If hip hop fans are still debating what album will take home the unofficial album of the year honors this year, there is no question as to what label should be awarded as the label of the year. Benny The Butcher is back with his second project of the year, and a very strong one at that. He’s already released The Respected Sopranos, a collaboration mixtape with DJ Drama, this year, and fellow Griselda-ians Conway The Machine, Westside Gunn, Boldy James and Armani Caesar have all released their respective projects as well, making the Griselda total album count for the year an astounding thirteen. All of them are quality, some of them are album of the year contenders, and what the label has done this year is nothing short of spectacular.
Aside from Benny, artists like Black Thought, T.I., Gucci Mane and PARTYNEXTDOOR are just some of the names that have released new albums this Friday. Check that out, and much more below:
Benny The Butcher – Burden of Proof
Benny The Butcher is already well established for his gritty and authentic representation of his experiences through his dynamic lyricism, and this album sees him expanding on that skill set. The Hit-Boy produced album features some more upbeat and melodic beats than Benny usually raps over, and the result is stunning lyricism over mainstream-driven production. Synthy basses and soulful samples take the forefront, while Benny lets his natural flow and lyricism shine from front to back. Features from Rick Ross to Freddie Gibbs to the Griselda collective and more round out the project to form a complete, serious album of the year contender.
Black Though – Streams of Thought
If Black Thought isn’t on your list of top ten rappers of all time, maybe you should strongly reconsider the names ahead of him. The Roots frontman and lyrical genius, Black Thought’s ability to put together a lyrically-driven, cohesive project is truly exceptional, and this project is not only a lyrical barrage, but a beautiful commentary of American society, as evident from the very beginning of the album. The production is varied and interesting, and provides a dynamic backdrop for Thought to weave together his rhymes. Though there aren’t a great deal of features, Thought’s unrelenting lyricism is easily able to hold up on its own, although appearances from ScHoolboy Q among others provide for different perspectives and styles. This project might not get the respect it deserves, but it is absolutely more than worthy of a listen.
T.I. – The L.I.B.R.A.
While T.I.’s new album is less a cohesive album and more a collection of fun, bouncy songs, the album still sees T.I. in good form, and a slew of features from a variety of different rappers. Expect to hear verses from Young Thug, Snoop Dogg, Benny The Butcher, Rick Ross, John Legend and many, many more, as bundle of largely Atlanta-driven but ultimately varied production takes over the album. T.I. is truly a staple of Atlanta, and this album is a reminder of not only his ability on the mic, but also the respect he has earned by fellow MC’s from near and far.
Gucci Mane – So Icy Gang, Vol. 1
Speaking of Atlanta royalty, Gucci Mane released a new project today. Although it takes a much more underground approach featuring a slew of largely unknown Atlanta natives, the album is a true reflection of the current Atlanta trap scene blessed with the presence of the Atlanta trap don in Gucci Mane overseeing the project. While the album is very one dimensional, those looking for that sounds will find plenty of it throughout this project.
PARTYNEXTDOOR – PARTYPACK
PARTYNEXTDOOR released his third studio album, PARTYMOBILE, in March earlier this year. Now he is here with seven more songs in a separate but essentially deluxe version of his March album. With features from Quavo, Lil Yachty and the late Nipsey Hussle, PARTYNEXTDOOR’s resonant vocals are complimented with a variety of different rap on the second half of the album. The production, as usual, allow the vocals to shine throughout the album, and the songs presented are a nice edition to the already solid full album.
Mario – Closer to Mars
Although Mario is largely known for his major hits from the early 2000’s, his latest EP demonstrates that people should not be sleeping on his vocal ability. Mario can still croon with the best of them, and with some interesting, contemporary production behind him, Marioshows he is still able to deliver. Although just five songs, not all of which are high quality, the EP shows that Mario can still make relevant music with a strong beat behind him that supports his abilities as a vocalist.
