2019 was an incredibly influential year for music, but now that it’s officially in the past, let’s look towards the future and discuss the 25 projects we need in 2020.
SZA’s TDE debut, cntrl came out in 2017 to wide-spread acclaim and celebration, but in the years since, she – like most of TDE – has been relatively quiet. As one of the most influential vocalists not only in R&B and hip-hop, but in all of music, SZA’s sophomore album is sure to be a key piece to the wide-ranging musical cloth of 2020. There are few if any soulstresses we can think of that would have a bigger impact through a project than SZA herself, and with the collaborative roster she has at TDE’s hand, such a project would be insane.
The emergence of Masego since 2018 debut album, Lady Lady has been one of the most swift and all-encompassing in music. Everyone is a fan. And how could they not be? The multi-instrumentalist-vocalist-songwriter-rapper-producer is one of the most widely talented names in all of modern music and his music – expectedly from his range – is some of the least definable and least expected. With a handful of smash international hits to his credit and dozens of acclaimed collaborations crossing geographic ad stylistic boundaries, he’s primed for one of the most successful album rollouts whenever he’s ready to kick it off. 2020 may be Masego’s year.
Jazz Cartier is hip-hop’s most underrated hype man. But – even in consideration of just how high-energy and hyphy his long-awaited 2018 project, FLEUREVER was – he’s always been even more underrated as a lyrical rapper and an emotionally-capable one at that. There’ no doubt of his talent, but still so much more room for the hip-hop community at large to come to celebrate his sound and influence. So, if there’s any artist with the most to prove in 2020, it has to be Jazz Cartier – who has quietly become one of – if not the most talented hip-hop artist from Toronto.
Independent Chicago soulstress, Aaliyah Allah is one of the lesser known rising stars in R&B. But with her four-pack of single releases in 2019, Stay, Lost in Translation, Fill U Up, and I’ll Be yours, she’s become one of the most unique names on the horizon of R&B’s future. Her incredible vocal range aligns with her knack for perfected, emotive production to have brought us some of the most emotional and sensual songs of last year. So, the prospect of her eventual debut full-length project is something for any fan of R&B and Neo-Soul to look forward to in 2020.
PARTYNEXTDOOR has always been unpredictable. His unique sound has been a driving force in the electro-R&B realm, and his collaborations have helped influence the lane’s merge with hip-hop and electronic music at a large scale. But, he hasn’t released an album since 2016’s P3. With a brace of single releases to close out 2019, and a recent Drake interview hinting at the possibility of a PARTY album when he’s ready, there’s a decent chance that 2020 might be the year that we get P4– if not at least another EP like 2017’s Seven Days.
This one feels a little bit like cheating because there has been talk of it over the past couple months, but if Spillage Village are really working on a reunion project of sorts, it will be huge for all the artists involved, for Dreamville, and for hip-hop, R&B, and just music at large. The collaborative made up of EARTHGANG, JID, Ari Lennox, and Lute – all of which are now signed to Dreamville – are some of modern music’s most explosive names, and a collaborative project between them all as established solo acts in their own rights would only cement those reputations in history.
Nao has one of the most unique vocal deliveries in all of music. The UK soulstress has a range as rangy as anyone else in R&B and as bold and emotive as creatively possible. Her ability to utilize that pitch and its coalescence with her poetic ability is largely unparalleled in music. And music, at the hands of artists like Nao herself over the past couple years, has become increasingly more centered around Neo-Soul and London. She hasn’t released a project since 2018’s Saturn, and with music where it is, she’s primed to explode with the release of a 2020 album.
With back-to-back albums in concurrent years: 2017’s self-titled debut and 2018’s Die Lit, Playboi Carti has a canon more than large enough to soundtrack every house party for the next couple of years. But, it’s all the talk of a new album; all the rumors of what’s to come that has made his supposedly forthcoming project so steeped in anticipation. So, if the young hype lord wants to continue a dominant run on the charts and in hip-hop’s upturned universe, he owes all of us some sort of full-length exhibition in 2020.
