TheHipHopDemocrat’s Fifth Annual Best Albums of the Year List, Who Makes The Cut?

Back for a fifth straight year, we at TheHipHopDemocrat once again despite being a mostly Hip-Hop based website, decided to include not only Hip-Hop, but a few of the other genres we cover a lot of, such as R&B, Jazz and Soul, as part of our latest best albums of the year list. Counting down from 10 to one, we cover a bunch of the variety of different artists and albums we covered throughout the year and came up with the following for our best of 2020 albums. A few honorable mentions were even thrown in as well. So without further ado here is TheHipHopDemocrat’s fifth Best Albums of the Year list.

10. Jhené Aiko – Chilombo: Getting a surprise nomination by the GRAMMYs for Album of the Year at the upcoming 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. Jhené Aiko delivered easily the best album of her career with her latest masterpiece solo album, Chilombo. That is an album which also provides peace, hope, healing and serenity. We could all use in these crazy times we are living in. The album itself, is a truly timeless masterpiece that will live on for ages in much the same way that artists like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, brought us such timeless masterpiece albums at times we truly needed them. Jhené does the same with, Chilombo. Which that it just barely made our top albums of the year list. Shows what another pretty solid year it was for truly good music.

9. Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo: Freddie gets a surprise nomination recently too for Best Rap Album at the upcoming GRAMMYs. It’s with good reason though. As nearly a year after delivering what was arguably his best album to date in his Madlib collaboration album, Bandana. Gibbs returned this year still riding high off that albums success by delivering yet another masterpiece album with, Alfredo. That could easily rival that and some may now say is his best work to date of his career. Alchemist providing the perfect production throughout for Gibbs to so seamlessly weave in and out with his different rhyme patterns and flows. Whether it be the gritty dope bars over the very hypnotic and guitar-infused production on lead single, 1985. To the very soulfully cinematic piano keys backdrop on the Rick Ross featured standout, Scottie Beam or very emotional bars Gibbs delivers on both, Skinny Suge and the very vibey, Tyler, the Creator featured standout, Something to Rap About. The standout features from the likes of Ross, Benny the Butcher and Conway the Machine, as well as Tyler. Helping elevate the album even more. For what’s not only one of the top Hip-Hop albums of the year, but one of the best albums regardless of genre. The just barely over 35 minutes run time. Perfect to really satisfy the listeners appetite as much as a plate of alfredo would to your stomach.

8. Benny the Butcher – Burden of Proof: Griselda Records has really run Hip-Hop/Rap the past few years. Long before aligning themselves with Shady Records and Roc Nation. The core three members of Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher. Have left a mark on the streets that could rival those of fellow New York contemporaries such as Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and The LOX. Continuing to build on their ever growing legacy with each new year. 2020 has been their biggest year to date. With Benny being a huge reason why. Thanks in large part to his biggest album to date, Burden of Proof. Fully produced by fellow Roc Nation managed artist, Hit-Boy. Benny let’s you know from the very opening title track with its very soulfully guitar-infused backdrop that you are in for a legendary and instantly classic album. That gives off early to mid-2000s prime and vintage Roc-A-Fella Records vibes. Becoming even more apparent with the Pain in Da Ass skit on the end of the intro. Even though you may not hear a lot of the grimey and gritty street sounds you are used to. Benny proves on, Burden of Proof, that you are still going to get a lot of those bragacious raps and flows that made him such an underground favorite. As well as still a lot of those great coke rap metaphors you are used to. As proven on album standout, One Way Flight. That features Freddie Gibbs and is arguably the best track on the album. Both Benny and Gibbs show yet again their undeniable chemistry and why me or most others wouldn’t mind seeing some type of collaboration album or project between the two emcees. The features, whether from Gibbs or Rick Ross on, Where Would I Go. To Lil Wayne and Big Sean on, Timeless, as well as Queen Naija on, Thank God I Made It or of course the mandatory Griselda collaboration from the core trio of Griselda on, War Paint. Also really help elevate the album even more. With so many instantly classic and emotional records like, the Dom Kennedy featured, Over the Limit and the very introspective, New Streets. It’s hard to choose and pick what tracks are your favorite or in what order. This is definitely an album that elevates Benny to that next level and let’s you know as he says on the stellar closing track, Legend. He’s not one in the making, but already a legend now.

