15 Best Rap Albums of November 2020
So much rap music comes out all the time, and especially with frequent surprise releases, it can be hard to keep track of it all. So, as a way to help keep up with all of it, here’s a roundup of the 15 rap albums from November 2020 that stood out to us most. We also probably still missed or haven't spent enough time with some great November rap albums that aren't on this list. What were some of your favorites of last month? Let us know in the comments, and read on for the list (unranked, in no particular order)...
Megan Thee Stallion - Good News
1051 Certified/300 Entertainment
2020 was the year Megan Thee Stallion went from a promising newcomer to a superstar. This all happened before Good News came out. Now it's here, and it only raises the bar for her even further. Read our first-impressions review.
Pa Salieu - Send Them To Coventry
Warner Music UK
Pa Salieu was born in Gambia, West Africa before relocating to Coventry, England, and with his debut project Send Them To Coventry, his goal is to put his home city Coventry -- previously home to ska bands like The Specials and The Selecter and metal bands like Cathedral and Bolt Thrower -- back on the map. "It's up to people like me, to be honest, to bring Coventry back," he told The FADER. It's true that Coventry is not a city you hear a lot about in the music world compared to London or Manchester or Leeds or Bristol, but going by how startlingly unique Pa Salieu's new album is (and what it's called), Pa really might change that. The album wraps together drill, grime, dancehall, afroswing, and more. It's not the only UK rap album to do so, but it does so in a way that goes above and beyond the norm, swirling together its melting pot of sounds on nearly every song. Pa is as good of a singer as he is a rapper, the production is phenomenal, and the songs are as purposeful as they are tuneful. "I'm not violent but I do have to explain the violence that I've seen," Pa said in that same FADER interview, and that's exactly what he did on "Frontline," a powerful tale of street life that proved to be his breakthrough song. When Pa brags that he "skipped death" on "Block Boy," he means it; he was shot in the head during a drive-by and survived, and he turned his trauma into even more motivation. Pa's mission is to impact people all around the world with his real-life stories of struggle and injustice, and when he tells those stories with music this distinct and this enjoyable, it feels safe to assume people will listen.
Bad Bunny - El Último Tour del Mundo
Bad Bunny continues to have a massive year, and just dropped his third album of 2020. The second (Las Que No Iban a Salir) felt a little more rushed due to quarantine, but El Último Tour del Mundo feels as massive as YHLQMDLG and X 100PRE. It features Rosalía, Abra, and Jhay Cortez, and it's casually genre-defying, making room for Latin trap bangers, moody R&B, breezy guitar songs, atmospheric art pop, and much more. It might seem hard to keep up with everything Bad Bunny puts out, but when it's this consistently good, it's hard to complain.
Salaam Remi - Black On Purpose
Louder Than Life
"We were Black before the election and we will be Black after the election," veteran producer Salaam Remi said when he released Black On Purpose, a lyrically powerful, musically brilliant protest album that serves as a reminder that a new president does not mean the work is over; it means the work is just beginning. The album opens with a Malcolm X speech and closes with one from Sandra Bland, it includes a stunning "Strange Fruit" cover sung by the late Betty Wright, and it's got a stacked, multi-genre cast of guests including Black Thought, Common, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Chronixx, Stephen Marley, Bilal, CeeLo Green, Super Cat (a rare new recording by the dancehall legend), Jennifer Hudson, Anthony Hamilton, Doug E. Fresh, Spragga Benz, James Posyer, Mack Wilds, Mumu Fresh, Case, D-Nice, Teedra Moses, and Syleena Johnson.
In addition to "Strange Fruit," it has creatively reworked covers of James Brown's "Say It Loud," Syl Johnson's "Is It Because I'm Black," and Bob Marley's "Black Progress" (with Bob's son Stephen Marley on vocals). The original Black On Purpose songs include references to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black victims of police brutality, calls for racial justice and freedom, messages of hope, protest march chants, celebrations of Black excellence, and incisive takedowns of racism - both systemic and in everyday life.
