Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums Of 2020 (Ranked)
Updated: Feb 4, 2021
2020 was overall a very terrible year... but at least it wasn’t dry in terms of music. Boasting boatloads of different music, you can imagine that it wasn't easy to select and rank these albums. Before we get into the list, I just wanted to state that everyone has their own opinions, and everyone's personal list is going to be different. Music is art, and art is subjective. I've done my best to keep this as objective as possible, but obviously some people are going to see things differently. Here are some honourable mentions that unfortunately couldn't make the list.
High Off Life - Future
UNLOCKED - Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats
Spilligion - Spillage Village
Limbo - Aminé
Slime & B - Young Thug & Chris Brown
With all that out of the way, here are the top 10 hip-hop albums of 2020.
10. Man On The Moon III - Kid Cudi
One thing that I've become aware of, is that people who aren't familiar with Kid Cudi are very quick to judge his work... but they don't quite understand the mood, vibe and aim of his music. Kid Cudi questions the existential aspects of life through his music, and tackles those topics in darker tones, which creates the perfect late night / stoner music. Kid Cudi is one of the best artists of our generation, and people have had high expectations for someone so reputable. Especially being the third installment of a highly regarded series, the album had a lot to live up to. And honestly, it doesn’t meet the expectations. But objectively, “MOTM III” is a great album that easily makes the top 10 list of 2020. While perhaps not having any instant classics like the past albums in the series, “MOTM III” makes up for this in its ability to successfully explore new sounds and create solid tracks. While the Travis Scott-esque sound wasn't greatly appreciated universally, once again, listening objectively to the music for what it is, can really open your eyes to the true quality. The album opens up with the first song, “Tequila Shots”, which reminds me of a classic Kid Cudi night song. Meanwhile, songs like “She Knows This” have taken notes out of Travis Scott’s book, with energy filled rides that are full of twists and turns. “Show Out” also covers an emerging popularity in UK drill rap with guest appearances : Pop Smoke and UK rapper Skepta”. Trippie Redd even plays his part respectfully on “Rockstar Knights”, which is surprisingly a very solid song. While “MOTM III” didn’t quite hit the mark as people would have expected it to, it still stands on its own as a great piece of work by Kid Cudi.
9. Heaven or Hell - Don Toliver
Don Toliver has effectively established himself as one of the strongest up and coming artists this year. Gaining the attention of the mainstream in 2018 on Travis Scott’s “ASTROWORLD”, he’s only been backing up his reputation since then. 2020 is when Don became fully recognized, through his various successful collaborations and the release of his debut studio album. “Heaven or Hell” is strong in the sense of the consistency in the quality, even though each song is unique in its own regard. Songs like “Euphoria” and “Company” explore the darker, more psychedelic vibe that Don Toliver has become so familiar with, which is most likely due to his mentor, Travis Scott. On the other hand, songs like “Cardigan”, “After Party”, and “No Photos” are prime examples of the upbeat and energetic vibe that Don has adopted. It’s easy to see the influence that Travis has had over Don, but that doesn’t mean Don doesn’t have his own style. On "Heaven or Hell", Don brings us unique flows, and even more unique vocals… a few things that his mentor does not possess. Don Toliver’s unique vibe and impressive attention to detail has almost created a cult following that Travis Scott fans are very familiar with. Plenty of songs with tons of replay-ability, “Heaven or Hell” is for sure one of the best albums of 2020.
8. Legends Never Die - Juice WRLD
Juice WRLD went down as one of the most popular artists of our generation, and his posthumous album is a testimony to everything he has contributed to us. In the intro, Juice WRLD foreshadows the diversity of the album by talking about all the different problems and issues he’d like to tackle. The best part of this album that I've come to appreciate is that Juice managed to leave us with all the different types of songs we've come to associate him with... and maybe a couple new ones as well. Songs such as “Wishing Well” recreate the nostalgic vibe of Juice when he first hit the scene in 2018, while songs like “Conversations” and “Hate The Other Side” take jabs at mainstream trap-rap. While I do appreciate the braveness and the drive to experiment with other genres, I must point out that they don’t quite hit the mark. For example, “Man Of The Year” attempts at being a rock song, but it doesn’t quite stick like it should. “Come & Go” is also another great example at an attempted genre, except instead of rock, it’s EDM. While these attempts don’t quite hit like they should, it’s cool to see that Juice was working on his versatility before his untimely passing. There’s definitely enough great and timeless songs on here to honour Juice WRLD’s unfortunately short, yet legendary legacy, which secures his album on the list.
