Despite the often hard and uncertain times we have all found ourselves in this year, the UK Hip Hop scene has remained resilient as ever. We've seen some great debut releases, fantastic comebacks and a lot of great additions to already strong bodies of work. We've also seen labels rise to dominance and tower head and shoulders above their peers, while others struggled to maintain their consistency and quality which we had become used to in previous years as artists have adapted to the lockdown restrictions by using their initiative and embracing new technology and platforms to get their music heard by fans.
As hard as it was to do, here's 20 of my favourite Albums/EP's from this year with my favourite track from each release linked. If you're feeling any of these releases, make sure you go support the artist by picking a copy up.
Oblique Strategies - Raw Pastiche
"Nottingham's own Grand Imperial Cappo and We Stay True label boss/producer Mr Brown team up as Oblique Strategies to give you "Raw Pastiche" - 11 tracks of Boom Bap backed desolation with heavy, Notts infused, swagbasco smothered bars. This is seriously an Album of the Year contender from the emcee/producer combination, this one is for the Hip Hop purists, listeners who appreciate upper echelon lyrically ability, mountains of metaphors and unparalleled style being delivered effortlessly over exquisite, thumping beats."
Juga-Naut - Bem
"With each release, Juga-Naut further solidifies his status as not only one of the best current artists in the scene but also one who is here to stay.
His passion and hunger for Hip Hop is unrivalled, he's a true talent as a producer and emcee with an absolute monstrous work ethic as well. He's been in the game for a good while and it's good to see this guy finally getting the recognition he deserves."
Tenchoo - Live from the Crojo
"Razor sharp lyricism backed by some really solid, cinematic boom bap production and a couple of laugh out loud skits thrown in for good measure. Tenchoo spits with excessive swagger and self-satisfaction but unlike the majority of emcee's - He has the skills to back it up. He's one of a very small number of artists who sound hungry on everything they touch. One of the most underrated releases in 2020."
Helsinki Booze Merchants - Film Poster Whips
"Luca Brazi, Benny Diction and Mnsr Frites team up under a new collective alias and deliver what they describe as “an introspective take on getting older in rap and an appreciation for the finer things”
Solely produced (minus the remixes) by Luca Brazi, the project is really pleasing on the ears and each emcee steps up to deliver some of their best work to date on this laid back reflective piece of work."
Gee Bag x Illinformed - Respect Ya Elders
"It's an intravenous shot of real Hip Hop; it's fun, it's clever, it can be deep and it has poignancy, this is what a Hip Hop album should be. This is a showcase of an artist who puts his heart and soul into his craft while proving he still has plenty more in the tank, he's full of energy & as charismatic as they come. Illinformed comes with the heat on the beats, his work ethic is truly phenomenal and he truly delivers in providing the perfect soundscape for Gee's bars. A real strong contender for album of the year."
Qred - Postcard from the Edge
"The beats are a blend of that timeless mid-90's gritty New York sound and some really out there atmospheric bangers. The samples have been shredded to pieces, built back up and looped with precision over really tight drums with just enough reverb on those snares to start snapping your vertebrae. Everything has been intricately designed and delicately placed so much so that you can hear that he's poured his absolute heart and soul into this project."
Phoenix da Icefire x Strange Neighbour - Cinematic
"Lyrically, this is what fans want and expect from Phoenix Da Icefire, his imagery is extremely vivid, he is sharp as ever and his pen is as deadly as they come, keeping you engaged and hanging onto every syllable. The production by The Strange Neighbour really is on point. The dusty sample flips and hard snapping drums are tight and crafted with intricacy giving the perfect backing for Phoenix Da Icefire to do what he does best on an album that hits relentlessly from the needle drop and continues to do so throughout."
F.Boogie - Masks of the Morning Son
"The album showcases a veteran of the scene in his prime, who rhymes effortlessly across a broad range of sound scapes with ease. Despite being in the game for a number of years, he still shows the same hunger, passion and intensity as young upstart as opposed to a jaded old timer that many who've been in the game this long have done. The album is a nice release for the scene, steering away from the all too common bravado fueled street stories."
Verbz x Mr Slipz - Radio Waves
"Noteworthy Emcee/Producer combinations are hard to come by these days but this pair are one of the best we have had in such a long, long time and their chemistry together genuinely is second to none. Slipz manages to weave such a rich tapestry of golden era boom bap composed of hard, smacking drums coupled with his unique ear for sampling. Croydon's crown prince Verbz gets better and more confident with every release, he is definitely one to watch going into 2021."
Axel Holy - WonderWorld
"Dark, brooding and bass heavy, Baileys Brown alter ego delivers a stand out release on the Split Prophets brand. This ain't Boom Bap or Grime and in some places it's almost not even Hip Hop anymore. This is a mixture of every influence, smashed to a million pieces and stiched back together with hi-hats, sub-bass bumping for a heartbeat and snares for stomping footsteps. This is like a UK Hip Hop Frankenstein's Monster with Axel Holy as the mouthpiece. Not one to miss!"
