H31R – ve·loc·i·ty
Comprised of JWords on production and maassai on the raps, New York-based duo H31R really came through with a phenomenal release. Women ran rap this year, and their collaborative project ve·loc·i·ty is a testament not only to their individual talents, but their collective greatness. JWords has had some of my favourite production all year, releasing some incredible beats, while maassai’s transparent and inspiring lyricism puts her among the great lyricists of this year. ve·loc·i·ty is an amalgamation of their individual and collective greatness, and it has been a project I’ve cherished ever since it came out. Don’t sleep on these two, and I’m sure next year will bring more successes to them both. Read more
SAULT – UNTITLED (Black Is) / UNTITLED (Rise)
I have included both SAULT albums in this list because I tend to experience them both together. It’s the only way really. UNTITLED (Black Is) and UNTITLED (Rise) are two exceptional releases that perfectly capture the soul and heart of the Black experience in the UK and the US. The rhythms throughout are truly exceptional, with compositions that sound aesthetically rich and full of funk and soul. Both of these projects are dynamic and full of heart, and the mysticism around this exceptional group just adds to the aura of their music and presence. They took 2020 by storm, and I can only imagine what they’ll do in the next coming years. Read more / Read more
Nelson Bandela – Black James Blake E.P.
The more and more I listen to this project, the more I become enamored by the incredible sonic arrangements of it. Nelson Bandela, as I mentioned in my review of his excellent Black James Blake E.P., is one of the most innovative and eclectic artists in recent times. His knack for the weird and wonderful is exemplified throughout this project, as he brings idiosyncratic rhythms and beat arrangements, as well as soulful vocal performances that just sound terrific. His experimentation is truly a gift, and I’m sure that he’ll continue making timeless and futuristic music with years to come. Read more
Blu & Exile – Miles
Blu and Exile are underground legends – their 2007 debut Below The Heavens cemented that legacy already. They came back strong this year with an incredibly dense and interesting new album titled Miles. 20 tracks and over an hour and a half, this project is still quite a lot to digest, but when you combine Exile’s soulful and hard-hitting production with Blu’s introspection and intricate lyricism, you get a masterpiece. Some of my favourite tracks of the year are on this record – there’s something truly infectious about the chemistry between these two, and I can only imagine how much more music they’ve got stashed away and ready to get released. I hope so anyway. They delivered a true hip-hop masterclass, and I hope that they’ll continue working together in years to come. Read more
Actress – Karma & Desire
London-based producer Actress came through with a phenomenal release this year. As I mentioned in my review, “It’s rare to experience a project that so potently and poetically captures the mood and experiences I’ve felt this year. The sonic palate and soundscapes that Actress created throughout Karma & Desire are truly sublime.”. It’s the dark and eerie tone of the project with its sonic diversity and eclecticism that makes it such an important listen. It’s a project I keep returning to whenever I feel in the mood for something darker and moodier, so it had to make an appearance on my end of year lists. Here’s hoping he continues releasing stellar music like this in the years to come! Read more
All these albums were special in their own way. Everyone on this list deserves their flowers, and I hope new music has been introduced to folks reading these lists. 2020 was great for music, awful in general, but let’s hope for a better 2021! Happy New Year.