7. WUNNA (Deluxe) - Gunna
Gunna’s best album by far. Personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Gunna when he was first becoming popular back in 2017-2018. It was probably because of his overly monotone voice and his reluctance to change his pitch in his voice. However, his buttery smooth flow was the redeeming quality that got people hooked in the first place. Gunna’s past projects were criticized for the prominent lack of emotion and the overall “boring” sound. But with “WUNNA”, Gunna has taken in the criticism and has proven himself as a serious artist who strives to improve his music. His improvement is most obvious in his tone and pitches, where he chooses to put more emotion in to match the arc of the song, as opposed to his past work. Some other improvements I picked up include : his choice of beats, the way he structures his songs, and the overall mixing of the songs. Even though Gunna has an iconic sound, he’s starting to slowly expand away from the classic heavy 808 music that he’s become so familiar with. The hit song “DOLLAZ ON MY HEAD” and the atmospheric, chill song “NOTHING 4 FREE” are great examples of successful ventures away from the comfortable territory Gunna is accustomed to. But if you’re looking for the usual bread and butter Gunna, “RELENTLESS”, “ADDYS”, “SUN CAME OUT”, “WUNNA (the song)” and “COOLER THAN A BITCH” are some of the songs that will satisfy your 808 cravings. With all that being said, Gunna still has things to work on (such as his lyricism), and hopefully like the last time, he’ll take the criticism and move forward with it. Overall, “WUNNA” was a very strong album in 2020 that definitely earned it’s spot on the list.
6. Detroit 2 - Big Sean
Big Sean returns to scene with an extremely under-appreciated album. Big Sean earned his respect and fame through his affiliations and collaborations with some of the greatest rappers of this generation... but he also built his name through his own successful career and talent. The average fan probably became acquainted with Big Sean through his highly regarded album “Dark Sky Paradise” that was released in 2014. But the truth is, Big Sean has been just as good long before “Dark Sky Paradise” and long after as well. “Detroit 2” is the sequel to the successful mixtape “Detroit”. The only contrast is that “Detroit 2” is considered a studio album rather than a mixtape, as opposed to the former. In terms of sound, Big Sean brings us his iconic swagger filled voice, his ear-catching lyrics, and his heart-filled emotion. He also brings unique melodies and beats, as well as a sense of simply enjoying what he does. “Wolves” and “Lithuania” were the songs that headlined the album, but lowkey songs like “ZTFO”, “Harder Than My Demons”, and “FEED” show off the depth within it as well. It’s also worth mentioning the different stories by various celebrities that are scattered throughout the album, which adds a nice touch of atmosphere and meaning behind the album. and just like the actual stories, songs like “Guard Your Heart” and “Friday Night Cypher” spell out the aesthetic of Big Sean’s home city. A very under-appreciated album for the impressive quality that Big Sean brings to the table.
5. My Turn (Deluxe) - Lil Baby
Everyone loves Lil Baby. He’s probably your favorite artists’ favorite artist. For me to say I’m not the hugest Lil Baby fan, might be just as bad as committing murder in the eyes of Lil Baby fans. But it’s true, between Gunna and Lil Baby, I’ve always enjoyed Gunna’s music more. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t respect Lil Baby’s work or don’t think he’s a really good artist. While “My Turn” isn’t his most popular album, it could be argued that in terms of track-to-track consistency, this is his best work. “Commercial”, “We Paid” and “Sum 2 Prove” take the frontline of the album in terms of popularity, but looking past the surface can ultimately pay off. Close to every single song is a good song, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some misses. Lil Baby’s biggest obstacle is finding the beat and matching his flow to it. But with “My Turn”, more times than not, he finds it without any trouble. Strong beats, Lil Baby’s ability to structure songs, storytelling lyrics, and popular features all contribute to the success of this album. Lil Baby makes a good case as to why “My Turn” should be considered the album of the year, but this album is simply lacking hits. “We Paid” was objectively the best song on the album, but yet it’s nowhere near Lil Baby’s best past songs. With all that being said, Lil Baby has definitely earned the spot on the list with his most solid project to date.
