The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks
The 25 Best Albums of 2020… So Far

2020 is half-way in the books. Say that again. 2020 is half-way in the books. Some can meet that statement with a sigh of relief while others look at the remaining six months on the calendar with trepidation. The world is in flux. Musicians have shaped times of social upheaval dating back to the 1960s and there are many carrying the torch in popular music today. This particular roundup bears some additional weight because there’s a need to balance albums that tackle the atmosphere of unrest directly with projects that lend listeners some much-needed respite. Music’s escapist qualities are needed now more than ever.

The ongoing coronavirus quarantines have forced artists to drastically change their outputs. Charli XCX captured the moment as one of the first artists to not only champion but document her current loneliness in the home-studio-recorded how i’m feeling now. Killer Mike and El-P reconvened for the first time in four years as militant, angry and poignant as ever. Run The JewelsRTJ4 grappled with and then plotted to dismantle the first term of Donald Trump’s presidency.

There were also long-awaited albums that finally came to fruition and didn’t disappoint. Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake reached meme status given how many delays and label drama social media posts have occurred over the past three years. Jay Electronica spent an entire decade promising a transcendent album. Fans lost faith. He and JAY-Z delivered with A Written Testimony. The Weeknd’s After Hours rollout was a masterclass in thematics and cohesion with too many remixes to count. Now all we have to do is wait for Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red to hold us down for the back-half of 2020.

It’s worth noting that while Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon released late last week, HYPEBEAST decided that there’s a need for more time to listen through the Brooklyn rapper’s posthumous project to properly give it space to resonate and to honor the artist who so deserves more listens. Overall, this mid-year recap is about finding all of the good that’s happened in the music world from January through June. If you search for it, you will find countless gems waiting for you in the digital crates.

Without further ado, here are HYPEBEAST’s Best 25 Albums of 2020… So Far.


The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo

“It was motivation. Motherf*ckers be talking sh*t about me, saying, ‘Oh man, you ain’t sh*t without Madlib beats.’” Freddie Gibbs told HYPEBEAST of his continuous motivation to prove doubters wrong. “I love Madlib and I love The Alchemist. I don’t make them and they don’t make me.” His latest collaboration with The Alchemist, Alfredo released less than a year after his critically acclaimed Bandana album with Madlib. Unlike his work under the MadGibbs moniker, Freddie’s latest output was crafted in just two months. It ended up being the hip-hop record for this exact moment. The instrumentation is gritty, grainy and pristine all at once. Freddie packs punches into each bar, showing off his technical prowess with these insane multisyllabic stretches without taking a single breath. His voice is an instrument. There’s a run on the opener, “1985” where he drops Joe Pesci, Joe Exotic and Assata Shakur references in a single bar. “It lets the audience know that Freddie’s just like everyone else — he’s an everyman, watching Netflix,” manager Ben “Lambo” Lambert said. Yeah, except Gibbs is staking his claim as one of the best rappers of his generation while he binge-watches. – Patrick Johnson

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

Phoebe Bridgers dropped off her sophomore studio album Punisher, to everyone’s delight, a day early. While many artists are opting to wait for things to go back to “normal” before releasing their projects, the 25-year-old decided to just do it because “I don’t think they should.” This level-headedness greatly influences the quality of her music, and at a time when any kind of art or information is easy to acquire, she chooses to use her platform to speak on real issues plaguing the generation — disassociation, manifestation and disintegrating relationships. The rawness of her lyricism challenges listeners to unearth and face problems of their own, believing that the acknowledgement of those issues is the first step of getting over them. Her honesty can slice through a facade like a hot knife, but to be this painfully forthright, frank and public about some of the world’s most taboo topics is a form of courage that deserves to be admired. – Sophie Caraan

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Westside Gunn – Pray for Paris

“I don’t even wanna be considered a rapper. I bring so much more to the game,” Westside Gunn told HYPEBEAST in an interview before the drop of his latest album, Pray for Paris. “I love art, fashion, design, executive producing, putting songs together with the skits — all of that sh*t I love more than actually rapping.” Westside Gunn is a top-tier curator. He manufactured Griselda Records and the Buffalo rap crew’s entire aesthetic with a painstakingly specific playbook and foresight. On Pray for Paris, Gunn tapped in-house producer Daringer, The Alchemist and a who’s who of guests for an album packed with some of the most elite lyricists in the industry. Much like his FLYGOD persona, the project was dripped in untouchable opulence. The album art was centered around Carvvaggio’s 1607 oil on wood painting, David with the Head of Goliath with a photoshopped Griselda chain created by Virgil Abloh. The opening skit is a recording of the auction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting at Christie’s New York, which sold for a record $450 million USD. One might worry about too many cooks in the kitchen with all of the features, producers and luxury fashion tie-ins but the project remained within Westside’s world. He may not consider himself a rapper, but he delivered one of the best rap albums of the year. – Patrick Johnson

