We have to decide whether they're the work of the playwright or a rapper. UK rappers remain relatively non-commercial because they maintain strong connections with their cultures, and for many reasons – the class system being the biggest – their views are not what society wants to hear. It's part of a wider effort to open kids up to what they wouldn't traditionally be interested in." The nine teenagers at today's workshop aren't here because of their love for the Bard. Only in adulthood did he notice that the complex culture in which he'd been raised was ignored in mainstream visions of what it means to be black and British. And Miles Davis turns round and says, 'I'm not being funny, mate, but my dad's a millionaire.' But will this send them scuttling back to Othello with a fresh eye? Ms Dynamite (Niomi Arleen McLean-Daley) made a mixtape, A Little Darker, with her brother in 2006, the year he won a Mobo award for best hip-hop act. Shakespeare isn't any more of a high culture than hip-hop," he says. They're treated as the exception to the rule. As a teenager, Akala spent most of his time playing football (for West Ham under-18s) but he also excelled academically. With just one feature (Syd from The Internet on “Urgency”), the 18-track album was a master class in meshing sharp technical lyricism with earworm melodies over syrupy 808-based bangers. "Maybe it's hatred I spew, maybe it's food for the spirit. For more of our mid-year coverage, check out the Best Albums and Songs Of 2020 Far. 2020 gives us a shocking headline almost every day. Ka uses variant aspects of the good book as his contextual foil, showing off his lyrical and contextual genius throughout.–A.G. Some of the kids tell me that they hate how Shakespeare is taught at school – how boring the approach is. Not that I am, but there is a genuine relationship between poetry of all forms and that song made me ask – if Shakespeare was alive today, would he have been a rapper?" The death of Mac Miller in 2018 doesn’t sting any less nearly two years later, but on the posthumous release Circles, he feels as vital as ever. Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Mobo award-winning rapper Akala (also known as younger brother to Mercury-prize winning Ms Dynamite), meanwhile, is running a series of workshops that tease out the links between hip-hop and Shakespeare. As autobiographical as it is philosophical, Better pushes Hitchcock as one of the most genuinely interesting artists from his hometown today.–A.W. "There's a famous passage in Davis's autobiography where he's in school and someone asks the teacher, 'Why do black people make the blues? To say that New York City represents the beating heart of hip-hop would still be a huge understatement. In the course of 68 minutes in a London community centre under the Westway, he talks about 16th-century explorers, Biggie Smalls, the universities of 13th-century Timbuktu, tai chi, the Black Wall Street of Oklahoma, the African city portraits of Olfert Dapper, Eminem, peanuts, Napoleon's generals, traffic lights and golf. "There's an intellectual culture among young, working-class African-Caribbean children that comes from a certain strain of hip-hop – Gil Scott-Heron, Rastafarianism – and it's completely absent from any narrative of that world," he says. The 20-track album saw him elevate his artistry thanks to the well-rounded body of work. "All sorts of industries use hip-hop as a branding tool to sell to a yoof market that they don't understand and can't connect with," he says. Along with James’ top-shelf bars are features with Freddie Gibbs (‘S.N.O.R.T.”), Benny The Butcher, (“Scrape The Bowl”), and Vince Staples (“Surf & Turf”).–A.G. Jadakiss‘ latest album is a powerful counterargument against both positions. A few weeks ago in these pages, Birmingham rapper Lady Leshurr asked why there had been no high-profile female rappers in the UK since Ms Dynamite. His aim is to underline the similarity between the plays and the poetry of the best rappers, or, as he puts it, "the lyricism that transcends all the revenge-tragedy, Tarantino violence". El-P and Killer Mike’s latest is a sledgehammer to the frontal lobe, smashing home their sociopolitical messaging with a much more polished approach. Named for Ruff Ryders Entertainment A&R Ignatius “Icepick Jay” Jackson, who died in 2017, the album is a salute to Jada’s dear friend and a massive evolution for a rapper who had little left to prove.