The Torch’s top 20 hip-hop albums of 2020 illustrate the genre’s growing range of talent and portend a promising 2021

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Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake is easily one of the best hip-hop album releases of 2020.

Overall, 2020 has been a crazy year. From World War III rumors in January to COVID-19 occupying practically the whole year, life hasn’t been easy for many, and many of our favorite pastimes, such as sports, have struggled. Music, however, has stayed strong the entire year, specifically in hip-hop, artists have absolutely flooded our playlists with new music releases throughout the entire year. Here are the 20 best hip-hop releases from the year 2020.

At the beginning of 2020, the year’s top artist, as believed by many in the hip-hop community, Lil Baby, dropped his album My Turn. The project debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 list. Lil Baby and Gunna, one of rap’s favorite duos, were on fire on “Heatin Up,” one of the album’s best tracks. “Commercial” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, “No Sucker” with Moneybagg Yo, and “Emotionally Scarred” were some of the project’s top songs. Months later, Lil Baby released the deluxe version of the album. His collaboration with 42 Dugg, “We Paid,” was one of the hottest songs of the entire year and peaked at #10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list.

Only a week after My Turn, Lil Uzi Vert shocked the world by finally releasing Eternal Atake, the project he spent years teasing. The album was, without a doubt, well-received by his fans and worth the wait. On the original album, “Homecoming,” “Celebration Station,” and “Venetia” were considered some of the best tracks, all debuting within the Hot 100 list. “P2” serves as a sequel song to one of his most successful records, “XO TOUR Llif3.” Similar to Lil Baby, Lil Uzi released a deluxe version, titled LUV Vs. The World 2, only a week after the initial release. After only having one featured artist on the original, Lil Uzi obtained the genre’s best artists for collaborations on the follow-up. Young Thug, Young Nudy, Gunna, Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and NAV all helped Uzi deliver a great album. “Yessirskii” with 21 Savage was a fan favorite along with the highly anticipated tracks “Myron,” “Lotus,” and “Bean (Kobe)” featuring Chief Keef.

On the same day as Lil Uzi’s deluxe album release, Don Toliver displayed that he is a force to be reckoned with in the culture. The JackBoys member released his debut album Heaven or Hell, and fans absolutely loved it. Prior to its release, Toliver released the single “No Idea,” which peaked at #43 on the Hot 100. After many anticipated a project from Toliver alone, the release was accepted by all. His vocal ability is shown off on this album. “After Party,” “Cardigan,” and “Can’t Feel My Legs” were among the top songs on the project. The success of Heaven or Hell certainly solidifies Toliver’s position in the hip-hop world.

Over a year had passed between A Boogie wit da Hoodie’s 2018 major release and his latest project, Artist 2.0. The wait was definitely worth it because this project had some of the best songs of the year. “Me and My Guitar” was considered the song of the year at a point by many fans as A Boogie completely dominates the beat himself. “Blood On My Denim” was also well received, as was “King of My City.” Lil Uzi Vert features on “Luv Is Art” and “Reply,” and both were fantastic tracks. The best song on the project had to be “Numbers” featuring Roddy Ricch, Gunna, and London on da Track. In 2020 fashion, a deluxe version was released, and it included the tracks “Secrets” and “Bleed.” Both were two of the top songs from the project without a doubt. Although dropping earlier in the year, Artist 2.0 deserves its respect and recognition for being one of 2020’s best.

A duo that fans never knew they needed collaborated on their joint project earlier this year. Chris Brown and Young Thug’s Slime & B is a very underrated release from all of 2020. “Go Crazy” was the most successful track as it peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 and was a very popular song on TikTok. “Say You Love Me,” “She Bumped Her Head” featuring Gunna, and “Big Slimes” featuring Gunna and Lil Duke were among the top songs of the entire year. There’s a special connection between one of the greatest R&B artists ever and one of rap’s greatest artists, and this is showcased in Slime & B.

