The end of August is the unofficial end of summer for many. This year, the rap world ended the season in strong form, with compelling projects from a variety of artists. Nas’ King’s Disease was his first project since 2018’s Nasir. Young Dolph came back from a 2-year-hiatus of his own with Rich Slave. Newcomers Mulatto and KenTheMan dropped projects, as did Duckwrth. There were also releases from Vic Mensa, Jaden and Burna Boy. There was a lot of great music, but only 10 could make the list. Here they are:
Coi Leray — Now Or Never
Coi Leray impresses throughout Now Or Never. On “Slide” with Gunna, she longs to “make your dreams come true” alongside a slinky Gunna verse. On the breezy “Fuq Boa,” she asserts that she’s not for the games while crooning about a situation where “nobody know what we do.” But the mood isn’t all good on the project, as she laments a relationship where “all the back and forth just depressin’” on album closer “Messy.” Coi Leray’s steadily gained a following that’s drawn to her melodic, genre-bending style, and the syrupy Now Or Never is a potential breakout project that will endear her to more new fans.
Duckwrth — SuperGood
Duckwrth has been one of the most exciting, genre-bending artists in the game for some time. There may be some who are just getting acquainted with Duckwrth on his major-label debut SuperGood, and they got an impressive exhibition on what they’ve been missing out on. The 16-track album is an exhilarating ride full of fun, with dancefloor-ready beats from the smooth “Quick” to the rambunctious “Say What U Mean.” The project features a range of guests, such as Jean Deaux on the feel-good “Money Dance” and Earthgang, who matched his charismatic presence on the aptly-named “Super Bounce.”
Lecrae — Restoration
Leave it to Lecrae to give a crummy year a shot in the arm with Restoration, a cathartic project where he explores his mental health battle, a struggling marriage, and the chaotic world that those hardships took place in. “Set Me Free” with YK Osiris is a triple-pronged plea to shake the shackles of the industry, society, and the temptations of evil. “Self-Discovery” isn’t just a curious excavation into who he is today, but where he came from. John Legend’s chorus soars on “Drown,” a track where Lecrae lyrically navigates his way to the light from “deep in the darkness.” Restoration is an inspiring listen devoid of finger-wagging or dogma, just forthright narratives of Lecrae’s social and spiritual journey over a smooth, modern soundscape.
The Lox — Living Off Xperience
Sure, The Lox’s latest project came out on the last weekend of August, but it didn’t take long to realize that the Yonkers legends impressed again. Living Off Xperience is what the LOX acronym means, and it’s also the primary theme for their 14-track album. The trio’s rhymes are as pristine as ever, as evidenced by going toe-to-toe with Benny The Butcher on “Think Of The Lox,” which is buoyed by a charismatic Westside Gunn appearance. They also impress on “Story,” an impeccably narrated track that’s immediately one of the year’s most memorable offerings. T-Pain, Jeremih, and Ruff Ryder comrade DMX, who tore the frames off of “Bout Sh*t,” all show up to help.
Nas — King’s Disease
There’s not much bad that can be said about Nas the musician, besides one glaring gripe from even ardent fans: his beat selection. He got with revered producer Hit-Boy to clear that up on Kings Disease. He’s lyrically locked in throughout the project, most notably spitting toe-to-toe with Firm partners AZ, Cormega, and Foxy Brown on their reunion track “Full Circle.” Hit-Boy’s beats are a masterful fusion of the modern and classic, typified by “Ultra Black,” “Car #85.” and “Spicy,” where talks his sh*t alongside Fivio Foreign & ASAP Ferg. Bolstered by other guests like Lil Durk, Anderson .Paak, and Big Sean, pieces of Nas’ latest entry are sure to be in the rotations of fans of all ages.
Quando Rondo — Diary Of A Lost Child
Savannah, Georgia’s Quando Rondo is one of the rap game’s most heartfelt, honest MCs. He decided to get more personal than ever on Diary Of A Lost Child, a 16-track scribe that serves as his life and testament to this point. Rondo used his vulnerable lyricism and knack for melody to delve as deep as he ever has on the album, with songs like “Depression,” “Materialistic Pain,” and “Felon,” where he notes “I ain’t have a dollar to my name, when I called you, you wasn’t there.” Rondo is one of many young rappers being forthright about the painful toll of the streets, contextualizing an everlasting struggle for a generation for a new generation.
Rich Brian — 1999
Rich Brian has come a long away from his entry into the rap game. He was at one time polarizing, and still may be to many, but the only adjectives needed to describe 1999 are pleasant ones. The 88 Rising artist’s first project of 2020 is a lush, melodic showcase of his sonic growth. He displays his improving lyricism and earworm harmonies throughout the project — showing off both skills on most tracks. When he rhymes “I don’t care if I fail, I’mma make this jump” on album intro “Sometimes,” he set a bold precedent. Luckily for him, he soars through the rest of 1999
38 Spesh — 6 Shots
38 Spesh is as busy as ever, steadily releasing collaboration projects with the likes of Che Noir and Rasheed Campbell. With 6 Shots, however, Spesh is on a solo mission. There are features from Ransom on the piano-driven “Mind Over Matter” and Eto on the stirring “Flour City,” but the rest of the project is a head-nodding exhibition of 38 trying to outwit himself bar after bar. On “The Showdown,” he rhymes he’s in a “car so clean, when I drive it I like to wear slippers.” And on “Overkill,” he stays true to the song title by letting us know, “your b*tch don’t care if the kids is sleep.” There are few doing it as prolifically, consistently, and hilariously as 38 Spesh at this moment.
Vic Mensa — V Tape
Vic Mensa’s sonic ambition is polarizing. Some fans love to see the Chicago artist exploring the different sides of his artistry, while others just want to hear him spitting the way he was when they were introduced to him. He fed those latter purists on V Tape, a seven-song reminder that the bars are intact. Mensa fuses smooth tracks like “Machiavelli” and “XGames” with lyrical exercises such as the Hit-Boy-produced Dirt On My Name, where he lets us know “I’m sprayin’ everything I ‘on’t need a aim.” He puts his demons in the crosshairs on project closer “Rebirth,” where he explores the turmoil of his earlier career, poignantly reflecting on “throwin’ up the Roc as I stood on stage with Hov / while my own father could barely walk like he two years old.” But luckily, it seems like he’s in a better place now.
Young Dolph — Rich Slave
As is the case with most rappers, when Young Dolph announced his retirement from the rap game, it mostly led fans to ponder when his next project was coming. Luckily for them, Rich Slave dropped in August and it wasn’t a disappointment. The Memphis MC came back as impressive as ever on the 16-track project, feeding his fans flashy, gritty lyricism over thumping production. On “RNB,” Megan Thee Stallion take turns talking that “rich sh*t” over frenetic, 808-based production. But it isn’t all good in Dolph’s paradise, as the album title suggests. On “The Land,” he delves into the stress of Blackness, lamenting, “I keep pourin’ lean to take away the pain, but I gotta quit it,” and reflecting on when “the police pulled me over for nothin’, just because she racist.” Rich Slaves serves his fans exactly what they were expecting, but also offers nuggets of insight that reflect artistic growth and a desire to reflect the times.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.