20 Jazz Funk Greats is the band's first fully studio album, as prior albums contained both live and studio recordings. The production is credited to "Sinclair/Brooks".
The album's cover photograph was taken at Beachy Head, a chalk headland on the south coast of England, close to the town of Eastbourne in the county of East Sussex, and one of the world's most notorious suicide spots. On the 1981 Fetish Records issue of the release an apparently dead and naked male body lay in front of the band on the album cover.
Pitchfork described the album's style as such: "In a smash and grab that testifies to both increased musical ambition and a relentless urge to wrongfoot audience expectations, 20 Jazz Funk Greats finds the band waking up from D.O.A's dark night of the soul and feeling curiously frisky. Snacking on not only the titular funk and jazz, the band also takes touristic zig zags through exotica, rock and disco", ultimately describing it as a "kitsch detour toward mutant disco".