Best Verse: The entirety of "The Bigger Picture" by Lil Baby
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a Black Minnesota resident, was murdered at the hands of local police authorities. This dehumanizing act was one the world took with them forever, as it sparked one of the most groundbreaking revolutions in human history. As people began finding ways to express their disbelief, many artists stepped up sonically to join in on the conversation.
Most conspicuously, Lil Baby released “The Bigger Picture,” a 4-minute commentary on the systemic destruction that the police (and beyond) have projected onto the Black community since the dawn of time. Taking in his own experiences as a Black man in America, Lil Baby possesses the lyricism and personal anguish to fill any listener with equal parts rage and solidarity.
Knowing we needed help, they neglect us //
Wondering who gon' make them respect us”
His vulnerability was offbeat; an evasion from his normal boasty style of expensive cars, flashy jewelry, and an assortment of beautiful women. In a standing-ovation of criticism, the single leaves 2020 with two Grammy nominations for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. - Deja Williams
2. "Front Lines" by Conway the Machine
This verse is one that addresses some of the saddest realities that many Black Americans face today, and this cry for help needs to be heard from all listeners—particularly his white audience. There are so many insightful lines about police brutality, government corruption and African-American liberation that sadly fall on deaf ears. Conway’s verse should be heard by all; this poetry is a cry for help. - Marty Gross
3. "BALD REMIX" by JPEGMAFIA featuring Denzel Curry
Denzel Curry has cemented himself to have one of the hardest and most eminent flows of any rapper in the world in the past four years. His lyrical ability is beyond bonkers. Denzel’s performance on "Bald REMIX” by JPEGMAFIA proves this notion heavily. From his bars like, “Call me Zeltron when I'm rappin', call me Denzel when we fuck, ho, You're allowed to touch me / But I don't wanna keep in touch, though,” and, “I’m twenty-five, though, dreadlocks had your boy like Sideshow Bob / Can't complain about too much, because I'm on my job /
Switch my look, I got 'em hooked, they call me Young Heartthrob."
If those bars didn’t either A.) make you laugh out loud, or B.) make you say “SHEESH,” then you’re a certified capper. - Finn Askin
Best Feature: 21 Savage on "12.38" by Childish Gambino
"12.38” is a musical wonderland. Every twist and turn is just as chaotic as the psychedelic trip Gambino is going on. Right as Gambino is peaking, the legendary slaughter king comes in with one of his greatest features yet. Rather than his murder rap, 21 hits us with a smooth voice that fits in perfectly. Some classic lines like, “Got a girl in Harvard, I talk proper when I call her,” or, “I've been counting M's, me and Ben Franklin damn near kin,” really solidify 21’s verse as legendary and show why this feature should be played anywhere and everywhere. - Marty Gross
2. Tyler, the Creator on "Something to Rap About" by Freddie Gibbs
If I could pick one word to summarize this feature by Tyler, the Creator, it would undoubtedly be: "Wow." Tyler hops into his verse after Freddie Gibbs straight demolishes his own, but still finds a way to purport the best verse on the track. The flow, which Tyler says he performed in one take, describes his growth from his past personality (from his days in Odd Future) whilst also describing a lifestyle that once seemed so distant. Everything from the perfect cadence over The Alchemist-curated beat, to the deep-rooted lyricism, is impeccable and somehow elevates above the rest of the project. - Finn Askin
3. Lil Baby on "Face Of My City" by Jack Harlow
Jack Harlow has had two songs hijacked from him in 2020: the “What’s Poppin (Remix)” via Weezy, and “Face Of My City” by Lil Baby. Harlow once again sets the template for what direction the flow should move towards, while Baby comes through and elevates it to a wavelength that shouldn’t be possible on such a limited instrumental (an area where Baby somehow specializes). - Ralph James
Best Artists: Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop and Alternative