Three albums today by three exceptional rappers with very different, very distinct voices–and two of the best rap albums of 2020.
First: Open Mike Eagle. O.M.E. is responsible for Dark Comedy, one of the wittiest and best albums of this century. He displayed a broad knowledge of all things nerd, depth of thought on racism in America, and also a remarkable sensitivity to themes of masculinity, family, love and loss. Anime, Trauma, and Divorce is a much more intimate record, an album about the pain of a broken marriage. Along the way, we see how his short-lived TV fame contributed to his self destruction, and how he learned what the fuck is self care.
There’s definitely still a lot of Eagle’s trademark humor here, but it’s also a very sad record. As you can imagine.
OME has amazing flow. There’s not a lot of rappers who I would listen to accapella, but he’s one of them. He keeps a song moving purely based on the quality of his voice, the way he seems to pull the beat along with him, and, frankly, a tremendous amount of charisma. Like Tupac-level charm.
People say rappers can’t get older, can’t mature, can’t be grown ups. Well, this one can. And he can still rap about cartoons when he does it.
Next: Sa-Roc. A rapper with a completely different point of view, but a similarly powerful story–and one only she can tell.
Sa-Roc is a formidable female emcee, and to prove it, she makes sure the first voice you hear on her new album is a man’s. Saul Williams. And after his “EmergencE” message, she brings Gold Leaf, where she rapidly spits bars, moves through speeds and styles, and immediately establishes that her skills are top notch.
Next, Styles P arrives, in what is clearly a supporting role. This album is all Sa-Roc’s. The sparse features simply give the listener a break from the complexity and density of her lyrics–which tell the story of America through the eyes of black women.
No tracks are skippable. Not a second is wasted. This is an extraordinary album.
And last but not least, Homeboy Sandman. Of the three, he’s the one I’ve followed the longest and is probably the best known.
By his own admission, Sandman is an indie rapper who is constantly changing up his style. His newest, Don’t Feed the Monster, with titles like “Trauma” and “Stress” is definitely one for 2020.
H.S. has always emphasized intelligence, but here he truly seems to be picking up the mantle thrown down by KRS-One, offering songs that teach lessons in a clear, straightforward style–Edutainment.
So, today you heard from three very different rappers: The tragic humorist; the empowerment of collective experience; and educated wisdom. All three are very good albums, with Sa-Roc and OME almost certainly headed for several best-of-the-year lists across the interwebs.