As 2020 comes to a merciful close, we once again take a look back at the best the year had to offer. We begin with music, as we count down the 20 best songs of 2020.
We have survived 2020. I know you’re tired of hearing it, but this has been an unprecedented year. With the coronavirus pandemic and the rise of racial tensions, it hasn’t been easy on anyone.
Perhaps more than ever, music got us through. Even though the industry was shaken without the ability to tour, it stayed resilient. The same is true for the football world, as it was hard to not be able to attend games, but fun to watch Inter Miami FC make the playoffs in its first MLS season, young stars like Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford blossom, and Alex Morgan score her first goal for Tottenham.
We were gifted with plenty of music that kept us motivated and inspired to strive for greatness and hopeful for the day we could again see our favorite stars on and off the pitch. Here are 20 songs that kept us going through 2020.
Lil Yachty ft. Drake and DaBaby – “Oprah’s Bank Account”
Lil Yachty made a splash this year with the ultra-smart “Oprah’s Bank Account.” He enlisted Drake and DaBaby to add some star power and some corny yet clever lines like Drizzy declaring, “You need me like dollars that are owed to you/Money and I are the same, but I just don’t fold for you.”
The song itself is catchy enough, but the true gem lies in the video, a mini-movie where Lil Yachty literally dresses up as Oprah and creates his own talk show. He interviews his co-stars with hilarious self-awareness and fails at cooking so he brings in pizza to feed his adoring fans. “Oprah’s Bank Account” dropped in March right before #Quarantine2020, so it was something that was sure to bring a smile when we needed one.
REASON ft. Vince Staples – “Sauce”
TDE’s torchbearer REASON held down the West Coast in 2020. His New Beginnings album was the label’s main release this year, and he impressed with his fierce lyricism and heartfelt storytelling. “Sauce” with Vince Staples was a standout track for its brash delivery and smooth hook complete with touches of piano and booming 808s. Who got the sauce, who got the sauce, yeah?
Bonus: Check out Vince’s other standout feature on T.F’s “Too Cold,” which also features Maxo Kream.
Nas ft. The Firm – “Full Circle”
Nas gave us a hip-hop MOMENT with “Full Circle,” a track off his King’s Disease album, which was expertly produced by Hit-Boy. This song is rappity-rap with Nas’ old compadres The Firm. Foxy Brown especially delivers as she reminds us of her success with Ill Nana and points to pop culture references like 50 Cent’s Power to let everyone know that New York rap is still king.
Stix – “62”
Urban Pitch favorite Stix released a whole project dedicated to football fandom in the form of For Los Angeles. Standout track “62” details life in the City of Angeles, cruisin’ down the street in a lowrider, full playa mode over a super funky fresh West Coast beat. The LAFC brand ambassador paints everything black and gold, shouts out Diego Rossi, and throws a jab at LA Galaxy mascot Cozmo — not to mention the title is also in reference to LAFC’s 6-2 El Trafico victory from the MLS Is Back Tournament. So maybe it’s not for the whole city, but hate it or love it.
Megan Thee Stallion – “Crying in the Car”
Megan Thee Stallion has had a stellar ascent in the rap game, spitting with the same energy as the boys and becoming an icon of female empowerment. But instead of one of her high-powered tracks (yes, “WAP” with Cardi B was EVERYWHERE this year), we have selected one of her more reflective tracks. “Crying in the Car” makes it OK to show emotion.
Jack Harlow ft. Lil Baby – “Face Of My City”
Jack Harlow raged through 2020 fueled by his ubiquitous hit single, “What’s Poppin.” The remix was given the all-star treatment with DaBaby, Lil Wayne, and Tory Lanez, giving the young Louisville star major co-signs. Harlow dropped his debut album, Thats What They All Say for a fourth-quarter victory lap. We are choosing to highlight “Face Of My City” with Lil Baby (who had a stellar 2020 of his own) because Harlow digs deep with the soccer references. He shouts out Chelsea goalie Willy Caballero, noting how the Argentinian’s worth has declined as of late. But it seems that Harlow’s value to the industry will keep rising for some time still.
Burna Boy ft. Stormzy – “Real Life”
Burna Boy always brings us good vibes, and he delivered with his Twice as Tall album. On “Real Life,” he continues his winning formula of Afrobeat production with his smooth melodies. He enlists grime giant Stormzy to flex his own vocals with a comforting hook that illustrates how sometimes we don’t understand what happens in life, but we have to keep living.
Pop Smoke – “Got It On Me”
Pop Smoke’s legacy was just beginning when he was tragically shot and killed in February. He died just weeks after Meet the Woo 2 was released, which was giving him continued momentum to make a mark in the industry. His team did him due justice with his posthumous debut album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon (even if Quavo is on there one too many times). One of our favorite tracks is “Got it on Me,” which chillingly interpolates 50 Cent’s “Many Men.” It is so sad that we won’t be able to witness Pop Smoke enjoy the fruits of his labor. But we can continue to be motivated by his hunger.
Nines ft. Clavish, Frosty, Q2T, and Chappo CSB – “All Stars 2”
Grime staple and Arsenal fan Nines made waves with his Crabs in a Bucket album, which channels life in the streets of London over hard-hitting production. “All Stars 2” is the sequel of his posse cut from his 2015 project One Foot In. On the second edition, Clavish opens the track with some bravado and an especially smart line paying homage to West Ham, the Gooners, and the polarizing midfielder Granit Xhaka. You can’t help but wanna be great listening to this one.
