Me and Jamie wanted to do something for the halfway point of 2020, so we put together this piece that highlights the best of what the year has had to offer. My summary is of ten albums I thoroughly enjoyed, while Jamie’s is a more general review of the year’s strongest content. – Chris
Astral Trap – Stratagem Witch
Production: DariBroko, Pinhead Larry, Landfill, Zepeda, Chop000, EOG, thukk!, Rozz Dyliams, OK Houston, Neighborhood Arion, Cole Train, Fony Wallace
Featuring: BigHomie$lim, Teen Stein
At this point Dari Loso/Astral Trap is basically doing career victory laps. Stratagem Witch is the longer and more ambitious of the two projects that he has dropped this year so far, a whirlwind of colourful production and stunning vocal performances. My more comprehensive review can be found here.
Cybernetic Snake – Metal Gear Sexxx
Featuring: Yrrrxx, LZA
One of the most exhilarating, experimental releases of 2020 so far, Metal Gear Sexxx sees Snake and Sixtythree join forces on twelve noisy, futuristic rap bangers. My full review of the project can be found here.
Icxxy – Mystic Pimp 4
Production: Loko Los
A project that I was absolutely convinced would never come to fruition, I’m incredibly happy to announce that Iccxy’s latest offering is one of his best dark trap/phonk tapes to date. He’s grown significantly as a rapper since the third instalment in the series, and it’s benefited him massively when tackling the more diverse array of Loko production that appears here.
Itchy – Icy Goblin
Production: Itchy, Hardcat, Sixtythree666
Featuring: Gecko Bros, Sixtythree666, Butterman
Although he’s only recently experimented with adding vocals to his music, English rapper Itchy has crafted one hell of a debut project. Lathered in autotune, his voice sounds amazing on each and every track. By bringing collaborators into the fray, he expands his sound even further and the end result is an enormously gratifying listen. Hazy, highly atmospheric music.
Kid Trash – Slasherrr
Production: Kid Trash, BLOODiDOL, Maple, Lidity
The English rapper’s strongest collection of songs to date, Slasherrr is one EDM-flavoured anthem after another. Trash’s vocals are at their fullest and most powerful here, backed by dense, colossal production primarily provided by the rapper themselves. This project has one of the most all-encompassing atmospheres I’ve heard in any underground scene. Check out my full review of it here.
Lil Disceased – American Trash
Production: BigDed, Gyptxvn, Lil Trvsh, Jewish Reaper, Scott Free, Loko Los
Featuring: Scott Free
It may be the case that I announce every new Disceased release as his best yet, but that’s never been more true than on American Trash. The rapper uses entirely new flows here, attacking some very unique instrumental choices from SouthernGawthMobb members Trvsh and Scott as well as some of his own production under the name BigDed. A nice, concise release, American Trash is exactly the kind of tape that Disceased’s aggressive, sneering vocal tone works best as part of.
SeKwence – Lake Water
Production: Killer Kane, No.Pulp, Ed Glorious, ntvrme., Thelonous Martin, Zepeda, Spvced, gorgeonstars, Krow, lxced, Isaac Larue, Promise, manwithxface.
Featuring: Lord Juco, Jay Bel, Nickelus F, Tina, Adonis, BigLarry, Haze, Barry Marrow, Sleep Sinatra
Although it’s likely to be usurped by the Alabama MC’s upcoming Bloom, Lake Water was yet another level up for the rapper upon release and will likely stand the test of time as one of his most impressive offerings. With a diverse array of talented producers and guests in tow, SeK provides his most personal set of tracks to date. Check the full review out right here.
Tethra64 – EraserGun
Production: Tethra64, Neverender, MarreroMP5K
Featuring: Cowboykillerr, Icxxy, Dretti Franks
Blast visionary and production wiz Tethra is already three projects deep into 2020, but EraserGun stands out by offering up one of the most unique soundscapes that the rapper has ever put together. A true pioneer in his genre, Teth’s potential as a musician is seemingly limitless. Check out my full review of the project here.
Whose – Garrulous Baby Man
Production: Whose, Fuzzy
Featuring: The Thought, Hans, Marcus Lee, Smith The Poet, URSUS.
Amping up the geekiness just as much as it does the grit, rapper-producer Whose’s longest project to date is a perfect encapsulation of what makes him an amazing artist. Sporting chaotic songwriting, uber-smooth production and some of his darkest, most powerful lyricism ever. Humorous in all the right places and head nod-inducing in others, Garrulous Baby Man is the album that Whose has been working towards making this entire time, and it’s everything that I could ever want from him.
Wtrflls – OtherWorld
Production: Wtrflls, Illfiger, Sorrow Bringer, Cypress Elise, Zomb Slays
Featuring: SxberBlu, Comply, Sunburn, IHATEPVRPL
Scottish artist Wtrflls’ previous output of singles and shorter projects had left me with immense anticipation for this project, and my expectations were thoroughly met. A beautiful selection of songs, OtherWorld is the sound of Wtrflls mastering his craft, improving his delivery and songwriting and putting together some truly epic production With his friends in XXIX Club assisting him in pretty much every facet of this project’s release, Wtrflls has delivered the collective’s single strongest release so far. Check out my full review here.
We’re halfway through 2020! It’s been a crazy time, so I thought it’d be fun to highlight some of the songs, albums, and artists that have made me hear things differently over the last six months. This isn’t a comprehensive ‘best of’ list by any means – it’s a selection of interesting and innovative sounds and artists that remind me why I love this scene.
These albums / songs / artists aren’t ordered.
