ALBUMS OF THE WEEK: HIP HOP EDITION. A whole bunch of 2020 rap albums you need to check out. Now.

This week’s top pick for a recent album is Boldy James and Alchemist’s, The Price of Tea in China. Everyone knows Alchemist. He’s a legendary beatmaker. And Detroit’s Boldy James has been gradually developing as a must-hear emcee, since 2011. This album should be the one that breaks big for him. The project ties together decades of experience in hip hop–it’s a technical masterpiece, full of hard work, experience and creativity. And best of all, there’s no homophobia, no gratuitous profanity (very little cursing at all, in fact), and it’s not all violence and grit. Boldy’s vocab is excellent, and his picks for feature artists are some of the best around: like Freddie Gibbs and Evidence.

It’s my top pick for the week.

My second pick is much less well-known. Skanks the Rap Martyr comes from Crown Heights and brings a powerful 1990’s flow. It’s easy to blow this album off if you don’t listen closely because it sounds like a lot of the late ’90s era rappers, who brought traditional flow into the 21st century, updating it along with the way. But Skanks is complicated–combining street stories, politically savage content, a love of all things hip hop, and a level of self-awareness rarely seen in this industry.

Don’t miss this album!

Runner Ups:

In order of greatness, starting with the new Estee Nack. Nack is an underrated rapper, who has a high command of flow and not just one but TWO languages.

Similar to Skanks is R.A. the Rugged Man’s “All My Heroes Are Dead,” who also has a ’90s flow. And where Boldy James’ delivery is laid back and cool, a storyteller, Rugged Man is old school: Rapid fire bars, full of braggadocio and machismo. It’s like your favorite ’90s rappers with modern technique and beats.  And like most of the great ’90s albums, it’s full of features by no less than two Wu Tangers (Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck), as well as tons of legends from way back: Kool G Rap, Ice-T, Chuck D, Timbo King, Slug, Jazzy Jeff, Vinnie Paz, Onyx, M.O.P., and Brand Nubian, etc.

The main criticism of this album?  It’s too long.  Rugged Man is quick and funny, and it can get exhausting listening to his amazing dexterity.  At 22 tracks, there’s a bit of filler here.

Next: Sy Ari Da Kid’s “It Was Unwritten.” Best word to describe this album is “smart.” Excellent wordplay, and a terrific album.

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