Though 2020 has gained instant historical notoriety for obvious reasons, hip-hop has done its part in holding it down for the masses. The year has seen the arrival of many strong albums, from Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By to Freddie GibbsAlfredo, Conway’s From King To A God to Benny The Butcher’s Burden Of Proof, Lil Wayne’s Funeral to Royce Da 5’9’s The Allegory to 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’s Savage Mode 2. The list goes on, and it’s likely the album of the year round-up discussion will be a tough one.

And to think, three of the rap game’s biggest artists -- all of whom have been rumored to drop before the year’s end -- have yet to deliver their highly anticipated albums. We’re talking about Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole. Of the three, only Drizzy has concretely confirmed an album title -- Certified Lover Boy. Cole has dropped a few warm-up singles in “The Climb Back” and “Lion King On Ice,” though since then it’s been quiet on the Dreamville front. And Kendrick’s future remains as uncertain as ever, with the lone detail pointing toward a “rock-inspired” sonic direction.


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While each of the three artists has long earned the right to be judged on their own merit, it’s still hard not to examine them as a trifecta, a “Big Three” of an aging hip-hop generation. For Drake, Certified Lover Boy will mark his sixth studio album. For Cole, his sixth as well. For Kendrick, whatever he lines up will be his fifth. Combined, the number of classics they’ve created is up for debate. Nobody doubts that a new classic remains a distinct possibility -- particularly in the case of Kendrick, who has yet to miss with any of his major releases. It’s not to say Drake and Cole have underwhelmed, but Kendrick’s appeal has proven to resonate on a universal level. That, and his elusivity all but guarantee that his new album release will feel like the biggest spectacle.

Of course, Drake’s gargantuan following may very well place him ahead of the pack when it comes to the charts -- but he is coming off the rather lackluster release of 2018’s Scorpion. While that may have hampered expectations for some, it can be argued that Drizzy will be coming out swinging when he does decide to release. Though perhaps we’ve already seen a glimpse at what’s to come with “Laugh Now Cry Later,” a Lil Durk-assisted single that seems destined for an album placement. It’s enough to perhaps theorize on a potential creative direction, though some have feared the biggest hurdle Drake may have to overcome is that of complacency; in these times leading up to Certified Lover Boy, it can feel like he simultaneously has nothing and everything to prove.

J. Cole

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Cole’s situation is rather unique, in the sense that he’s effectively spent the last two years effortlessly bodying guest appearances. His feature spree energy transitioned into the Revenge Of The Dreamers III project, where it felt like he was having more fun in the booth than ever before. As such, many have been eager to see where he takes his next album, the glories of his epic run still shining bright. Whether he’ll expand the scope of his guest roster, perhaps including some of those same collaborators he recently blessed, remains a major point of interest. Others have looked to him for guidance in these troubled times, though his recent “Snow On The Bluffs” seemed to indicate a disinterest in being a thought leader. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of material for Cole to tackle on this go-around, and fans are eager to see what he’s been cooking up.

That leaves Kendrick Lamar, who has not delivered a full-length album since the Pulitzer Prize-winning DAMN. A heightened bar if ever there was one. Seeing how Kung-Fu Kenny returns to the game has remained one of hip-hop’s most buzzworthy mysteries. Known for his constant artistic innovation and top tier technical prowess, it can be argued that the hype surrounding his untitled project is the highest of the three. And with great hype comes great expectations, the likes of which are difficult to resolve. To his credit, Kendrick has yet to stumble and has for the most part retained the benefit of the doubt. Should Punch’s projection of a “Soon Soon” release date hold true, perhaps further enlightenment will arrive before the year wraps up.

Three hip-hop legends, all of whom have new albums due in the near future. Which one are you most anticipating to be the best?

Kendrick Lamar

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