7. Billy Danze & Too Busy – We Busy: One half of legendary pioneering hardcore Hip-Hop group, M.O.P. Delivered his newest solo project, We Busy, just last month. Marketed as a collaboration album between emcee and producer, like so many since the beginning of Hip-Hop and where one producer produces a whole album for said emcee and/or group. That has become somewhat of a trend in Hip-Hop again recently over the past few years. Such is the case here with Swiss producer Too Busy producing all of We Busy. Providing more soulful beats than what we are used to from Danze spitting over. That doesn’t stop him from providing those gritty and gutter hardcore bars we have always come to expect from Danze and his M.O.P. partner in rhyme, Lil Fame. Which he shows with his great and impeccable lyrical display on such standout tracks as Cyrus and the Method Man featured, Gotham. Even on the opening track, Don’t Believe You. That really sets the tone for the album. Heck even the title track and Southern Man are two other tracks where Danze shows that implacable lyrical display. The DJ Premier featured, Take a Step and Lil Fame featured, That Time. Two other examples of that. For an album that’s not only an instant classic and one of the best Hip-Hop albums released this year, but one of the top albums period. Billy showing like so many other current veteran emcees that getting older does not have to mean you leave, but in quite a few cases get better as you get older too. Danze showing throughout the album why he’s one of the better emcees to ever touch a mic. As well as why 2020 was the year that veteran emcees that are 40-plus years-old. Show why they can still deliver some of the most top tier Hip-Hop without having to compromise themselves in the process. Such is the case on how you get such classics as this.

6. Conway the Machine – From King to a God: Cinematic, dark, profound and a gritty ascension into God level dexterity. In short, that’s just a few words you can use to describe Griselda Records emcee, Conway the Machine’s long-awaited debut album, From King to a GOD. Nothing short of a masterpiece and easily not only Conway’s most diverse project to date, but arguably the most diverse and complete project you will hear from the Griselda crew and label. To see more of my actual thoughts and review on the album click here.

5. Jessie Reyez – BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US: Not many artists had quite the year as very talented singer and songwriter, Jessie Reyez, had. From giving several great performances to even singing the national anthem in the NBA Playoffs for her hometown and at the time she sang it, defending NBA champion, Toronto Raptors. As well as releasing several videos. Reyez didn’t let the lockdowns or pandemic slow her it all. It all really culminating in the release of her long-awaited debut album, BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US. Back in March. That is one of the most honest, heart-wrenching, diverse and unfiltered debut albums you will ever hear. Which was robbed of and should have got several GRAMMYs nominations. Instead getting none, but still getting her plenty of accolades and praise. That includes making number five on our Top Albums of the Year list. As well as making several other year-end lists.

4. Black Thought – Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane and Abel: Black Thought is easily one of the best emcees and lyricists to ever touch a mic. Some may even argue he’s the greatest of all-time. With a discography that includes his work in Hip-Hop group, The Roots. With whom he co-founded with drummer, Questlove and has spanned nearly 30 years. The argument used to always be that he didn’t put out enough solo material to really warrant that claim. But now after putting out more solo material than ever before with his, Streams of Thought series. He has finally put out his debut solo album with the third volume in the series he started back in 2018 as EP’s. In, Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane & Able. A master class in both rhyming and flow. As we have come to expect over the years with his countless flawless performances throughout the years. Vol. 3: Cane & Able, is not only arguably the best Hip-Hop album to drop in 2020, but easily one of the best albums across all of music period this year. Not to mention some of Thought’s best work to date in his truly legendary and astounding career. That also shows how much he has grown as not only an emcee, but artist over the years. With how diverse and unique this is compared to what we have come to expect from him over the years too. Coming in at number four on our Top Albums of the Year list. Do you agree with the placement and do you think it’s was the best Hip-Hop/Rap Album put out this year? Let us know.

3. Adrian Daniel – Nightwolf: Rising Brooklyn-bred R&B star, Adrian Daniel. Is easily one of the most talented artists to emerge in the burgeoning great R&B/Soul scene over the past several years. His very moody and dark theme of his newest album, Nightwolf, about love. Is a very masterful one that’s a truly flawless masterpiece album from beginning to end. That is easily Daniel’s best album to date and shows why the singer, songwriter and producer is one of the most talented artists to emerge over the past several years in the very talented crop of alternative R&B artists. That includes The Weeknd and Frank Ocean. With his very amazing vocals being most compared to those two and The Weeknd even more so. After you check out our review of the album here, you can see why we have his newest album at number three on our Top Albums of the Year list. Also if you agree that his album should be higher or lower on the list or you think not even at all. Let us know, what do you think?