4. Eternal Atake (Deluxe) - LUV vs. The World 2 - Lil Uzi Vert
Off the drop, “Eternal Atake” was considered underwhelming and disappointing. But, age is one of the best factors in deciding the quality of something, and “Eternal Atake” has withstood the test of time and has only gotten better with age. The original version proved to be very solid with songs like “P2”, “Prices”, and “Baby Pluto” on the frontline, while also boasting plenty of other songs that add to its depth. The singles leading to the original’s release weren’t anything to dismiss as well, as “Futsal Shuffle 2020” and “That Way” were both really good in their own respective ways. The deluxe version only stacked the deck even more, with songs like “Myron”, “Bean (Kobe)”, and “Come This Way”. Lil Uzi’s unique voice, sound, style, and energy are some of the key reasons as to why he’s become popular in the first place, which he makes sure to amplify on this album throughout. The quality of “Eternal Atake” might not have been what we were expecting from an album that was 2 years in the making, but we still got an amazing album full of great sounding songs that only Lil Uzi is capable of creating.
3. Savage Mode II
“Are things better or worse the second time around?” Morgan Freeman asks us in his iconically smooth yet raspy voice... and in the context of “Savage Mode II”, we can indeed say that things are better the second time around. “Savage Mode II” learns from the mistakes and builds off of the positives of the original “Savage Mode” that was released in 2016. While perhaps not spawning as many classics as their former project, the rapper-producer duo have come back with tenacity, highlighting the growth they have both gone through in their own respective careers. When entering “Savage Mode II”, you can infer from the album cover and the previous instalment of the series to know exactly what type of music you’ll be hearing. Dark, aggressive, and evil themes are what you’ve come to expect from this deadly duo, but you'd be surprised at some of the types of songs you'll find on here. “Runnin”, “Many Men”, “Glock in My Lap”, and “Slidin” are the perfect, murderous songs you’d come to expect from a 21 Savage album, but surprisingly, songs like “Mr. Right Now” and “Rich N***a Shit” prove that 21 Savage is indeed capable of creating more pop-rap / R&B themed songs. 21 Savage sounds more confident than ever, exploring different flows and vibes, while Metro Boomin does what he’s best known for… make exceptional beats. They both came through to save the downfall of 2020 with a very solid, consistent album with very few misses.
2. THE GOAT
Polo G has won over the hearts of millions with his consistent work and ear-catching talent. “THE GOAT” might be an arrogantly titled album, but Polo G builds a solid argument as to why he should deserve anything close to being considered one of the goat’s. “THE GOAT” features a variety of different tracks that could contend as the best song in the album. Songs like “Flex” and “Go Stupid’ show off his speed and tenacity, while songs like “Heartless”, “Martin & Gina” and “Beautiful Pain” show that he can slow things down with more emotion and heart. With almost every song being a clean listen through, depth would be an understatement. Although Polo G’s strength stems from his lyricism and heart, his weakness lies within his inability to create more diverse tracks. Although “THE GOAT” features a massive collection of great songs, it’s pretty easy to confuse songs with each other, since some sound very similar. Nonetheless, Polo G still proves that he’s above his peers and that he indeed has a bright career ahead of himself. “THE GOAT” earns it’s high spot on the list through its impressive consistency in quality.
1. Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon (Deluxe)
“SFTSAFTM” is an album that was great off the get go, but actually managed to age for the better throughout the year. Packed to the brim with hits, the people behind Pop Smoke’s posthumous album really knew how to handle the responsibility of sharing the work of a fallen star. The consistency within this album is unmatched in 2020 no doubt. Hits like “For The Night”, “What You Know Bout Love”, “Mood Swings”, “Hello”, “The Woo”, and “Got It On Me” show that Pop Smoke was a certified hit maker. This album also manages to show off it’s depth with lowkey songs like “Snitching”, “Creature”, “Enjoy Yourself” and “44 Bulldog”. Now some people might argue that this album only got attention because of Pop Smoke’s death, but “SFTSAFTM” has rightfully earned all the acclaim and praise it has received. It rightfully earned the praise through the actual music, and not through the hype. Now it should be noted that Tiktok does indeed “ruin” songs, but it should also be noted that Tiktok actually exposed the beauty of these particular songs to their true potential. Stellar production, original melodies, great features, amazing vocal performances, and well made songs in general have solidified “Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon’s” spot as the best Hip-Hop album of 2020.