ALBUM: FAX GANG – FxG3000
I have not heard anything this outrageously massive since I was introduced to sixtythree666’s music over a year ago. This EP from global collective Fax Gang borders on offensively loud, but has with it some jarringly passionate and cathartic production. It’s been odd to see new trends this year surrounding the idea of destructive music. Glitching, downsampling, and bitcrushing have come to the forefront, a rejection of the pristinity of trap music at its peak a few years back. “FxG3000” takes these ideas, tears away the subtlety and finds the absolute maximums, with the listener’s comfort ( and debatably their safety) taking a backseat. A great time at 15% volume.
ALBUM: BLADEE – EXETER
Chris and I wrote our first joint review on this project, so I’ll try to avoid repeating myself; that said, there are certain traits of this project that only come to light after repeated listening. The seamless transition between “DNA RAIN” and “OPEN SYMBOLS” is given such polish by the continuation of a melodic line from the former into the latter. Like on “Eversince”, Ecco2k acts as an anchor to reel Bladee back to reality from his DMT – fuelled haze. Here, though, Bladee doesn’t spend all his energy heading into a gloomy depression. He runs gleefully in a circle around his collaborators, throwing glitter as he does, creating a well realised emotional palette from relatively few pieces.
ALBUM: LANCEY FOUX – FRIEND OR FOUX
Lancey’s come up has been a hell of a process. After half a decade of work the release of his studio album, “FRIEND OR FOUX”, was a much needed moment of victory for London’s psychedelic trap ambassador. At twenty tracks it’s a bit overlong, but the shining moments hit all the harder for it; “SLOW BURN” is a twisting meditation on sustainable love, “RAINING RED” brings unexpected weight with Lancey owning his heritage, and “GHETTO YOUT” and “PSYKENIGHT” are stacked with features from Skepta, Chip, and even Clairo. The record’s energy is perhaps best captured by “WHEN I CALL”, a duet with Kesh which released a shockwave of positive energy through Islington at the sold out celebration show.
SONG: SG LILY & WITH3R – ALL
Unafraid, refreshing and motivating hyper-pop is often guaranteed with Sg Lily, and “All” is no different. In tandem with With3r, who handles production, the singer whispers through over-emotional memories as hammering rhythms push into the future. It’s a reminder of time’s finity wrapped inside a rave tune. As an intro to Sg’s album, “Content”, it serves as a reminder of the artists commitment to quality and experimentation. Bliss.
SONG: KCARDIE – FULL HOUSE
Kcardie’s “Redtober (Deluxe)” project was an oddball collection of songs that took melody as a suggestion more than anything. The record had two standouts though – the menacing “Tasmanian Devil” and “Full House”, a joyride of trailing vocals, plucky production, and light hearted lyricism. At 18 this rapper has all the time in the world to lean into this more solid style.
SONG: KIRYANO & KKETAMINE – GIVE
A perfect song. Kiryano’s ridiculous falsetto blends with Kketamine’s sarcastic tone to create a vivid image of fast fashion and electronic overstimulation, resulting in a volatile stasis best captured by the line “You wanna pull, I wanna push”. Cloudbxy and lj are unstoppable on production. Listen to it as soon as possible.
SONG: STYXCITYCULT – DIAMOND EYES
styxcitycult of Winnipeg, Canada had a huge 2019 in terms of output, but not once did the group seem to meaningfully come together. Guest appearances of various calibre popped up on individual projects, with a notable drinkbleachh – wulfpunk bond, but the overarching cultt didn’t impact the songs. This changed with “Diamond Eyes”, a four minute montage of the group just singing their heart out through maximised autotune. It brings the styx – all ambitious and industry-minded artists – to a more human level; here they’re just friends having fun, and the music is made better by it. The cult is seemingly falling apart, but this song captures the best they ever were.
SONG: ARCHANGEL2 – 1BABY STEP2
Another erratic presence out of Canada with another amusing pop tune about love and emotions and everything that comes with it. Thanks to some hype building from DEEGS, who also co-produces this song with Melting Slowly, this track set the discord chats of Hellfire Festival on fire with its colossal hook and unpredictable catchiness.
ARTIST: YUSEF SLIM
UK rapper Yusef Slim found his song “Kaká” featured on 108MICS earlier this year. On his latest tune, “I Just Ghost”, he trades danceability and breeziness for a darker and ultimately more proficient timbre. With the concept of lofi drill intact throughout these two singles, Slim attacks the microphone with elegance and warlike aggression. There’s an open market for this music, and he’s taking his time thinking about how to conquer it.
Osquinn, f.k.a P4rkr, makes music for electronic addicts raised on nightcore and montage parodies. Her records are intricate and often use small groups of sounds to achieve airtight sonic aesthetics. There are exceptions, though, and in these cases Osquinn jumps into a brash, arrogant, and belligerent tone, best captured on “sum1 tht i knew”. She warps between panic and peace with no regard for damage caused. Reckless, energetic, and liminal. This year, she’s dropped two EPs and a loose handful of singles, a perpetual cycle of creation.
A progenitor of off-kilter cybertrap, Sixtythree’s reach is felt by many through his exceptional ear for samples and use of overwhelming production tactics. In 2020 his album with Cybernetic Snake showed his ambition as an executive producer, and his latest forays into mixes and remixes have brought together artists from across the internet. His work is uncompromising and mountainous, a broken pastiche of culture and life in the digital world. Of course, when “Ghostdd” is blasting through the speakers, it’s hard to feel anything but transcendent.
Further artists and works I’ve already spoken about at length:
Let’s hope the second half of 2020 keeps this energy musically – it’s been a pleasure being amongst it all for the last six months!
Chris – (@108mics)
Jamie – (@youngjade1216)