Snoop Dogg voice…. ‘With so much fire here in January, it’s kind of hard staying up to date you see’….. Each month, the Raw Side team are going to keep you up to date with as many of the better releases that have dropped each month. This not only means you have some fire in the playlist at all times, but also means when you get to putting together your ‘Best Rap Albums of 2020’ list, you have a much easier reference point!

So, we are one month down already, a twelfth of the way through 2020 and we’ve already had some HEAT hit the airwaves, physicals and streaming services. Now, as you know, we ain’t about that mainstream life. We may list some of them (Em gets a pass, but ONLY JUST due to his classic early discog and sick features AND that he has some spitters on the new album), but you ain’t getting that Dreamville or Lil Wayne nonsense here. We’re about REAL hip hop, no trap, not hip pop, but that kick you in the face, boom bap, banging on the lunchtables, lyrical slaughter type shiz….. And there’s plenty of that out there too. So let’s peep what popped off in January.

Stu Bangas – Beats & Blood

This one kicked the year off in great style. It’s relatively short, but it’s punchy and solid from start to finish. In fact, the tracks that bookend the album are the best. ‘Open the Lane’ featuring Ty Farris is fire and Ty spits BARS over a layered synth track that bangs, while the title track ‘Beats & Blood’ with Celph Titled is worthy of naming rights with two killer bars from Celph and a thumping, percussive / horn combo on the track which gives a nice grimy, Army of the Pharaohs vibe.

Raz Fresco – Magneto was right

A decent but not earth shattering release from Raz as he continues on his way of delivering solid releases with few wasted tracks. There’s 11 in total and the entire album is a manageable (for the modern listener!) 30 odd minutes. Vast Aire makes a couple or appearances and adds another element and the beats are pretty cruisey which is a nice change of pace from some of the other releases this month. Certainly worth giving a spin.

June Marx – Sophisticated Weaponry

There isn’t much more to say about this album that I didn’t mention in my official review which can be found HERE. I’ve revisited this album numerous times over the month and it’s still as awesome as ever. June’s flow never gets old and his ability to paint vivid pictures with tight rhymes is first class. Again, if you’ve never heard the husky voiced emcee, now is the time, and then go back and check the whole catalogue.

Kinetic 9 & Shogun Assason – C.I.A (Criminals In the Army)

This is a killer album. Blows the roof of it from the time you start spinning it and keeps the pedal to the floor all the way through. There are some standout tracks including ‘Air Em Out‘ where Ghostface Killah just unloads and spits darts, while plenty of emcees get on tracks like ‘Briefcase Killer‘ and ‘The Gifted Briefcase‘ with brilliant results. A must listen and easily one of the best albums of 2020 so far.

Dirt Platoon – Get Ya Handz Dirty

Now, if you know me or have read my work, you know I’m all about the boom bap and this is a TRIP! It’s a killer album and really brings back that gritty vibe that I just can’t get enough of. It doesn’t move the needle or offer much different but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Raf Almighty & Snook Da Crook are back at it again and they’ve brought plenty of friends – features from Ruste Juxx, Fel Sweetenberg, OC and Guilty Simpson are on point. Listen to it now, then spin it back and do it again – it’s quality hip hop.

Blaq Poet – Scribes

Yes, Blaq is still going at it and making music. This EP has all the hallmarks of Poet kind of ‘mailing it in’ but it’s still worth a listen. It lacks the fire in the belly that he used to bring on projects like Y2K and The Blaqprint, but it’s still a solid release and better than a lot of the mainstream nonsense that fanboys swoon over. The beats are solid and it’s the old school NY sound, so it can’t be that bad. I just wish Blaq Poet moved with the times a bit.

Doughphresh the Don – All Disrespect Intended, Volume 3 (The Only Respect Disrespect)

Another album that I had the pleasure of reviewing in full. Dough does nothing but keep it 100, and this album is proof of that. Still yet to breakthrough to the mainstream (which is criminal) – but it’s not due to hard work. Dough not only makes a tonne of music, he promotes like he spits – HARD. Read the full review and go check his previous work too.

The Professionals (Madlib & Oh No) – The Professionals

The Brothers – with a release that was spoken about over TEN years ago, finally delivered their sibling debut project under the moniker The Professionals. For the full review, CLICK HERE, but for the abridged version…. it’s really good. Patchy at times, but overall a fantastic album and something you should give a good few spins to.

