Best Alternative Hip Hop & R&B Albums of 2020 So Far
This year has been crazy. As September comes to an end, it’s ALMOST 2021. This means a new year for new music, inspired by chaos and indoor experiences. So I’ve compiled top alternative hip hop & R&B albums of 2020 so far, in no particular order. Some of these albums fall back on electronic beats, while others rely on unique features and samples.
Face of Jason by ANKHLEJOHN
If you’re not hip to this D.C. legend, get ON IT. He’s truly an underground gem.
As a DMV transplant, I had to include Ankhlejohn’s new album The Face of Jason in my best alternative hip hop & R&B albums of 2020 so far list.
To give you a little background on the MC’s influences, he states with an interview with Howard University Service News, “some of John’s favorite rappers include Biggie Smalls, Nas, Jay-Z, Ghostface Killa, and Roc Marciano. Despite being heavily influenced by New York rappers, ANKHLEJOHN said he’s D.C. all the way.”
His sound is in its own field by combining 90’s hip hop with gritty samples and explicit lyrics. The face of Jason is a thirteen-track album is filled uncensored with imagery about COVID-19, his upbringing, and spooky samples.
Notorious for releasing albums mostly on vinyl, keep an eye out for reprints or find other masterpieces from Ankhlejohn on the Shaap Records website.
TRACK SUGGESTIONS: Audi 5000, Red Room Vibes, Howard Crewneck, and Forever Sharp
Limbo by Aminé
The Portland native has outdone himself.
A lot of folks thought “Caroline” and his underwhelming sophomore album, ONEPOINTFIVE would make him a one-hit-wonder, but Limbo is FULL of hits.
From the visuals to the singles, everything is well crafted with intention. Each song has such a different vibe from the last, making you contemplate your last relationship or just make you want to go get hammered with your friends. Also, his album is genre-bending as we hear Aminé sing, rap, and combine jazz, electronic, hip hop, and R&B.
Honestly, Aminé didn’t have to do much to be a part of my best alternative hip hop & R&B albums of 2020 list.
TRACK SUGGESTIONS: Becky, Pressure in My Palms, Shimmy, and Compensating
Circles by Mac Miller
Circles were well into the making before Mac Miller’s passing in September 2018. Although, the album wasn’t announced and released until January 2020. Generally speaking, I’m hesitant about posthumous albums, but this is a prime follow-up to Swimming.
Circles have no noted features and rely on lo-fi electronic, jazzy beats. Miller raps some overwhelming lyrics about death, loss, and hardships. The album received critical acclaim and debuted as three on the US Billboard 200.
This is a great album to hear some of Miller’s last thoughts and smoke a blunt to peacefully.
TRACK SUGGESTIONS: That’s On Me, I Can See, Hands, and Once A Day
Teenage Fever by Kaash Paige
Leaning more towards alternative R&B, 19-year-old Kaash Paige, lets us into her exploration of young adulthood on her sophomore album, Teenage Fever. Paige reviews her identity through lyrics discussing love, alcohol, and wanting to succeed.
There’s so much potential for Kaash Paige. This album is in its own league as she demonstrates her introspectiveness and makes you think about what’s holding you back. Also, she has co-signed from K CAMP, Isaiah Rashad, and Don Toliver.
Additionally, Paige touches on same-sex relationships and is vulnerable throughout. She is sensitive, open, and paints a beautiful picture for listeners about her struggles.
TRACK SUGGESTIONS: Jaded, Soul Ties, London, and FRIENDS
Modus Vivendi by 070 Shake
070 Shake is one of my all-time favorite musicians. Her debut album Modus Vivendi, which means “mode of living” or “way of life,” is simplistic, raw, and smoothing.
She’s extremely versatile from featuring on Kanye West’s album Ye to singing about queer relationships to having a distinctive sense of style. On her first full-length project, she sings about drug-fueled nights, getting her heartbroken, and finding escapes from her everyday life.
070 Shake’s perspective is important in a male-dominated genre and is paving the way for other alternative rappers.
TRACK SUGGESTIONS: Daydreamin, The Pines, Under the Moon, and Flight319
SuperGood by Duckwrth
As the title describes – this is a feel GOOD album for some hard times by the dynamic, Duckwrth. In fact, in an interview with Spin Magazine, he revealed that it only took him a month to make the project.
SuperGood is funky, sexual, and inviting to any type of kickback with your friends. It’s dreamy with a hit of pop and 90’s R&B. The album has features from staples in alternative hip hops like Jean Deaux, KIAN, and EARTHGANG.
Duckwrth is known for his abilities to fluctuate between hard-hitting rap verses and smooth verses backed by seductive feminine vocals. This album explores his R&B side and digs into his electronic vibes.
TRACK SUGGESTIONS: Quick, Kiss U Right Now, Weekend?, and New Love Song
And there you have it, the best alternative hip hop & R&B albums of 2020. Keep an eye out for the next few months and even more relevant albums.