Despite the shitshow that has been 2020, it’s been a great year for rap fans. Hip-hop has dominated the charts (Roddy Ricch’s The Box spent 11 weeks at #1) while established artists such as Eminem, Lil Wayne and Big Sean all released chart-topping albums. 2020 has also been the year of the new breed, with a slew of hip-hop’s rising stars transforming into household names over the past 12 months. From the chart success of Megan Thee Stallion to the TikTok fame of Don Toliver, here are our favourite breakout rappers of 2020
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Jack Harlow has been putting in the work since 2015. Releasing his first album while in high school, Harlow made the jump to the big leagues after the remix of his single WHATS POPPIN, featuring DaBaby, Tory Lanez and Lil Wayne, blew up the Internet. With his debut album, That’s What They All Say, dropping in December, expect the 22-year-old’s party raps to be the soundtrack to your summer.
Megan Thee Stallion
Nobody has had a better breakthrough year than Megan Thee Stallion. After coming to the attention of rap fans with Hot Girl Summer in 2019, Stallion’s popularity went into overdrive this year. The Houston MC released her critically acclaimed debut album Good News and appeared on not one, but two of the biggest singles of 2020, with both Savage (Remix) with Beyonce and WAP with Cardi B claiming the #1 spot on the Billboard charts.
When you have the longest-charting song of the year you’re doing something right. While his album, Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, was released at the tail end of 2019, thanks to the success of The Box this year, Roddy Ricch is now one of the most popular spitters in the game. Along with his own hit, he also leant his talents to DaBaby’s Rockstar, helping the song climb to the #1 spot. Not bad for a 22-year-old kid from Compton.
Not everyone finds fame through the charts. Don Toliver got his break when his song No Idea became a viral sensation on TikTok. Capitalising on the success, Toliver appeared on Travis Scott’s JackBoys compilation album, collaborated with Eminem on the track No Regrets and opened for The Weeknd’s After Hours tour. He also released his debut album, Heaven Or Hell, a 12-track record showcasing his lyrical skill that includes the platinum single After Party.
It’s been a whirlwind few years for Atlanta spitter Mulatto. After winning battle rap reality show The Rap Game, she turned down the opportunity to secure a major label deal to go solo. Breaking into the mainstream with Bitch From Da South, Mulatto eventually gave-in and signed with RCA Records. It looks like a smart move. After collaborating with Gucci Mane, appearing in Cardi B’s WAP film clip and being nominated as part of XXL’s 2020 Freshman Class, Mulatto ended the year by dropping her awesome debut record Queen Of Da Souf, asserting herself as one of rap’s breakout stars.
Lil Baby has been a regular in the rap charts over the past couple years, but he really stamped his authority in 2020 with the release of his sophomore album My Turn. Released in February, the record debuted at #1, making it Baby’s first chart-topping record. The album also gave Baby his highest-charting single, with protest song The Bigger Picture hitting the #3 spot on the Billboard charts. The numbers don’t lie - Lil Baby had a year to remember.
This one might be contentious as Rico Nasty has been releasing mixtapes and singles for several years now, but 2020 has seen the Atlanta punk rapper solidify her spot as one of the best rhymers in the game. Not only did she feature in Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty fashion show, release a string of fantastic singles and collaborate with 100 gecs on their hit Ringtone (Remix) and her song IPHONE, but her year culminated in the release of her highly anticipated debut album, Nightmare Vacation, one of the best hip-hop records of the year.
Another member of XXL’s 2020 Freshman Class, Fivio Foreign has come into his own during this challenging year. He appeared on Drake’s Demons and Nas’ Spicy, released his first full-length mixtape, 800 B.C., and most impressively, launched a non-profit organisation to help at risk-youths. Fivio is a name you’ll be hearing a lot about in the coming years.
Sampa The Great
If there was any doubt Sampa The Great is Australia's greatest rapper, 2020 put that debate to rest. Riding high from the success of her phenomenal 2019 debut album, The Return, Sampa continued her hot streak by taking out the coveted Australian Music Prize for her album along with three ARIA Awards for Best Hip-Hop Release, Best Independent Release and Best Female Artist. Her speech about diversity in the music industry, coupled with her performance of Final Form, shot on location in Botswana, was a goosebump-inducing event that will go down in history as one of the most important moments in ARIA history.
The Kid Laroi
First finding fame after supporting Juice Wrld on his 2018 Australian tour, The Kid Laroi has fast become one of our country's most recognised rappers. The 17-year-old released his outstanding debut mixtape, F*ck Love, in the midst of the pandemic, but that didn't stop it reaching #3 on the Billboard charts, a remarkable effort for a kid who can't even grow facial hair. Crafting emo raps the kids can relate to (I'm Done, Go) along with some absolute bangers (Tell Me Why, Tragic), Laroi has all bases covered with his though-provoking auto-tuned raps.