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Run The Jewels – RTJ4

There wasn’t a rap record that tapped into the surrealist, exhausting outrage of an American citizen paying attention to the 24-hour news cycle than Killer Mike and El-P’s latest Run The Jewels offering, RTJ4. The duo released the record days early due to the nationwide protests surrounding the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police. On “JU$T”, Pharrell waxes about the 13th Amendment in modern-day America while Zack De La Rocha finishes the track off with references to the Zapruder film. The “Ooh La La” video celebrates the death of income inequality with people of all creeds and colors burning piles of money on Wall Street. RTJ4 never wades into the waters of pedanticism. There are hit records on this project with deeper meanings found beneath the surface upon every listen. Perhaps the best summation of this album’s thesis statement occurs on “a few words for the firing squad”: “This is for the do-gooders that the no-gooders used and then abused/ For the truth tellers tied to the whippin’ post, left beaten, battered, bruised/ For the ones whose body hung from a tree like a piece of strange fruit/ Go hard, last words to the firing squad was, ‘F*ck you too.’” – Patrick Johnson

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now

British singer, songwriter, and producer Charli XCX made it her goal to craft an entire album during the quarantine about the quarantine earlier this year. She announced the album — how i’m feeling now — on April 6, delivering the full-length just six weeks later on May 15. Arriving less than a year after her expansive self-titled record, Charli, the 11-track project sees the pop superstar continuing to amplify her love for pithy electro-pop. She sugar coats each record with the help of creative director A.G. Cook, known as the mastermind behind experimental pop label PC Music. Cook displays an adventurous assortment of highly-textured arrangements that relish in glistening brashness; moody ‘80s synths glimmer atop driving bass and mechanically-altered sounds. Both artists are in complete unison, with Charli speaking on love and loneliness during the pandemic across the project. As much as the production on how i’m feeling now, it sounds as if it was made from and for the near future. It’s just as much a reflection of this year’s solitary mood. – Torsten Ingvaldsen

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Mac Miller – Circles

It’s been almost two years since the world lost Mac Miller, and music fans the world over still mourn his unexpected death. Circles, which was already deep in progress when he died in September 2018, provides some closure, however the beauty of the posthumous album only leaves us wanting more. You’re pulled in right as the title track opens and he sings, “Well, this is what it looks like, right before you fall,” and he takes you on a sonic journey that has a little bit of everything, from the reminiscent sounds of the Beatles on “Everybody” to the tranquil, keyboard-based closer, “Once A Day.” As a complementing companion project to Swimming, Circles surpassed what was required of it and a lot of that can be contributed to the work of collaborator Jon Brion to finish the posthumous effort. Circles stands as a haunting yet delightful reminder of talent that was taken too soon. If anything, the variety of genres he tackled and the undemanding but remarkable lyricism on the album is a testament to the heights Miller would’ve reached, and that idea alone is comforting. Most Dope forever. – Sophie Caraan

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony

From the moment he released 2007’s Act I: Eternal Sunshine, Jay Electronica was a mystic figure in the musical world. Surrealist film interludes, sporadic releases, a relationship with Erykah Badu and a signing with Roc Nation only added to his allure. But 13 years without a major body of work eventually had fans move on from the myth and lose hope that the music would ever see the light of day. It’s a testament to his talent and power as an artist to draw everyone back in after all of the momentum-killing delays of the past decade. A Written Testimony is very much a collaborative effort between Jay and JAY-Z. There are some problematic Louis Farrakhan interludes but ultimately Electronica’s goal here is to focus on uplifting all African-Americans through the positive aspects of the Black nationalist movement. He succeeds with top-notch production and some of the best lyricism of 2020. It’s meditative and spiritual. It’s patient and profound. – Patrick Johnson

