We’ve known for a while that 2020 was going to be Alicia Keys’ year of resurgence, however, ever since New Year’s Day, the exact timeline of this project’s release has been blurry. Nonetheless, now that the album is finally out, fans from across countries and genres are relishing with this 15-song, 55-minute masterpiece. With her fingerprints all over the lyrics, production, beats, and features, this ALICIA project displays the 39-year-old garnering the light from her prime and channeling it into her current context, providing the elite work that we’ve come to expect from Keys. From first-class features in Jill Scott, Miguel, Tierra Whack, and more, to overriding social-political commentary, there’s no doubt that Alicia Keys has solidified her GOAT position with ALICIA.
Switch-ups in sound are always difficult to process, and the indie darling’s latest effort is no different. On Orca, Dapperton opts into a more industrial and psych-rock sound, leaving behind the more acoustic feel some of his earliest music had, and the more balanced Where Polly People Go To Read. As a loyalist to WPPGTR, it’s difficult to get on board with Orca so soon, but I have faith in his process. Sometimes albums just take a while to come around to, and while the album isn’t what I imagine many fans were hoping for, it’s nothing to complain about.
The 18-year-old “Ransom” rapper seems like he’s going to be reaching for success for some years to come. While Virgo World has some fun tracks, like “Chemistry,” “Royal Rumble,” and “Dolly,” it doesn’t really work as a full album, and the 19 songs feel bloated. He shouldn’t be written off, however, as it’s clear he has the charisma and melodic talent to be a star. He just needs a few years to find his sound — and legally buy a beer.
Inspired by the electrifying career of Toni Morisson, Jamila Woods has released something special with “Sula” in both a paperback and hardcover form. The paperback takes a backseat position and allows any listener to use the track as an emotional backdrop for a variety of moods, while the hardcover’s energy comes through with more clarity, focusing on the sensuality of her groove. With embracing sensitivity and empowering sexuality at the forefront of this track and music video, peep this song to have Woods inspire you to feel something.
Based on recent Twitter activity, especially that of a quote tweet of a Shrek hip-hop account, Reason is getting ready to drop a new album soon. “The Soul (pt. 2)” is a warm-up, a track with a strong beat switch-up that details his difficulty in personal life. The Carson, California rapper bares his heart on a song that’ll have you on the edge of your seat, waiting for this new album. He says he’s ready to be a warrior and leader, and based on this track, I believe him.
Busta and .Paak have each been on fire in terms of their single game as of late, and this collaboration sees two hip-hop icons come together for a spooky, exciting listen. Busta (as expected) completely out-raps his counterpart, switching flows between his signature growl to some more direct flows all in one verse. While his verse is strong, his chorus is far better, making this a collaboration we’d love to hear more of.
As his first release of the new decade, up-and-coming Chicago rapper Saba has made sure to leave his impression before the year is up. “Mrs. Whoever” stars a quick, hi-hat heavy beat with smooth lyricism from the 26-year-old. But right when the listener gets comfortable with Saba’s sensual voice, the track ends, and what replaces it brings some seriously hard-hitting energy. The verses from both artists are strikingly strong, helping to solidify Saba as a must-know name like Denzel’s.
Rapsody is undeniably one of the best rappers in the game these days, and “12 Problems” is yet another one of her statements that prove as such. The track is a scathing commentary about police violence, and how the discourse around violence in our nation is completely fucked up. The chorus says it all: “I got 99 problems and 12 still the biggest.”
This freestyle doesn’t follow the modern conception of freestyles — you’ll find no dense rap verses on here — but the duo combine to create a beautiful soundscape complementary of each of their talents. Both artists contribute ethereal vocals, and the instrumental is a beauty to behold.
It’s been a long road for Xavier Omar, and with countless releases across the last half decade, it’s time that the Chicago R&B star obtains the fame he deserves. On this release, Omar calls in the support from the electric Jae Stephens, and together they craft something special on this track. “All Our Time” is a must-peep that will earn its place in your rotation effortlessly.
A dissonant string section introduces and carries this track; a particularly spooky ballad dedicated to empowerment. Maybe he’s trying to tell people they don’t have to be a dead man walking. Lyrical themes touch on life’s difficulties, saying that while there are plenty of those, there are still reasons to make the most out of life. The track comes on the heels of an announcement of a deluxe album; he should be dropping more tracks soon.
Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Crater Speak) continues many of the themes started on A Quiet Farwell, 2016-2018, Malone’s 2019 album. Increasingly self-referential, as he’s building up a strong solo discography as well as a published book, it feels as though Malone is amongst the most intellectually challenging and boundary-pushing artists in the public eye. Honestly, if you’re reading this and have ideas about what he’s getting at, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, ‘cause I wanna talk about it.
Armani’s latest effort as a part of the rising Griselda collective is hard-hitting, unapologetic, and a motivational listen. Her bars are on point throughout the project, showing off over a set of beats that range from signature Griselda, with frenetic piano sections and heavy hip-hop drums, to more bouncy instrumentals that see her flex an ear-catching flow. The Liz took me by surprise, and if you’ve been fucking with the Griselda drops this year, you’ll absolutely be into this one.
“Always Forever” is a faint reminder of young Tiller’s talent — it’s been a while since we’ve heard from the Louisville Slugger. He hasn’t dropped an album since 2017, and has dropped only a smattering of singles and features since then. And while this new effort is acceptable, it does little to build on his former sound, which is getting a little stale. Hopefully he’s a little less complacent going forward.