mynameisblueskye’s Top 20 Albums of the Year
As someone who is a pretty big advocate for underground music, nothing irritated me more than seeing literally TWO well-known people in the music game (Masego and Internet Money CEO) saying that there is no new music anymore and they want to hear something fresh and classic. My response is that they obviously weren’t thinking about those in the underground who busted their asses to bring out something that is as fresh as it is (this is what they really want to hear) commerically viable. Thankfully, there were people out here who actually gave a shit to hear new music (me being both the junkie and the supplier in the situation). Lo and behold, through friends and through outside recommendations, I found really solid fuckign albums, but as much as I would love to list all of them, I decide to feed you 20…because rigidity rules sometimes.
The rules to this as a musician writing this is that it cannot be something you were a part of, otherwise I would recommend my new album AND the Z Tapes album The Blackwashing. The 20 albums that left an impression on me this year in descending order.
⦁ zeroh – BLQLYTE
⦁ dreamcrusher – Panopticon!
⦁ Dani Lee Pearce – For As Briefly As I Live
⦁ SARN – REAL SHIT
⦁ Danny Denial – Fuck Danny Denial
⦁ Spartan Jet-Plex – LIVE
⦁ ANGRY BLACKMEN – HEADSHOTS!
⦁ Black Noi$e – OBLIVION
⦁ Georgia Anne Muldrow as JYOTI – Mama, You Can Bet
⦁ Moodie Black – F U Z Z
⦁ Open Mike Eagle – Anime, Trauma and Divorce
⦁ Bartees Strange – Live Forever
⦁ The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominiques Nosebleed
⦁ Bbymutha – Muthaland
⦁ Moor Mother – Circuit City
⦁ Spillage Village – Spilligion
⦁ Backxwash – God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It
⦁ Cooling Prongs – 316
⦁ B L A C K I E – Face the Darkness
⦁ Pink Siifu – NEGRO
⦁ NNAMDI – Brat
ahomari – Girl Kiss II
Moor Jewelry – True Opera
The Cell Phones – Battery Lower
AxeBreaker – Eliminationism
J.Fisher – THEJEREMYFISHER
Don’t Do it Neil – I WANNA SEE WHAT DEATH IS LIKE
EPs OF THE YEAR
⦁ TAWSE – TAWSE
⦁ Zulu – My People…Hold On
⦁ The Uhuruverse – Black Pessimism
⦁ Don’t Do It Neil – Tinder Gold
⦁ Big $ilky – Big $ilky Vol. 2
⦁ Ishtar Sr. – Aces
⦁ Ed Balloon – I Hate It Here
⦁ port lucian – Prince of Oddities
⦁ Telepathic Children – Gay For You X Invisible Lover
⦁ NNAMDI – Black Plight
⦁ clipping. – Chapter 319
Why NNAMDI’s BRAT Should Be 2020’s Overall Album of the Year
When’s the last time you hear an album that uncannily encapsulates not only the entire year, but such for a whole country? A country who has went through not only a pandemic, but through the massive slowdown of people’s lives had the entire wool pulled from their eyes. Talk to professional artists, and they might possibly try, but 2020 was an album in which the positive didn’t outweigh a whole lot of the negatives.
In addition to a worldwide pandemic that forced the whole country to stay inside and possibly face themselves, the world had to face financial car crashes (as in, since they couldn’t work a job due to the coronavirus possibly infecting all who worked a job, they had to rely on stimulus checks that eventually dried up and stopped in the middle of the summer), social revelation as far as who to trust and who not to trust, and overall inner stress in a world on fire. More than ever, the world wanted to know why? If not why, then “what the fuck”? No album to me encapsulates that better than NNAMDI’s BRAT.
In addition to BRAT, NNAMDI also created two more projects. One of which is named Black Plight, a math-rock scream towards the Government and policemen’s lack of regard for black life and KRAZY KARL, a surrealist mostly-instrumental math-rock album showing Nnamdi Ogbonnaya at his most Danny Elfman (soundtracking a world so upside down, it may as well have been a cartoon.) But NNAMDI started by asking the loaded question: what does NNAMDI want? How does NNAMDI feel? Rather, where is HE at? The answer is simple: I’m sick and tired, in that order, and I just want to be appreciated and paid for my efforts.
