2020 has been an unforgettable year... for all the wrong reasons. We wanted to reflect on what the past 12 months has brought us and hopefully remind you all that art can be its best at the most oppressive of times. From Steve McQueen's Small Axe to Novelist's prolific, quadruple drop of EPs, our A-Z should call to mind everything that has happened over the most tumultuous year of our generation.
A - Small Axe
After such a tumultuous year, Steve McQueen’s Small Axe became 2020’s must watch drama. Tracing the life of West Indian immigrants back as far as the 60s, the five-film opus provided some much needed education for those unfamiliar with the struggles our Caribbean population have had since helping to rebuild our country after the war. John Boyega, Letita Wright, Michael Ward and many more star across the series.
B - Boiler Room
Early on in isolation, Boiler Room absolutely saved our bacon. Adjusting to life without clubs proved extremely difficult, but the music broadcaster helped people maintain a connection to the culture that proved vitally important. Some of our favourite sets include: Kode9’s Low Heat, and Four Tet and Bambii’s streaming from isolation.
C - Corteiz (CRTZ)
Amidst the mundane efforts of clothing retail, Corteiz RTW are doing things differently. The brand’s commitment to unconventional methods of business has garnished them a strong following, particularly this year, that rate the label for its profound exclusivity and hard trackies. Selling out the back of a car, and via online passwords are just a couple selling methods that have challenged retail’s status quo this year, and it seems like Clint’s brand is only going to get bigger.
D - Diego Maradonna
The football world lost a true legend this year. Maradonna’s outrageous behaviour, on and off the pitch, will be remembered by any fans of ‘the beautiful game’; Argentina’s president even declared three days of national morning for his disease. Us Britons will always be reminded of the famous hand of god incident, but those in Naples, particularly, will reminisce of his brilliancy.
E - Elevation Meditation
All of EM’s members released projects to high acclaim this year, pinpointing West London as a key area for Britain’s current musical climate. Their … is starting to transcend England’s borders too; Lord Apex dropped the surprise collaboration ‘London Fog’ with Westside Gunn just days ago. We are looking forward to hearing what noise they make next year too.
F - Flohio
Flo Flo dropped her debut full-length mixtape this year to wide acclaim. Mary Anne Hobbs must have played Unveiled on her 6 music show every week from the single’s release, and the whole album is as infectious as that single. The wordsmith also entered MCQ’s global collective, which is a new sub label to the Alexander McQueen creative agency and conglomerate. She herself curated a collection called FOAM, which you can read more on here.
G - Grace Wales Bonner
Making her Paris fashion week debut, Wales Bonner hit new heights both commercially and artistically in 2021. The menswear designer made one of the capsules of the year with Adidas and created some of the most stunning couture - blending African prints with modern tailoring to explore black identity and the boundaries of luxury fashion. Just look at the steez on those Sambas.
H - Henrie Kwushue
One of, if not, our favourite YouTube series to emerge this year has been Henrie Kwushue’s “…Is Your Area Changing?”. Following her around areas of London, the programme sees Kwushue interviewing locals about the gentrification and changes currently undergoing in certain regions of the capital. The presenter also started co-hosting Who We Be Talks with Harry Pinero this year, elevating her status to new heights in 2020.
I - ‘I Can’t Breathe’
The world was convulsed with worldwide protests after the horrific death of George Floyd, in police custardy, this year. Although the incident happened in America, it became symbolic of police brutality and racism across the globe. This slogan has become synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement, which has become the most important social and political movement of our time.
J - Joe Biden
We’ve had 4 years of thinking the world’s headed for oblivion. A world where the most powerful man is a racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic (we could go on) who tells us to inject disinfectant to kill off Coronavirus. But now we finally see a light at the end of the US presidential tunnel. This year the power has finally been taken away from Trump and put into the hands of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Biden promises to raise minimum wages and invest in green energy, bring in grants for minority communities and reverse Trump’s immigration laws. Thanks to this news, we may be able to see a brighter year ahead for the world in 2021.
K - Keyah/Blu
2020 was an immense year for EPs, but none stood out with the same innovation as Keyah/Blu’s Sorry, I Forgot You Were Coming. Her beginnings are embedded in alternative hiphop, but this assortment of songs is rich in some of Britains most sonically interesting electronic exports. Joy Orbison offered additional production to standout cut If You Know, co-written by Denzel Himself, and Keyah accommodated the off-filtered dance floor rhythms effortlessly. We are incredibly excited to see where she takes her sound in 2021.
L - L-Side
L-Side hands down produced the most consistent run of Drum and Bass singles in 2020. The Brazilian has been a fresh voice ever since he burst on the scene a few years ago, but tunes like Steppa Dub, with MC Fats, have given him more prominence in DnB’s competitive scene. Have a listen below.
M - Matthew Williams
Williams’ appointment as Givenchy’s head of house was one of the biggest stories in luxury fashion this year. Thankfully, his work has come along way on from the dreadful designs himself, Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston were making under their Been Trill alias; he has always been highly regarded as a creative, and 1017 ALYX has really proved his worth as a top artist. Drafting Lancey Foux in for modelling duties won us over in his first collection, and we are pretty excited to see where he takes the brand in 2021.