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

The Weeknd – After Hours

After Hours is Abel Tesfaye’s, better known as The Weeknd’s, fourth studio album and the long-awaited follow up to 2016’s Starboy. If Starboy was Abel’s ego taking on the world, After Hours is him getting hurt in the process, and from that, his derived pain and self-loathing. The album had the biggest Billboard 200 No.1 debut in 2020 (so far), and held its champion spot for four consecutive weeks (a feat last accomplished by Drake’s Scorpion in 2018) — hence the sentiment that the best music is born from pain, or emotions that Abel initially summed up as a “brain melting psychotic chapter.” Double-edged and cathartic, the Toronto singer/songwriter sardonically wears his heart on 19 extended tracks that depart towards a dreamy new wave sound, and are a continual reminder of his chaotic music personality and singular vocals. While it would be derelict not to say that After Hours is one of the best albums of the year, it is without a shadow of a doubt The Weeknd’s best offering to date. – Marc Wong

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake (Deluxe)

Lil Uzi Vert’s long-awaited and highly-anticipated Eternal Atake leaned more towards that of a music phenomenon than a normal album. Uzi delivered on much of the expectations surrounding the three years of waiting for the project. Fueled by high-energy lyricism and throttling trap instrumentals, Uzi continued to flex his penchant for melodious flows and psychedelic, club-ready underlays. The 25-year-old rapper delivered 16 tracks in total on the first edition, with two bonus tracks included: the previously released “Futsal Shuffle 2020” and the Backstreet Boys-sampling “That Way.” Weeks following, he dropped an additional album’s worth of materual with the deluxe version dubbed LUV vs. The World 2. Overall, the momentous project continued to showcase Uzi’s place at the top of the musical sphere, emphasizing his growth not only as an artist but equally so, a chart-dominating pop star. – Torsten Ingvaldsen

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Kehlani – It Was Good Until It Wasn’t

Artistic range can take some time to manifest, but Kehlani made her’s evident in her sophomore studio album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. To put it simply, the songstress has more to give, more things to write about and more ideas to execute, and she diligently engineers these ideas to work in her favor on her latest record. Predecessor project While We Wait covered more pop-R&B ground, but her latest offering arrives with additional jazzy undertones, aiding in her thoughtful yet sultry direction. The guest appearances of Tory Lanez, Jhené Aiko, Masego, Lucky Daye and James Blake offer new layers of texture to her wonderfully controlled vocals, further broadening the versatility of her musicality. She transforms her vulnerability into relatable songwriting that’s easy to digest, and with her previous relationship highly publicized, it only adds to the album’s appealing aspect of honesty. – Sophie Caraan

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

MIKE – Weight of the World

It would be a disservice to call Brooklyn rapper and [sLUms] collective founder MIKE lo-fi. Minimalist? Maybe. But he maximizes every sample he produces under his pseudonym DJ Blackpower and every syllable as a rapper for concise, meaningful songs that are often these dreamlike entities. He released his latest full-length, Weight of the World, on the same day he drops a project every year, June 21. His influence on friends and collaborators like Earl Sweatshirt, Medhane, Navy Blue (Sage Elsesser) resonates and that speaks to his power as both a producer and emcee. He opens up the album by grappling with his mother’s passing presenting themes of disillusionment, loyalty and the ongoing fight to stay present through it all. Weight of the World furthers MIKE’s consistent output through emotional, grainy samples that inject soul and thoughtfulness into every song. The fact that the majority of these instrumentals come directly from him makes it all the more impressive and personal. Plus, Earl Sweatshirt rounds out the project with one of his finest guest verses to date. – Patrick Johnson

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

King Krule – Man Alive

King Krule made his return to music earlier this year with his fourth studio album, Man Alive!. After a three-year hiatus that included the birth of his daughter, the lauded indie star continued to build on his signature sound with the 14-track LP. Much of the tracks relish in a grim melancholy, a reflection of Archy Marshall’s own transition from boyhood to manhood. The Southwark crooner remains tormented by reality, delivering on Bluesy tones that sulk in everyday malaise. He brings listeners into narratives that collage-like fever dreams, whereby lyrical vignettes are treated like Lynchian shorts. King Krule is as visceral as he’s ever been on Man Alive!. He toils with his own inner demons, reflecting on his newfound era of unpredictably as he leaves his youth behind. – Torsten Ingvaldsen

