Even though the past couple of months have felt like multiple years, it’s only June. But even amid all of the chaos that persists in the world, a global pandemic and no sign of live concerts happening any time soon, there has been no shortage of great albums in 2020.
DX is narrowing down the endless amount of music released during the course of the year to the essentials, providing readers with a list of the must-listen projects. The team at DX highlights some of their favorite albums this year so far. This month’s list includes projects from newcomer Polo G and veteran Freddie Gibbs, whose 2019 effort Bandana was crowned Rap Album Of The Year at DX’s End Of Year Awards.
You can check out some of our other lists to stay up to date with all of the best new music dropping this year.
To see which albums qualify for this list’s contention, scroll to the bottom.
The Top Rap Albums of Jan – May 2020
The GOAT – Polo G
Nobody likes a sophomore slump, including Polo G. The young Chicago spitter built on his existing strengths and drew a line in the sand with his hardbody second studio album, THE GOAT. Whether it’s floating through Windy City streets on “33,” solidifying his love life on “Martin & Gina” or working through the pain on “No Matter What,” Polo G always raps with conviction and passion. The album is also backed by star-studded production from Mustard, Mike Will Made-It, Murda Beatz, Nick Mira and that’s just the m’s.
Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs
There may not be a better rapper going than Freddie Gibbs. Alfredo, his fourth project in the last two years trades Madlib production for that of Alchemist and Gibbs continues to be lightyears ahead of his contemporaries. “Michael Jordan, 1985, bitch I’m travelin’ with a cocaine circus,” he raps along spaghetti western guitar strings on “1985.” The 10-track quick-strike from Gibbs has already slotted itself into Album of the Year contention as the ESGN leader flaunts in and out of pockets with Rick Ross (“Scottie Beam”), Benny The Butcher (“Frank Lucas”), Tyler, the Creator (“Something To Rap About”) and Conway (“Babies & Fools”) and excels at every turn. If you’re a guest on a Gibbs project, it immediately becomes an event. We thought Gibbs had reached a max level of no skip with Bandana. He’s taken that to another level on Alfredo.
Pray For Paris – Westside Gunn
Much of the Westside Gunn story has already been written in stone. He’s established a dedicated following as the founder of Griselda Records and introduced the world to multiple talents such as Conway The Machine and Benny The Butcher. Yet WSG took his biggest step toward a wider audience with Pray For Paris, releasing the most accessible album of his career — even more than the Griselda crew’s Shady Records debut WWCD. While he certainly hasn’t abandoned what’s worked so far, Pray For Paris expands WSG’s scope by getting contributions from the likes of Tyler, The Creator and Wale. The LP is the ideal entry point for listeners who haven’t jumped on the Griselda bandwagon but doesn’t compromise the foundation of what WSG has built.That makes it a great listen for newcomers and dedicated listeners alike, which is exactly what Westside needs to expand his influence in music industry.
Rudebwoy – CJ Fly
Pro Era has been known to take their time working on albums before delivering them to the world. CJ’s process is no different. His last full-length project was released in 2016. The wait was worth it as the Brooklyn-bred MC’s triumphant return displays personal growth and lyrical mastery. CJ glides over Statik Selektah’s smooth production as he delivers unfiltered honesty throughout the 13-track project.
All My Heroes Are Dead – R.A. The Rugged Man
R.A. The Rugged Man once again takes no prisoners on his latest solo affair. Armed with an arsenal of brutal bars and notable guests such as Ghostface Killah, Ice-T, Masta Killa and Chuck D, he proudly carries the torch for Golden Era Hip Hop throughout the 22-track project.
A Written Testimony – Jay Electronica
Over a decade ago, Jay Electronica not only amazed fans with his lyrical ability but also through his mysterious nature. The mystique only grew over time as his debut album seemed like it would never drop. But after years of uncertainty, Jay Elec proved his doubters wrong by dropping his debut album A Written Testimony. The “Exhibit C” creator called on JAY-Z for help though, taking on the role of co-star for Jay Elec’s first LP. While many thought Hov outshined his Roc Nation signee on the project, there is no denying Jay Elec’s elite lyricism. Hopefully, this project will lead to a proper solo LP to prove the New Orleans-bred MC’s more than capable of greatness on his own.
PTSD – G Herbo
G Herbo may seem like a veteran because of his maturity, lyrical content and his tenure in the rap game, but the Chicago-bred MC is still only 24 years old. PTSD is Herbo’s most complete project yet as he shows growth in his song-making abilities, flows and lyricism. The title track is a standout record from the album featuring Chance The Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert and the late Juice WRLD. The eerie song sees all four artists dive into the topics of violence, survival and death from their unique perspectives.
The Price Of Tea In China – Boldy James & Alchemist
Anyone who listened to Boldy James knows his talent, but the Detroit-bred MC reminded Hip Hop heads of his true potential with The Price Of Tea In China. Seven years after teaming up with Alchemist on My 1st Chemistry set, Boldy reconnected with ALC for another studio album. In doing so, he crafted his finest work to date.. With Alchemist as the conductor, Boldy surpasses the standard of his past full-length projects and conveys one of the most vivid depictions of Motor City street life in recent memory. ALC truly brings the best out of Boldy, helping him reach new creative heights with their sophomore LP as a duo.
Unlocked – Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats
Denzel Curry keeps finding ways to switch things up and stay fresh. With the help of producer Kenny Beats, Zeltron concocted one of his most clever projects in the surprise release Unlocked. Although the album lasts less than 20 minutes, the eight-song LP manages to effectively deliver on its concept. Based on the premise of an album leak, the brief cuts and abrupt endings capture the feeling of listening to something from the vaults that fans weren’t meant to hear. Even the song titles play along with the idea of being stolen from an artist’s computer with names like “Take_it_Back_v2” and “Cosmic.m4a.” Accentuated by a visual component that bolsters the concept, Curry and Kenny’s Unlocked makes for one of Hip Hop’s most imaginative creations in 2020.
The Allegory – Royce Da 5’9
When Nickle Nine puts pen to paper, he consistently digs deep and pulls out some undeniably intense, always well crafted bars. Much like the Book Of Ryan, The Allegory delivers more of the Motor City MC’s stark observations on the culture and everything in between. Album highlights include “Black Savage,” “Young World,” “On The Block” and “The Perspective” — Eminem’s spoken word interlude on racism and Hip Hop. Additional contributions come from KXNG Crooked, G Perico, Vince Staples and DJ Premier, among others.
Here are some other albums that we still have in rotation from 2020.
- Everything – Kota The Friend
- Tha Chill – FOHEAD
- Beyond Bulletproof – Mozzy
- Music To Be Murdered By – Eminem
- Black Habits – D Smoke
- Reasonable Drought – Stove God Cook$
- Enter Fear – Tech N9ne
Editor’s Note: In order for an album to qualify for the official list, it must have received a DX Review score of 4.0 or higher. Honorable mentions may have received a lower score.
This article is part of DX’s monthly “Best of The Year” series and includes albums released between January 1 and April 21 [Albums released between April 22 – 30 will be included in next month’s updates].
You can also check out the best Rap albums from each month: