6 Best Rap Albums of December 2020
We looked back on the 50 best rap albums of 2020 a couple weeks ago, and now that December is fully in the rearview too, here are the six rap albums from December that stood out to us the most, some of which came out after our best of 2020 list was already finished. We probably missed or haven't heard some of the great December rap albums that aren't on this list, so let us know your favorites in the comments. Read on for the list (unranked, in no particular order)…
Che Noir – After 12
T.C.F. Music Group
Buffalo rapper Che Noir had a hell of a 2020, releasing the 38 Spesh-produced Juno, the Apollo Brown-produced As God Intended (which we named one of the best rap albums of 2020), and capping the year off with her self-produced After 12 EP. Che proves she can handle her own production just fine, and she loads the project with the same kind of hard-hitting, '90s-style bars she delivered on her two previous 2020 projects. The whole thing is great, but highlights include "Hunger Games," where Che trades bars with likeminded throwback spitters Ransom and 38 Spesh, and the penultimate track "Moment in the Sun" (ft. RJ Payne & Sa-Roc), a protest song as incisive as anything we heard this tumultuous year.
38 Spesh – Interstate 38
T.C.F. Music Group
Not only did Rochester, New York rapper/producer 38 Spesh helm 2020 projects for Che Noir, Elcamino, Flee Lord, and others, he also squeezed in his own new project right before the year ended, Interstate 38. Even with features from heavy hitters like Che, Benny the Butcher, Elcamino, Ransom, and others, Spesh holds it down and delivers some of the album's best verses. (He also produced most of it, but did get beats from Dipset collaborators The Heatmakerz, NYC legend Buckwild, and others too.) The whole 11-song album is cut from the same boom bap-inspired upstate NY cloth that you'd expect from Spesh, and the gritty storytelling from Spesh and his guests leaves you hanging on every word.
Sheff G – Proud Of Me Now
Sheff G remains a trailblazer of Brooklyn drill, and after already releasing One and Only in 2020 (one of our favorite rap albums of the year), he capped off the year with the equally great Proud Of Me Now. It's his first for RCA and it has no guests except frequent collaborator Sleepy Hallow on "Tip Toe," and Sheff uses the opportunity to prove why he deserved to make the leap to a major label. It's 11 lean songs (most around two minutes) with no filler, and Sheff's deep, booming voice is as ominous as Great John's production. It feels like both a victory lap and a new beginning.
Boldy James – Real Bad Boldy
Real Bad Man
What an insane year it's been for Detroit rapper Boldy James. He went from a respected underground rapper to one of the most talked-about and prolific rappers around, with three full-length projects, two of which are widely considered some of the year's best albums (The Price of Tea In China with The Alchemist and Manger On McNichols with Sterling Toles). Now he wraps up 2020 with a fourth full-length, Real Bad Boldy, which was entirely produced by clothing designers/producers Real Bad Man and which features Stove God Cooks, Meyhem Lauren, Eto, Mooch, and Rigz. Real Bad Man also put out two compilations this year (which feature Boldy alongside Roc Marciano, Kool Keith, Pink Siifu, Flee Lord, Elcamino, Inspectah Deck, Willie The Kid, Blu, lojii, and others), and though they may not be iconic producers like The Alchemist, they've clearly figured out how to make that same type of chill, jazzy, psychedelic production that Boldy sounds so great over. I don't think Real Bad Boldy will dethrone The Price of Tea In China or Manger On McNichols as best Boldy James album of 2020, but it's a very solid album and more proof that anything Boldy touches right now is worth hearing.
Your Old Droog – Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition
Brooklyn rapper Your Old Droog released three albums in 2019 but then had a mostly quiet 2020, until finally emerging with this new album. While his previous album Jewelry found him embracing his Jewish heritage, this new album finds the Ukranian-American rapper exploring his Eastern European roots. Droog does that in his lyrics and with some of his samples, but the overall vibe is still what Droog fans know and love: '90s-style New York rap with bars that hit hard enough to rival Droog's biggest influences. (To quote a line from Droog's 2017 album Packs: "I'm sick of these sycophants that want make their idols proud, I want my hero to hear me and shit his pants." Judging by this new album, his goals haven't changed.) The album was executive produced by Mach-Hommy and Tha God Fahim, and they both appear on the album, alongside El-P, Black Thought, Phonte of Little Brother, billy woods, and Tvoy. That list includes some of the most legendary MCs to ever appear on a Your Old Droog album, and Droog still stands tall next to the best of them.
Channel Tres – I Can't Go Outside
Art For Their Good
Channel Tres has spent the past few years perfecting a unique blend of hip hop and house, and with his new EP-length mixtape I Can't Go Outside, he continues to push the envelope. This one features two big guests (Tyler the Creator and Tinashe), and it comes as no surprise that they fit perfectly into Channel's off-kilter yet approachable music. As the title implies, Channel made these songs at home during lockdown, and as a result, they have a rawer, more lo-fi feel than Channel's studio songs. There's also an urgency to them, like Channel knew they deserved to be heard in this barer form rather than saved for the next time he hits the studio. In a regular year, maybe we would've gotten his proper debut album, but meanwhile, I Can't Go Outside is like nothing else he's done yet.