Eminem – Music to be Murdered By

Ahhhh – where do we start with this one. Firstly, it’s better than some of his other newish releases but that doesn’t say too much as he’s been fairly pedestrian and ‘hip pop’ at best for a while now. However, Kamikaze was a move in the right direction and Music to be Murdered By at least aims to come back to the real Slim Shady. We won’t ever get that hardcore Em back, so we have to deal with the watered down version and just pick the highlights – and there are a few. The collab joints with Royce and others are nice, Black Thought is a great addition and a few introspective tracks like ‘Darkness‘. With so much good hip hop out already, this won’t be relevant for too long.

Sir Michael Rocks – Broken Window of Opportunity

What a delightfully eclectic journey SMR takes us on yet again! You never really get the same thing twice from him and he takes a lot of pride in being able to make music that you can vibe to, but that is different enough to be interesting and keep you thinking. I was torn at times as there is an element of the trap style production with kind of ain’t my thang, but it’s brilliantly balance with some boom bap numbers that kept me engaged. Overall, it’s a really good album – different, but a good different, and that’s something a lot of artists struggle with. Give it a spin, maybe two or three to get the full magnitude of this musical delight.

Ruste Juxx – Sulfuric Acid

Now, Ruste Juxx IS my thang! If there is one emcee I could bump all day long, it’s Juxx. Here’s why – he can spit, he can write, he gets quality beats and knows how to ride them and sit in the pocket. It’s a beautiful thing. Considering how many albums he’s put out recently, to still have a masterpiece like this speaks volumes. Go and stream it right now, and check out the full review here while doing it.

Ty Farris – No Cosign Just Cocaine 3

Underrated but a really quality listen. Ty goes hard, chooses sick beats and grabs a few features that really balance the offering out. Ty is one of the sickest emcees and has a quality and lethal pen game. He showcases it in parts here, and also allows others like Eto and M.A.V to shine. A couple of Stu Bangas on there (see what I did there?!) and it’s another quality release from the Detroit lyricist.

Fred the Godson – Training Day

This was a fun listen. Now, Training Day is one of my favourite movies, I’m also a huge Denzel Washington fan so when you pair it up with Fred – I’m going to like it. However, while this is a dope album complete with the unique flow of Fred the Godson and all the metaphors you can manage, it’s TOO SHORT. I got excited when I saw 11 tracks, only to realise that 6 of them are skits and 5 are banging tracks. It’s not enough – but it’s still awesome.

Kool G Rap – Genius of Rap

What a treat this is. We got a KRS One album late 2019 and now we get a Kool G Rap to start 2020. Sure, Genius of Rap is a compilation of G Rap tracks, unreleased material, remixes etc – but the fact remains – this album is a beast of a release. It’s fair to say that Kool G Rap is one of the very best to ever pick up a mic, and this release just adds strength to the case. AND it’s still relevant…. classic.

Chris Skillz, Zain – Olvido

Chris Skillz shows us that a change of pace isn’t always a bad thing as he flows over some pretty melodic and minimal production. It allows us to really enjoy the dope rhymes delivered not just by Chris but also by the plethora of quality emcees featured on the album (Hus Kingpin, Smoovth, iLL Conscious, Guilty Simpson etc). It’s a short but sick little laid back release that’s worthy of a few listens.

Hus Kingpin – End of a Decade

As the title suggests, this is a range of songs from the past ten years that Hus has decided to release and share with the hip hop world – and we are glad he did! Due to the nature of when songs were recorded, the album doesn’t flow as well as some others – but Hus does! For that laidback style flow – he’s one of the best and this album highlights how well he delivers over an extended period of time.

Rome Streetz – Joyeria

Rome always delivers and ‘Joyeria’ is another fantastic release from the underground emcee. He teams up with The Artivist on this one with great results. The production is tight, solid drums, horns and a variety that works with Rome’s street tale style flow. Lyrically, Rome just keeps getting better, sharpening his pen and cadence. Check it out.

Observe Since 98 – Royaume Du Sauvage

Observe is back with another album of lo-fi beats, smooth as silk features and a well put together album that is right on the money as the Roc Marciano / Hus Kingpin / Griselda style of flow is just flooding the market right now. The plethora of features and emcees with various flows keeps the offering interesting and slightly different from the rest of the ‘similarly themed’ releases over the past year or so. Worth a listen, especially if this atmospheric style, minimal, smooth rap flow is your thing.

