
Manger On McNichols – Boldly James & Sterling Toles
With streaming becoming the dominant way people choose to consume music, there’s been an emphasis placed on releasing singles and albums as fast as possible and not letting things marinate. Boldy James and Sterling Toles’ latest album is proof greatness shouldn’t be rushed. With recordings dating back to 2007, Manger On McNichols is the result of process and patience, strengthening its impact as a time capsule of James’ upbringing in Detroit. The live jazz instrumentation and jarring production serve as the backdrop to James’ attempts to heal from his trauma, resulting in the most personal record he’s ever created.
Bartier Bounty 2 – Sada Baby
Take an hour ride through the sounds of Detroit with Sada Baby on his most recent release, Bartier Bounty 2. As we’ve come to expect from a Sada project, the second iteration of Bartier Bounty is full of energy, chaos and dance-provoking bops. Since his East Side MC entered the scene in 2017 with Skuba Sada, the rap community has fallen in love with his signature mix of humor and provocative lyrics. His latest assembles an eclectic range of features, from Lil Yachty to Dej Loaf. Blast “HALF MAN HALF APE” if you’re feeling rowdy, and “Baptism” if you’re trying to keep it more low-key.
House – Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco has a lot on his mind, and he shares it as only he can on House. Production is simple and relaxed, allowing Lupe to leisurely weave his way through extended metaphors. On “Dinosaurs,” he ties in prehistoric days to analyze the rap game, examining the responsibilities of both the old and new guard. It’s thoughtful, veteran rap at it’s finest, and even unnecessary voicemails from Virgil Abloh can’t ruin the groove.
The Imperfect Storm – Wale
During what seems like an almost unexplainable time in human history, Wale was able to capture some of what the nation is feeling and put into music. Lyrically, Folarin tackles the struggles of quarantining, mental health, protests, riots and police killings, all while maintaining his usual laid-back cadence. The Imperfect Storm is the perfect soundtrack to the times.
6pc Hot – 6LACK
6LACK’s nature for nocturnal soundtracks comes full circle with his 6pc Hot EP, which contained six audio nuggets full of accounts of lovelorn mistakes and serene confessionals. Tracks like “Long Nights” and “Float” make for perfect riding music along Atlanta’s I-20. And getting to hear to city’s premier artists in their prime on the Lil Baby-assisted “Know My Rights” allows the replay of 6pc Hot to last a lot longer than the munchies.
Now, More Than Ever – Flatbush Zombies
IDK & Friends 2 – IDK
IDK has some very talented friends: that much is clear from his latest mixtape, IDK & Friends 2, which has features from the likes of A$AP Ferg, Juicy J and Denzel Curry. The DMV rapper teamed up with basketball superstar Kevin Durant for his latest project which will serve as the soundtrack to Durant’s upcoming documentary, Basketball County: In The Water. IDK has always had a knack for storytelling, but on IDK & Friends 2 he’s turned his attention to making a hit and has found a way to do so without diluting the quality of his lyrics and production choices. Get used to hearing about IDK–he’s only going up from here.
Slime & B – Chris Brown & Young Thug
Although their degrees of separation are pretty much zero, no one was expecting (or demanding *gasp!*) a joint project between Chris Brown and Young Thug. Not only did they deliver the unsolicited mixtape Slime & B, but they delivered in the form of quality, fevered dance tracks and overall catchiness. Packed with radio candy like “Go Crazy,” “City Girls” and “Trap Back,” the project also leveraged the talents of both new (Gunna and Lil Duke) and veteran (E-40 and Too $hort) artists.
The Bluest Note – Skyzoo
Skyzoo has always shown a great appreciation for jazz in his music, often selecting production that samples the classic genre throughout his career. The Brooklyn MC upped the ante with The Bluest Note though, teaming up with an actual jazz band for the EP. Sky and Dumbo Station are a match made in heaven, bringing out the best in each other over the course of the seven-track project. Most notably, the Italian band adds a new dynamic to Sky’s style, eliciting a more vibrant performance from the veteran rapper to match its lush soundscapes.
LULU – Conway & Alchemist
Conway The Machine and Alchemist are no strangers, having worked on multiple songs together over the past few years. But the two finally linked up for a collaborative project titled LULU, which has become the clear frontrunner for best EP of 2020. Conway’s vicious yet meticulous bars perfectly complement Alchemist’s often chilling sounds, resulting in a seven-track effort with lots of replay value. And while the EP’s briefness is part of the appeal, the duo’s chemistry makes one hopeful they’ll concoct a full-length project in the future.
Already Decided – Smino
On Already Decided, Smino switches effortlessly between smooth, melodic flows and straight bars over soul samples. The St. Louis-bred MC displays his versatility, rapping over beats of all kinds, and the 16-track tape includes features from the likes of Sevyn Streeter and T-Pain. One of the standout songs is “Blac Soda (Freestyle),” which sees Smino flowing over Baby Keem’s cult classic “ORANGE SODA” instrumental. This feels like a warmup before his next official album.
