2020 In Review: Day 6 – Rap and Hip-hop

By  | 

2020 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

It’s getting truly difficult to keep up with all the brilliant talent erupting out of Korean hip-hop the last couple years. A bunch of rookies and first-time-album-releasers adorn this year’s list, and they run the gamut from staunch traditionalists like Gwangil Jo to the inventively weird like Kingchi Mane and Omega Sapien.

The “next-best ten” and honorable mention lists are sorted by artist name.

The 2020 Rap and Hip-hop Spotify playlist is here and also embedded below:


Best Rap and Hip-hop Album 2020

Deepflow – Founder

As an accomplished emcee, influential CEO and producer, and controversial participant in the mainstream scene, Deepflow carries a gravity and a bundle of stories that no one else in hip-hop can quite replicate. Founder embodied that in Deepflow’s now-signature full band sound, but in a form even more committed than 2015’s Yanghwa: often eschewing even loops and samples in favor of live play, executive producer Van Ruther crafted a rich canvas of soulful acoustics.

From the ominous guitar strokes and coy brass of “Music Business License” to the smooth Motown celebration of “Blueprint”, the album was sumptuous, cinematic indulgence. Meanwhile, Deepflow’s even-keeled delivery became a reassuring vehicle for the story of Vismajor Company (with the members appearing prominently themselves) from the founder and executive, offering rare perspective. This is the kind of album that simply couldn’t have existed a decade or even a few years ago.

The Runner-up

Woo – Black Out

Woo has wasted no time carving out a maverick mix of styles to characterize his unique musical program, and the young rapper’s first full-length was a wild amalgam as a result. In one moment he’d be reminiscing to soulfully melodic nostalgia in “Used To”, and in the next jamming to surly attitude in “Job” and “Chingiz Khan”. A similarly eclectic, perfectly deployed featured cast brought life to Woo’s dry performance: there was an array of vocalists each known for particularly distinctive styles, but also the generation-spanning collab of the aforementioned “Job” and the showstopping pairing of “Chik Chik Pok Pok Freestyle”. Yet it was really that unflappable demeanor and lyrical approach from the artist that kept Black Out from spiraling out of control, and instead work as a constantly surprising whole.

The First Ten Out

Alive Funk – Di-Ana

Blnk – Flame

ChoiLB – CC

Don Malik – 선인장화 (Malik the Cactus Flower)

Gwangil Jo – 암순응 (Dark Adaptation)

Khundi Panda – 가로사옥 (Garosawk)

Noah1luv – Past Present Future

Nucksal – 1Q87

Rohann – Neverland

Swervy – Undercover Angel


Best Rap and Hip-hop Song 2020

Gwangil Jo – 피드백 (Feedback)
Written by Gwangil Jo
Composed/arranged by Neulbo

Hands-down, 2020’s most consequential debut belonged to Gwangil Jo. The brooding and speedy emcee – one of the few real boom-bap tongue-twisters to come out in recent years – jolted the scene with “Acrobat” before expeditiously dropping a debut LP, and though “Feedback” was neither its title track nor one of Jo’s hits, I think it was quietly his best. Against Neulbo’s gorgeous sample and pounding band beat, the rookie unfurled his ferocious speed as he introduced the album and explained his sprawling ambition. There was no groveling when he explicitly asked listeners to “rate this album” “so that I can grow”; supreme confidence backed Jo’s humility, and the way he simply cited the track names as “Feedback”‘s hook was a perfect representation.

The Runner-up

Legit Goons – Burn (Prod. Code Kunst)
Written by Bassagong, Jaedal, Jayho, Blnk
Composed/arranged by Code Kunst

Much like “Bronco”, this group’s other collaboration from 2020, “Burn” was a gentle but powerful ember. Code Kunst’s simmering beat, characterized by the familiar keyboard-and-bass ambience, gave ample space for Legit Goons to play with melodic but tightly constructed exchanges, and Jaedal’s ridiculously addictive hook particularly benefited from the arrangement. Dazzling with simplicity, “Burn” was effortless swagger just dripping off these guys. Who’s doing it like them?

The First Ten Out

Alive Funk – 가죽재킷 (Leather Jacket) (Feat. Bassagong, Deepflow)

Blnk – Burning (Prod. Conda)

Don Malik – 선인장 (Intro/Cactus)

Fisherman – Doom (Feat. BewhY)

Kingchi Mane – 변 (Excuse) (Feat. Don Malik, DJ Kendrickx)

Khundi Panda – AMA (Prod. BewhY)

Omega Sapien – Happycore

Somdef – OMG (Feat. Sokodomo)

Skinny Chase – A Song of Ascents (Starlight Melody II) (Feat. TakeOne) (James Keys Remix)

Woo – 칙칙폭폭 Freestyle (Chik Chik Pok Pok Freestyle) (Feat. Jvcki Wai & Simo of Y2K92)

Honorable Mentions


Bassagong – 기린 (Giraffe)
BewhY X Simba Zawadi – Neo Christian
Changmo & Paul Blanco – Bipolar
Cimoe – 낭중지추 (Needle in a Pouch)
Code Kunst – People
Damndef & Lobotome – Stand-Alone System
E Sens – Marigold Tapes
Fisherman – The Dragon Warrior
Fredi Casso – Pale Blue Dot
IndEgo Aid – EOP: Earth OvErcoming PoEtry
Jjangyou – 파도 (Wave)
JJK – 지옥의 아침은 천사가 깨운다 (The Angel Wakes Hell’s Morning)
Kim Ximya – Dog
Kingchi Mane – Ω (Omega)
Kingchi Mane & Van Gogh – 붉은 포도밭 (The Red Vineyard)
Loxx Punkman & Conda – Grind House – Explosive Show
Masta Wu – Father EP
Mild Beats – 화면조정 (Screen Adjustment)
Nochang – 춤추자 (Ajoohcmoohc)
Omega Sapien – Garlic
Pento – 4
pH-1 – X
Sharkrama – 진주특별시 (Jinju Special City)
Sik-K – Headliner
Skinny Chase – King of Comedy
Somdef – MorningMare
Swings – Upgrade IV
Wonstein – Zoo
Yizumin – Freedom Ain’t Free


