It goes without saying 2020 was a rough year for many. However, as the 2020 Hip Hop Awards will show, there was a plethora of great albums, memorable songs and Hip Hop producers. The best rappers displayed top tier lyricism, artists joined forces for significant collabs and while everyone was in the house, fans were entertained with new music videos, TV shows and movies to create continued discussion — not to mention a load of impeccable R&B music to provide some much needed stress relief.
Every year, HipHopDX staff joins in our Hip Hop Awards discussions, debates and sometimes heated arguments to come up with a list for our Year End Awards. Be sure to check back on December 28, 2020 when we begin announcing our winners.
With respect to the 2020 BET Hip Hop Awards, Rolling Stone and upcoming 2020 Grammy Awards, this is where you can divulge in the best rappers of the year. Plus, The Weeknd got our nominations for both R&B Album of The Year and Singer of The Year.
While the world may seem like it’s in shambles, it’s safe to say Hip Hop in 2020 was in a good space. Prepare yourself to agree, disagree or be enlightened altogether. It’s time for the 2020 Hip Hop awards.
Behold, the 2020 Hip Hop Awards below.
Editor’s note: All nominees are listed in alphabetical order.
THIS YEAR’S SCHEDULE
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2020
This year’s nominations for Rookie Of The Year are sonically and regionally diverse. Atlanta, Compton, Brooklyn, Memphis and Louisville are all represented in this list. Whether it’s Mulatto’s salacious bars, Roddy Ricch’s knack for a pristine melody, Jack Harlow’s contagious lyrics or NLE Choppa’s spiritual growth displayed on tracks, each of these five new rappers proved this year was just the beginning. Unfortunately, one of the biggest breakout artists of the year tragically had his career cut short. As we look back on 2020, we also remember the legacy of Pop Smoke.
The 2020 rookie of the year award goes to…
A newcomer whose knowledge of crafting a hit can rival any vet in the industry, Roddy Ricch took 2020 by storm. Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial broke in the final days of 2019 and has served as much of the soundtrack for 2020. The debut album is already two times Platinum certified and spent months at the top spot of the Billboard 200. “The Box,” Ricch’s breakout single from his debut, spent eleven weeks at peak of the Billboard 100 and is unequivocally one of the best tracks of 2020. Ricch has also dominated the feature game, with notable verses on projects from Cordae, NLE Choppa, Pop Smoke, DaBaby and Gunna. A year into the game and Roddy is well on his way to stardom in 2021 and beyond.
Read about the best new rappers of 2020.
BIGGEST HIP HOP COMEBACK OF 2020
2020 has been a rollercoaster that has managed to bring with it some unexpected high notes from artists who were on the quiet side for the past few years, in dire need of a late-career redemption or were over a decade overdue for a breakout. Jay Electronica dropped his debut album more than 10 years after it was initially promised, Nas and Big Sean returned from hiatus with high quality projects, Lil Uzi Vert finally gave fans what they were looking for and Public Enemy recruited a slew of Hip Hop’s finest for a remix of their classic song “Fight The Power.”
The 2020 biggest comeback award goes to…
In the case of 44-year-old super MCJay Electronica, 2020 didn’t so much mark a comeback as it did a long-promised album — a clean decade after first signing to Roc Nation. However, fans got even more than they bargained for after actually dropping his debut A Written Testimony, which prominently featured JAY-Z. In March, his Detox,Act II: The Patents of Nobility (The Turn), leaked online in its entirety in October.
Originally expected to be released on Christmas Day 2009, fans had all but lost hope in Act II — especially when A Written Testimony dropped instead. Upon its leak, Jay announced and followed through on having the LP officially released on streaming platforms.
Read more about the biggest comebacks of 2020.
BEST RAP VERSE OF 2020
Hip Hop has always been a voice for the voiceless. In 2020, amid nationwide protests in the aftermath of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders, there was never a more important time for artists to use their voices responsibly. Rap veterans Killer Mike and Black Thought provided chilling commentary on the current state of the world, while Lil Baby briefly stepped into the political sphere to give young fans a powerful message on “The Bigger Picture.” Tierra Whack came through with wordplay, flows and her usual commanding presence on “T.D” and Beyoncé surprised many by blessing Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” with one of the most memorable verses this year.