Lil Brick – The Intro
While Lil Brick is no household name, the rapper shows that he possesses natural talent on his latest EP. Although his talent is unrefined, there is no denying his lyrical ability, as well as his natural flow and fell for the production behind him. He certainly has room to improve, as his flow is not always precise and on the beat throughout the entirety of a song. That being said, there is natural talent flowing throughout the EP, and Lil Brick shows that he has the chops to potentially be a force to be reckoned with.
Yung Bleu, Drake – “You’re Mines Still”
Drake more often than not is willing to hop on a track with a young up-and-comer, and he is back at it again here with Yung Bleu. The slow, melodically driven track sees Drake in his r&b form, while Bleu shows of hiss abilities as a hybrid singer/rapper as well, although in a very different style than Drake. Overall, the song is emotional, and Drake’s endorsement and stamp on the song will surely help Bleu gain some notoriety among the mainstream rap community.
IDK – “King Afraid”
IDK, the British Born, Maryland raised rapper, is here with his first single since his most recent mixtape with an awfully aggressive single. The 808 heavy production paired with the in-your-face lyrics provides for an extremely heavy-hitting song. IDK is a very versatile rapper who is able to flow over a variety of different beats, but this sing sees him taking perhaps his most direct and aggressive approach.
Nas, Joey Bada$$, Gary Clark Jr. – “Keep It Moving”
Sign me up for a collaboration between legendary Queens MC Nas, Brooklyn MC/icon Joey Bada$$, modern guitar icon Gary Clark Jr. and hip hop producer/icon Static Selektah. The soulful beat is perfect not only for Nas and Joey to flow over, but also for Clark Jr. to provide soulful chord progressions over the beat. The pairing of the great rapping and the beautiful instrumentation is amazing, and the song makes you want to hear more from this group. The song is reminiscent of the Dinner Party project put out by Terrace Martin and his fellow jazz musicians/hip hop producers.
Rapsody, Bilal – “Pray Momma Don’t Cry”
Rapsody’s sheer lyricism always shines through on her work, and here is no exception. Her collaboration with Jordanian rapper/singer Bilal sees her leaning into her usual lyrically driven commentary on American society, and her astute lyricism combined with Bilal’s amazing lyricism provides for a fantastic song. Rapsody’s racially driven subject matter is always an important listen for anyone who wants or needs to learn more.
Ty Dolla $ign, Jhené Aiko – “By Yourself”
Ty Dolla $ign amused the Twitter music community earlier this week when he announced his upcoming album will be called Featuring Ty Dolla $ign, a lean-in toward his classic troupe that features containing his likeness are usually very good. If this album plays into that, it is likely to contain many hits, as evident through the album’s first single with r&b star Jhené Aiko. The song sees them singing beautifully over some uplifting production, and it undoubtedly raises the anticipation for Ty’s upcoming album.
Stevie Wonder, Rapsody, Cordae, Chika, Busta Rhymes – “Can’t Put It In The Hands Of Fate”
I bet you didn’t expect to see Stevie Wonder’s name as a collaborator with this group of rappers this morning. I know I didn’t but 2020 is providing to be full of all sorts of surprises. If you’ve made it this far, listen to this soulful, hip hop hybrid of a song that features great rapping along with classic Stevie vocals and harmonica. The song is funky, soulful, uplifting, and a great listen that features a slew of different rapping styles young and old.
I have just completed my senior year at the University of Michigan majoring in international studies with an emphasis in political economics and development, with a minor in Chinese language and culture, and I have recently been accepted into the Berklee School of Music’s masters of music business program. Although economics, politics and history are all academic interests of mine, I consider music to be my true passion.
Music has always been my passion, and it is a driving force for the way I think, act, and conduct myself on a daily basis. I have been playing the clarinet and saxophone since the age of ten, and the ability to play music at a high level has allowed me to embrace music on a multitude of levels. I am both an avid player and listener of music, and I find myself constantly in search of new artists who bring something new and different to the art form, and writing about new music has become a new outlet for me to explore what is going on in the musical world.