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.

Every year, HipHopDX staff joins in discussions, debates and sometimes heated arguments to come up with a list for our Year End Awards. Review all of our award categories and nominees.

Below are HipHopDX’s picks for Best Hip Hop Albums of 2020.

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2020 Best Hip Hop Album Nominees

The award for Best Hip Hop Album of 2020 goes to…

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Alfredo – Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist

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.

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Some of Our Favorite Rap Albums This Year

Contributing writers: Trent Clark, Kyle Eustice, Justin Ivey, Josh Svetz, Dana Scott, Brandon Caldwell, David Brake, Kenan Draughorne, Devon Jefferson, Michael Saponara & Jeremy Hecht.

My Turn – Lil Baby

When Lil Baby said it was his turn he was not lying. Baby delivered one of the most well received efforts of the year filled with hits upon hits. The album became the first project of 2020 to go double platinum and served as the soundtrack to the year for many. 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.

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RTJ4 – Run The Jewels

There couldn’t have been a more appropriate time for Killer Mike and El-P to emerge from their short hiatus and gift the world with new music. A crumbling economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing high unemployment rate and the civil unrest over police brutality have made an album that rails against the powers that be a necessity. With Run The Jewels 4, the ATLien and New York felon do not disappoint, raging against societal inequalities, judicial injustices and calling out American traditionalism like the slave masters posted on our dollars. An early album of the year candidate, RTJ’s 4th installment asserts their dominance as being one of the go-to groups to throw on when fed up with the system and imbalance of America’s government practices; because every revolution needs a soundtrack.

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Savage Mode II – 21 Savage & Metro Boomin

21 Savage and super producer Metro Boomin reunited for Savage Mode II, a sequel to their wildly successful Savage Mode from 2016. 21 appears to have matured in almost every way imaginable on this project. He’s finely tuned his dry, unflinching humor, his delivery has gotten crisper and his new confidence even allows him to sing hooks with ease. Metro too is pushed outside of his typical comfort zone and despite the fact he’s already released troves of music with 21, each beat sounds fresh and perfectly suited for 2020. Hit play on “Many Men” and “Runnin” for two of the best tracks on the album.

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Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon – Pop Smoke

Prior to Pop Smoke’s February murder, the 20-year-old rapper was on the verge of superstardom and his debut album Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon undoubtedly would’ve sealed the deal. The 19-track project, which was executive produced by 50 Cent, boasted features from Quavo, Lil Baby, Future, Roddy Ricch, among others and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, earning over 251,000 total album-equivalent units in its first week. As the title suggests, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon showcased a multifaceted artist and his unrelenting ambition to reach the top. If only he’d survived, he would’ve witnessed a meteoric rise to fame, but that wasn’t in the cards. Earlier this month, the album became only the third to be certified multi-platinum by the RIAA.

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The Allegory – Royce Da 5’9

Royce Da 5'9" Best Hip Hop Albums of 2020When 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.

Circles – Mac Miller

Mac Miller Top Hip Hop Album 2020When the late Mac Miller suddenly passed away in September 2018, he left behind a small treasure trove of music, which Miller’s family and producer Jon Brion packaged into Circles, the sister album to 2018’s SwimmingAlthough the 12-track album is buried in ennui, it’s packed with enough emotionally charged lyrics to give fans a solid glimpse into Miller’s soul. Circles may be a culmination of the sounds Miller had been working towards, but it’s also his most intimate and vulnerable project.

PTSD – G Herbo

G Herbo Top Hip Hop Album 2020G 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.

A Written Testimony – Jay Electronica

Jay Electronica Best Hip Hop Albums of 2020Over 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.

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Pray For Paris – Westside Gunn

Pray For Paris Top Hip Hop Album 2020Much 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.

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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.

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Limbo – Aminé

Aminé brings a little of everything and a lot of emotion on Limbo. His clever wordplay and sincere vocal tone bring you closer to the speaker with each listen, unpacking another layer or detail. Not to mention, featured artists such as Young Thug, Gap Band legend Charlie Wilson and Summer Walker bring their A-game, making for a stellar album all the way through.