Roc Marciano - Mt. Marci
The highly prolific, always-great New York rapper/producer Roc Marciano produced all of Stove God Cooks' new album Reasonable Drought this year, but he hadn't released his own new album since December 2019's Marcielago, which is a pretty long break between albums for his standards. New album Mt. Marci finds him doing what he does best. The production is hazy and psychedelic and sounds sourced from crackling jazz records, and Marci's delivery is quiet but deadly. While guest verses from Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson, Stove God Cooks and Kool Keith sound like they're popping out of your speakers, Roc Marciano's verses are more subtle and tucked-away. But the more you dig into them, the more you open yourself up to his masterful delivery and detailed lyricism.
Shygirl - ALIAS EP
UK rapper Shygirl's new EP ALIAS has production from SOPHIE and she's also worked with Arca, and those collaborators should give you a good idea of what to expect from Shygirl's atypical approach to rap music. If you removed her voice from ALIAS, you'd still be left with loud, abrasive, left-of-center electronic music, and when you add in her unique mix of rapping, singing, talking, and shouting, it only gets more in-your-face. (She takes on four different characters throughout the EP: Baddie, Bovine, Bonk, and Bae.) She's a rapper, but she cites artists like Björk and Róisín Murphy as influences. That very comes through on ALIAS. Like Róisín, Shygirl's songs are as experimental as they are catchy; like Bjork, Shygirl reminds you that music can be over the top and intricately crafted at the same time. Her music is provocative, but never just for the sake of provoking. All the alter-egos and buzzing synths and extravagant music videos are necessary parts of the Shygirl package, but at the core of it all is a catalog of increasingly good songs.
Flohio - No Panic No Pain
"Rap isn’t meant to be too happy; there’s meant to be grit in there," rising UK rapper Flohio told The Guardian last year. "It’s not about weed and lipstick. You’ve got to have that punk in there. It’s got to be radical. You’re here to make a statement." That grit and that punk attitude has always come through loud and clear in Flohio's music, which at the time included two EPs and a handful of singles and guest appearances, and now she makes good on the promise of that early work with her first full-length, the No Panic No Pain mixtape. It's as fired-up as the EPs, with in-your-face shout-raps and rapidfire flows over dark, loud electronic production, but No Panic No Pain also takes a few moments to show off a more pensive, introspective side. At a lean ten songs, it's still brief, but it proves Flohio can hold your attention for a full-length album, and it's got some of her best songs yet. If you aren't on the Flohio train already, one listen to this rock-solid mixtape should change that.
Bree Runway - 2000AND4EVA
Bree Runway is a boundary-pushing, fast-rising UK rapper/singer that The Guardian called a "pop-rap superstar of the future." She namedrops such diverse influences as Freddie Mercury and Grace Jones and Busta Rhymes, and she's gained praise from Rihanna and Missy Elliott. "It’s genre-bending and genre-fluid," Bree told NME of her music. "It’s pop, trap, dance, R&B, rock, PC music — hell, it’s even sometimes country music too! Black women in music are always expected to sing R&B or soul: we are always boxed in. I’m always asked if I’m a soul singer and I say, ‘No, actually, I make very in-your-face, destructive pop that is all genres and everything at once.’"
Missy also appears on her new mixtape 2000AND4EVA, as do three other highly charismatic rappers who left their mark in recent years: Rico Nasty, Maliibu Miitch, and Yung Baby Tate. Like all four of the women who guest on this mixtape, Bree is extremely talented and makes music that's impossible to tune out. Like she herself said, it constantly shifts genre, and it's very in-your-face. It's loud, bold, and original, and it's not just all over the place for the sake of being all over the place; the songs are accessible, and it's clear that Bree went into this tape with a strong vision. The way she executed it is breathtaking.
theMIND - Don't Let It Go To Your Head
Chicago soul/R&B singer theMIND hails from the same thriving Midwest hip hop scene as Noname, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Smino, Joey Purp, and Jamila Woods -- all of whom have released albums that feature theMIND in recent years -- but theMIND hasn't released his own project since his debut 2016 mixtape Summer Camp. That changes now with Don't Let It Go To Your Head -- which features Chicago regulars Saba, Qari, Phoelix, and Sun, as well as likeminded LA rapper Kari Faux -- and this new project was worth the wait. It's a clear progression from Summer Camp, and dives even deeper into warm, soulful territory, with glistening jazz keys, syrupy funk bass, soaring vocal harmonies, and other signifiers that theMIND likes classic soul as much as he likes modern hip hop. It's a gorgeous record, and it positions theMIND as an artist who's slowly but surely reaching the same creative heights as his more famous collaborators.