A year of fantastic music wouldn’t be complete without an array of new releases from Gunna. Apart from featuring on many major albums, Gunna dropped his highly anticipated Wunna, and it was well worth the wait. Gunna shines on his own tracks while complementing his features quite well. “BLINDFOLD” featuring Lil Baby reminds fans of how amazing this duo is together. “DOLLAZ ON MY HEAD” featuring Young Thug and “SKYBOX” were two of the songs that reached the Hot 100, both peaking at the respective positions of #38 and #65. Months later, Gunna continued the trend of releasing deluxe versions to albums. “NOTHING 4 FREE” featuring NAV, “200 FOR LUNCH,” and “RELENTLESS” featuring Lil Uzi Vert were some of the standouts from the deluxe. 

Pop Smoke, prior to his death, released his second mixtape Meet The Woo 2. At the time of its release, the New York drill rapper was showing fans why he deserved all the respect that he has earned. He calls on other New York rappers, such as A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Lil Tjay, and Fivio Foreign, to help him deliver. “Mannequin” featuring Lil Tjay was one of the best songs on the entire project. He showed off his superstar potential on “Invincible” and “Element.” On his three song deluxe, Gunna hopped on the “Dior” remix, which was a very great addition to an already fantastic track. NAV featured on “Wolves,” which would help make listeners consider the two as an underrated duo. It’s quite unfortunate that Pop Smoke passed away not too long after its release, but fans will always remember him from his unique style and strong delivery. 

After the mourning of Pop Smoke’s death by many fans, 50 Cent and the rest of Pop Smoke’s team felt it was necessary to release a posthumous album from Pop Smoke, and fans should be glad they made this decision. Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon has been so successful, staying within the Billboard 200’s top 10 since its release. “For The Night” featuring Lil Baby and DaBaby peaked at #6 on the Hot 100, “Aim For The Moon” featuring Quavo adds to the duo’s catalog together, and “Got It On Me” serves as a comparison between 50 Cent and Pop Smoke himself. 50 Cent and Roddy Ricch featured on “The Woo,” an absolute fan favorite, and “Mood Swings” featuring Lil Tjay blew up on TikTok. On the deluxe version, “She Feelin Nice” featuring Jamie Foxx and “Hello” featuring A Boogie wit da Hoodie were exceptional and highlighted the potential that Pop Smoke had that was ultimately taken when he was murdered.

Another posthumous project that arrived in 2020 was Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die. No matter if someone enjoyed some of his music or was a diehard fan, the album was a somewhat emotional listen for many. The intro and the outro feature Juice WRLD speaking directly to fans, which was a solid addition from Juice’s team. Fans displayed all-out support for the project as it nearly sold 500k album units in the first week, which is unreal. There were many tracks that peaked inside of the top 10: “Come & Go” with Marshmello (#2), “Wishing Well” (#5),  “Conversations” (#7), “Smile” with The Weeknd (#8), “Life’s a Mess” with Halsey (#9), and “Hate the Other Side” with Marshmello, Polo G, and The Kid LAROI (#10). All of these tracks reminded fans of what we truly lost when Juice WRLD passed away in December 2019. Due to its success and replayability, Legends Never Die belongs on this list.

Before Juice WRLD passed away, he welcomed an Australian teenager to his team, named The Kid LAROI. When 2020 began, he went on a streak of dropping popular songs, such as “Diva” featuring Lil Tecca and “Addison Rae.” Fans of his were anticipating a longer work from him, and that is when he released F*CK LOVE as his debut mixtape. “GO” with one of his “idols” Juice WRLD was the lead single and was well accepted by fans. “TELL ME WHY” and “WRONG” featuring Lil Mosey had popular music videos on YouTube and were overall catchy tunes. More recently, he added seven songs to the deluxe, which further highlighted his solid future ahead of him. “SO DONE” and “TRAGIC” featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Internet Money were the most popular of the additions, and “WITHOUT YOU” displays his versatility as he goes off on an acoustic beat. With the current run The Kid LAROI is on, a position on the 2021 XXL Freshman list isn’t out of reach.

Polo G’s THE GOAT was one of 2020’s most beloved projects. Polo G, a 2020 XXL Freshman, pours his emotions into this album, which is the main reason fans love it so much. After his first project Die a Legend established Polo G as a rising star, THE GOAT furthered his success and put him on a path to be one of this generation’s greatest. “Martin & Gina,” “21,” and “Flex” featuring Juice WRLD were the top tracks from this project, and they all charted on the Hot 100 at #61, #62, #30, respectively. After his selection to the freshman list in 2020, Polo G needed to follow-up accordingly, and he did just that with THE GOAT.