A person of many hats, NNAMDI shamelessly admits that he is “a big ol’ brat” on “Bullseye”. He raises the price regarding his performances (“Price Went Up”), meditates on his relationships ( the smooth yet somber “Everyone I Loved”, the climactic depression spill “Semantics”) and even finds time to meditate on the thoughts surrounding those he loves. For example, on “Wasted”, he welcomes the opinions and conversations of those he loves while simultaneously recognizing how much it knocks him down when it isn’t positive on “Glass Casket”, a song where he ruminates on what he needs to be in order to “feed his family and take them far away”).
the theme of disappointment, distrust and desperation runs all through the album as it did through this year. 2020 finds people looking at a relationship that they would never have noticed was broken had they stayed in a constantly work-heavy reality. They also noticed that celebrities have let them down in making them feel like they were “all in this together”. Not to mention the Trump administrations consistent act of making the people seeming unimportant outside of the stimulus checks. The world temporarily out of a job may as well be constantly saying “I want money, I want cash, I want you to show me love now”, as NNAMDI sings on “Gimme Gimme”. The world may as well admit to being emotionally knocked to the ground to the point in feeling unable to exit their bedroom (the anthem for overworked and unsupported, “Semantics”). The world may not be as smooth and as inviting, but I know they all want “the truth” the same way NNAMDI does on the smooth avant-R&B “Wasted” track. Don’t get the entire world started on how they had plans that didn’t work out in 2020 because of the pandemic. “Perfect In My Mind” is directly for them.
IF that isn’t enough, NNAMDI unintentionally opened a door to a new trend surrounding music: black people making whatever they want.
Before the pandemic, those who knew that black people made more than hip hop and R&B were people who chose to stay in the know (aka those who ACTUALLY sought out the band’s themselves), but June was the year where as rappers went to swipe the spotlight again for being musical representatives for #BlackLivesMatter, black alternative artists banded together on Twitter to voice their frustration on getting ignored by the public. Because of this, multiple people asked “what are some black rockers, avant-garde artists, etc. that I should check out?” That was a huge question amongst artists who didn’t even know that they existed since Bloc Party and TV On the Radio were big in the mid 2000s. But it opened up a much bigger door of artists, specifically those who made whatever music they wanted to.
No black artist in 2020 was just a rapper, just a singer, etc. Everyone did everything and it worked. Artists like Pink Siifu shifted from free jazz to lo-fi hardcore punk and back to hip hop on NEGRO, Bartees Strange emerged with an album that mixes blues, hip-hop, rock, R&B and more named Live Forever, A Day Without Love went on a spree to collab with multiple artists spanning genres from folk to hip hop and back and released it in a compilation named Mega Jawn, and even Boston’s own Ed Balloon released an album last year that experimetns highly with his brand of space age R&B on The Dubs and his recent EP I Hate It Here. 2020 was the year where black people did whatever the hell they want without the pressure of being put into a box. If there is any artist that is also the year’s flagship album for doing what they want, it’s BRAT.
Math-rock, spacey soul music, folk music, hip hop, jazz all sit side by side on BRAT, with some songs like “Semantics” mixing synthpop melodies with Soundcloud trap production and emotional vulnerability and indie pop swelling and “Flowers For my Demons” packing a mix of indie rock sensibility towards Afropop guitar riffs and an symphonic pop swell. Even the closer “Salut” begins with an Afropop folk song before eventually collapsing into a polyrhythmic avalanche like the cheerleader on top of a weakly built pyramid. BRAT is filled with songs that largely does its own thing with zero concern for genre, and you will feel like you are on a dizzy yet rewarding adventure for it.
Surely, people have their own idea for which album accurately represents 2020 as a whole, but NNAMDI, whose album came out at the very beginning of the pandemic, holds an incredibly strong case. By speaking for and about himself and what he wants out of life and the people around him, NNAMDI didn’t even know he was speaking for the world over in 2020, which is why BRAT may be least likely to be considered 2020’s collective album of the year, if not a top 10 choice, but it is mine.
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