Industry Games – CHIKA
Viral Instagram star-turned-professional rapper Chika released her debut project Industry Games after years of grinding. Her goal — to “make you think” — is fully realized throughout the seven-track effort. Backed by a handful of bass heavy beats, the 23-year-old Alabama native addresses her hustle, weight issues and haters with the expertise of any seasoned MC.
13LOOD 1N + 13LOOD OUT MIXX – Denzel Curry
Denzel Curry surprised fans with the 13LOOD 1N + 13LOOD OUT MIXX, giving listeners a brief but potent set of music that recaptured the feeling of old school mixtapes with its grainy quality and stitched together songs. The album received a score of 4 out of 5 from DX, with contributor Josh Svetz writing, “Curry’s latest release pays homage to his roots, while also showing off Zel at his most anarchic. It’s the blueprint for how to release scattered singles and snippets, without a cohesive idea or concept to tie it all together.”
The Circus – Mick Jenkins
Although Mick Jenkins referred to the EP as a prelude to his next full length project, The Circus can easily stand on its own as a body of work. From moody instrumentals to memorable lyricism, the seven tracks perfectly showcase the MC’s skills. The album received a score of 3.7 out of 5 from DX, with contributor Josh Svetz writing, “He employs a head-bopping flow with a throwback 90s boom-bap flair, making his verses pop. The Circus is an overall creative win and a nice precursor for his next album.”
The Appetition – Raekwon
The Chef hit the Red Bull Studios in New York and cooked up a brief three-track offering that proved his pen game remains sharp, making it clear the Wu-Tang Clan MC still is a force to be reckoned with at 50 years old.
Below is a list of more projects that we loved and still have on repeat.
Check out the best mixtapes and EPs from each month:
- Best Mixtapes and EPs Of January & February 2020
- Best Mixtapes and EPs Of March 2020
- Best Mixtapes and EPs Of April 2020
Below is a list of more albums that we loved and still have on repeat from each month of 2020.
OTHER FAVORITES FROM JANUARY
EnterFear Level 2 – Tech N9ne
With the amount of music Tech N9ne drops, it’s easy to overlook some of his projects, but EnterFear Level 2 includes four tracks that shouldn’t be overlooked. The project follows the EnterFear Level 1 EP, which dropped in November.
3 Joints – Redman
Redman doesn’t waste a single bar on his three-song EP, as he comes out swinging from the opening track. The veteran MC proves he’s still at the top of his game 30 years into his storied career.
- ‘Call Me Red, Vol. 1’ – Tiffany Red
- No Cosign Just Cocaine 3 – Ty Farris
- Flyest Nig@@ In Charge Mixtape Vol. 1 – Westside Gunn
- ENTERFEAR Level 2 – Tech N9ne
- 3 Joints – Redman
OTHER FAVORITES FROM FEBRUARY
- Anyways – Yung Nudy
- Fuck The World – Brent Faiyaz
OTHER FAVORITES FROM MARCH
- LeVon James – King Von
- Smokin Potnas – Curren$y & Fendi P
- The Sixteen Chapel – KXNG Crooked
- Web Life Vol. 3 – TEC
OTHER FAVORITES FROM APRIL
- Dark Lane Demo Tapes – Drake
- Quarantine: Social Distancing – Z-Ro
- I Don’t Wear Suits – SaxKixAve
- Be Right Back – Tanya Morgan
- Moment of Change – Raw Poetic & Damu The Fudgemunk
- For You – Babyface Ray
- T3RMINAL_4 – Eric North
- In Search of … Cole – DJ Critical Hype
OTHER FAVORITES FROM MAY
- Just Cause Y’all Waited 2 – Lil Durk
- No One Mourns the Wicked – Conway x Big Ghost LTD
- I’m My Brother’s Keeper -Yella Beezy & Trapboy Freddy
- Red Flu – Young M.A.
- Timeless – Dee-1
- In The Meantime – OMB Peezy
- Outside – Bino Rideaux
- Drop 6 – Little Simz
- Eat When You’re Hungry Sleep When You’re Tired – Jay Worthy & Harry Fraud
OTHER FAVORITES FROM JUNE
- The Smartest – Tee Grizzley
- Drug Dealing Is A Lost Art – RMR
- Son Of A Gun – Key Glock
OTHER FAVORITES FROM JULY
- Manger on McNichols – Boldy James & Sterling Toles
- The Light Pack – Joey Bada$$
- The Curb Commentator – E-40
OTHER FAVORITES FROM AUGUST
- Pandemic Project – Tobe Nwigwe
- The Things I Do For Money – Father
- The Last Re-Up – Bobby Fishscale
- Load It Up Vol 1. – 03 Greedo & RONRONTHEPRODUCER
OTHER FAVORITES FROM SEPTEMBER
- The Lobby Tape EP – DOLEY BERNAYS
OTHER FAVORITES FROM OCTOBER
- Evolution – Joyner Lucas
- Capital Gains – Willie The Kid
- Hot As Hell – WifiGAWD