–Aaron Williams. The Compton crooner’s No. From R.A.P Ferreira to Lil Uzi Vert, here’s where the best hip-hop albums of 2020 ranked. Her stage name Ashnikko is a portmanteau of her first name Ashley and But if you look at real hip-hop, your KRS-Ones, your Chuck Ds, it's poetry, it's social commentary, it's documenting history. They grew up in Kentish Town, north London (she's 32, he's 29 – real name Kingslee James Daley). As a former teenage rapper (a dismal one), and a writer about hip-hop for the last 18 years, I was convinced such a project would manage to demean both Shakespeare and my beloved music by softening their more difficult edges in order to slot them together. Akala feels that people might see it as patronising, but if they do it's because they don't understand the cultural import of hip-hop. Gunn sets out to “paint pictures” with a refreshing take on his usually gritty, grimy subject matter. Recorded in only one month, Pray 4 Love offers hypnotically unforgettable melodies, but the lyrics on songs like “I Remember,” “Thug Motivation,” and the title track are what really stick to your ribs. The 11-track project demonstrates why so many fans thought Jay Electronica would be a 2010s GOAT, with his existential musing and spiritually-tinged lyrics looming over warm, meditative beats — with the help of Jay-Z, who got as vulnerable as he ever has on songs like “Universal Soldier” and “A.P.I.D.T.A.”–A.G. Gibbs doesn’t have commercial clout, but after another top hip-hop album, it’s time to talk about where he ranks among his generation.–A.G. Is it because they're upset and whatever?' But this isn't We Will Rock You for rap fans, it's a rapidly growing exploration of hip-hop as a performance culture being undertaken by at least nine different theatre companies around the UK. And in three or 400 years, people will probably look upon it as such. But Akala makes a compelling case: "Rap gets a hard time based on this new school of MCs from America who only rap about tits and arse and jewellery. When it comes to hip-hop vibe masters, Gunna is as good as it gets right now.–A.G. He used biblical references as the thematic impetus for the thought-provoking 11-track album, expressing that times may change, but human nature doesn’t. The feature-heavy, of-the-times project offers moments of reflection, encouragement, and biting commentary like “Bottle Black Power BUY THE BUSINESS’” “You don’t get no likes, you might decide to switch yo’ image.”–A.G. He's unafraid of psychological talk ("Change the way you look at yourself, the self changes" – Another Reason) and nostalgia: Old Soul conjures the ghosts of Gregory Isaacs and Hendrix, looking back to the days "when Miles Davis was a commercial artist". From R.A.P Ferreira to Lil Uzi Vert, here’s where the best hip-hop albums of 2020 ranked. Boldy James has long been a respected pen, but he caught lightning in a bottle on The Price Of Tea In China, a 12-track collaboration with Alchemist which may be the best top-to-bottom lyrical exhibition of the year so far. The kids are adamant that certain words and phrases are those of a rapper, but they're actually from Shakespeare. It was so funny the way they tried to co-opt us. Quarantined artists took the newfound free time to churn out more new music than ever, or fine-tune long-awaited projects from the comfort and safety — and occasionally, boredom — of their own homes. He's also made a convert out of this rythcynic. On Industry Games, she addresses the pitfalls of the entertainment business and boldly proclaiming her mission statement to enlighten and encourage the masses. But a lot of the time big arts organisations are clueless in … "Unfortunately, the arts, and theatre in particular, is one of them. If I stab someone, my ethnicity will be mentioned as a factor. It's a hook, and it's only half an hour later that they're translating Sonnet 18 into hip-hop verse. Ferreira, fka Milo, has been a beloved rapper-producer for years. He was unequivocally black power, but he's rewritten as this fun-loving Rasta. Rhyming in Spanish and inviting his brother SiR along for the ride, D Smoke paints an autobiographical portrait that has plenty to say about the world at large.–A.W. "By the end of the workshops you get to see that it opens their mind up to other things such as theatre acting or going to see more Shakespeare plays. But it's precisely their spikiness, their engagement with real life, their playfulness with language, that makes them such perfect bedfellows. Akala seems a good person to consult – one, because he's her brother, and two, because you can ask Akala just about anything and you'll get a pretty comprehensive answer. Keith Saha runs the innovative 20 Stories High theatre group in Liverpool and he thinks it can be if it's handled wrongly. After delivering a towering debut with 2019’s Ghetto Gospel, Rod Wave returned less than six months later with an absolutely stellar follow-up. Akala says the aim isn't that limited: "It's about showing them what's attainable. Fast forward two years later and the Cactus Jack artist is continuing to make a name for himself with his debut album Heaven Or Hell. 1 for 11 weeks to start the year, cementing Roddy as the standout artist his mentors Nipsey Hussle and DJ Mustard knew he could be when they co-signed him on “Racks In The Middle” and “Ballin’.”–A.W.

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