Seba Kaapstad - Konke
Mello Music Group
Multi-national neo-soul/jazz group Seba Kaapstad feature South African, Swazi, and German members, and the influence of all of their backgrounds show up in their rich-sounding music. They debuted with the very good Thina last year, and now they follow it with Konke, which expands their sound and ropes in appearances by US rappers Quelle Chris and Oddisee and soul singer Georgia Anne Muldrow, who make this album even more of a multi-cultural affair. It's jazz, hip hop, funk, soul, electronic music, and more all at once, and it's fueled by intricately arranged instrumentation, multi-part harmonies, and in-the-pocket rapping. It's clear that the band and their collaborators have an insane amount of talent, but talent alone doesn't make for enjoyable music. Seba Kaapstad know how to shape their complex arrangements into something widely accessible, whether you're a jazz expert or a hip hop head or a casual fan of pop music.
Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin - Fly Siifu's
Pink Siifu has become one of the most prolific and consistently great underground rappers of the past few years, and having already released NEGRO -- a DJ mix-style album that fuses noise, punk, jazz, spoken word, and more -- he's now back with a more straight-up rap album, and it's a collaboration with another great underground rapper, Fly Anakin. "More straight-up" is relative -- it's still a lot more experimental than mainstream rap -- but the vibe is all bulletproof bars over psychedelic, jazzy, boom bap production, and Siifu and Anakin do it extremely well. The 22-song album has a different producer on almost every track (including beats by Madlib, Animoss, Ohbliv, Budgie, Jay Versace, and more), but all the contributors adhere to the one, cohesive sound and vision of Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin. (As do the three guests: Liv.e, Fousheé, and $ILKMONEY.) It's the kind of album you can just throw on whenever and get sucked into, and Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin prove to be natural collaborators. They've got a ton of chemistry, and they know exactly how to feed off each other and bring out the best in each other without one rapper ever stealing the spotlight from the other.
Aesop Rock - Spirit World Field Guide
Aesop Rock and his Def Jux labelmates helped define the sound of early 2000s underground rap with classics like 2001's Labor Days and 2003's Bazooka Tooth, and the sound of the Def Jux era remains influential today; you can hear echoes of it in contemporary greats like Armand Hammer and R.A.P. Ferreira. Aesop himself has sort of moved away from the spotlight and into a world of his own in recent years, and though he's not as prolific as he was in the early 2000s, he has never stopped making great music. He's still figuring out how to twist his words into mind-bending rhyme schemes, and he still sounds as inspired as he did two decades ago. That very much comes across on Spirit World Field Guide, his first proper full-length album in four and a half years, following other cool projects like Malibu Ken and an EP of music for the video game Freedom Finger. Spirit World Field Guide is a psychedelic concept album that, to quote Aesop Rock's press release, offers "firsthand know-how of the terrain, wildlife, and social customs of our parallel universe, rife with hallucinatory images of killer eels, magic spells, and people on the run, peppered among anecdotes, recipes, survival tips, warnings, maps, drawings, and more." That should give you an idea of the otherworldly journey this 21-song album takes you on, and if you've been following Aesop Rock's career, it shouldn't surprise you that an ambitious feat like this fits snugly within his wheelhouse.