The 2020 verse of the year award goes to…
Top bars: “Seems like we losing our country/But we gotta stand up for something, so this what it comes to/Every video I see on my conscience/I got power, now I gotta say somethin.'”
COVID-19 and police murders of Black people were the year’s biggest news stories in 2020. Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” is an audible fist in the air rallying for social justice. Released in June shortly after the viral video revealing a white police officer murdering George Floyd on Memorial Day weekend, Lil Baby urges for a revolution over a gliterring piano loop and scintillating trap drums and hi-hats. In his second verse, he talks about his own content as an Atlanta-based street hustler with political awareness. Yet he’s objectively fair to both marchers and police who really want to protect the community. The verse is this year’s most popular male rapper’s paralleling Rodney King asking, “Can’t we all just get along?”
- Beyoncé – “Savage (Remix)”
- Black Thought – “Good Morning”
- Killer Mike – “walking in the snow”
- Lil Baby – ‘The Bigger Picture’
- Tierra Whack – “T.D”
Check out our favorite rap verses of 2020.
BEST HIP HOP BEAT OF 2020
Producer clout is at an all-time and 2020 featured a plethora of memorable rap instrumentals from several notable beat makers. Whether it was the continued excellence of The Alchemist, Harry Fraud and Hit-Boy or placements from rising stars such as Section 8, Jetsonmade and CashMoneyAP, producers gifted rappers with incredible backdrops, helping their songs reach full potential.
The 2020 beat of the year award goes to…
PRODUCED BY 30 ROC, DAT BOI SQUEEZE & ZENTACHI
It seems like decades ago, but before we added the term “social distancing” to our lexicon and sported masks on our faces, Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” dominated the landscape as the irresistible and inescapable party jam. To take over the world, songs need something catchy and memorable to stick. The door squeak vocalized by Roddy served as the defining sound people couldn’t forget. 30 Roc, Zentachi and Dat Boi Squeeze layer thumping bass-filled 808s over top of a soaring orchestral Omnisphere plugin to add gravitas to the experience. Even though there’s quite a bit going on, “The Box” sounds minimal and never overtakes Ricch’s harmonies, keeping the focus on him despite mixing in additional piano keys and synth notes. Through its undeniable groove and Roddy’s versatile vocals “The Box” stayed No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 11 weeks, helping launch Roddy into stardom.
- “327” – Westside Gunn – (Produced by Camoflauge Monk)
- “The Box” – Roddy Ricch (Produced by 30 Roc, Datboisqueeze, Zentachi)
- “The Blinding” – Jay Electronica (Produced by Swizz Beatz, Hit-Boy, AraabMuzik, G. Ry)
- “Laugh Now Cry Later” – Drake (Produced by Cardo, G. Ry, Yung Exclusive, Chahayed)
- “We Paid” – Lil Baby & 42 Dugg (Produced by Section 8)
Read more about all of our favorite beats from 2020.
BEST HIP HOP PRODUCER OF 2020
There’s been a trend lately where producers are putting out records as primary artists and getting the proper recognition they should’ve received from the start. On top of releasing their own material, some producers have been partnering with artists to create the signature sounds to some of the best songs and albums of 2020. Listeners have gotten a healthy dose of sounds from all different types of sub-genres in Hip Hop this year thanks to this group of eclectic producers. From the depths of the traps in the south to the soulful, sample-heavy sound inspired by the gritty sound of the ’90s, this selection of producers gave listeners a little bit of everything for every type of Hip Hop fan.
The 2020 producer of the year award goes to…
It’s almost crazy to believe that Hit-Boy began his career exclusively producing for JAY-Z, Kanye West, Beyonce, and Drake, and he is just hitting his prime within the Hip Hop industry. Hit-Boy entered 2020 fresh off a Grammy win for best rap performance alongside Roddy Ricch and the late Nipsey Hussle for “Racks In The Middle.” The Verzuz battle with Boi-1da in March set the stage for the massive year that was come when Hit revealed a handful of records and referenced the artists he was working with in 2020. The Fontana native produced three of the best Hip Hop albums of the year with Benny The Butcher’s Burden of Proof, Big Sean’s Detroit 2 and Nas’ King’s Disease. He even found enough time to drop his album, The Chauncey Hollis Project,which showed Hit’s skill behind the mic. With rumors going around of a possible collab with Justin Timberlake in the works, Hit-Boy is showing this remarkable run is as strong as ever.
