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Slauson Malone - Vergangenheitsbewältigung

Following his experimental masterpiece, A Quiet Farwell, 2016-2018 (Crater Speak), Slauson Malone returned in 2020 with a noisy, yet comforting EP which is equally as abstract and adventurous as his debut. The mysterious songwriter’s Vergangenheitsbewältigung is a creative exploration of more minimal soundscapes, and almost has an Archy Marshall twang to it. The more Hip-Hop centric tracks echo inspirations of Madlib, with the messiness of early Odd Future, but this album is much more melodic, and certainly packs a heavy punch.

Boldy James & Sterling Toles – Manger On McNichols

Boldy James had an enormous 2020, releasing four full length projects, one under Griselda, one with The Alchemist, and one with Real Bad Man. However, his biggest achievement was definitely, with producer Sterling Toles - A breath-taking lyrical exploration, packed with vivid storytelling and lavish production.The album, whilst flying under everyone’s radar, is almost as intricate as recent classics like good kid M.A.A.D city, and Atrocity Exhibition. The album cleverly intertwines jazz, soul, and gospel, while remaining true to Boldy’s Detroit roots.

Tony Velour – 3M

Crossing Hyperpop with experimental Hip-Hop, Tony Velour is a name sure to blow up soon. 3M features Injury Reserve, Danger Incorporated, and boasts production from Dylan Brady. It’s a short but sweet, infectious project, with catchy hooks and unique production. Velour has surely earnt his bragging rights to doing everything himself - no creative team, no label, no budget, ‘just me and the energy’ he stated when releasing the LP. It’s 20 minutes long, stacked with bangers, and never once loses its energy. Listen to ROTF if you need more convincing.

Jean Dawson – Pixel Bath

The pop-punk influenced LA-based artist grabbed A$AP Rocky’s attention with his colourful tracks, and this album really shows us why. It’s a great collection of angsty, melodic tunes that share a lot of similarities to Kevin Abstract’s American Boyfriend, probably because of its emo-tinged influences. This in-your-face album definitely shows heaps of potential, we can only hope that he releases something as or more courageous in the future.

Spillage Village – Spilligion

I’m sure most people reading this are familiar with Dreamville signees JID and EarthGang, but the synergy when you put them together, with a handful of other talented members, echoes likenesses to the creative heights of Outkast’s ATLiens. The LP dives into gospel and folk influences, but the highest points are the Hip-Hop centred tracks, with wacky inflections, hyper flows, and moody beats. Baptized, and End Of Daze should be enough to make you give this one a spin.

Tkay Maidza – Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 2

Tkay Maidza, the versatile Australian rising star, proved her staying power with this short EP. Maidza has been around for a while, but has never really garnered large amounts of attention. This project managed to turn heads, but not enough for her to completely dominate people’s playlists. The EP brags features from JPEGMAFIA and Kari Faux. Every track is bouncy, fun and unforgettable. Listen to Grasshopper now if you don’t believe us.

Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – What Kinda Music

Tom Misch teamed up with Yussef Dayes for arguably his most stunning project. This album came during the UK’s first lockdown, when we maybe needed it most. Misch’s calming vocals pair perfectly with Dayes’ iconic drumming. He surely overcomes anyone labelling him ‘vanilla’ on this incredibly bright project. It’s a fantastic exploration of jazz, soul, and Hip-Hop. Spin this one on a hot day, you won’t regret it.

Channel Tres – i can’t go outside

Although this EP doesn’t quite live up to the standards Channel Tres set for himself, it’s a great introduction to his unique Hip-House sound. He snagged a Tyler, The Creator feature, which is certainly a high point of the EP, but make sure you don’t miss ‘skate depot’. This summery collection of bangers is essential for anyone that misses any sort of nightlife.

Bob Vylan – We Live Here

Bob Vylan, the angry Punk Rock/Hip-Hop hybrid showcases extreme potential on this EP. It’s an aggressive set of tracks that is perhaps the UK’s answer to Rage Against The Machine, it’s fierce, political, and provocative. In this climate we currently face, it’s the perfect soundtrack for the outspoken, and marginalised. This EP is calling for action, and as Bob Vylan continues to grow, they might just bring change themselves.

Chester Watson - A Japanese Horror Film

On the surface, this album may seem like another helping of lo-fi, atmospheric raps, but Chester Watson does it with such effortless style. This interplanetary set of moody tracks personifies the album art and feels entirely synonymous with the Japanese horror genre he sets out to showcase. Whilst each track tends to blend into one another, it is a truly immersive experience that requires your undivided attention.

Navy Blue – Song Of Sage: Post Panic

Right at the backend of 2020, Navy Blue hit us with his second full-length album of the year, and it was certainly a contender for any end of year list. Whilst similar in vein to peers like Earl Sweatshirt, MIKE, and Mavi, Navy Blue’s storytelling is so vivid that it makes you forget your listening to such intensely realistic and depressing subject matter, he brings life to each eerie sample, and proves himself to be an incredibly talented lyricist.

Rocci & Ramirez – THA PLAYA$ MANUAL

Ramirez’s past work shares many parallels to the murderous Memphis sound of Three Six Mafia, however this new album is soaked in sunny G-Funk instrumentals, that duplicate the stylistic schemes of Snoop Dogg, and DJ Quik. The album is an incredibly lively display of Ramirez’s elastic flows, and his ability to adapt to other eras of Hip-Hop, it has cuts that serve as a time machine right back to the golden age of UGK and DJ Screw. Ramirez is a notable figure in the underground due to his affiliation with $uicideboy$, but he is much more versatile, and excellent at wearing his influences on his sleeve.

Rap Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages

The unbelievable, abstract poet formerly known as Milo, dropped one of his most ambitious projects yet with Purple Moonlight Pages. This assortment of creative Hip-Hop tracks prove Rap Ferreira doesn’t need his past pseudonym to amaze us with his witty, lyrical endeavours. He is a force in the underground that shows no signs of stopping…speaking of which, he’s already delivered another unique jazz-rap LP for 2021.

Redveil – Niagara

Whilst you may dismiss him as another Earl Sweatshirt fan making choppy, sampled beats, Redveil is only 16 years old, and has a promising career ahead of him. He stands out amongst his contemporaries for being brutally relatable and showcasing tons of personality. Whilst sticking to his 90s J Dilla-esque production, the album is occasionally more modern sounding than a Navy Blue, or a Pink Siifu, which makes it a great contrast to his peers.

Words: Jay Fullarton (@jaymfullarton)

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