N - Novelist
Not many artists can independently release 4 top class EPs in one year, but Novelist did this basically unnoticed. It feels like a cliché to say he’s slept on, so we want to make sure you go and give at least one of these projects a listen. Night and Day, off his collaborative tape with Shailan, takes our top spot, and we really feel you should check out the rest.
Overmono Overmono Overmono Overmono
It feels like a lifetime ago but, when life was normal, I caught Overmono playing a set in Leeds this year. Their infectious blend of breakbeats, trembling tech and 90s rave is exactly what everyone needed in such a dull year, and lucky they provided us with some great releases. Everything U Need is undoubtably one of the best electronic tracks of the year, I Have a Love has to be one of the best remixes of the year, and their mix for Tom Ravenscroft was also one of the best of the year. Tom and Ed Russell can do very little wrong at the moment.
P - Pa Salieu
On the second of January this year, Pa Salieu released a single that would change his life. ‘Frontline’, a visceral ode to his hometown, quickly made him the critic’s one-to-watch; several singles and a debut mixtape later, and the Coventry native has become the most talked about figure in U.K Rap. With a tour due next year, and plenty of music on the back burner, 2021 could cement the Gambian among Britain’s very best.
Q - Queenie (Crown s4)
Crown season 4 had us newly royalists glued to our seats, however the 10 part series didn’t bode well with all. After being immersed into the ins and outs of maggy thatchers life and Princess Di’s relationship with Philip, masses of British Officials and critics called for a disclaimer on the site that the series is entirely fictional. Netflix, of course, refused.
R - Rashford
Provoking an astonishing government
U-Turn on free school meals, Marcus Rashford’s commitment to our country off the pitch hasn’t gone unnoticed in 2020. I really hate Man UTD, but I find it incredibly difficult to dislike Rashford. He’s also launched his own book club for disadvantaged children and won a Sports Personality of the year award… the man’s difficult to fault.
S - SAULT
In an age where any information can be found at the click of a button, it is refreshing that some of the best music of 2020 has been made by people no one knows. Enigmatic group SAULT have released 4 albums in 18 months; 2 of which have come in the previous 3. Over this year’s lps, the band tap funk, afrobeat, disco, and just about any other black originated genre, whilst standing as a modern testament to the resilience of Blackness.
T - Tiger King
This entry needs little justification. Starring Joe Exotic and ‘that bitch’ Carol Baskin, Netflix’s popular crime documentary synthesised some of the pain from our first lockdown, and it has stayed in the public’s interest since. The series followed Exotic through presidential campaigns, feuds with other big cat ‘conservationists’ and his odd relationship with the animals he claims to love. The story which unfolds is quite extraordinary, so we won’t give too much away.
U - Unknown
Celebrating their 5th anniversary, UNKNOWN produced some incredibly hard garms this year. Their Rhinestone two piece hoodies and trackies, cable knits and vegan leather jackets were a few of our highlights and we can only see them growing more in 2021.
V - Virus
Unfortunately we couldn't do this list without talking about the biggest thing that has affected our everyday lives this year, Coronavirus. With the sad loss of many and the collapse of the economy there aren't many positive ways in which we can look at the Covid-19 pandemic. But at the very least, with the new vaccines we can now see a small ray of light at the end of this long 2020 tunnel and hopefully toughing this last bit out will make that first gig, festival and event after it's over all the more sweet.
W - Bill Withers
We lost so many legends this year: Tony Allen, Ty, Florian Schneider and Bill Withers were four that particularly resonated with us. Known for his timeless soul jams, Withers died at the age of 81, winning 3 Grammys and releasing just 8 albums before retiring in 1985. The musician grew up in the Jim Crow South and found his beginnings difficult because of a speech impediment. He self-taught himself to play the guitar on factory breaks at work, and the rest is history.
X - X AE A- 12
After a year of such strange, shocking news stories, we forget that many get overlooked and forgotten. When it comes to X how could we forget Elon Musk’s beyond bizarre child name for his new born son on the 4th of May. X Æ A-12, correctly pronounced as ‘X ash A twelve’. The name eventually had to be changed to X Æ A-XII as it became clear that you cannot have a number in a name… funny that.
Y - Yaeji
Releasing her debut mixtape on XL Recordings, Yaeji has provided us with some of the year’s best dance music and NTS mixes too. ‘Craeji with Yaeji’ is a sonic exploration of the Asian-American’s musical influences - many of which weave themselves into the fabric of ‘What We Drew’. The tape is far more insular affair than EP2, and feels more personal to her emotional commitment to music.
Z - Zoom
This year has been a tough year, particularly for those who are working or people who get particularly lonely. However, thanks to the miracle of technology work has been able to resume from home in many industries and people have been able to stay in touch through lockdown. A big assistant in doing this of course is the video call app Zoom, which may have changed the way we work and use technology for a long time. If it wasn’t for Zoom and other video call apps, lockdown may well have been a lot dimmer for many. Families may not have been able to seen each other for months, those pub quiz’s that got us through it wouldn’t’ve happened and international work meetings would’ve been abandoned.