Three Artists That Dominated 2020
In a world where the pandemic has caused us to rely on entertainment to keep us sane, it was a competition for rappers to gain the attention of the bored public. Unfortunately big artists like Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole took a back seat, leaving hip hop fans looking for new artists to listen to. That opened the door for artists with superstar potential to step up and prove that they are going to stick around. There are three artists that proved they stood out from the rest in 2020 based on the quantity and quality of their content and overall skill.
Benny The Butcher: Griselda pumped out content this year to the point where on every new music Friday it was expected that there was going to be a Griselda feature at the least. After hearing him keep up with and/or out rap artists like Black Thought and Pusha T on the The Plugs I Met in 2019, there was no question that Benny The Butcher has top tier skill. On his newest album, A Burden of Proof, the Buffalo rapper tested his abilities, but ultimately developed a unique chemistry with Hit-Boy and stayed true to his game. On the album, it was clear he understood how he is one of the more talented rhymers in hip-hop right now, but he really needed to display his talent. He delivered a great album filled with his cut-throat bars and impressive flows. His knowledge of the streets and drug trade along with his ability to deliver a dynamic verse on a variety of beats made him a worthy feature, collaborating with artists on two Grammy nominated albums (The Allegory, Royce Da 5’9 & Alfredo, Freddie Gibbs) and working with critically acclaimed producers like The Alchemist, Hit-Boy and Statik Selektah. He also collabed with Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine together on six different songs this year. It’s taken a while but it’s nice that Benny the Butcher is starting to blow up.
J.I.D.: It is hard to establish someone as one of the most talented artists of the year without putting out a solo album, but J.I.D. has done that. It has been two years since his last album, DiCaprio 2, but in 2020 he was all over the place. He was a key artist in two great but, very different, collaborative albums (Revenge of the Dreamers Deluxe, Dreamville & Spilligon, Spillage Village), where he exhibited all sorts of skills. The Atlanta native can basically do it all; he is an elite lyricist, has the capability to consistently change his flow multiple times per song, can deliver a catchy hook and uses inflection in his voice very well. He is one of the most versatile rappers in the game, so he was able to feature on almost anyone’s piece of work in 2020. He can keep up with any hip-hop beat from his catchy single Baugetti with Kenny Beats and Smino, to a mellow feature with REASON and Isaiah Rashad and even to a trap beat in a SAINt JHN piece. The 30-year-old rapper also had an important feature in Anderson .Paak’s Lockdown Remix, stating his thoughts about the issue of police brutality. There’s no doubt that J.I.D. has the talent to be a superstar, but it’s hard to tell if he will gain the traction. His third solo album should be coming out in early-mid 2021. Expect J.I.D. to be in collaborations with all kinds of artists next year.
Freddie Gibbs: Freddie Kane came into 2020 with confidence, fresh off his collab album Bandana, with legendary producer Madlib. Gibbs has a very solid discography, but in 2020 he has officially hit stardom in the hip-hop world. He is a fearless rhymer who’s bars are creative yet aggressive. As mentioned before, his collaboration album, Alfredo with The Alchemist, has been nominated for the best rap album Grammy. Alfredo gives the listeners a mob type vibe to it, where Gibbs is able to slide on the smooth beats and bring his cocaine-centralized lyrics to new heights. Freddie’s ability to work closely with one producer on an album and morph his rap style to fit with the producer’s style of rap is a special quality that makes his pieces of work fairly different from each other. He was able to work with artists like Tyler the Creator and Rick Ross on this album, along with Benny The Butcher and Conway the Machine. Gibbs and Griselda worked together consistently this year as he appeared in four Griselda albums with top tier features. He also dropped a single with Big Sean called 4 Thangs that appeared on an ESPN promotional video. Along with elite work, the 38 year old has also developed a comical social media presence and has been brought up in beefs between Jeezy and DJ Akedemics, making him constantly talked about within the hip-hop community. Freddie Gibbs has been a key part of the middle-age rap uprising and has reached new highs in 2020.
Honorable Mentions: Lil Baby, Jack Harlow, Conway the Machine