Death at the Derby – “’12 Lahm”
We continue to be impressed by Lord Juco and Cousin Feo’s Death at the Derby collaborations, and this year’s Ballon d’Or was no different. Each track is a tribute to a historic player and a memorable year in their career. On “’12 Lahm,” the two rappers go head-to-head on an orchestral beat to reflect on the prowess of former Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm.
Besides making a mark on the German national team, the defender led Bayern to its first treble in 2013. This song holds extra meaning as the Bundesliga club won the treble again this year, becoming only the second team ever to win the European treble twice.
D Smoke ft. SiR – “Closer to God”
You might have seen D Smoke win Netflix’s Rhythm & Flow, but if you know the West Coast rap scene, you know he’s been putting in WERK for a while now. It was great to see his success manifest this year, especially in the form of his debut album, Black Habits. We chose to highlight “Closer to God” with D Smoke’s brother SiR because it’s reflective and uplifting, just what we needed this year.
Wande – “ICONIC”
Rising trap star Wande released her fiery debut album, Exit, this year. She’s establishing herself as an elite rapper with major commercial appeal as her music has appeared on ESPN and Apple. “ICONIC” is a heavy-hitting track with clever wordplay and a motivational message that kept us going.
LA-Tinos (Feefa, Ratchetón, and Harlay) – “Mátame”
Urban Pitch familia Feefa combined forces with some of Los Angeles’ brightest upcoming stars to put on for their Latino heritage and their city that they love so much in the form of Family Business. “Mátame” is a fiery track with production fusing reggaeton and late ’90s Dr. Dre and Scott Storch production (think Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”). The three rappers spit their bars at a breakneck pace without breaking a sweat. They even give a shoutout to Chelsea’s Golden Boot winner Didier Drogba.
J Hus – “No Denying”
London’s J Hus dropped his Big Conspiracy album in January, before anything in 2020 really popped off, but it’s wild to see how relevant this album turned out to be. “No Denying” features a gritty drill beat where J Hus raps about keeping a tough and fearless mindstate as he ascends in the rap game. The line in the chorus, “Before you fully rise up, you have to remove the virus” is especially eerie in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but what’s really powerful is reflecting on any metaphorical disease that stands in the way of greatness.
Vic Mensa – “Rebirth”
Vic Mensa was such a pleasant surprise this year! The Chicago rapper casually dropped V Tape in August after his debut album, The Autobiography, three years ago. In between, he experimented with his punk influences that kinda fell flat with critics. But with V Tape, he is back to rapping, rapping. The quick 26-minute project is filled with fiery bars and vulnerable reflection. We chose “Rebirth” because it ends the project on a hopeful note that no matter how far you may fall, everything’s going to be ok.
Aminé – “Woodlawn”
Aminé brought something really special with his Limbo album. He expertly embraces his quirks as he continues to grow in the rap game. In addition to filming the music video to “Shimmy” at Providence Park, home to the Portland Timbers and Thorns, he puts on for the Rose City with “Woodlawn.” Paying tribute to the late Kobe Bryant and asserting his dominance over really interesting production that features flutes (!), there’s really not much to dislike about this versatile track. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to keep being creative.
Woodie Smalls ft. Isaiah Rashad – “What Typa Time”
You might have no idea what this is, but you trust us to put you onto good music and that’s why you’re here, right? Woodie Smalls is a rapper from Belgium who released a pleasant wonderland of an album called In Between Spaces. One of the highlights was “What Typa Time” with TDE’s Isaiah Rashad. It’s a bouncy track with a mesmerizing beat — a perfect mental getaway we all needed at some point this year.
070 Shake – “Divorce”
You might recognize 070 Shake as the powerful voice from Kanye West’s “Ghost Town,” and she’s continuing to develop her own craft through thoughtful melodies over layered production. Her debut album, Modus Vivendi, dropped in January and had us feeling all the feels. “Divorce” is a standout track because of the ethereal production provided by legends Dave Hamelin and Mike Dean. Shake’s voice really elevates this one as she draws out her notes to extraterrestrial levels. It’s actually a sad breakup song, but if you get lost in the soundscape, you can pull any emotion that you need out of it.
Freddie Gibbs x The Alchemist ft. Benny the Butcher – “Frank Lucas”
Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist always conjure music goodness, and they continued their run with their Alfredo album, which garnered a Grammy nomination. The ethereal production contrasts Gibbs’ drug raps in a way that many might try to copy but can never duplicate. On “Frank Lucas,” Griselda’s Benny the Butcher brings his own cutthroat raps to the party over a haunting mechanical beat that belongs in any epic gangster movie.
Kid Cudi – “The Void”
Good ole Kid Cudi. Our favorite hummer put a cherry on top of 2020 with the December release of Man on the Moon III. It’s full of everything we love about the multi-talented artist — self-reflection, ethereal production, and a call to higher self. All of that is exemplified on “The Void,” where Cudi embraces the highs and lows of life. It ends with a prayer and a promise that everything’s going to be ok.