Read more about our favorite producers of 2020.
THE LEVEL-UP AWARD
As this tumultuous year comes to a close, HipHopDX compiled a list of five rappers who had the biggest level-ups in Hip Hop. This list showcases the rappers who elevated their status from last year to new heights in 2020. Lil Baby’s 2020 was historical — from his sales to every Lil Baby feature, he didn’t miss. Benny The Butcher and Griselda reached new levels of success and stayed dropping heat. Megan Thee Stallion got a Beyoncé feature and still dropped her debut album while dealing with the aftermath of the Tory Lanez shooting incident. Freddie Gibbs continued to prove that consistently dropping high-quality music will yield successful results and accolades and YoungBoy Never Broke Again continued to level up his streaming numbers, which were already the highest in the game.
The 2020 Level-Up of the year award goes to…
Megan is no stranger to leveling up in her career. Her breakout moment came in 2018 when she dropped her second EP Tina Snow and Meg hasn’t looked back. Meg’s 2020, however, surpasses her breakout year in every way. It all started in March when she unleashed her third EP Suga, which housed the smash single “Savage.” The song became a massive hit on social media and led to Beyoncé hopping on the remix, giving Meg her first Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper in the process. Despite getting into a messy situation this summer with Tory Lanez that left her with bullet fragments in her foot, the Houston native couldn’t be stopped. She had the No. 1 single on the charts and broke numerous streaming records in August when she teamed up with Cardi B on the salacious single “WAP.” Outside of the music world, Meg became a force in business, working with Revlon and Fashion Nova on exclusive deals. She even became one of TIME magazine’s 100’s most influential people in the world. With her latest album Good News, Meg is adding on to another big year for her — and it only shows how bright her future is in rap.
Read more about all of the level-ups in Hip Hop this year.
BEST HIP HOP MUSIC VIDEO OF 2020
The nominations for the best Hip Hop music videos of the year represent the most outlandish, creative and engaging new music videos of 2020. Drake reigned over the competition this year showing off his acting skills, with credits on three of the nominations, but noteworthy efforts from Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion and Thundercat — the King of the Bass — are also highlighted. Imbued with humor and stunning visuals, these are the best music videos of 2020.
The 2020 music video of the year award goes to…
DIRECTED BY: DIRECTOR X
The historic duo of Drake and Future came together for “Life Is Good,” one of the biggest tracks of the year which is supported by a fantastic video directed by Director X. With almost 1.3 billion streams on YouTube at the time of writing, this tongue-in-cheek visual puts the 6 God and Pluto working jobs like the rest of us. Incredible shots of a greasy Drake working on the underside of a car or Future working the drive-in window at fast food joint present the two superstar MCs in a humorous and lighthearted manner, far outside of their usual portrayal. Future attempting to flip a cheeseburger is enough to warrant a nomination alone.
- “Dragonball Durag” – Thundercat (Directed By Zack Fox)
- “Laugh Now Cry Later” – Drake & Lil Durk (Directed By: Dave Meyers)
- “Life Is Good” – Drake & Future (Directed By Director X)
- “Oprah’s Bank Account” – Lil Yachty, Drake & DaBaby (Directed By Director X)
- “WAP” – Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion (Directed By Colin Tilley)
Check out all of our favorite music videos from this year.
BEST TV SHOW WITHIN HIP HOP CULTURE OF 2020
With 2020 bringing the globe inside to quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic, television shows and streaming services came in clutch, creating lively conversation for fans who were on their couches for extended periods of time. Whether it was the best TV shows on Netflix (how about Tiger King dominating multiple demographics’ social media conversations) or the best shows through premium channels (50 Cent’s Power wrapped up its first chapter with Ghost’s fate being determined), it was another memorable year when it came to television.
The 2020 TV Show of the year award goes to…
The HBO comedy-drama wrapped another successful season in May with Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji navigating the hurdles thrown in their direction once again. Insecure cruised to an Outstanding Comedy Series nomination in 2020 but were beat out by the POP TV smash Schitt’s Creek.
Read more about our favorite TV shows from 2020.
BEST MOVIE WITHIN HIP HOP CULTURE OF 2020
While fans weren’t lining up to go see the newest box office smash, streaming services made sure to release everything they had in their vaults to keep fans entertained. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence reunited in epic fashion for one of the last films fans were able to view on the big screen, Beyoncé’s Lion King-inspired narrative production broke streaming records, the Beastie Boys’ story got an official documentary, Spike Lee returned with his impressive Netflix original Da 5 Bloods and Adam Sandler took viewers on a thrilling ride during Uncut Gems.