Conscious Route & True Note - Lost Routes
"This is a nice release from the Edinburgh-based emcee that covers a lot bases thematically and sonically. There is some really relevant subject matter presented here which many emcee's in the current climate are choosing not to tackle. When he approaches these tricky subjects, he does so with his heart on his sleeve showing knowledge, depth, emotion and skill. He has a great energy and presence on the mic' which shines throughout."
Amos x Tommy P-Nuts - Postcard Poetry EP
"Short, sweet and sonically a lot different to the rest of the scene this 8 track EP also includes the instrumental versions. This is a great concept executed with skill.
We live in a world where everyone is searching for immediate attention to massage their ego via social media - this has practically destroyed the written and spoken word but before it's finally laid to rest, here's one last postcard from Amos & Tommy P-Nuts."
Strizzy Strauss - Trust the Process
"Strizzy Strauss shows great lyrical dexterity as he bobs and weaves over these smooth Boom Bap productions. He does this with maturity and complete honesty - the result being a relatable, personal and enjoyable time for the listener. This is Hip Hop for grown folks delivered by a man striving to better himself and his family. This is a great debut album from the Leicester native."
Big Toast - Who Sh!t in the Sandpit?
"This is social commentary done properly
- Spat from the back of your throat, laced with phlegm, bile and yesterdays Red Stripe still lingering and once you've scratched the surface you get flashes of maturity and urgency. What's also refreshing here is you'll find no conspiracy theories like so many of his peers who use them to fluff out their releases. This is scathing and obnoxious, brilliant and belittling, hilarious and brimming with Big Toast's trademark malice and vitriol."
Joe Publik - Stubborn Vectis
"This is an unexpected earworm of an album while having been released early on in 2020 it's one that I've found myself returning to regularly and still find myself impressed with the bars, beats and overall quality of the sound on display with this solid debut. The album does a brilliant job of showcasing his abiltiy as a versatile producer and accomplished emcee alike...Also, it's not everyday that you can say you went bar-for-bar with Scorzayzee on your debut album is it?"
Oliver Sudden - Sudden Impact
"His delivery is laid back, the vocals are smooth, confident and he oozes charisma which further enhances his delivery and captivating display of storytelling on tracks.
The guests really add to the depth of the album by providing just the right amount of variation in tone and delivery.
Immensely impressive and thoroughly enjoyable album from the King of Croydon - Dusty beats, heavy bars and a just the right amount of solid guest verses to round it all off "
Phoenix Da Icefire x Husky Brown - Panacea
"Many have tried to tackle these subjects before and most ultimately end up falling short by not providing any substance to their content...Not here though. You can hear Phoenix passion and commitment to the topics at hand. While he doesn't claim to have the solutions to all of these problems, he has a very honest and wholehearted attempt at resolving and advising on them in his own way. This is the most truthful body of work he has put out there. This is a very empowering and uplifting body of work."
TrueMendous - Huh?
"Truemendous sounds like a 10 year veteran as she delivers her bars with so much passion, intensity and variety over these diverse beats.
This is a great debut release on HF, which showcases her skill and ability as a solo performer without having to rely on featured guests. One of the best releases to come out on High Focus, who have had a dissapointing year in 2020."
Ill Move Sporadic - Drug Corpse II
"Ill Move Sporadic releases come few and far between but each time they do they up their game and build on the previous efforts foundations to create something really spectacular. It's criminal to say but you probably won't find this in your more mainstream Top 10's for 2020, however with that being said real talent shines through and I can safely say this is right up there as one of the most solid releases that 2020 has offered up so far."
Sausage Spine and Relentless Exquisite - Obviously
"Relentless Exquisite shows great versatility when it comes to crate digging and has a great ear for discovering loops. Throughout his back catalogue you can hear his influences rooted deeply at the core of the production but it's always flipped in such a refreshing way that it's rarely apparent on the initial play through. Amos shows great mic presence as his spits his intelligent bars with precision that has you skipping back to make sure you're taking them in, rounded off with some killer punchlines and delivered with his trademark Lancashire twang."
5 Bonus Bangers - Not quite in my top 20 but absolutely worth checking out:
Motman & Micall Parknsun - Every Night Grind
Vandal Savage & Claude Money - Raoul Moat
Juga-Naut x Micall Parknsun - Twelve Bricks
Cyrus Malachi - The Blind Watchmaker
Joker Starr - Poor Traits of a King
Another exciting and forward thinking project to have come about this year is the multimedia platform 05:21 which is the brainchild of UK pioneer Blade with the aim of having one central hub where artists can be seen and heard consisting of video uploads, sofa chats and freestyle based live performances. One of the most exciting revelations with this project is that there are no prejudices towards age, musical or cultural backgrounds as they aim to document the history of past talents as well as introduce the new and upcoming.