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

The Slow Rush is a perfect phrase to describe time, which is exactly what Tame Impala fixates on for his new album. Growth is a never-ending process, and if you’re Kevin Parker who’s been away for five years, it’s only fair that your next output features everything you’ve learnt (both in music and in life) during your time of absence. His work with other artists allowed him to move past the already explorative sounds of Currents, Lonerism and Innerspeaker, while the loss of his father challenged him to be more upfront as a songwriter on “Posthumous Forgiveness.” The album strikes a balance of grief and excitement. He gracefully captures the human struggle of accepting death and the succeeding feelings of growing old, but also the invigorating curiosity of what may come tomorrow. Time can either only feel slowed or rush, and Tame Impala reminds listeners to, at least every once in a while, stay in the moment and enjoy it. – Sophie Caraan

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Soccer Mommy – Color Theory

Soccer Mommy, real name Sophie Allison, has slowly grown a cult following over the past couple years following the release of 2018’s Clean. Her visceral poetics relay the innocence of youth, performing them over instrumentation that takes note of the 2000’s love for pop-punk. Earlier this year she continued to evolve her idiosyncratic indie sound with her sophomore album, color theory. The album features 10 tracks that are divided into three colors, “Blue for sadness, depression and heartbreak; yellow for paranoia and illness, mental and physical; and gray for death,” she noted. color theory remains rooted in life’s growing pains, speaking on youthful depression and mental health (“circle the drain”), struggles with inner demons (“lucy”), and more. The result is a melancholic tell-all of growing up, whereby Allison’s evolution as a songwriter spotlights the grimmer, less predictable truths of her diminishing youth. – Torsten Ingvaldsen

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG

Bad Bunny’s rise to fame over the past several years has been astounding. The Puerto Rican boundary-breaker has continued to usher forth his phenomenon-inducing take on Latin trap, flaunting unmatched swagger that continues to pay homage to his roots. His second album, YHLQMDLG, is everything fans would expect from the 26-year-old: it’s peerlessly innovative, infectiously groovy, and grandiose in scale. The 20-track project (which runs for nearly 65 minutes) includes a slew of guest appearances from the likes of Daddy Yankee, Anuel AA, Sech, Ñengo Flow, Jowel Y Randy and Arcangel. The Latin trap pioneer ultimately showcases where the future of Puerto Rican music lies and where his global legacy is heading, soaking YHLQMDLG with a distinct reggaeton twist on his stardom-inducing Latin trap sound. – Torsten Ingvaldsen

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Orion Sun – Hold Space for Me

Philadelphia by way of New Jersey singer-songwriter Tiffany Majette, better known as Orion Sun, wowed with her debut studio album Hold Space for Me. It’s a mature, deeply personal record featuring 11 self-produced tracks and widespread influences from hip-hop, R&B, jazz and more. She touches on heartbreak, loneliness, and finding her voice amidst times of haziness and introspection. “I definitely got into production because I couldn’t find the exact thing I was looking for, because I couldn’t really put it into words… There’s a plan up until sitting down and looking at the screen,” she told HYPEBEAST in an interview earlier this year. Her “Coffee for Dinner” music video was one of the best visuals of the year, showcasing her star power through an isolated performance. It was more than prescient — it was eerie. In the video she wears a space suit and wanders through an empty town at night looking for relics of a society that once was. She finally takes off her helmet to inhale some fresh air and speeds off into the night searching for something else. It premiered in early-February before COVID-19 took the world by storm. – Patrick Johnson

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Boldy James & The Alchemist – The Price of Tea in China

Detroit rapper Boldly James is a working-class emcee. His body of work is solid if not slept-on. After a decade in the game he finally earned major recognition through his second collaboration with The Alchemist, The Price of Tea In China. The album followed his December 2019 EP with the famed producer, Boldface, and built upon their chemistry since 2013’s cult-classic My 1st Chemistry Set with ephemeral but memorable instrumentation and bars that left listeners wanting more. Boldy’s Midwestern twang makes for a singular flow that’s as pensive as it is streetwise. As for The Alchemist — who also had full-length partnerships with Freddie Gibbs and Conway The Machine as well as placements on records by Jay Electronica, Eminem and Westside Gunn — he summed up his incredible year best: “These projects are like my kids. I love all my children. But you never know if your children are gonna grow up to be doctors, lawyers, teachers.” The Price of Tea in China was good enough to be any of the three. – Patrick Johnson

