Benny Diction & Able8 – “Life Moves” (Boom Bap Professionals) - UK emcee Benny Diction teamed-up with Australian producer Able8 for this quality collection of insightful rhymes and boundary-pushing beats. Able’s swirling synths, thick bass and dense drums provided an unpredictable soundscape for Diction’s unique view of the world around us.
Wyld Bunch – “Unbreakable” (Effiscienz) - Backed by the soulful boom-bap production of France’s DJ Brans, the Brooklyn-based Bunch effectively captured the essence of golden-era East Coast Hip-Hop on this eight track EP which also featured the lyrical skills of Masta Ace, Torae and Roc Marciano.
Life MC – “Gift Of Life” (LifeMC.BandCamp.Com) - Having remained a staple of the UK Hip-Hop scene since his 90s debut as a member of Phi-Life Cypher, Life continued his successful musical chemistry with producer DJ Nappa, dropping another worthy addition to his solo catalogue which was packed with his usual blend of poignant social commentary and emcee bravado.
DJ Format & Phill Most Chill – “The Foremost” (Project Blue Book) - Taking it back to the future, UK producer Format and veteran Philadelphia-based emcee Phill Most Chill delivered an uptempo blast of true-school b-boy flavour celebrating dusty breakbeats, lyrical agility and a shared love of Hip-Hop culture.
Truth Universal – “Invent The Future” (Truth Universal Music) - At a time when many would argue that lyrical substance has been lost in Hip-Hop, New Orleans emcee Truth Universal dropped some serious edutainment on his latest project, tackling issues such as urban violence, health and poverty with insight and authority over dope beats from the likes of P.U.D.G.E., Kev Brown and Khrysis.
Esoteric & Stu Bangas – “Machete Mode” (Man Bites Dog Records) - Not content with having already dropped a quality album in 2013 as one third of CZARFACE, Boston mic icon Esoteric joined forces with Stu Bangas to spit sharp lyrical barbs over the producer’s trademark sonic aggression on this hard-hitting project. Well-placed guest appearances from the likes of Ill Bill, Vinnie Paz and Celph Titled kept the hardcore levels of “Machete Mode” peaking throughout.
Qwel & Maker – “Beautiful Raw” (Galapagos4 Records) - The Chicago duo journeyed through a myriad of emotions on this multi-layered project which took the listener from the pain of struggle to the joy of success and everywhere in-between. Qwel’s passionate verses were a perfect match for Maker’s masterful musicianship, resulting in an album that will no doubt stand as an enduring body of work for years to come.
The Doppelgangaz – “HARK” (Groggy Pack Entertainment) - NY’s Matter OV Fact and EP continued to promote the Black Cloak Lifestyle on their latest shadowy opus, mixing hypnotic, drum-heavy production with off-centre rhymes about questionable substances, personal hygiene and the finer points of the fairer sex. Like a good liquor, the ‘Gangaz once again proved themselves to be sonically dark, intoxicating and addictive.
K-Def – “One Man Band” (Redefinition Records) - Taking inspiration from the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, 24-Carat Black and DJ Premier, the gifted New Jersey producer gave a new lick of musical paint to some familiar grooves on this ambitious instrumental EP, mixing the old with the new and adding another dimension to K-Def’s already impressive skills behind the boards.
Heavy Links – “Heavyweight” (HeavyLinks.BandCamp.Com) - UK trio Habitat, El Tel and Donnie Propa dropped another quality EP in 2013 that was packed with speaker-busting beats and vivid wordplay, providing further proof that Heavy Links are one of the most promising crews currently making music in the British scene. Heavyweight champs, indeed.
John Robinson & Kyo Itachi – “The Path Of Mastery” (Shinigamie Records) - Making his name in the 90s as a member of NYC’s Scienz Of Life, longstanding wordsmith John Robinson continued to prove that true talent is timeless on this collaborative album with France’s Kyo Itachi. Mixing his usual brand of lyrical positivity with Itachi’s jazz-influenced beats, Robinson proved, once again, that the creative path he’s on is the correct one.