As long as your music videos are professionally shot, even if on a low budget, they will consider them for upload to the channel. Providing the content is not disrespectful towards women, race, class, and cultures and generally offensive in any way.
For all enquiries please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure you subscribe to the channel for all the latest content..
Revorg Records -
Nobody else has even come close to matching Revorg's quality output this year. The Croydon based label have churned out solid release after solid release without taking much of a breather in between. They've provided the full package for fans by putting out high quality Vinyl, Cassettes and CD's as well as being available digital/streaming services. They also have a solid in-house team who can deliver almost anything - Artwork & design, Videos and cinematography etc. They have dropped some absolutely huge releases from Gee Bag, Phoenix da Icefire, Big Toast, Oliver Sudden and Cyrus Malachi over the last 12 months and no disrespect to any of the other labels out there but they've not come anywhere close to matching the quality and quantity that Revorg has put out.
Big up Strange Neighbour & Big Toast for doing a sterling job with the label this year, looking forward to see what they have in the pipeline for 2021 as I've heard a few tasty rumours.
Shotgun the Aux -
These guys are a shining example of having to adapt to overcome challenges that 2020 has thrown in their way. Obviously with lockdown and the tier systems in place it's no longer feasible to have the whole squad over to conduct a podcast so the team have started to do these using video communications software, not losing a step on the way and continuing to provide quality content. I'll put it out there and say also that some of their best Podcasts have come out of this situation with guests such as Chester P, Lunar C, Tuff Boyz.
Tom, Jake & Aidan - keep doing your thing, I'm look forward to see what 2021 has in store from you guys.....(Hopefully that Scorzayzee appearance I keep plugging)
Overall, 2020 has been a real double-edged sword, while the artistic output has been staggering, we've also seen the loss of some really big influences and stand out personalities such as the legendary Ty, Foreign Beggars Metropolis, Village Live boss Joey Deez and Bristol bar-barian Sirplus. This year has been especially hard for creatives so to successfully weather the storm of uncertainty we all have to stick together. Support your favourite artists, buy their physicals and merch' by taking advantage of Bandcamp Friday's so they get the full profit on the sale. Hit up that graphic designer or photographer for some slick artwork for your next EP or holla at that guy for some quality mastering on your next project. Every little bit can make all the difference.
2021 is only a few days away and if what we have achieved as a scene over the past 12 months is anything to go by then next year will be even stronger than this one. There's some really big projects lined up such as Wordsmiff's "Grownman Showcase" produced by Tom Caruana, Big Daddy Rap Beast's "Yarns from the Juicer", a new IMS x Tenchoo collaboration album, Ash the Author & Alecs Delarge are working on an album together, Sam Krats look set to drop an absolutely massive album on Revorg, Amos has been in the lab recently too and is set to unleash a new project in the near future.
Shout out to:
1st and foremost shout out to Notts City!
Revorg Records,The Strange Neighbour, Big Toast, Gee Bag, Downstroke, Oliver Sudden, Sam Krats, Manage, Mankub, Efeks, Phoenix da Icefire, Cyrus Malachi, Zatoitchi's Ear's all the squad at Gold on The Mixer, DJ Evil Ed, Junior Disprol, Wordsmiff, Cappo, Juga-Naut, Vandal Savage, Karizma, F.Boogie, Scorzayzee, Local Healers, Louis Cypher, Dirty Joe, Qred, Amanda & Omus One @ Hellfire Corner Records, Shotgun the Aux, Slippy Skills, JVF Clique, Ill Move Sporadic, Mick Swagger, Alecs DeLarge, Ash the Author, Remulak & all at Village Live Records, Montener the Menace, Jack Forcefield, Strizzy Strauss, Tommy P-Nutz, Amos, all at Certain Sound Records, Irn Mnky, Joe Publik, Baileys Brown, Wish Master, Manage, Emcee Killa, Tenchoo, Conscious Route, Violentlyill, Big Daddy Rap Beast, MC Oliver Twist, Whirlwind D, Blade, Uncle Mic Nitro, Steady & all at Boom Bap Pro, Grimee Quick, Deuce Deuce Records, Raven Eye Creatives, Dark Hekate Photography, LeftLion Magazine.
Special shout out to DJ Captain Co for getting me on board, both on site and giving me the opportunities to spout my shit on the show on Itch FM.
To anyone I've missed - I'll catch you on the next one! Big shout out to everyone who did drops for the show, much appreciated!
Peace, Love & Blessings,
We're going in BIG next year!
Words by One9Ate7 - Exclusively for www.BoomBop.co.uk