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From King To A God – Conway The Machine

The Griselda wave continues with From King To A God, the latest from Buffalo rapper Conway The Machine. A teaser for his Shady Records debut God Don’t Make Mistakes, FKTAG puts Conway in his prime alongside features from Griselda members Westside Gunn, Benny The Butcher and Armani Caesar as well as legends in New York rap such as Lloyd Banks and Method Man. Alongside beefing up his bars, Conway is pushing himself outside of his comfort zone on FKTAG with an array of beats from Erick Sermon, Havoc and DJ Premier.

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Burden of Proof – Benny The Butcher

The Griselda wave continues with the most commercially successful album of their 2020 catalog Burden of Proof, a joint effort between Griselda captain Benny The Butcher and veteran producer Hit-Boy. More polished than The Plugs I Met, Benny’s 2019 cult classic Burden of Proof proves the Buffalo MC can rap on more than just grimy 90s-inspired beats. Hit-Boy’s instrumentals provides an ornate foundation for Benny to rap over, and the result is wondrous. Listen to the Freddie Gibbs-assisted “One Way Flight” and the title track “Burden of Proof” to fully understand Benny’s vision.

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Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial – Roddy Riccch

Roddy Ricch is the latest in a long lineage of Compton MC’s to deliver a stellar debut album and mark his spot in the game for years to come. Although the project lacks the lyrical depth that some of his predecessors’s albums had, Roddy displays an uncanny ability to create melodies using his unique vocal inflection. Plus, “The Box” took on a life of its own. The Compton crooner possesses all the tools to become a superstar. The appeal to Roddy is simple; the kid can write a hell of a hook. Roddy excels at producing choruses that stick and only get better with repeat listens.

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Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God – Busta Rhymes

Over two decades after Busta Rhymes released his platinum-selling 1oth LP, E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front, the 48-year-old MC returns with the sequel, Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God, his first release in 11 years. Sitting at a hearty 22 songs (26 on the deluxe version), the project packs some incredible collaborators (both on the bars and beats). Most notably, there’s the standout masterpiece “Look Over Your Shoulder” featuring Kendrick Lamar — which is no doubt poised to become a catalog staple as it ages. If this is the last lap for the celebrated OG, he leaves fans with ample gems to add to their list of reasons why he remains amongst the greats.

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King’s Disease – Nas

Master P rhetorically asked in BET’s No Limit Chronicles documentary that aired in July, “the music business changes every three to five years. Are you ready for it?” Nas proves he’s been a well-armored god-body for over 25 years on his 10th studio album King’s Disease. Through most of 13-track playlist, Nas gracefully wades the waters with Hit-Boy, bringing lessons and elite artists from the past and present while pivoting towards rap’s future. 

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Music To Be Murdered By – Eminem

Music To Be Murdered Album Cover Slim Shady’s Music To Be Murdered By — much like all of his recent albums — is another polarizing effort as his hyperawareness of the criticism has turned into a regular trope. Despite its flaws, Eminem’s latest LP displays incredible wordplay and once again gives fans of the art of rapping some new rhymes and patterns to marvel at. On the project, Eminem keeps his dazzling lyrical tirades on point with a plethora of verses that are damn near impossible to discredit.

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The Price Of Tea In China – Boldy James & Alchemist

Boldy James Alchemist Top Hip Hop Album 2020Anyone 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.

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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.

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Honorable Mentions:

  • Spilligion – Spillage Village
  • ALL MY HEROES ARE DEAD – R.A. THE RUGGED MAN
  • Reasonable Drought – Stove God Cook$
  • Detroit 2 – Big Sean
  • Welcome to O’Block – King Von
  • Miles – Blu & Exile
  • Eternal Atake – Lil Uzi Vert

Check out some of HipHopDX’s other Year End Award Categories below.

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