All Hail Y.T – The Spoils of Babylon

This is a really smooth concept style album which takes you on a nice little journey. ‘Trill Thangz III‘ has an early Nas vibe and it’s a dope ass track, working Jay-Z’s ‘Real Niggaz‘ with a new age swagger and is a highlight. Tone Beatz handles the production and slays it, helping support the clever story-telling lyrics. Solid all the way through.

Sy Ari Da Kid – It Was Unwritten

A nice laid back and introspective album from Sy Ari Da Kid. It just cruises along from start to finish without ever really peaking, but nothing that makes you want to skip or turn it off. The storytelling is great, but is at time lost in the flow and production.

DJ M-1 – Habit of a Lifetime

Banger Alert! This is what hip hop is all about! We’ve got wicked production that brings the boom bap sound, plenty of scratching, cuts from hero emcees like Rakim and KRS-One…. It has it all. The highlight for me comes nice and early – track three to be exact – as Sadat X & Wildelux crush ‘How Many Times’. This will stay in the rotation all year long – it’s brilliant.

Asun Eastwood & Vago – Sewer Science

This is a great offering and a nice individual take on a traditional boom bap album, that also touches on that Buffalo / Griselda vibe. Asun Eastwood has a nice flow and interesting voice, which makes the album more enjoyable and slightly unique in this soundscape. Vago delivers hauntingly deep production on this recommended listen.

Uptown XO – Culture Over Corporate

If I was to sum this up quickly, it’s a great album that would benefit being 12 tracks long and not the 9 that it is! The reason is that it’s a really solid listen – the production is tight and lyrically the Diamond District emcee crushes it. Nice basslines, beats and wordsmithing. Very diggable.

Mick Jenkins – The Circus

Checking in with only 7 songs, it’s lucky for Mick Jenkins that they’re all pleasing to the ear. Jenkins is a lyricist and while it can be difficult to weave your way through to an understanding of his content, it’s always a fun journey. Insightful, different, laid back, funky and soulful – it’s a nice tease.

DZ – Reality Rap

A nice West Coast vibe on this one which is highlighted with guest appearances from Yukmouth, Daz Dillinger, Roscoe, Stat Quo and Mistah F.A.B among others. We’ve got bounce and synth, playful lyrics and easy to bump hooks. When you’re longing for something that isn’t boom bap, lo-fi minimalist or experimental, this takes you right back to the West Coast, top down, cruising scene.

Izm White – Atlast

Can you say classic hip hop? That’s what indie rap artist Izm White delivers on Atlast and with a gang of sweet features with some of THE names in rap music – Jadakiss, Havoc, Yukmouth, Styles P, Big Twins, Flee Lord and others. You may not have heard of the Colorado MC, but his sophomore album is a must listen.

Manhunt Crucial – Ancestral Realm

Stumbled across this hidden gem and was pleasantly surprised. Manhunt Crucial is a hybrid emcee, embodying a range of different styles – but he’s thoughtful, clever, witty and unique. Ancestral Realm is a meaty listen, checking it at just over an hour with 16 tracks and no wasted time with intros / outros or skits. Got that Nappy Roots sound and stands out from a host of other ‘run of the mill’ releases so far in 2020.

Rebel Rodomez – Boston Ave

Iowa emcee Rebel Rodomez drops a fantastic album to kick-start 2020, craftily combining clever lyrics, introspective tales of his childhood (Boston Ave) and diverse production that is at home with boom bap style albums and also the trendy stripped back, drumless production. The latter is synonymous with Griselda and Benny the Butcher is featured on ‘Scare No One’, a raw street epic. This album is more than one track though, it’s a dope release from start to finish. Get at it.

Redman – 3 Joints (EP)

It’s Red. It’s 3 tracks. They’re dope and the video for ‘Slap the Shit Outcha’ is funny AF!

Raekwon – The Appetition (EP)

The Chef serves up 3 killer tracks as a tasty little entree. Hopefully there is more to come later in 2020 as this has only just wet the appetite.

Marty McKay & Canibus – Matrix Theory IV (EP)

Four decent tracks – a little rock infused, but Bis can still spit and the Chino XL feature is totally worth the listen.

About The Author

By Brutus Maximus

Founder of Raw Side Hip Hop. Been rocking with the hip hop culture for over 30 years. Love the creativity, authenticity of the art and the culture as a whole. Shout out to the real ones making and supporting true hip hip and the artists who make it!