The 2020 Movie of the year award goes to…
Read more about our favorite movies of 2020.
BEST R&B ALBUM OF 2020
With so much weighing down on us all this year, it was incredibly comforting to have some of the game’s brightest voices bless us with the best new R&B albums of 2020. Whether the projects came in the form of musical spiritual cleanses, late-night drives, COVID-safe dance parties or much-needed cries alone, this year’s top R&B albums spliced all the right recipes for our grooves.
The 2020 R&B Album of the year award goes to…
Four years after releasing his massively successful Starboy album, The Weeknd returned with a brand new look and sound for After Hours. The LP is a less pop-heavy and more introspective affair, taking listeners into Abel’s world of heartbreak, loss and realization. And if the project’s 14 tracks weren’t enough, The Weeknd kept fans on high alert with an ever-expanding deluxe edition of the album that added new chapters and remixes to his Billboard 200 chart-topping LP. How it didn’t manage to earn a Grammy nomination is up for debate, but it did win HipHopDX’s R&B Album of The Year.
- After Hours — The Weeknd
- It Is What It Is – Thundercat
- It Was Good Until It Wasn’t – Kehlani
- Slime & B — Chris Brown & Young Thug
- Ungodly Hour – Chloe x Halle
Check out our full list of favorite R&B albums of 2020.
BEST R&B SONG OF 2020
Despite reports of the genre being “dead,” R&B songs have thrived in 2020, serving as a home for new stars and experimental artists, each helping to push the conventions of the sound forward. Mainstays such as Ty Dolla $ign, Kehlani, dvsn and Jhené Aiko all released quality albums. Veterans such as Alicia Keys, The-Dream and Brandy returned to the limelight with solid offerings, while budding stars such as Chloe x Halle, Snoh Aalegra and Pink Sweat$ flashed their potential to dictate the future of R&B music all the same. Even SZA popped back up to give fans a single to hold onto as they await her next release.
The 2020 R&B Song of the year goes to…
While the world went through crazy times, Chloe x Halle’s “Do It” provided the feel-good summer vibes R&B fans needed in 2020. Off their breakout LP, Ungodly Hour, the Scott Storch-produced track focuses on doing you and keeping good people in your circle. And with a hook as melodic as this, it’s primed for shower singing and the pick me up playlist after a long day.
- “B.S.” – Jhené Aiko f. H.E.R.
- “Do It” – Chloe x Halle
- “Dragonball Durag” – Thundercat
- “Go Crazy” – Young Thug & Chris Brown
- “Hit Different” – SZA f. Ty Dolla $ign
Check out our full list of favorite R&B Songs of 2020.
BEST R&B ARTIST OF 2020
It’s hard to recall a period when the talents of R&B artists and the warm vibe of upper echelon R&B albums was more crucial. A handful of R&B singers stood out amongst the rest in the face of a year that can be described as nothing less than the most universal emotional roller coaster ever — blessing us with undeniable musical soundtracks for the soul.
The 2020 R&B Artist of the year award goes to…
Despite being criminally slept on in the nominations for the 63rd Grammy Awards, Abel Tesfaye had himself one hell of a year. He only had a small handful of guest spots. Still, they were especially poignant — finding Billboard Hot 100 success with Colombian singer Maluma and Calvin Harris (“Hawái (Remix)”), Ariana Grande (“Off the Table”) and the late Juice WRLD (“Smile”). However, he saw the most success on his own accord with his fourth studio album, After Hours, which debuted on the top of the Billboard 200. It included the hits “Heartless” and the undeniable smash “Blinding Lights,” which peaked at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and spent 51 weeks on the charts. It also earned him a grip of platinum plaques across the globe, almost going diamond in Canada with seven platinum certifications.
Check out all of our favorite singers of 2020.