Ash-B – Where Is She (Feat. Reddy)
Bassagong – 먼저가 (Go First)
BewhY – Algorithm
BewhY X Simba Zawadi – 힘 (Hymn)
Blnk – 역마 (Itchy Feet) (Feat. Nafla) (Prod. Conda, Blnk)
Boo Hyun-seok – 새 (Bird) (Feat. Don Sign)
Changstarr, Mckdaddy, Owen, Viceversa – Dvli Mvrley
Chillin Homie – Sonz of Anarchy (Feat. Bassagong, Owen, Dilla, Snacky Chan, Ugly Duck, Mckdaddy, O’Domar, Doggynom)
Chillin Homie – South Side (Feat. J-Tong)
ChoiLB – 미안해 (Love Pt. 2) (Feat. Khundi Panda)
Cimoe – 개벽 (Gaebyeok) (Feat. Ignito, Bully da Ba$tard)
Cimoe – 직역되는 문화 (Literally Translated Culture) (Feat. P-Type, DJ Trickster)
Code Kunst – Bronco (Feat. Bassagong, Blnk, Jayho, Jaedal)
Code Kunst – 춤 (Dance) (Feat. Nucksal)
Croq – Goldilocks
Damndef & Lobotome – Badman (Feat. Rhythm Power)
Deepflow – 500 (Feat. Hangsuk)
Deepflow – Blueprint (Feat. Jung A, Rohann)
Deepflow – Harvest (Feat. Nucksal)
DJ Wegun & Fana – 신경쇠약 (Nervous Breakdown)
Don Malik – Hotbox
Dopeboilsh – Snakes (Feat. Defy, Samuel Seo, Coen)
Fredi Casso – Mote of Dust (Feat. TakeOne)
Geeks – Heartbreak Hotel (Feat. DeVita)
Glowingdog – 자기전시 (Self-Exhibition) (Feat. GOND)
Gwangil Jo – 곡예사 (Acrobat)
Hitchhiker X Sokodomo – Sugar
Hwaji – 오염 (Pollutants) (Prod. Primary)
Ignito – Anger
IndEgo Aid – 자장가 (Good Night)
Jjangyou – Brrrrrrr (Feat. Simon Dominic)
JP & Sokodomo – S n o w
Justhis – Thisisjusthis Pt. II
Khundi Panda – 낙찰 전 / 용기의 합창단 (Story on Sale) (Feat. Damye)
Khundi Panda – 집 (Home) (Feat. Hippy was Gipsy)
Kim Ximya – Forgotten
Kim Ximya – Looooose Controlla (Feat. CL)
Lee Young-ji – 왈가 (Walga)
Loopy – Neo Seoul Love (Feat. Yerin Baek)
Loxx Punkman & Conda – WHY家4중Yㅇ? Freestyle (RAP BETTER) (No Lyrics Freestyle)
Lucky Bando – Wassup! (Feat. Luci Gang, YungBoi Bash)
Masta Wu – Gold (Feat. E Sens)
Mild Beats – Major Difference (Feat. Easymind)
Minit – 피어나 (Bloom) (Feat. Seung Min Kim)
Mushvenom – 보자보자 (Let’s See)
Mushvenom – 왔다 (Came)
Nafla – Under the Ground (Feat. Dean)
Noah1luv – Never Better (Feat. Jambino, Don Malik, Justhis, P-Type)
Noah1luv – Wake Up (Feat. Sleepy, Yovng Trucker, Quinsha)
Nochang – 춤추러가자 (Ecnadance1)
Nubset & Curd – Head Banging
Nucksal – Am I a Slave
Nucksal – 브라더 (Brother) (Feat. Don Mills, Los)
Nuol – Toledo (Feat. EK, Sokodomo, Bill Stax, Qim Isle)
Nvked – Bad Feelin’ (Feat. Stxxch, Khundi Panda)
Olltii – 식후땡 (Smoke U) (Feat. Justhis)
Omega Sapien – Ah! Ego
Owen – 고해 (Wasn’t)
Paxxword – Terraforming
Rohann – Go Straight To This Way (Feat. Eptend)
Sharkrama – 666
Sik-K – Nirvana
Simba Zawadi – Anti-Hype (Feat. DJ Kendrickx) (Prod. Viann)
Skinny Chase – Claw of Thrones (Feat. Marq Beyond, DJ Tiz)
Sokodomo – LOL (Prod. Squar)
Swervy – GOMP
Swings – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Swings – 스틸 갓 러브 (Still Got Love) (Feat. Gaeko)
Vinxen – Blind
Woo – Job (Feat. Tiger JK & Qim Isle)
Woo – Used To (Feat. Cifika)
Yizumin – Riders’ Theme
Zesty – 비상등 (Emergency Light) (Feat. Qwala, Olltii, DJ Tiz)

All album art from Bugs Music. Legit Goons header image from Dingo Freestyle YouTube.

Read our past series:

2019 In Review

2018 In Review

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review