2. Kandace Springs – The Women Who Raised Me: In a year that say so many talented women at the forefront of music. One who didn’t fully get all the attention she truly deserves is, Kandace Springs. A truly talented singer and pianist, as well as songwriter. Who put out a full on Jazz album for the first time in her career with her third solo album, The Women Who Raised Me. That sees her honoring and covering over 12 tracks, the women who influenced/inspired her sound as a woman growing up, hence the title. Putting her own twists on songs associated with a dozen of the most iconic and greatest vocalists and artists of all-time. Ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Roberta Flack, Astrud Gilberto, Sadé, Lauryn Hill, Billie Holiday, Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Carmen McRae, Bonnie Raitt, Nina Simone and Dusty Springfield. Springs so beautifully puts together an album, that will sooth the soul in these troubling and crazy times we are all currently living in. Something positive, hopeful and inspiring in a time where we all truly need it. After one listen you can see why we thought Springs put out not only the best Jazz album of the year, but one of the top two albums of the whole year across all of music. Some possibly even arguing that she may even have put out the best album here in 2020. Either way. Whether two or one, Springs jumps even higher on our list than the last go around. When she was ranked for having the third best album of the year. Due to her sophomore album, Indigo.

1. Raheem DeVaughn – What A Time To Be In Love: Not many artists get better with time or as they get older. But R&B/Soul crooner, Raheem DeVaughn, isn’t just any artist. Known as the “Love King.” DeVaughn has truly lived up to the name with the consistently great love songs and classics he has produced since dropping his timeless and classic masterpiece debut album, The Love Experience, 15 years ago, this past June. His old soul singing style he has always had, what set him apart from so many of his peers. That has let him produce such grown and sexy bedroom ballads and slow jams as, Customer, Love Connection, Make a Baby, Baby Come Back and Temperature’s Rising. His newest album, What A Time To Be In Love. That he dropped a little over a month ago, is no different. Not only allowing him to add such new grown and sexy bedroom ballads as, Special Occasion and Twilight. Plus lead single, Mr. Midnight to his already great discography. But also able to add such conscious records as the Marvin Gaye homage, Marvin Used to Say. Frequent collaborators The Colleagues, contributing to and producing all 14 tracks. Helping DeVaughn deliver a tastefully very grown and sexy truly masterpiece album. That’s a match made in blissful heaven about love. At a time we can all truly use more love. That may also arguably be DeVaughn’s best work to date. For what’s not only the best R&B/Soul album this year, but what we feel is the best album released in all of 2020. Regardless of genre.

Honorable mentions: Syleena Johnson – Woman: One of the best vocalists and singer/songwriters of all-time, who doesn’t always get their full just due.  Is Chicago’s very own Syleena Johnson.  Who earlier this year delivered the first truly classic and timeless masterpiece R&B/Soul album of 2020 with her latest solo album, Woman.  A masterpiece in not only in R&B/Soul, but all of music regardless of genre.  Released in January.  The very powerful and empowering album in which Johnson shows her powerful vocals and lyrics throughout.  Also shows the range and talent of legendary producer and fellow Chicago native, Toxic, who produced the whole album.  The album being released at the beginning of the year and making an end of the year list, just as we predicted.  Even, if only as an honorable mention. Shows just how great the album is that it would stand that test of time.

Philmore Greene – The Survival Scroll: Soulfully thought-provoking and a true sign of the times. Just like on his stellar masterpiece debut album, Chicago: A Third World City. Chicago emcee Philmore Greene shows on his sophomore album, The Survival Scroll. Yet again why he’s not only easily one of the best emcees in all of Chicago, but Hip-Hop right now. His opening verse of, “It’s getting hard for me to breathe. Sign of the times, I’m covered in sheets. I’m loving my dreams. Reality it comes in my sleep. When I awake. Puff trees, ducked the disease. I made it. Always praying, stuck on my knees.” On the very bluesy guitar-infused Luis Blue-produced opening track, Live from the Metropolis. Showing just how great, thought-provoking and a true sign of the times the album really is. That so many can unfortunately relate to with the truly trying times so many of us are currently going through. By far one of the best Hip-Hop albums to drop in all of 2020, but is it a classic, like his first album?  Find out after you read my full review of the album here, if you haven’t already.