Chester Watson - A Japanese Horror Film
Chester Watson is a 23-year-old rapper from St. Louis who's been on the rise for the past few years. He cited influences like Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler the Creator, and MF DOOM early on, and he's definitely in the lineage of abstract thinkers like those, but as his career moves forward, he continues to establish his own sound. His latest release is A Japanese Horror Film, a self-produced, plainspoken concept album that begins with our narrator tripping on acid in an Uber pool after landing from a flight to Japan, and it takes all kinds of psychedelic twists and turns from there. It's a murky, eerie album, but Chester's delivery is clear and direct, and he leaves you hanging on every word even as the production drifts away on a hazy, haunted, magic carpet ride. It's an album that feels small and epic at the same time. Listening to it feels like going on a journey, and it's a trip that's genuinely worth taking.
Giggs - Now Or Never
Giggs has been at the forefront of UK rap for over a decade, he influenced a handful of today's rising UK rap stars, and he continues to consistently put out quality material. Today, he surprise-released the mixtape Now or Never -- which follows last year's Big Bad... -- and it's got 16 new songs that keep his reign alive. As ever, Giggs remains a rapper who's able to stay true to the road rap sound that he's been called the "undisputed king" of, while also allowing his album to be a melting pot of sounds, finding room for appearances by soul singers Jorja Smith and Emeli Sandé, Nigerian Afro-fusionist Obongjayar, Jamaican dancehall artist Demarco, US auto-tunester A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, fellow UK rap icon Dave, and more. Now Or Never finds Giggs tackling his pensive, introspective side, his ominous, menacing side, and plenty of the in-between, always changing things up enough to keep you hooked for its entire 62-minute running time.
Statik Selektah - The Balancing Act
The Balancing Act is veteran rap producer Statik Selektah's ninth album, and if you've heard any of the previous eight, you pretty much know what to expect from this one. That's not a dig; a big part of what we've come to expect from Statik is extreme consistency and quality control, and this album is no exception. As always, Statik stays true to the chilled-out, jazzy, psychedelic side of the boom bap era, and the guest lists on his albums serve as a who's who of rappers from this corner of the hip hop universe, from legends to newcomers, marquee names to underground staples, widely recognized greats to cult faves.
This one features Black Thought, Nas, Killer Mike, Joey Bada$$, 2 Chainz, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, Method Man, Jadakiss, Paul Wall, Fly Anakin, Evidence, the late Sean Price, Bobby Sessions, Blu, Bun B, Havoc, Smoke DZA, Styles P, CJ Fly, Termanology, Dave East, KOTA The Friend, Lil Fame (of M.O.P.), Jack Harlow, Marlon Craft, Rome Streetz, Thirstin Howl The 3rd, Rim da Villain, Nick Grant, and more. Statik provides all of them with top-tier production, and all of them rise to the occasion. If you were drawn to this album because of one of the bigger names, you probably won't be disappointed with their contribution, and beyond housing good verses from rappers you already know, Statik Selektah albums are usually a good source of discovery too. If someone's on this album that you haven't heard of, there's a good chance that you should be listening to them.
As is usually the case with Statik Selektah albums, The Balancing Act looks like a compilation on paper, but Statik knows how to sequence everything in a way that feels like a cohesive album. And The Balancing Act isn't just a showcase for friendly competition from some of the strongest MCs around (though it's definitely often that); it's also an outlet for some genuinely empowering music, like an incisive critique of America's current social/political climate ("America is Cancelled" ft. Jadakiss, Styles P, and Termanology) and a eulogy for some of the great rappers we've lost ("Way Up," which pays tribute to Mac Miller, Sean Price, Phife Dawg, Prodigy, and Pimp C, and features Prodigy's Mobb Deep partner Havoc and Pimp C's UGK partner Bun B).
Juicy J - The Hustle Continues
2 Chainz - So Help Me God
Future x Lil Uzi Vert - Pluto x Baby Pluto
Willie The Kid x V Don - Deutsche Marks 2
Flee Lord - No More Humble Fashion
Elcamino x 38 Spesh - Sacred Psalms
DaBaby - My Brother's Keeper (Long Live G)
Quakers - The Next Wave
Vangarde - Vangarde
AJ Tracey - Secure The Bag! 2
Meek Mill - Quarantine Pack
Billy Danze - We Busy
For more, listen below or subscribe to a playlist of 42 rap songs we like from November 2020: