Editor’s Note: MOOSE has recapped his annual album picks here at BID since 2016. In times where nothing but demise is certain, we are grateful that we can always look forward to this. As a DJ, MOOSE has clocked in mastery level hours of curating sounds that are so precise to the present moment. Tuned in to the energy of any room, his sonic curation cultivates an atmosphere of flow, movement & connection. As a music artist, the attention to detail & undeniable soul can be felt in every lyric, beat production & engineering choice. As a friend, he is always the first to ask about my mental health, which leads to hours discussing the hilarity of depression & the human condition. It always comes back to this: music heals. Without further adieu, we are happy to present MOOSE’s 2020 album review.
I’ll speak for everyone when I say motherfuck 2020. Every week since January 1st has been relentlessly soul crushing. It felt like you were an astronaut in space fixing the Space Station, but the tether connecting you rips apart and you float away into oblivion. It felt like breaking up with a very toxic partner, but then having to still live together because both y’all names are on the mortgage. It felt like trying to wake up from a nightmare only to wake up to sleep paralysis, then finally waking up foreal only to realize the nightmare was actually real.
But I digress… If anything good came out of this year, it was that musicians were at home and were forced to create amazing music. Here is a list of my favorite albums from 2020.
B7 by Brandy
Heaven or Hell by Don Tolliver
Jaguar by Victoria Monet
Saturday Morning by Carrtoons
Featuring Ty Dolla Sign by Ty Dolla Sign
After Hours by The Weeknd
Reasonable Drought by Stove God Cooks
Burden of Proof by Benny The Butcher
While the World Burns by Saint John
Circles by Mac Miller
When Mac Miller’s family released Circles in January, Kobe’s tragic death was still a week away. Covid-19 had yet to spread outside of Wuhan. Meanwhile, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were still alive, oblivious to their untimely fates. So how could an album that was made years prior speak to the emotions millions are feeling this very moment? Maybe, that was just Malcolm’s gift. His mastery of capturing introspection knew no bounds. Though on the surface Circles sounded unfinished, that subtlety seemed by design. Producer Jon Brion was at the helm, harking back to his more minimalist, indie roots. Miller filled in the gaps with poignant and meaningful writing, sounding weary yet optimistic. If we never hear another posthumous album again, I’m content that Mac gave us Swimming and Circles, two companion pieces that remind us that as we close old chapters, we should feel blessed to tell the tale.
Standout Tracks: “Circles”, “Good News”, “That’s On Me”
Alfredo by Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
No one in rap epitomizes the rise of the phoenix more than Freddie Gibbs. Since being acquitted of a false rape charge in 2016, Freddie Kane has released 5 strong albums, culminating with last year’s standout Bandana, and this year’s Grammy-nominated Alfredo. Freddie’s signature rapid fire cadences partnered well with legendary beatsmith The Alchemist’s ominous and luxurious soundtracks. Though many rappers attempt it, very few can make drug dealing exploits as glamorous as he does. Sitting at a tight 35 minutes, and sprinkled with an eclectic cast of guest appearances, Alfredo proves to be one of the year’s best albums.
Standout Tracks: “God Is Perfect”, “Scottie Beam”, “Baby $hit”
It Was Good Until It Wasn’t by Kehlani
Growing up in the public eye hasn’t been easy for Kehlani. Thankfully she’s been able utilize these missteps into penning some of R&B’s most stellar music. There’s no sophomore slump in It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. We find Kehlani in her coming of age moment, at her most vulnerable, embracing her sexuality all while buying into a more mature perspective. Backed by hypnotizing beats from an all-star producer lineup, she impresses with her vocal performances, showcasing her signature background stacks and throwback soulful melodies. In an era where artists hide behind auto tune and glossy ghostwritten hooks, it’s refreshing to hear a legit vocalist like Kehlani sing her ass off and know she’ll actually kill the live performance.