Mykestro – King Arthur: You want a straight up timeless Westcoast album.  Look no further then veteran Westcoast emcee Mykestro’s long overdue proper debut album, King Arthur.  A 10-track effort featuring production from legendary Westcoast producer, DJ Battlecat.  As well as Macado of popular Westcoast production group, League Of Starz on 3 tracks and Like of veteran Westcoast group, Pac Div, on 2 tracks.  Helping carry the bulk of how Westcoast sounding the album truly is.  Going with no features on the album too.  Mykestro is able to showcase his great emceeing and very lyrical skills throughout without having to compromise himself to do so.  Delivering not only one of the top Hip-Hop albums of the year in the process, but one of the better albums you will hear period to drop this past year.

Royce Da 5’9″ – The Allegory: 2020 was a trying year for so many of us. But one emcee artist and emcee, who took full advantage of it and had a pretty solid year was veteran Detroit emcee, Royce Da 5’9″. Who put out his eighth solo album towards the beginning of the year. In, The Allegory. Like his it albums it is filled with plenty of bars, poignant storytelling and thought-provoking rhyme schemes.  What makes this album standout from Royce’s previous efforts though is that he self-produced all 22 tracks and for someone who just practically started producing, did a pretty solid job.  At its center, The Allegory, is also an album that’s very layered, vaste and intricate with all the social and systematic racism, as well as nasty history that the black and colored communities have been plagued with for centuries.  Even still facing today and how it trickles down to some of Hip-Hop’s own shortcomings, as well as today’s often very frustrating social climate.  That Royce reveals and drops knowledge about throughout the album, which will make you want to go and research. The album so powerful and great, it even recently earned Royce his first very own GRAMMYs nomination. Being nominated for, Best Rap Album, at the upcoming 2021 GRAMMYs.

Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour: Parkwood Entertainment signed duo and Beyoncé protégé’s, Chloe x Halle. Have always been among the more talented crop of current great rising R&B/Soul singers and songwriters. In the very burgeoning right now R&B/Soul scene. With their recent sophomore album, Ungodly Hour, though. They have delivered a truly incredible cohesive body of work over 13 tracks that is easily the duo’s best work to date. That like so many other R&B greats before them, is the true breakout record that will really push their talents even more to the mainstream and may even end up becoming their magna opus. Thanks to how honest, authentic and intimate they are througout the album. That also shows how they are easily two of the most truly talented artists in the very burgeoning great R&B scene right now. Using the lockdowns and pandemic to their advantage, Chloe x Halle, have been able to use this time to promote the album even more. With the several great at-home and awards shows performances, they have still been able to do. To highlight what’s easily not only one of the best R&B/Soul albums this year. But one of the best albums of 2020 period and why it should be no surprise they make our Top Albums of the Year list. Even if only as an honorable mention.

Topic 626 – The Coast Guard 201: Topic626, who most may remember as just Topic. When the veteran Westcoast emcee first emerged on to the scene around 2007 as one of the very talked about features on fellow Westcoast emcee, The Game’s classic track, Cali N***az. From his critically-acclaimed fourth volume in his very popular mixtape series, You Know What It Is. Was pretty quiet for a few years after leaving SRC Records. Then re-emerging within the past four years or so. The West Covina native changed his name and started his own label, Perpetual Recordings. Putting out several albums and EP’s. Topic, now known as Topic626 put out two albums this year. With his first album, The Coast Guard 201, that he put out in June. Arguably if not his best, by far some of his best work to date. That is not only one of the best Hip-Hop/Rap albums released in a year that was a really good one for great Hip-Hop albums. But one of the best albums across all of music here in 2020. That is also a very inspirational album at a time we can all use more of those types of albums. Giving us such inspirational tracks as, Risk It All, Frustrated, Bigger Than You and Finally. Topic gave us an album that has infinite replay value and picks up the torch from fallen fellow Westcoast emcee, Nipsey Hu$$le. As another Westcoast emcee, who you know can give you those inspirational and motivational type tracks whenever you need them. That will have Topic626 as a Westcoast staple that will be around for plenty more years to come.