It’s not often that an artist goes four years without releasing a project, and even rarer when an artist as omnipotent as Rihanna doesn’t bless us with a full-length for that long of a time. But, here we are. More than three years removed from ANTI, the world – hip-hop, R&B, Neo-Soul, and pop at large – are in need of a project in some capacity from one of music’s most important, most influential names. So, if you’re reading this Rihanna (we know you’re not), hit us something new and ivite all of your piowerful friends with you.
Toronto-rooted future R&B duo, dvsn are one of the most mysterious; one of the most important figures in music. With contemporary jazz and electronically founded production by way of their compositional half, and one of the most crystalline falsettos in history by way of the their other, they are unparalleled in creating the most sexualized, most emotionally turbulent R&B of the modern cloth. And without a project since 2017’s Morning After and with a brace of singles to close out 2019, dvsn are slated to take over R&B again with the release of another project in 2020.
Noname has taken a bit of a break since releasing her acclaimed 2018 album, Room 25. In its wake, she’s released a couple of intriguing singles highlighting her unparalleled flow and lyrical prowess, but for the most part, she’s stayed out of the musical limelight altogether. If there is any artist capable of bringing balance and old-school roots to a modern scene lacking a touch of foundation, it’s the Chicago wordsmith herself. So, if 2020 hopes to bring some Rhythm and Poetry back to Rap, it might just come at the hands of Noname. We’re sure hoping so.
Smino has taken over hip-hop over the past three years. In 2017, blckswn was one of the most unique, boundary-pushing projects of the year; in 2018, NOIR continued Smino’s growth as the most experimental name in hip-hop; and in 2019, he was seemingly everywhere, releasing a brace of singles and a Christmas Special to accompany collaborations across the year’s most important and noteworthy names and projects. In result, as we move into 2020, Smino isn’t only expected to release a project as one of hip-hop’s most prolific names, but if he does, it’s sure to be one of the most influential and unique in music.
UK soulstress, Ella Mai took over 2018 with the release of her telling, emotive self-titled debut album. As one of the more prominent figures in R&B and British Neo-Soul since, she has become a frontrunning force of vocalism at large. But, if anything has driven her to stardom, it’s the stark relatability that rarely attaches itself to such a generational talent. As Neo-Soul centered around London continues to become one of the world’s most influential music scenes, watch out for Ella Mai to reaffirm her dominance on music at large with a new project in 2020.
It’s been unseasonably long for the release of a Kendrick Lamar solo project, Since the release of DAMN in 2017, Kendrick has stayed expectedly busy with projects like The Black Panther’s soundtrack and an insane collaborative roster. But the world is patiently waiting – as they always do – to see what’s next from the king of hip-hop. Since DAMN, both newcomers and veterans alike have stepped into the void. Between J Cole, his protégé JID, and a slew of other names from YBN Cordae to A$AP Rocky, project after project have quenched the hip-hop world, so it will be interesting to see how Kendrick answers.
Maryland R&B experimentalist, Brent Faiyaz exploded onto the scene in 2017 with his debit solo album, Sonder Son, his collaborative trio, Sonder’s debut, Into, and a collection of singles, videos, and featuring verses. But, in the years since, he’s been project-free and only dropped a handful of singles. As one of the more unique voices in R&B and one of the most mysterious figures that music has to offer, a sophomore solo album, a continuation of Sonder’s direction, or a combination of both lanes would make 2020 a year defined by his prowess and the power of R&B music at large.
2019 was the year of the return of the rap syndicate. New York’s Beast Coast, Chicago-based Pivot Gang’s You Can’t Sit With Us, and the unparalleled Dreamville all put out collaborative joints as inspiring and wide-ranging as they were complete and completely game-changing. The only logical next move for West Coast Top Dawg Entertainment and for hip-hop at large would be an answering project. From a squad of perfectionists as staunch as TDE, we’re not going to hold our breath, but we’d be lying if we said a TDE syndicate project isn’t something we all need in our lives.
UK soulstress, Jorja Smith is one of the most sought-after voices in Neo-soul. At the center of the London-roots Neo-Soul movement, her 2018 album, Lost & Found became the kind of blueprint no one can ever hope to replicate, but all can hope to learn from. A master at her own unique delivery, every track she puts out herself or is featured on becomes a hit reaching far beyond the walls of R&B and Neo-Soul. So if both lanes want ot continue making experimental eaves into the mainstream in 2020, a project from Jorja Smith might be the most powerful way to make it all happen.