Lil Durk has been emerging as one of hip-hop’s biggest stars, and he displayed why through his release of Just Cause Y’all Waited 2. The project showcases how much Durk has matured as an artist since his initial breakthrough in the industry. He seems to have a firm grasp on what he is doing, and fans are loving it. “3 Headed Goat” featuring Lil Baby and Polo G was one of the most popular songs of the year. All three artists flowed together perfectly, making this the most successful track on the project, peaking at #43 on the Hot 100. Other popular tracks were “Internet Sensation,” “Viral Moment,” and “Gucci Gucci” featuring Gunna. In the deluxe version, “Denied in UK” and “Pass the Water” were two standout records. Overall, Lil Durk’s 2020 project was very solid, and the follow-up success and popularity received by Durk is evident in the quality of this project.

NAV had a very successful 2020. After debuting at #1 on Billboard 200 with his album Good Intentions, he was steamrolling through the year. At the beginning of November, he linked with producer Wheezy to drop their collaboration mixtape Emergency Tsunami. Fans have heard this duo long before the drop of the project, but a compilation of songs was well received. The intro transitions into a very strong first track titled “Friends & Family.” From start to finish, NAV goes off on Wheezy’s diverse beats. Other successful tracks include “Young Wheezy” featuring Gunna, “Repercussions” featuring Young Thug, and “Vetement Socks.” His collaboration track with Lil Baby, “Don’t Need Friends,” marks the second track the two collaborated on. Overall, the chemistry between NAV and Wheezy makes this one of 2020’s best.

Internet Money, the record label and producer group, dropped their first studio album B4 The Storm. Led by Taz Taylor and Nick Mira, the group obtained features from some of hip-hop’s best. The lead single, “Lemonade” with Gunna and Don Toliver featuring NAV was one of the best songs of 2020, peaking at #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100, making this the group’s most successful track. They remixed the track with Roddy Ricch, only increasing the song’s popularity. “Blastoff” with Juice WRLD and Trippie Redd marks another collaboration between the two. “Lost Me” with iann dior and Lil Skies featuring Lil Mosey was teased for quite some time, so it was pleasing to finally hear the released version. The Kid LAROI continues his success on “Speak” while 24kGoldn represents his amazing year on “Take It Slow” with TyFontaine and “Giddy Up” featuring Wiz Khalifa. It was a very solid project with a lot of the other tracks having replay value, so definitely check out one of 2020’s finest projects.

Lil Uzi Vert makes his case for 2020’s hip-hop MVP after dropping a third project. In this release, he collaborates with Future on a joint project Pluto x Baby Pluto. After teasing an extended release between the two back in July and releasing two lead singles, fans were eagerly anticipating this. The album debuted at #2 on Billboard 200. Some of the best tracks on the original album were “That’s It,” “Bankroll,” and “Real Baby Pluto.” On the deluxe, the duo shines on “Tic Tac,” which is easily one of the best songs on the album. “Because of You” displays their ability to make any type of song and their greatness. Without features on the album, Lil Uzi Vert and Future remind fans how legendary they are together and how they don’t need anyone else to have a successful record.

Lil Yachty kicked off the summer with Lil Boat 3. After a few mediocre projects, Yachty had to drop a successful album in order to begin his comeback onto mainstream hip-hop. With his 2020 album, he did just that. Yachty shows how he can be calm, cool, and collective on tracks while also dropping intense songs. “Lemon Head” was a relaxing and smooth track while “Range Rover Sports Truck” featuring Lil Keed features the two rappers rapidly going back and forth with one another. Although it is fair to say Yachty was carried on “T.D” featuring A$AP Rocky, Tyler, The Creator, and Tierra Whack and “Pardon Me” featuring Future and Mike WiLL Made-It, he shined on his verses, which adds to the success of both songs. He also shined on “Split/Whole Time” and “Coffin,” which recently dropped on the deluxe album Lil Boat 3.5. One of Playboi Carti’s only tracks came on the deluxe with Yachty and Future with “Flex Up,” which was easily the hardest song of the deluxe. With the 27 tracks, Yachty gives himself plenty of momentum to make a comeback.

