The first two months of 2020 were the longest year in recent times, but in the midst of the shenanigans of the new year, the city of Birmingham has given us the gift of great music. If you like the tunes below, be sure to support the artists by purchasing the music if you’re able. If not, likes, shares and streams are more than welcomed and can go a long way.
You Gene ambitiously kicks off the new year by announcing a 20-month run of EPs, the first of which finds him joining forces with Suaze for a simple set of soothing songs. Suaze’s stripped-back instrumentals match perfectly with You Gene’s relaxed flow for a pleasant listening experience.
Highlight: “Hold On”
Following up 2019’s The Lemon Tree Project, Richard Daniel packages heavy themes of death and isolation into a quaint project. Richard croons catchy vocals over melodious instrumentation for an EP that manages to feel like an album.
In his second EP of 2020, You Gene Write drops three love songs in time for Valentine’s Day. You Gene uses smooth but thumping beats to hit on topics ranging from Netflix & Chill to meeting the parents and not getting their approval to the fact that even the most hard-bodied of dudes need to be loved.
After a quiet 2019 that led to an unexpected album in late December, OZU quickly turns around with another full-length that makes note of his diversity both in sounds and in substance. OZU takes his expert flows and intricate wordplay from radio-ready tunes to gritty trap beats to classic boom-bap instrumentals in this introspective project, even taking opportunities to showcase his singing voice. Covering racial tensions, drug addiction, personal struggles, and more, OZU provides listeners with a diverse listening experience that ends on a fantastically hopeful note.
Highlights: “Element of Surprise,” “Natural Selection,” “Victory Lap”
After several years of loose singles and EPs, G.I. Magus finally returns with a new full-length album. G.I. spits very precisely and elegantly over robust, dramatic production to give listeners an experience that is nearly theatrical. The choruses are big and catchy where they need to be and sparse where appropriate, and the verses are incredibly intentional and thought out down to the last syllable. G.I. goes inward to discuss his aspirations, his mortality, his fatherhood, and plenty of other social issues, remaining transparent even in the songs that lean toward braggadocio. With excellent guests, stunning production, and spectacular raps, Verses the World is definitely an album that was worth that wait.
Highlights: “Way Way,” “Here Now” ft. Wisdom Bibbs, “Respect”
OZU and Erthling. have a chemistry like that of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib; they’re excellent artists individually, but when they collaborate, their Wonder Twin powers activate. Erthling.’s tactical and thoughtful production is made to compliment OZU’s slick southern drawl while also bringing an array of sounds. OZU’s flows are as tight and meticulous as they’ve ever been, effortlessly weaving in and out of layered rhyme schemes while Erthling. provides marvelous soundscapes that range from jazzy to left-field but are always rounded out with knocking drums. The refreshingly original sound of these two artists combining forces results in an album that feels entirely natural while also having its own wonderfully unique sound.
Highlights: “FMP,” “Ketch a Fiii Remix” ft. G.I. Magus & K1NG ELJAY, “Plot’N”
Jakob Frazier, aka Phrasure, a rapper who sometimes writes words that don’t rhyme. He’s committed to spreading word about some of the best MCs from Birmingham, Ala. He can be found on Facebook and Instagram.