Care Package & So Far Gone count in some regard, but in the way that this list is concerned. Drake’s knack at re-releases and playlists is certainly appreciated as a way to close out the decade he so forcibly dominated, but the world is ready to see what he’s going to do in the next. Scorpion was his latest album, and though it was solid, it fell short of his most decorated project releases. As one of the most transcendent forces pf modern music, carefully walking the line between hip-hop, R&B, and whatever is trendy, anything he puts out won’t only be relevant, it’ll be influential.
A$AP Rocky’s last full-length project, Testing, came out in 2018. And in 2019, Rocky was arrested in Sweden for a pretty arguable case of aggravated assault. The combination of his experimental lane and his anger at the world hitting a mutual peak is sure to do one thing: rain hellfire on the music world. An angry Rocky has already blessed us with Babushka Boi – and it seems that in putting together the single and video release that came out right after his release from prison, he hasn’t lost an influential step. So, look out hip-hop, Rocky’s ready to make another statement and 2020 might the year.
Like so many of her fellow UK soulstresses, Mahalia has become one of the most unique voices and one of the most sought-after names in Neo-Soul, R&B, and music at a much larger scale. Her one-of-a-kind delivery drove the acclaim surrounding her debut album being released in 2019 on the heels of being one of music’s most prolific and fastest sprouting in 2018. Heading into 2020, her collaborative force of friends and her one-of-a-kind sound leave her ready to explode into the international limelight as one of Neo-Soul’s most key, youthful names.
Zero Fatigue queen and wildly talented Chicago soulstress, Ravyn Lenae is one of R&B and Neo-Soul’s most anticipated stars. Her 2018 EP, Crush introduced a world far beyond the audiences of R&B and Neo-Soul to the silkiness of her delivery and the timelessness of her production. But, since its release, she’s gone relatively quiet – especially in consideration of just how music her Zero Fatigue teammates like Smino and Monte Booker are doing. So, here’s to hoping 2020 is the year that we finally get Ravyn Lenae’s debut album and that it’s everything we’re hoping for and even more experimental than her music to this point.
When it comes to the overseers of the modern R&B scene, it’s easy to think of three names: The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and Miguel. And Though the former has fallen off into an abyss of mainstream appeal and diluted musicality; though the second is unreliable in terms of releasing music at all; the latter is still a dominant force of experimental genius and creative risks taken. War & Leisure – his latest project – came in 2017. And now in 2020, a Miguel album would help to realign the then with the now and bring some music needed competition to the top of the R&B game.
Joyce Wrice has quietly become one of the most prolific and one of the most sought-after forces in modern soul music. But with only one project to her name – her 2016 debut EP, Stay Around – she’s made a name primarily as a top-shelf featuring soulstress. But even as a featuring artist, her production last year was insane, especially when one takes into account that she didn’t release a single of her own. As we move into a 2020 primed to be Neo-Soul’s biggest to date, keep an eye and an ear out for Joyce Wrice who, with all the refinement one can get, is ready for the limelight.
There is no project more anticipated and necessary than that of Isaiah Rashad. His major label debut, The Sun’s Tirade, came by way of TDE in 2016. And though the project was one of hip-hop’s most influential lyrically and stylistically, the game has changed a lot in the years since. But, Isaiah Rashad, as one of the most well-balance hip-hop figures of today in terms of his lyrical ability and the individuality with which he attacks his music, will have no problem adapting and re-emerging a still-relevant name that the hip-hop world desperately needs.
LA-based rapper, Buddy was everywhere in 2019. Aside from a couple of singles of his own and a smattering of single features, came praise from all of Dreamville and Friends that he was the hardest working collaborator on their acclaimed Revenge of the Dreamers lll. Harlan & Alondra – his 2018 album – was his latest, and it put him into the position he was in to collaborate with anyone he wanted to in music. So, moving into 2020 with the relationships, connections, and friends he made in 2019, hip-hop is his if he wants it.