For the final time of 2020, a slew of new musical projects were released by various artists overnight. Among hip hop heads, no releases were as overhyped or anticipated quite like Playboi Carti’s new album Whole Lotta Red, his first album release since 2018. Carti’s style is highly polarizing, as some are infatuated with his nonsensically sounding lyrics and ominous production, while others are completely turned off by it. But how does his new album sound?
Let’s dig into Playboy Carti, as well as the various other artists who released new music on this Christmas morning.
Playboi Carti – Whole Lotta Red
Carti fans certainly got what they wanted for Christmas. After waiting seemingly forever, the Atlanta native finally released his highly anticipated Whole Lotta Red, and the result is, well…interesting. The production, while highly unique, feels repetitive at times, which only adds to the repetitive feel of the majority of songs on the album. While there are some stand out lines across the album and a few solid songs, there are way too many similar sounding elements across the twenty four songs of the album, be it the lyrical content, the production or Carti’s flow. Carti fans will likely love the album, Carti haters have a load of new material, and for those looking for a fresh and different sound, they will enjoy this album for about ten minutes before realizing the one dimensional nature of the project.
Lil Durk – The Voice
Chicago native Lil Durk first saw his rise to mainstream when he was featured on Drake’s “Laugh Now Cry Later,” and he has not looked back since. His newest album The Voice sees the rapper/singer continue to establish his style, as well as navigate the line between trap, rap and r&b. Durk’s ability to effortlessly blend his rapping ability with his vocal ability will continue to distinguish himself among his peers, and his versatility as an artist will allow him to dabble in a variety of different styles moving forward.
Flee Lord – In the Name of Prodigy
Flee Lord has quietly had an insanely productive 2020, as this project marks his thirteenth project of the year, a truly mind boggling amount of content. His gritty, Griselda-esque style continues to shine through, while he embraces some elements of classic boom-bap in order to pay homage to his mentor, the legendary Prodigy. With features from the other half of Mobb Deep (Havoc), Conway The Machine, Benny The Butcher, Busta Rhymes and others, there is no shortage of bars being spat across the album, and the tribute paid to classic 90’s hip hop is equal parts nostalgic and beautiful.
KRS-One – Between Da Protests
Speaking of 90’s hip hop, Bronx legend KRS-One is back with his twenty third album, and his first of the new decade. It is truly amazing that KRS is still able to spit pure bars, even as the production has evolved past the boom-bap style that originally defined his sound. On Between Da Protests, KRS mixes some classic boom-bap feel with new sounds and styles of production, while continuing to allow his lyrical content to shine through. Despite his older age, KRS can still spit with the best of them, and his latest album is a reminder to the hip hop world of his abilities and his invaluable insight.
38 Spesh – Interstate 38
New York native 38 Spesh has had an extremely productive 2020, and his latest project continues to highlight his lyrical ability as well as his precise flow. Backed by unique production that highlights his abilities, as well as a slew of features from names like Che Noir, Ransom, Benny The Butcher and others, Spesh leans further into his unique style of rapping that mirrors the west New York style that is associated with the Griselda rappers. His lyrical content paired with the unique production makes for a great listening experience, and the features add variety across the entire album.
Navy Blue – Àdá Irin
Rapper/producer Navy Blue is an extremely unique talent in the world of hip hop. With a style and flow reminiscent of the likes of Earl Sweatshirt, MAVI and redveil, Navy Blue’s slow, deliberate flow highlights the powerful lyrics that shine across the album. Furthermore, his extremely unique production highlights his own abilities as a rapper, while his rapping equally highlights the unique aspects of the production. This project, like Navy Blue, is highly unique, and it stands out among many of the year’s albums as one of the most interesting and distinct albums of the year.
J Stone – The Definition of Pain
West coast rap icon J Stone is here with his second project of the year, and brought along a variety of different feature artists. With contributions from the likes of T-Pain, E-40, Dave East, Dom Kennedy, the late Nipsey Hussle as well as others, Stone asserts his west coast style while allowing other artists to provide a variety of different styles to the album. The production favors Stone’s west coast style, and it compliments his abilities as a rapper. This album has a classic 2010’s west coast feel, and the variety of different artists featured on the album provide for some stand out songs.
Ianthesage – The Levitating Man
While Ianthesage is a name not many are familiar with, the young rapper displays flashes of talent and potential on his latest album The Levitating Man. His flow is precise and strong, while his lyrical content and rhyming ability are also there. His production compliments his strengths as a rapper, and he has a great understanding of how he wants to speak his mind through his music. While his raw talent could use further refining, and his production could be mastered slightly better, there is a clear level of potential that Ianthesage possesses, as this album indicates.
SZA – “Good Days”
R&B icon SZA is back with a new single, thank goodness. Her velvety smooth voice is as pleasant as ever, and while the subject matter of her latest single is different than the usual proactive nature of her music, the emotion that SZA sings with is as palpable as ever. The production that backs her vocals is glorious, and allows her vocal abilities to shine on the song. SZA has not dropped a new album since 2017, so hearing new music from the prolific singer is a welcome sound indeed.
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.