Since we started RR 21 years ago it has been an our tradition to take a look back at the year in review and take stock of what happened in the last 12 months in hip-hop music and culture. That concept has grown to where our contributors create editorials that list the best albums of the year, favorite albums they’ve reviewed, and even their own life-changing events outside of hip-hop. While this might be an unscientific approach to telling you “the best of the best” at the year’s end, I like the more personal way it allows us to write about what matters and share that with YOU the readers. After all without your support we wouldn’t keep doing what we do, so let’s do this.
Rappers We Lost This Year
Even without the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world in 2020, this still would have been a brutal year for hip-hop. We couldn’t even escape December without another devastating loss — John “Ecstasy” Fletcher from pioneering rap group Whodini died on December 23rd at only 56 years old. Unfortunately the list is so long that I’m inevitably going to miss a few, but I trust the rest of the writing crew to pick up the slack. Here are just a few with my condolences to the friends and family of every single one.
- 5th Ward Weebie on January 9th
- Pop Smoke on February 19th
- Fred the Godson on April 23rd
- Tray Savage on June 19th
- Huey on June 25th
- Marlo on July 12th
- Malik B on July 29th
- FBG Duck on August 4th
- Saint Dog on October 13th
- King Von on November 6th
- Lil Yase on November 28th
- Mo3 on November 11th
It’s perhaps telling that the endemic violence in hip-hop killed nearly all of these artists save for Malik B, (unknown), Fred (COVID-19) and Saint Dog (overdose). That’s not to say we should in any way minimize the seriousness of the pandemic, but it’s hard not to find the number of rap artists who are gunned down each year depressing. I wish there was a vaccine for bullets.
20 Albums for 2020
Despite how bleak things got this year, including the fact that I got furloughed from my job as a sports journalist for two months (there simply weren’t enough events for me to cover to stay on the payroll), I took solace in the support that kept RapReviews going, and our staff and I found music worth sharing with our readers. There’s an old cliche that great art comes from great tragedy, but many of these releases were in the works long before 2020 arrived, so if that cliche is true then 2021 will be musically amazing. Take a look at the albums below if you haven’t already.
- Atmosphere – “Whenever“
- The Game – “Born 2 Rap“
- Wordburglar – “SpaceVerse“
- Aesop Rock – “Freedom Finger“
- Sankofa – “Glyde Drexler“
- R.A. the Rugged Man – “All My Heroes Are Dead“
- Elaquent – “Forever Is a Pretty Long Time“
- E-40 – “The Curb Commentator Channel 1“
- Run the Jewels – “RTJ4“
- Chokeules – “Nepotism“
- DaBaby – “Blame It On Baby“
- Slug & MURS – “Felt 4 U“
- Nas – “King’s Disease“
- Oso Negro & Mute Speaker – “Unk Funk“
- Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – “Alfredo“
- Illogic – “Autopilot“
- Homeboy Sandman – “Don’t Feed the Monster“
- Touch & DJ Matto – “Electric Sheep“
- Sa-Roc – “The Sharecropper’s Daughter“
- Aesop Rock – “Spirit World Field Guide“
The Five Dirt Worst Things I Heard
Sometimes you need to listen to something truly awful just so you can appreciate something really well done that much more. It’s like watching “Manos the Hands of Fate” before watching “The Godfather Pt. II.” Here are five albums that showed me just how bad things can get at their very worst.
- IceJJFish – “Sea Sick“
- iann dior – “I’m Gone“
- IceJJFish – “Jesus Is the Way“
- Lil B – “Bruno Wit Da Pruno“
- Billionaire Burke – “Refuse to Fail“
That’s right — one of these artists is so terrible he made the list TWICE. I actually could have put him on there THREE TIMES but I decided to cut him some slack.
If you lost someone you love this year for any reason, COVID-related or otherwise, you have my deepest sympathies. If your holidays weren’t as bright for that reason, or because it wasn’t safe to have large get-togethers in 2020, I share your pain and acknowledge your hurt. If you’ve been waiting for things to get better, you may have to wait a while longer. I can tell you there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but I don’t know how soon we’ll all reach it. Hang in there. One last thing — now, forever, and always, #BlackLivesMatter.
Steve ‘Flash’ Juon, RR EIC