BEST HIP HOP COLLAB OF 2020
Even while 2020 was a year of social distancing, the art of Hip Hop collaborations didn’t skip a beat. A diamond-selling team-up had us thinking “Life Is Good” lyrics were true — until the world was flipped upside down. Jack Harlow helped make remixes great again, as his joint was one of the many star-studded rap collaborations illuminating the treacherous year. Pop Smoke recruited 50 Cent and Roddy Ricch for their star-studded melodic jam, Megan The Stallion tapped Beyoncé for her smash “Savage (Remix)” and the queen came through with a stellar verse, while Lil Baby and 42 Dugg showed nothing can top great chemistry on a track.
The 2020 collab of the year award goes to…
Drake and Future reunited to come out of the gates hollering “Life Is Good,” but has a song title aged worse in the tumultuous year that is 2020? The OZ-produced cut would’ve reigned supreme on the Billboard Hot 100 for months if it wasn’t for Roddy Ricch’s “The Box.” Even five years after their seminal What A Time To Be Alive joint effort, the 6 God and Hendrix still show they remain atop the rap zeitgeist entering a new decade.
- “Life Is Good” – Drake & Future
- “Savage (Remix)” – Megan Thee Stallion & Beyoncé
- “We Paid” — Lil Baby & 42 Dugg
- “What’s Poppin’ (Remix)” — Jack Harlow, Lil Wayne, DaBaby & Tory Lanez
- “The Woo” – Pop Smoke, Roddy Rich, 50 Cent
Check out our favorite Hip Hop collaborations of 2020.
BEST RAPPER OF 2020
Bars were alive and well in 2020. Over rapid trap hi-hats and inventive production, artists such as Lil Baby and Megan Thee Stallion dominated the charts and earned their place at the forefront of rap’s future at every turn. Elsewhere, veterans such as Freddie Gibbs and Benny The Butcher let you know their pen continued to improve, producing some of the best rap songs of their career as they took their turn in the spotlight.
The 2020 rapper of the year award goes to…
The Double Platinum Rapper Hit The Grand Slam This Year
Lil Baby said it was his turn and we believed him. The Atlanta king delivered one of the most well received efforts of the year in My Turn, filled to the brim with hits upon hits. Whether it was the 42 Dugg-assisted “We Paid” or the anthemic “Heatin Up,” Lil Baby stayed in rotation and made sure his presence was felt. And of course, that’s not even mentioning “The Bigger Picture,” one of the most important songs of the year to come at such a pivotal time.
Check out our list of favorite rappers of 2020.
BEST HIP HOP SONG OF 2020
Despite the ongoing pandemic, the best Hip Hop songs of 2020 have managed to do rocket science numbers on the Billboard Charts, YouTube and even TikTok, proving rap, culture and ethos are dictating the musical arena. Roddy Ricch, who had an incredibly fruitful year, emerged with the accidental hit “The Box,” Lil Baby dove deep and pulled out “The Bigger Picture,” while Pop Smoke’s “The Woo” featuring Roddy Ricch and 50 Cent became a posthumous smash.
The 2020 Hip Hop song of the year goes to…
The ongoing Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police 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, and cautiously optimistic that people uniting together can usher in the change this country so desperately needs.
- “The Bigger Picture” – Lil Baby
- “The Box” – Roddy Ricch
- “Life Is Good” – Drake & Future
- “Rockstar” – DaBaby f. Roddy Ricch
- “The Woo” – Pop Smoke f. 50 Cent, Roddy Ricch
Check out the list of our favorite Hip Hop songs of 2020.
BEST HIP HOP ALBUM OF 2020
From Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist’s Grammy Award-nominated album Alfredo to Pop Smoke’s posthumous victory Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, there was no shortage of intriguing projects peppering the best Hip Hop albums of 2020. And amongst the year’s new Hip Hop albums, it was Run The Jewels’ defiant effort Run The Jewels 4 that perhaps best encapsulates the socio-political turmoil that’s dominated the better half of the year, providing an explosive soundtrack for a revolution.
The 2020 Hip Hop Album of the year goes to…
Freddie Gibbs is arguably one of the best MCs out right now. Alfredo, his fourth project in the last two years, trades Madlib production for that of Alchemist while 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.
- Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
- My Turn – Lil Baby
- RTJ4 – Run The Jewels
- Savage Mode 2 – 21 Savage & Metro Boomin
- Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon – Pop Smoke
Contributing writers: Dana Scott, David Aaron Brake, Devon Jefferson, Jeremy Hecht, Josh Svetz, Kenan Draughorne, Kyle Eustice, Mark Elibert, Michael Saponara, Riley Wallace and Trent Clark.