The YSL team was already extremely victorious this year after Young Thug and Gunna dropped projects, but Lil Keed added to this triumph with his Trapped On Cleveland 3. Keed follows up his solid 2019 project Long Live Mexico with better performances by him on his 2020 album. “Heartbreaker” and “Obama Coupe” are polar opposites in style and subjects; however, both are equally great tracks. “Fox 5” featuring Gunna was the lead single to the album, and it was easily one of the best tracks by the two of them this year. Travis Scott solidified his memorable position on the album’s best track “Wavy (Remix,.” and Keed’s mentor, Young Thug, assisted him on “Hibachi” and “Kiss Em Peace.” The best performing song was “She Know” featuring Lil Baby, which not only displays Keed’s ability to have a big song, but it also shows Lil Baby’s influence on the success of other songs. After earning a selection to the 2020 XXL Freshman list, Lil Keed shows exactly why with Trapped On Cleveland 3.

After speculations of the project dropping the same day as the Eternal Atake deluxe and Heaven Or Hell, 21 Savage, over a half of a year later, dropped SAVAGE MODE II with Metro Boomin, the follow-up to their 2016 collaboration. Fans knew the album was going to be fire when Morgan Freeman made a guest appearance on various interlude tracks. Freeman depicting the difference between a “snitch” and a “rat” is almost laughable as to how amazing it is. The transitions between tracks proves Metro Boomin to be one of the best producers of this generation. 21 Savage ominously raps on Metro’s insane production of “Glock in My Lap” and “Slidin,” and he pays his respect to 50 Cent on “Many Men.” As far as the charts, two songs debuted in the top 10 with “Runnin” and Mr. Right Now” featuring Drake at respective positions at #9 and #10. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin prove to be at the top of what they do with another amazing collaboration between the two.

DJ Scheme’s debut album FAMILY is the second producer album that made this list (Internet Money’s B4 The Storm being the first). While B4 The Storm had very popular artists on a majority of the songs, Scheme’s tracks feature a lot of less known artists, which makes this album great because fans can hear new artists on great beats produced by Scheme. Jackboy and Danny Towers have great features on “Zebra,” and $NOT delivers a powerful verse on “Blue Bills.” “Splurgin” with Lil Gnar featuring Shakewell is a solid track on the album. Although a long hiatus since his last album drop, Ski Mask the Slump God appears on four different tracks: “E-ER” featuring Lil Yachty and Danny Towers, “Thor’s Hammer Worthy” featuring ZillaKami, “Soda” with Cordae featuring Take A Daytrip, and “How You Feel? (Freestyle)” with Danny Towers featuring Lil Yachty. “E-ER” had one of Lil Yachty’s best verses of the year, in which he mentioned TikTok star Addison Rae, which created drama on Twitter. Cordae had a great hook on “Soda,” making it a great choice for the lead single of the album, and Lil Mosey and Ty Dolla $ign had great features on “Bussin’ Out.” Overall, FAMILY was a very solid debut album from DJ Scheme, and the future is definitely bright for the young producer. 

On the final Friday of 2020, Santa, in the form of Playboi Carti, delivered a Christmas miracle with the highly anticipated Whole Lotta Red. After the wild saga and two-year build-up, fans finally received the sophomore project that they were looking for. However, the album was way different than expected. Carti utilizes a punk rap style throughout many of the tracks, causing a general shock and dislike from many supporters. Rather than labeling the album as subpar, it should be given its time to grow on fans. Out of the gate, Carti executes on “Rockstar Made.” “Vamp Anthem” has one of the most amazing beats of the year, and hip-hop’s favorite figure, DJ Akademiks, offers a great introduction to the strong “Control.” Kid Cudi and Kanye West execute on their respective tracks “M3tamorphosis” and “Go2DaMoon.” With speculation of a deluxe album releasing with possible features of Travis Scott, Pharrell Williams, and Post Malone, the wait for Whole Lotta Red will finally be deemed necessary. As unique as Playboi Carti is in the hip-hop world, Whole Lotta Red follows the exact same course and should be considered one of the top albums of 2020.

Hip-hop simply didn’t disappoint in 2020. The world finally received Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert’s highly anticipated solo projects. Young stars Lil Keed, The Kid LAROI, and DJ Scheme shined on their projects, and more of the culture’s best made their mark on the unique year that we have had. In regards to hip-hop, if 2021 is anything similar to 2020, fans are in for a treat. 

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