The 16 Best Classic Hip-Hop Verses of the Year
By Alec Banks
While most people will probably remember 2020 as the year when everything went to shit — pardon our French — there was a silver lining to the worst year in modern memory; plenty of good music. Artists like Nas and Busta Rhymes blessed us with new projects, while other OG's like Method Man and 50 linked with newer artists like Conway the Machine and Pop Smoke to show that newer artists respect their Hip-Hop lineage.
The Rock The Bells staff gathered — albeit six feet apart — to discuss the best moments of the year. Specifically, the standout verses that made us immediately stop the stream and run it right back.
Here are our 16 favorite verses of 2020.
Method Man on Conway the Machine's "Lemon"
Method Man and Conway seem to be cut from the same lyrical cloth. While The Machine certainly holds his own on "Lemon," Meth comes in and absolutely murders the track with a multi-syllable pattern.
Black Thought on Eminem's "Yah Yah"
Black Thought proclaims himself the "Rap Pernell Whittaker" on the Eminem posse cut. It's such a telling reference from The Roots front man. If you know boxing, that's quite a boast, and if you don't, he's not here to explain it to you. Black Thought is as criminally underrated in Hip-Hop as Sweet P was in boxing.
Royce da 5'9" on "Upside Down"
Royce's first verse is amongst the most thought provoking of the year. He shines a much needed light on gender norms and how fluid sexuality really can be.
AZ on Nas' "Full Circle"
The Firm reunion was one of the musical highlights of 2020. There's something that just feels right about a track with Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, and Cormega. AZ — specifically — stood out out on "Full Circle."
Nas on "The Cure"
There is exactly a 0 percent chance that Nas could drop a project and not land on a top verse of 2020 listicle. However, the real challenge was choosing which one? The final song on "King's Disease" is a perfect representation of who Nas was when he released Illmatic,
Rapsody on Public Enemy's "Fight the Power 2020 Remix"
Rapsody remains criminally underrated even though she has been nominated for a Grammy. The "Fight the Power 2020 Remix" finds the North Carolina native dropping truth bombs like the fact that George Floyd was killed over 2,000 pennies.
Chuck D on Public Enemy's "State of the Union"
Chuck D's third verse on "State of the Union" uses some clever wordplay to diss Trump's track record as failed businessman and urged people to rock the vote. Thankfully, over 80 million people listened and voted him out.
Busta Rhymes on "Czar"
We're going to go out on a limb and say that Busta's first verse on "Czar" made people put a bunch of holes in the drywall from being so hyped up. This is Busta Bust at his absolute best.
Andre 3000's on Goodie Mob's "No Cigar"
A new Three Stacks verse is a cultural moment. On "No Cigar" he takes listeners back to the days OutKast and Goodie Mob were recording in the Dungeon. It's no rich in detail you can practically smell the weed down there
Jay Electronica on "Ezekiel's Wheel"
Jay Electronica's long gestating album finally dropped in 2020. His first verse on "Ezekiel's Wheel" revealed just how many different cultural pots he could cook from — referencing everything from Michael Jackson to Star Wars.
Royce da 5'9" on Eminem's "You Gon' Learn"
It's hard to body Eminem on his own track, but Royce may have actually pulled it off. With every new project he seems to be getting better and better.
Killer Mike on Run the Jewels' "Walking in the Snow"
Killer Mike's verse showcases what is undeniably a school system that continues to only benefit the rich – while pushing the underserved further to the fringes of society.
JAY-Z on Jay Electronica's "Flux Capacitor"
JAY-Z spits like a man who has been scored on Jay Electronica's "Flux Capacitor." While he don't always get an angry Hov, he shows just how direct and unafraid he can be with his pen game.
50 Cent on Pop Smoke's "The Woo"
While many Hip-Hop fans like to disregard the new generation, there was no denying Pop Smoke's emergence in the genre. His link up with Roddy Rich and 50 Cent showed that there's room for everyone at the table.
Kool G Rap on R.A. The Rugged Man's "Dragon Fire"
Kool G Rap might not be recording with the same frequency as he once did, but his verse alongside R.A. The Rugged Man, Masta Killa, and Ghostface proved he hasn't lost a step.
DMX on The Lox's "Bout Shit"
The Lox and DMX is a pairing we've been dreaming off since the heyday of Ruff Ryders. Luckily, the Yonkers super group released a criminally underrated project in 2020 that got the best out of pre-Verzuz DMX.