Verb T – “I Remain” (High Focus Records) - The UK lyricist reconfirmed his status as one of the most consistent talents to be found within the British Hip-Hop scene with this impressive self-produced project. Mixing the mundane grind of daily life with a creative imagination, “I Remain” offered another vivid look into the world of Verb T.
Ka – “The Night’s Gambit” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) - Painting more detailed images of NYC’s darkside, Brooklyn’s Ka dropped another understated opus of haunting brilliance that stayed with the listener long after the final track faded into silence.
CM Jones – “Perfect Hand Off” (Ascetic Music) - With the power of technology at their disposal, French producer Creestal and New Jersey-based emcee MoShadee didn’t let thousands of miles prevent them from building a musical chemistry that ensured this multi-layered mix of soul, jazz and boom-bap sounded like it had been recorded by a pair of Hip-Hop heads who’d known each other since childhood.
Hannibal Stax & Marco Polo – “Seize The Day” (Soulspazm Records) – As one of the most recognisable voices of the Gang Starr Foundation, the debut album of Crooklyn lyricist Stax might have been years in the making, but it definitely arrived right on time. Backed by the thunderous, neck-snapping beats of Marco Polo, Hannibal took it back to a time in Hip-Hop when gimmicks were frowned upon and emcees relied purely on skills and mic presence to keep a listener’s attention. Brooklyn’s in the house!
Cyrus Malachi – “Black Athena” (First Son Records) - The Triple Darkness emcee continued to build on his brand of intricately written, mind-expanding Hip-Hop with this latest collection of intense bangers produced by the likes of 7th Dan and HellzEcho that could shake the foundations of the pyramids.
Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge – “12 Reasons To Die” (Soul Temple Music) - Backed by the soulful live instrumentation of Adrian Younge, the Wally Champ dove headfirst into this brilliantly-executed cinematic concept album based on an outlandish plot that made the average kung-fu flick seem straight forward. Joined by Wu swordsmen such as Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna and Masta Killa, Ghostface navigated his way through betrayal, love and murder in this musical martial arts thriller.
Ugly Heroes – “Ugly Heroes” (Mello Music Group) - Comprised of producer Apollo Brown alongside emcees Verbal Kent and Red Pill, Ugly Heroes provided a poignant soundtrack for people everywhere pushing their way through the everyday struggle, dealing with the pressures of day-jobs, family responsibilities and the unexpected knockout blows thrown by life. One of the year’s most sincere and heartfelt albums.
7 G.E.M.S. – “Golden Era Music Sciences” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – Massachusetts-based Tragic Allies members Purpose, Estee Nack and Code Nine joined forces with Queensbridge legend Tragedy Khadafi for this collabo project that was best described by its own title. Full of rugged, boom-bap beats and street-influenced god-body lyricism, “Golden Era Music Sciences” combined all of the correct elements from Hip-Hop’s periodic table for this true-school experiment.
Jack Diggs – “Dirty Finger Nails” (Revorg Records) - Deeply autobiographical and sublimely produced, TPS Fam member Diggs dug into his personal history as well as his record crates on this quality album which showcased the talents of an individual who clearly lives, breathes and sleeps the culture of Hip-Hop.
The Mouse Outfit – “Escape Music” (TheMouseOutfit.Com) - The Manchester-based crew of live musicians, deejays and emcees offered listeners a diverse melting pot of musical styles on this infectious album covering Hip-Hop, reggae, jazz and soul in the process. Highlighting the distinct lyrical flavour of veteran UK emcee Dr Syntax whilst introducing the likes of Sparkz and Black Josh to a wider audience, “Escape Music” was honest music made for all the right reasons.