After some solid months creating a shortlist of nominees, and an even more difficult and extensive process determining the winners, we can now finally announce and share with the hip hop community the WINNERS of the inaugural Raw Side Hip Hop Awards. Make no mistake, this wasn’t easy and after such a fantastic year in hip hop, selecting only one winner per category was tough – but at least we have been able to acknowledge and recognise those who have made a positive impact into the REAL hip hop culture and not just those artists who are mainstream or have heaps of money / labels / support behind them.
Something that needs to be noted – these awards were cut off as of November 13, 2020. Anything released AFTER this date has been collated in a new spreadsheet, and will be eligible for the awards in 2021! We did this to allow for the process to be diligently completed and celebrated before the end of 2020.
Without further ado, please take the time to read through your Raw Side Hip Hop Award WINNERS for 2020.
ALBUM ART OF THE YEAR
Chris Murray – ‘Gorgeous Polo Sportsmen’ by Futurewave & Raz Fresco
The detail that has gone into this incredible illustration is incredible. This could easily be a standalone artwork and command a place on your favourite wall. It’s precise, it’s loaded with detail and talent, and it’s an epic album cover for what was a brilliant hip hop album late in 2020.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Run The Jewels – ‘Ooh La La’ featuring Greg Nice & DJ Premier
There were a number of dope videos that dropped in 2020 and picking a winner was tough. RTJ created an epic little mini-motion picture cartoon to go with their hard hitting track and it’s really well crafted. It’s fun, it’s poignant and it’s our best video for 2020.
DJ OF THE YEAR
There isn’t much to say about one of the best (if not THE best) to ever do it, but DJ Premier had some kind of year. From his epic VERZUZ battle against RZA which was a huge moment for the hip hop culture, to his work with Run The Jewels, Jamo Gang and other artists, AND to the love and support he shows so many underground and indie artists through his radio spots, social media etc…. DJ Premier, take a bow.
COLLAB OF THE YEAR
Madlib & Oh No – The Professionals
While 2020 cancelled a lot of shows and tours, what it DID allow for was some amazing collaborations between artists. The Professionals album saw Madlib and Oh No team up for what is an absolute banging joint. The family connection is just the icing on the cake for what was a well crafted album, that showcased the strength of both brothers.
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Arguably one of the toughest categories, the beat makers have really excelled this year and hip hop has reaped the benefits. At the top of the pile is Stu Bangas. He has been producing hardcore beats for some of the elite for a while now, but 2020 saw Stu go to the next level both in terms of quality and quantity. His trademark production was everywhere but more importantly, he never missed when fusing his style with that of the artists he worked with. From Nowaah the Flood to Blacastan to Lord Goat and plenty more, Stu produced some of the years biggest bangers.
DUO / GROUP OF THE YEAR
There probably isn’t a more influential group in 2020 than the Buffalo kids. Griselda have inspired a new wave of production and taken the cocaine rap to the next level – much like The Clipse did in their prime. But it’s not all plugs and bricks. With an armoury of releases in 2020, it’s hard to look past just what this crew have accomplished in such a short period of time. Multiple albums from each emcee, and most of them deserving of numerous accolades.
BEAT OF THE YEAR
Large Professor – The Lox ‘Think of The Lox’
What a beast of a track. The Lox came back with a dope new album for the streets and it needed to be something special. Thankfully it was and Large Professor played a bit part in that with his concrete cracking production for ‘Think of The Lox’. While Jadakiss, Styles P and Sheek Louch did their thing on the track, the beat itself made heads nod emphatically. A worthy winner.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
There is NO question that Recognize Ali is one of the best emcees to command a microphone, but 2020 really made it hard for anyone involved in the hip hop scene to ignore him. Not only did he rip verse after verse as a featured guest on some of the best tracks of the year, but he also delivered more than a handful of his very own material – without one bad bar. From his work with Verbal Kent, Stu Bangas and others, to his own epic release ‘Recognition’, you can’t deny what Recognize Ali has done this year.
LYRICIST OF THE YEAR
Black Thought wins this, but not by default. 2020 had some incredible artists who have really taken lyricism to the next level – and most of them would tell you they’ve been inspired by The Roots frontman. Not only did ‘Streams of Thought Vol. 3’ contain some intricate and in-depth lyricism, but his features on tracks like Sa-Roc’s ‘The Black Renaissance’ were also otherworldly.
SONG OF THE YEAR
Conway the Machine – Juvenile Hell featuring Havoc, Lloyd Banks & Flee Lord
Our track of the year for a variety of reasons. It’s a banger first and foremost – it grabs your attention and never lets up from start to finish. Then you have some of the best verses of 2020 on here and not just from Conway, but from Havoc, Lloyd Banks and Flee Lord. Each emcee steps up and knocks it out of the park, but it all works seamlessly together to deliver a well balanced track that you can keep on repeat all year long. Even with an insane amount of music being released and some incredible tracks, Juvenile Hell always made it to any new playlist created this year.
VERSE OF THE YEAR
Method Man – ‘Lemon’ by Conway The Machine
It takes a bit to outshine of the better emcees in the game like Conway, but when you’re Method Man, you’re used to share the mic with some of the best rhymeslingers in the game. Meth’s verse on ‘Lemon’ was something else. His multisyllabic flow, cleverly crafted wordplay and flawless delivery ensured he delivered the best verse of the year. A clear juxtaposition against the more laidback Conway delivery, only enhanced how incredible this verse is.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Recognize Ali – Recognition
First and foremost, we deliberated on this (and all other awards) for days upon days, but in the end we have chosen ‘Recognition’ by Recognize Ali as our album of the year. This joint featured a host of producers, but still managed to sound as consistent as any release this year. Not to mention, Rec brought the bars on every track, but his ability to ride the beats with a variety of flows, couple with his deep lyricism and hand-picked, top tier features separated itself in the end. The album also has huge replay value and doesn’t sound like an extension of any of his other projects. It stands alone as Raw Side Hip Hop’s Album of the Year 2020.
Thank you to all the hip hop heads that ride the wave with us. We take pride in what we do, and we want to ensure we keep it a hunnid with everyone and for the culture overall. Shining a light on some of the best hip hop on the scene is important to us and the culture. Showing love to those artists who don’t have a huge team behind them, or the dollars that labels provide OR the mainstream media should NEVER be a question. The underground is where the art and the culture is still pure and we’re humbled to be able to be a part of it.