Standout Tracks: “Can I”, “Hate The Club”, “Can You Blame Me”
Detroit 2 by Big Sean
Big Sean’s journey began with countless mixtapes that put him on the map, with the original Detroit tape from 2012 as a critic darling. But despite flashes of brilliance, his many projects afterwards felt bloated and unfulfilling. Nearly 8 years later, Sean finally rekindled the passion of his younger self with Detroit 2. He expertly maneuvers through polished hard hitting beats (executive produced by my 2020 MVP Hit-Boy), all while showing maturation by touching on more personal subject matters. He held his own amongst star-studded guest features, especially going toe to toe to a posthumous Nipsey Hussle verse on “Deep Reverence”. While many sequels fail, Detroit 2 succeeds in living up to its predecessor.
Standout Tracks: “Why Would I Stop”, “Deep Reverence”, “Guard Your Heart”
3.15.20 by Childish Gambino
Ever the renaissance man, Donald Glover’s last music releases were singles in 2018. He spent much of the time in between doing blockbuster movies right before disappearing from the public eye. By March 2020 the pandemic hit stateside and quarantine lockdowns were imminent nationwide. Then as if to ease our pain, Glover reappears out of the ether to gift us 3.15.20. The genre bending 12-track offering is afro-futurism at its finest, behind sharp productions from industry staple DJ Dahi and frequent collaborator Ludwig Goransson. The blank white artwork and cryptic song titles shifted all the focus to Glover’s reflective songwriting. Unorthodox beat changes and surprise guests (Ariana Grande and 21 Savage) proved further to always expect the unexpected when it comes to Donald Glover. Now all I need is Atlanta season 3 and I’d be more than happy to call him the G.O.A.T.
Standout Tracks: “Time”, “12.38”, “24.19”
A Muse In Her Feelings by DVSN
Despite its proven track record historically, artist/producer duos are somehow rare in the industry. Enter Daniel Daley and Nineteen85 of DVSN and their A Music In Her Feelings album, further proving a cohesive musical pair trumps all. Daley’s vocal performance never falters alongside guest appearances from Partynextdoor, Future, Summer Walker, and Summer Walker. Meanwhil,e Nineteen85 showcases a diverse palate with mesmerizing beat making that is never overbearing. While they dabble with some afrobeat and dancehall, DVSN shines most with babymakers, even flipping the Jay-Z “Dead Presidents” sample into a bedroom banger with the title track “A Muse”. Of course that was sublime, but what floored me the most was the slow ballad “..Again”, easily one of my favorite songs of 2020.
Standout Tracks: “No Cryin”, “Between Us”, “..Again”
Pray For Paris by Westside Gunn
The unlikely rise of Griselda in today’s rap climate is quite dumbfounding. Lyricists from Buffalo in their late 30’s rapping over grimy, minimalist beats shouldn’t work in 2020, but no other group had a more prolific year than them. Especially head honcho Westside Gunn, who’s standout Pray For Paris was his 1st of 3 albums in 2020. For years Gunn was the least impressive of the group to me. Once I realized his specialty was in curating talent together, this album stood out for reasons beyond explanation. The beats are unorthodox, the hooks are simple, the ad libs are unrelenting, and the swagger is undeniable. Then again that is Griselda in one word: undeniable.
Standout Tracks: “327”, “Allah Sent Me”, “$500 Ounces”
Savage Mode 2 by 21 Savage & Metro Boomin
In a year chock full of surprises, who had Morgan Freeman explaining the difference between rats vs snitches on their bingo card? Praises due to 21 Savage and Metro Boomin, who’s amazing chemistry delivered this equally impressive sequel to the 2016 fan favorite. You won’t mistake him as a wordsmith, but 21 shows growth as a rapper, trying new flows and rhyme schemes his trap peers rarely attempt. He sits right at home over Metro’s heavy 808s and dark melodies, and surprisingly so does Freeman’s iconic narrations. Whoever reached out to his people is a genius.
Standout Tracks: “Runnin”, “Rich N**** Shit”, “Many Men”
Check out MOOSE’s 80+ track playlist of all his favorite songs from the year, exclusively on Apple Music.