Hip-hop rose to the occasion during this first month of fall. The theme of the month seemed to be the release of anticipated projects. The September hype started with Big Sean’s long-awaited Detroit 2 album. Action Bronson made a long-anticipated return with Only For Dolphins, while Public Enemy dropped their urgent What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down. Conway dropped his long-hyped From A King To A God project, and Kamaiyah released a project with fellow Town native Capolow. While rap vets showed out, there were also releases from up and coming acts including Armani Caesar’s The Liz debut and Lil Tecca’s Virgo World. There was a lot of good work this month, but here are the 10 best projects.
Armani Caesar — The Liz
Griselda’s self-proclaimed “first lady” Armani Caesar dropped off her long-anticipated The Liz album this month. The Buffalo crew has been on fire all 2020, and her introduction is the latest dose of razor-sharp rhymes over soulful, sinister production. She matches their menace with a feminine touch, with witticisms like “my n**** got a lit b*tch / Give him a brick and a big kiss” on “Drilla A Rama” with Benny The Butcher.
Griselda’s “Spurs 3” shows up on the project, but Caesar is capable of holding her own, telling a seductive tale of underworld romance on “Palm Angels,” rhyming, “He say he heard I was on some gold dig sh*t / I told him, ‘nah, I’m just the type of b*tch that look right rich.’” She’s set to look however she wants with more offerings like The Liz.
Big Sean — Detroit 2
After a long wait, Big Sean finally dropped his long-awaited solo project in September. He put extra pressure on himself by naming it Detroit 2, harkening to his beloved 2012 mixtape. The lengthy project is a cathartic glimpse of his growth over the past several years. He explores unfulfillment on “Everything That’s Missing” realizing, “If he doin’ what he love in his free time, then his dream already happened.” On “Deep Reverence” he rhymes alongside a posthumous Nipsey Hussle verse, culling through their collective struggles but accepting, “I’m the don ’cause the streets said it”
Beyond the internal excavation is the hazy, world-roaming “LIthuiana” with Travis Scott, and “Body Language,” where he gets sultry with Jhene Aiko and Ty Dolla Sign. He also takes it to the “Friday Night Cipher” on a marathon track featuring Eminem, Royce Da 5’9”, Tee Grizzley, and other Detroit standouts. The project shows Sean mostly locked in and offering his honest, oft-polarizing brand of lyricism over a suite of warm. layered production.
Conway — From A King To A God
Conway framed his From A King To A God project as an exhibit of his evolution — and he delivered. The 14-track project shows Conway talking as filthy as ever on tracks like “Juvenile Hell,” “Lemon” with Method Man, and “Seen Everything But Jesus” with Freddie Gibbs. But he shows different sides of the spectrum on tracks like the grieving “Forever Droppin Tears” and “Front Lines,” where he delves into police brutality and pleads, “We ain’t takin’ no more, we ain’t just pressin’ record / Can’t watch you kill my brother, you gon’ have to kill us all.”
But no matter how far you go, there you are. One of the track’s most standout moments is “Spurs 3” with Griselda brethren Westside Gunn and Benny The Butcher, where Con thumps his chest about the movement’s power, rhyming, “Lotta albums are suddenly startin’ to feel a lil’ more Griselda-esque.” He ain’t lying, and you almost can’t blame the biters. Griselda has a winning mixture, and Conway added some more potency to the batch on From A King To A God.
Currensy & Harry Fraud — Director’s Cut
One of hip-hop’s most reliable duos dropped more heat with Director’s Cut, their second project in three months. The two are back at the familiar, engrossing well of Currensy’s easygoing-yet-locked-in mic presence over a hoard of Harry Fraud samples. Currensy shines on solo tracks like “News On Mute” and “White Ashes,” but he also leaves room for a slew of collaborators such as Snoop Dogg on “180 Days,” Styles P on “KITT” and Larry June on the aptly-titled Vintage Haze. But regardless of the stellar features, the main attraction is Currensy and Fraud — who deliver again.
Elzhi — Seven Times Down, Eight Times Up
One of the rap game’s most talented, underrated lyricists is back with Seven Times Down, Eight Times Up, an affirmatory (if inaccurate) album title that’s met with reflective, aspirational lyricism. He could have garnered respect just by dishing off rhymes for the sake of rhymes, but the Detroit MC dug deep, offering gems for listeners to take away from his traverse through life. On the melancholy “Smoke & Mirrors,” he reminds, “You can’t fix a shortcut in the long run.” The album is held together by Elzhi, who narrates and gives the project even more bonding than the head-snapping drums and overarching themes of achievement, trials, and triumph.
GQ & 9th Wonder — A Midsummer’s Nightmare
Jamla Records artist GQ has said that the title of his A Midsummer’s Nightmare refers to “the time we’re in as a country and world,” as well as “the thoughts and moments of myself at this moment in my life.” He scribed his perspective of this perilous moment in impressive fashion. But if that’s not enough, the entire project is produced by 9th Wonder. GQ rhymes about a would-be relationship on the smoky, brooding “Ms. Out,” then speaks for so many by rhyming, “everything on time, I been tryna’ rush it” on smooth standout “Big Lutha.” He rhymes with a steadiness and easygoing dexterity that’s right at home on 9th’s production, making for an incredible listen.
Kamaiyah & Capolow — Oakland Nights
Oakland may be reeling not only from quarantine but the fall out of wildfires, but there’s always space to enjoy life. That’s where Kamaiyah comes in. She linked up with Town native Capolow for Oakland Nights, a 10-pack of slappers live from the West Coast. She and Capolow are locked in throughout the project, from the arrestingly smooth intro “Finer Things” to “Gang Gang,” where they rep their crew but let us know, “I keep it lit / f*ck all that beefin’ sh*t.” Oakland Nights is a fun, enjoyable listen where two Oakland artists collided for a thumping, funky, feel-good project.
Mozzy — Occupational Hazard
The ever-prolific Mozzy dropped off another project this month with Occupational Hazard. The sarcastic title cues to the treachery of getting street money, and Mozzy chronicles the pitfalls in a way that few others can. He imbues listeners with a weathered, pragmatic view of the streets with cold summations like, “It ain’t a time the suckers died and we ain’t celebrated,” on the fatalistic “Death Is Callin.” On “Heartbroken” with Quando Rondo, the two spill their pain over somber pianos. But the menace is rife on songs like “Hazardous,” where “it’s shots fired, body fell, fell asleep in the puddle.”
Radamiz — Synonyms Of Strength
Nearly a year after his Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes album, Brooklyn MC Radamiz dropped off the cleverly-titled Synonyms Of Strength EP. He goes onto affirm that title with a seven-track project loaded with gems over warm production. On the title track, he rhymes “there ain’t enough pride to outweigh my dependence on God.” His “Goya” collaboration with fellow Brooklynite KOTA The Friend showcases the two trading thoughtful, passionate verses, with Radamiz surmising, “If I’m not the best rapper, I’m the best at not givin up.” Each verse is laced with nuggets to take away that can only be missed by marveling at the dizzying flows that Radamiz pulls off throughout the project.
Spillage Village — Spilligion
After a couple of years doing solo work, the abundantly-talented Spillage Village collective linked back up on the long-awaited Spilligion album. The title is a testament to both how devoted they are to top-tier lyricism as well as the heavy spiritual themes throughout the project. They offered solace for this tumultuous moment through tracks like the pro-Africa “Mecca,” the lush, Mereba-showcasing “PsalmSing,” and the apocalyptic “End Of Daze,” where ponder what their final exploits would be. The project captures the paranoia and desperation of the times, but Spilligion also showcases some God-tier rhyming.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.