Listen: LISTEN


The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Thundercat – It Is What It Is

Thundercat’s fourth studio album It Is What It Is can be summed up in one word: life. It’s not just about one aspect of life, but everything that comes with it — the joy, the pains and the uncertainty. There’s no lack of emotion in the bassist virtuoso’s project, and this steady flow of change reflects in the contrasting sonic structures of the disco-inspired track “Black Qualls” with Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington and Childish Gambino, the drum-dependent cut “Unrequited Love” and the gloomy title track that features a vocal sample and pays homage to his late friend, Mac Miller. The contributions of his brother Ronald Bruner, Jr., Kamasi Washington, Ty Dolla $ign, Zack Fox, BadBadNotGood and Lil B don’t hurt either, and offers the album an interesting selection of collaborators. Confusion is a prevalent theme on It Is What It Is, but Thundercat manages to arrange those scattered bits and pieces of apprehension into a formation that makes it easier for us to understand and, or a more personal level, relate to. – Sophie Caraan

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – What Kinda Music

When Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes joined forces for What Kinda Music, the symbiotic effort from the South London heavyweights seemed to push them into unchartered territory. Released via legendary jazz label Blue Note Records, the project sees both musicians from different disciplines bring out the best in each other. Take Misch’s crooning R&B vocals and lush riffage paired with Dayes’ barrage of jazz beats and punchy drum instrumentals, and the result smoothly blurs the line between genres. With guest features from Freddie Gibbs, Rocco Palladino (prolific bassist Pino Palladino’s son), and Kaidi Akinnibi, the record alchemizes hip-hop, jazz, soul, and electronica into psychedelic grooves bolstered by pulsating synths. Both multi-instrumentalists have successfully occupied a realm where experimental studio sessions and occasions of raw improvisation are tied together by flawless post-production. Misch and Dayes’ fluidity proves to be unmatched and results in a fully realized project. So, what kinda music you might ask? Whatever the answer is, it works. – Isabella Chon

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA

London-via-Niigata singer-songwriter Rina Sawayama has continued to cement her rise as one of indie pop’s most formative voices. Over the past several years, she’s continued to craft a cocktail of early 2000s pop sounds, showcasing her eclectic direction with her 2017 RINA EP. Earlier this year, she amplified her reverence for retro cues with her debut album SAWAYAMA. Chock full of experimental twists on early 2000s bubblegum pop, house, nu-metal and more, Rina’s self-titled debut LP features 13 tracks that dip into a variety of styles. She exasperates her post-genre sound, diving into a slew of deep-seated lyrical pockets in the process. She has a few words for casual racists and sexists on the aggressive lead single “STFU!”, calls out excessive consumerist culture on “XS,” and contemplates the world’s woes on “Fuck This World.” In-between the various social commentary, she drenches SAWAYAMA in new jack swing (“Love Me 4 Me”), rock-balladry (“Who’s Gonna Save U Now?” and “Dynasty”), EDM (“Snakeskin”), and much more. – Torsten Ingvaldsen

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind

Real name Sean Bowie, Yves Tumor has been long-loved by the underground, driving forth post-genre innovation that relays chthonic imagination. The Miami-native continued to narrate his artistic growth with his latest full-length offering earlier this year, Heaven to a Tortured Mind. Sharpening his direction, Tumor remains ever-mercurial on his fourth LP, further evolving and adapting his psychedelic take on shoegaze and soul. There’s something mesmerizing about his ability to hone in on the values that birthed the transgressive icons of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Heaven to a Tortured Mind is as much as a manifesto for stylistic boundary-pushing as it is for poetic genius. Yves Tumor’s lyricism oozes into potent narratives of isolation and alienation. It’s punchy, evocative, and unmistakably innovative. There’s something to be said about the project’s capability in cementing Tumor’s place alongside the boundary-pushing greats of the past. – Torsten Ingvaldsen

