It’s time for our annual round-up of the year that just was, as we collate our favourite music releases of 2020.
Sticking to the UK and Irish underground, we have mixtapes, EPs, LPs and albums from the likes of Ojerime, Lex Amor, CLBRKS & Morriarchi, Novelist and more. Listen to the special edition of OFFIE MAG RADIO above for the full breakdown, or see below for the list in full.
20. Jadasea – About Time
One of the finest rappers in London, Jadasea had a madly productive 2020. Starting the year with what felt like an iconic tour for those plugged into underground hip-hop (MWAY w/ MIKE, Voldy Moyo and more), the SE artist dropped several projects. About Time calls on multiple producers and the result is a quick glimpse into Jadasea’s artistic standpoint.
19. Seinna & Scientific – Axiomatic
A November release, this one is very much fresh in the mind still. Seinna (London rapper) meets Scientific (Berlin producer), to create an EP with experimental production and flows from each. Axiomatic also calls on some very serious features, with Lex Amor returning the favour for a Seinna feature on her tape.
18. Pertelli & Ile Flotante – Gone Trying
Another rapper-producer duo is Pertrelli and Ile Flotante. The former has reached mythical status here at Offie Mag, with his name being on everyone’s lips up in Leeds when we visited the Yorkshire musical hub for ISSUE THREE in 2018. Gone Trying then, was an eagerly anticipated debut LP from Trelli, made possible by gorgeous production from Ile Flotante and the vinyl pressing powers of Yogocop Records.
17. The Silhouettes Project
This one truly brings the very concept of a ‘project’ to life. London-based Eerf Evil and Kosher dreamed up the idea of putting vocalists, rappers and producers who have never met into a studio together, purely to see what music they would make. The result is something special with the likes of Manik MC, Kofi Stone, Bel Cobain and more involved in a project that proved the importance of having creative spaces readily available.
16. jaydonclover – Recovering Lover
One of a handful of artists putting British (and Irish) R&B on the map this year was jaydonclover. The Birmingham singer hits the spot with this downtempo project that she released with a scratchcard via Bandcamp. Producer dylantheinfamous’ influence is felt, with flipped jazz samples and atmospheric beats made all the better by Jaydon’s introspective lyrics and inimitable voice.
15. Verbz & Mr Slipz – Radio Waves
Radio Waves is one of the meatiest releases on the list, with more songs than you shake a High Focus bucket hat at. This is Croydon’s Verbz and Brighton’s Mr Slipz’ first release on the ‘UK HIP-HOP’ juggernaut and it picks up where 2017’s Lessons of Adolescence left off. Head-nodding production and some of the best rap lyricism and hooks in the country.
14. Alfa Mist & Emmavie – Epoch
There was a temptation to call this masterpiece from Alfa Mist and Emmavie our favourite jazz release of the year, but the genre-binding nature of this LP means that title would not do it justice. Mist’s work on the keys and joint composing with stunning vocalist and songwriter Emmavie is an esteemed combination, allowing the pair to not only touch on poignant subjects, but do so with an infectious style.
13. dereck d.a.c. – blue
A sophomore EP from Brighton’s dereck d.a.c. produced evidence of the artist’s evolution since topping our Music of the Year in 2019. Where Umm… Random Shit was straight raps and skits, blue is a more refined release from d.a.c., calling on Coding Dude production and more melodic hooks that take your from melancholy to mildly over the moon.
12. Emil – Ambrosia
Sweeter than custard, Emil’s Ambrosia is a triumph for the artistry of producers everywhere. The features come from all over the place in terms of styles, but create a cohesive piece of brilliant music that offers new intricacies every time you dig into it. As the skit after the Knucks-featuring Bakerloo says, Emil is a mad guy.
11. Chloe Bodur – Panties & Loafers
Calling on the production of the prolific JD Reid and more than anything else, her own songwriting brilliance and wit, Chloe Bodur has continued to grow as an artist in 2020. This full EP showcases Bodur’s not only her current ability, but also her potential which we’re sure more people will grow wise to when the world is being less shit and allows her to strut her stuff at festivals and venues across the country. The track Reasons hits different.
10. Lord Apex & V Don – Supply & Demand
The long list of excellent producers Lord Apex has worked with grew in 2020, with this V Don produced album being impossible to omit from the top 10. Apex’s star is rising and rising, with this cross-Atlantic link-up exposing the Londoner to even more dedicated listeners. Heavily British skits add a strong concept to this record, which was released by Daupe and quickly sold out.
