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KC Artists Best of 2020

While most tours have been canceled through mid-2021 and venues across the country have shuttered, musical artists on every level have had to change how they connect with their fans. For many local independent artists, this cuts deeper. Without the ability to tour or even gig around town for most of the year, they’ve lost vital income. Album releases and other anticipated performances have been postponed indefinitely. 

So this year, more than ever before, The Bridge has stepped in to bring these artists into your homes. This year we added more than 50 Local 909 artists to our regular airplay rotation, in addition to several dozens more in our recurring playlist.

To keep the music going, we asked a few of these KC artists to tell us about the songs and albums that got them through the year. 


Kian Byrne

One of Kansas City’s most active musicians, Kian Byrne has kept the creativity flowing in 2020. At the beginning of December, he released a full-length album, “Morning Glow,” written and recorded with the late Steve Phillips. He also plays drums with Hi-Lux, who released a single via The Record Machine in March.

Top Songs of 2020

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Honey”
Kurt Vile w/ John Prine – “How Lucky” 
Khruangbin – “Pelota”
Babe Rainbow – “Zeitgeist”
Anderson .Paak – “Lockdown”
Traffik Island – “Charlie is My Darling”
Tom Petty – “Confusion Wheel”
Sierra Ferrell – “Jeremiah”
Minho’s Hi–Fi – “The Beat Goes SKA!”
Jyoti – “Mama, You Can Bet!”


Kadesh Flow 

In early 2020, Kadesh Flow was selected as an official performer at SXSW. Along came the pandemic, and the emcee, producer and trombonist went into creative overdrive. He released the “Motivated” EP, another album’s worth of solo singles, and a poignant single entitled “Black In America,” with Brass & Boujee.

Kadesh is also performing at SOS KC this Wednesday night — a virtual event that will benefit recordBar and other KC venues.

Favorite Albums and EPs of 2020

1. We The People – “Misunderstood”

Eddie Moore is a genius, Zach Morrow may be the best all around drummer in KC, and Jason Emmond is a freak on bass. They anchor a brilliantly written and performed effort that weaves in and out of multiple genres and epitomizes the universal nature of jazz. This is an incredibly underrated album, and I hope people truly come to appreciate it more as it ages. It will absolutely age well.

2. Young RJ (Slum Village) & Mega Ran – “2 Hands Up”

A powerful social justice journey through the eyes of two indie hip hop stalwarts. INCREDIBLY produced and laced with superb, layered lyrics throughout.

3. Lil Baby – “My Turn”

Like (probably) everyone else, I was roasting the fact that a Lil Baby and a DaBaby blew up at the same time. But this album snuck up on me.

4. Una Walkenhorst – “Woman Of the Year”

Just… wow.

5. Sa-Roc – “The Sharecropper's Daughter”

Sa-Roc has been at "I can outrap anyone" for awhile, but she leveled up and left the Solar System on this album.

6. T.I. – The L.I.B.R.A.

This kind of got dumped on by critics, and I think some of that may have been biased due to T.I. failing to keep his foot out of his mouth as of late. This felt super consistent and incredibly well produced to me.

7. Payge Turner – “Sleep Walker”

Payge dropped this lowkey after dipping from KC to Seattle, then kind of blew up on us via “The Voice.” This EP is phenomenal.

8. JL – "The Devil Hates Sundays"

As much credit as JL gets among rap fans, I'm not sure he gets enough credit from anyone else. JL has a magnificent ear for beats and just… really really can really really really rap (yes, all of those reallys are necessary).

9. Jake Wells – “Sunday Morning”

Speaking of “The Voice” – Jake Wells. Also, my buddy Trevor Turla's playing on this is next level.

10. Kemet Coleman – “Black Is Beautiful”

Kemet released 107.7675 projects in 2020, and they were all strong. This one is my favorite of the bunch. Kemet's unreal talent as a producer is underrated, somehow, and his skill really shines here.



Khrystal put out one of the bops of the summer with “Magic,” premiered by the Bridge in early August. As not only a musician but a writer and actor, she’s remained busy behind the scenes throughout the year, but we've heard that she has a few major things in the works for 2021. Stay tuned!

Top 10 Records Of 2020

A compilation of songs and albums that got me through this year. Some new jams and comforting older ones.

1. Sunni Colon – “Satin Psicodelic”
2. The Brothers Johnson – “Strawberry Letter 23”
3. Moonchild – “Little Ghost”
4. Erykah Badu – “New Amerykah Part Two”
5. Jass – “At The Close of a Decade”
6. Pip Millet – “Like it Like That”
7. Beyoncé, Shatta Wale, Major Lazer – “Already”
8. The Internet – “Come Together”
9. The Staple Singers – “I’ll Take You There”
10. Jhene Aiko – “Tryna Smoke”



Another casualty of the pandemic is in-person interaction, so as one could imagine, it’s a lot more difficult for bands to rehearse together. The members of OLIVIA FOX have remained apart for most of the year, but dropped a music video right before Mother’s Day of “Elevator Doors” (a track from their 2019 album “Carbon”) — a touching song about hope and compassion, in a moment of extraordinary grief.  

David George – “When We All Come Together”
Dolly Parton – “When Life Is Good Again”
Miki P & the Swallowtails – ”Right Where We Are” (album)
Infinity Song – “Mad Love” (album)
The Magi – “Try"
Brandi Carlile – “Carried Me With You” 
Kacey Musgraves – ”Oh, What a World”
Crystal Rose – ”Arena” (album) 
Brandi Carlile and Alicia Keys – “Beautiful Noise”
Jo MacKenzie – “'96 Dicaprio” 

Brandi Carlile is Lauren's personal fave. We love what Brandi has done to uplift other female artists, and Jo MacKenzie's “'96 Dicaprio” was a perfect summer song that immediately had us hooked on the catchy melody. 


Brent Windler

While writer’s block plagued many songwriters in 2020, Brent Windler put out some of the strongest music of his career. His solo single, “Around the Bend,” made our Best Of 2020, and he formed a new band with Tim Gutschenritter called Dandelions. Watch for new music from them in early 2021.

Top 10 Records of the Year

The Explorers Club – “The Explorers Club”
Hazel English – “Wake UP!”
Shy Boys – “Talk Loud”
The Lees of Memory – “Moon Shot”
Nick Siegel – “For You Dear, Anything, Act Two”
Neil Young – “Homegrown”
Fullbloods – “Soft and Virtual Touch”
Beachwood Sparks – “Beachwood Deluxe”
Bully – “Sugaregg”
Bob Dylan – “Rough and Rowdy Ways”


They Call Me Sauce

Anybody who’s heard of They Call Me Sauce is likely aware of his stamina as an emcee and his affirming presence in the local community. 2020 hasn’t stopped this drive, with the artist releasing a number of singles and collaborating with others. Most notably, Sauce's song "Anmls" was featured on NPR Music's Songs For Change initiative this summer. 

As 2020 was a rough year for me and other live performers, I found hope for the stage, inspiration to keep creating, and many hours of fun and emotion in these records/albums.

1. G Herbo – “PTSD”
2. The Jacka – “Murder Weapon”
3. Love, Mae C. – “Dive In”
4. Rick Ross – “Pinned to the Cross”
5. Conway the Machine – “From King To A GOD”
6. Westside Gunn – “Pray for Paris”
7. Nas – “King's Disease”
8. Jeezy – “The Recession 2”
9. Chance The Rapper & Jeremih – “Merry Christmas Lil Mama: The Gift That Keeps on Giving”
10. Meet Me @ The Altar – Garden

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