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Armand Hammer – Shrines

Armand Hammer, consisting of rappers billy woods and Elucid, released Shrines back in June featuring an album cover of an NYPD officer repelling down a Harlem apartment building to tranquilize a Bengal tiger living in a five-bedroom apartment. It’s an image rooted in New York City folklore that will draw you in, and you’ll stay for the images that both storytellers construct in the music that follows. Shrines is the sequel to the duo’s critically acclaimed 2018 project Parrafin. It’s not the most accessible rap record on this list but the digging-in-the-crate loops usher in 90s golden-age nostalgia with a dizzying twist of originality. Earl Sweatshirt produces the opener “Bitter Sweet” with Pink Siifu returning to rapping after his militant punk record. The run of “Solarium” and “Charms” is an exalting one-two punch. Quelle Chris steals the show with “Frida” (his Innocent Country 2 is an honorable mention to these selections, too). But it’s not the strong features that make this such a must-listen. Shrines is defined by two of the best lyricists in the game with woods and Elucid sparring back and forth with charisma and cohesion. – Patrick Johnson

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Childish Gambino – 3.15.20

If it’s true that 3.15.20 is indeed Donald Glover‘s last release under his Childish Gambino monicker, the project is a stellar way to go out. It’s been three and a half years since his magnum opus Awaken, My Love! released, and in that time Donald Glover the person has been busy raising his son, working on his hit show Atlanta and collaborating with adidas. Music may have seemed like an afterthought for the award-winning multi-hyphenate, but the intricacies of the new project proved otherwise. Select details of opposing patches of music are meticulously pieced together to work, adding a sense of purpose to the 12-track album’s experimentation. He pushes the limits — if there even are any anymore — of what kind of music he can create. Gambino’s career has spread from writing on 30 Rock to starring in Community and then creating one of his own, so who’s to say that his music can only go in one direction? – Sophie Caraan

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Nick Hakim – Will This Make Me Good

Nick Hakim’s sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD delivered a bolder yet more pared back approach to his 2017 debut effort Green Twins. While seemingly dissonant at first, the project is carefully constructed with simplicity and vulnerability that highlight the Brooklyn-based singer’s maturation and allow him to take his craft to more challenging heights. Touching upon themes of self-love, depression, grief, and even global warming, he conveys an unconstrained reminder to step back and take time to heal from overwhelming change. The album’s sounds are as profound as the stories it tells, with Hakim’s familiar R&B and neo-soul elements still prominent alongside haphazard arrangements and an abstract soundscape. His woozy psychedelics, sonic depth, and tender vocals add warmth to the existential dread and darkness laced within the tracks that express the current times we live in. With this cathartic release as a soft dose of reassurance, Hakim offers a peaceful and soothing way to deal with chaos. Listeners are left yearning for more, and without a doubt, feeling good too. – Isabella Chon

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The Best Music Projects and Albums of 2020 So Far HYPEBEAST Best New Tracks Hip Hop Rap Rapper Armand Hammer Bad Bunny Childish Gambino MIKE Freddie Gibbs Alchemist Kehlani Killer Mike Phoebe Bridgers El P Run The Jewels RTJ Soccer Mommy The Weeknd Tame Impala Thundercat JAY Z Jay Electronica Best New Tracks

Headie One & Fred again.. – GANG

Tottenham-native Headie One continued to adapt, expand, and reforge himself alongside BRIT Award-winning producer Fred again.. with GANG earlier this year, a riotous eight-track mixtape that saw the controversial drill artist embracing his tumultuous past. Boldly diving into similar introspective themes he explored on 2019’s Music x Road, GANG is far more rooted in the experimental, dripping with melancholic underpinnings that reflect the road he’s trudged in order to get to where he now stands. Across the project, he disarms hard-nosed gangster archetypes by moving away from the normative drill and grime sound. Headie and Fred instead offer a mesmerizing bricolage of U.K.’s rich dance music culture, mixing and meshing various club-tinged grooves alongside ruminative lyricism that looks towards a prosperous future. – Torsten Ingvaldsen

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Credits
Writer
Patrick Johnson/Hypebeast, Torsten Ingvaldsen/Hypebeast, Sophie Caraan/Hypebeast, Isabella Chon/Hypebeast, Marc Wong/Hypebeast
Image Credit
Esgn/Alc/Empire, Dead Oceans, Griselda Records, Run The Jewels Llc, Warner Records, Roc Nation, Republic Records, 10k, True Panther Sounds/Matador Records, Modular Recordings, Loma Vista Recordings, Rimas Entertainment, Mom+pop, Alc, Brainfeeder, Beyond The Groove/ Blue Note Records, Dirty Hit, Warp Records, Backwoodz Studios, Mcdj Recording, Ato Records, Relentless Records
Composite Imagery
Christina Hong/Hypebeast
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