9. Gaptoof – Looks Like Rain
Our top Irish release of 2020, perhaps predictably, comes from the brilliant Soft Boy Records. Cork City’s Gaptoof is a producer we’ve had our eyes and ears on for a minute, and his Looks Like Rain tape did not disappoint. Features from your Soft Boy favourites like Kojaque and Kean Kavanagh, plus Kofi Stone and Yenkee, make this diverse in sounds yet cleverly cohesive.
8. Qendresa – Midnight Request Line
This was a late addition to our list, released as recently as November, but no less staggeringly excellent as anything else on it. From London via Kosovo, Qendresa’ self-produced Midnight Request Line draws on wonderfully sampled old funk and disco, on top of which the young artist sings, talks and raps her way through seven addictive songs.
7. Brad Stank – Kinky Om
Put simply, Brad Stank does not miss. His Eternal Slowdown record was an undoubted highlight of 2018 and likewise, this feature-length edition of Stank gives more of the same. Playing with tempos and plucking your heartstrings throughout, the Liverpool-based artist has the ability to comfort you when lonely, or bring you and a loved one closer together. What more do you want?
6. CLBRKS & Morriarchi – MICROWAVE COOKING 2000
The last 365 days have, as ever, been a stellar year of Blah Records. The iconic label have released project after project, adding new acts to their roster along the way, too. The pairing of Morriarchi and CLBRKS brought a Blah debut for CL, with Morri’s funk-induced production and humorous use of skits being the perfect stage for the London rapper to deliver his ever so suave performance on.
5. sly fieri – Scars
sly fieri has this incredible knack of approaching instrumentals like no-one else. Finding flows than no-one does and delivering them in a tone that is truly his own, the Brightonian bares all with Scars. Sneaking into genres way beyond rap with punky sounds and even dance music – whatever the hell those things are – sly fieri proves in 9 songs why he is one of the most intriguing acts in the UK underground.
4. Wilma Archer – A Western Circular
This is perhaps the most ambitious project of the year. The result of several years in the making, Wilma Archer uses everything in his creative arsenal to curate this album, released by Domino. From classical strings to rocky vocals from Samuel T. Herrings and jazzy dives with Sudan Archives, to that incredible MF DOOM feature, A Western Circular is a sit down, listen and learn of a record from a unique talent.
3. Novelist – Rain Fire / Inferno
Following a prolific year for a man once dubbed the saviour of grime, we couldn’t separate Novelist’s two EPs which he blessed 2020 with. With the most incredible beat selection and curation we have heard from any corner of music, Nov delivers confident, self-assured and society-reflecting lyrics over West Coast influenced instrumentals that have a funky neon tint. One includes some perfect features, the other relies on just Novelist’s ability to flow over anything. Both are brilliant.
2. Lex Amor – Goverment Tropicana
We were first exposed to Lex Amor via her amazing radio shows, independently recorded and released. With thoughtful song selection and musings that stick with you, the London rapper and writer brings that same calming, reflective and even educational approach to rap music. Government Tropicana was a long-awaited debut project from Lex, but well worth the wait. Truly a Mazza, the nine-track tape is one to play Seven Days a week, with lyrical content being not only refreshing, but also important and delivered with cadence that is unique to Lex Amor.
1. Ojerime – B4 I Breakdown
The most beautiful project to be released in a comparably butters year. Ojerime’s B4 I Breakdown is truly complete, delving into sounds that are not only contemporary, but have the potential to be timeless. On what is essentially an R&B record, the South London artist draws on the likes of jazz, soul and even trap elements to deliver a project that touches on mental health, music industry evils, racism, colourism and love.
As Mansur’s Interlude suggests, Mansur Brown’s undeniable brilliance is also given space to thrive, but B4 I Breakdown is truly at it’s most spellbinding when our protagonist is on her own. Acapella, singing her own harmonies, Ojerime is nothing less than captivating, forcing you to stop and reflect on not only what is going on inside of your headphones, but also what’s going on in between those little ear-hole-filling speakers, too.
Thanks for your support this year, it’s been as appreciated more than ever. ISSUE SIX OUT NOW: WWW.OFFIEMAG.BIGCARTEL.COM