Category Archives: Album Reviews

You Gotta Flow Joe – 25th Anniversary Of Fat Joe’s Debut Album “Represent”

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Fat Joe’s debut album “Represent” is a personal favourite of mine. Not just a favourite album from 1993. Not just a favourite album from the 90s overall. But a personal favourite of all-time.

“Represent” may not have been considered the most polished or ground-breaking album when it dropped, but there was something about the raw Bronx attitude of a 22-year-old Joey Crack combined with the thunderous beats of some of the East Coast’s finest producers that ensured the project remained stuck in my Walkman headphones for months after its July 27th release date twenty-five years ago.

Introduced to the Hip-Hop world at large via D.I.T.C.’s Diamond D, who produced a Fat Joe promo for DJ Red Alert’s Kiss FM radio show in 1991 before offering the Rotten Apple rhymer some mic time on his classic 1992 album “Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop”, the graffiti-writing rapper was clearly starting to build a buzz for himself during the early-90s, with his street reputation appearing to precede him.

Yet it wouldn’t be until the spring of 1993 that Joe would make his official solo splash into the rap game with the release of the brilliant “Flow Joe” single on Relativity Records, a heavy-duty slice of horn-laced BX boom-bap flavour crafted by the aforementioned Diamond, featuring NY turntable legend Rob Swift on the cut, a catchy-yet-hardcore hook and the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer rhymes of a hungry Fat Joe who clearly felt he had something to prove as he sought to hold it down for  Latino lyricists (“Everybody knows Fat Joe’s in town, ‘Nuff respect for the Boogie-Down, I’m livin’ in the Bronx on an ave called Trinity, My name rings bells within the vicinity…”).

This single immediately grabbed my attention when I first heard it on Tim Westwood’s Capital Rap Show over here in the UK. Already a big Diggin’ In The Crates fan thanks to prior releases from Lord Finesse, Showbiz & AG and, of course, Diamond D, I was wide open at the thought of a full-length Fat Joe project, not least because after hearing that initial single, any subsequent album felt like it promised to be an uncompromising dose of gritty New York rap music.

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Hip-Hop in 1993 was in a state of flux. Times were changing. Fat Joe’s “Represent” landed right in the middle of a year that was seeing new sounds and voices from the West Coast beginning to dominate, whilst the East Coast was starting to lose its vice-like grip on the culture.

The impact of Dr. Dre’s classic “The Chronic”, released at the very end of 1992, was casting a synth-heavy G-Funk shadow across Planet Rock. Anticipation for Snoop’s debut album “Doggystyle” (released late in ’93) was steadily building. Ice Cube remained one of the culture’s most controversial voices. MC Eiht’s “Streiht Up Menace” from the “Menace II Society” soundtrack was one of the most popular singles of the year Stateside. Cypress Hill were selling huge amounts of records. 2Pac was beginning to gain notoriety.

Meanwhile, some veteran New York giants were either splitting-up, faltering or rebuilding. EPMD had proven that business was personal by announcing the group’s break-up. Public Enemy had lost some momentum following the release of their 1992 album “Greatest Misses”. LL Cool J had received mixed reviews for his”14 Shots To The Dome” project, released in March 1993. Whilst Big Daddy Kane’s “Looks Like A Job For…” (released in May) found the Brooklyn legend having to regain the trust of many fans who’d balked at the overt R&B influences of 1991’s “Prince Of Darkness”.

The full impact of Nas and Biggie was still yet to be felt in 1993, with the future icons still each only having a single and some guest appearances under their respective belts. Neither “Illmatic” or “Ready To Die” would be released until the following year, with both artists then being credited with bringing the Hip-Hop crown back home to New York in 1994.

Many people, however, quite rightly point to late 1993 album releases from A Tribe Called Quest, Black Moon and Wu-Tang Clan as all having played a major part in drawing attention back to the traditional New York sound.

I, however, would go one step further and say that, in the summer of that same year, knowingly or not, Fat Joe was already doing his best to ensure New York remained on top of the game.

To say I was amped for the release of “Represent” would be an understatement. Whilst the first half of 1993 had definitely seen some strong album releases from a selection of East Coast artists (Onyx, Lords Of The Underground, Akinyele, Masta Ace Incorporated, Trends Of Culture etc), I had a different level of excitement in relation to Fat Joe’s debut. Partly because of his Diggin’ In The Crates affiliation and partly because the overall power of that “Flow Joe” single really had me hooked.

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In the pre-Internet Hip-Hop world, you didn’t always know the definitive release date of an album, you just knew it was coming based on ads you would see in magazines like The Source. That was the case with Fat Joe’s “Represent”.

I can distinctly remember going on a family holiday at the time the release of “Represent” was looming. At almost eighteen-years-old, I hadn’t been on holiday with my parents for a few years. My sister had been diagnosed with cancer mid-1992, and twelve months into her treatment the future was looking a little uncertain, so my mother had decided it would be a good idea to go on a holiday that year in-case it was the last opportunity we had (thankfully it wasn’t and my sister is still alive and well today).

Before we left I gave my cousin fifteen pounds (the average price of an import CD in the UK at that time) and strict instructions to look out for “Represent” dropping whilst I was away. He worked in Luton, then home to the brilliant Soul Sense Records, so I was confident that if the album came out he’d be able to get it.

My girlfriend at the time also came on that family holiday with us and I can recall laying on a beach listening to a Westwood radio tape with “Flow Joe” on it and repeatedly telling her how high my hopes were for “Represent” and how disappointed I was going to be if my cousin hadn’t succeeded in his mission by the time we got home.

He had.

Any music lover who has ever bought physical product will tell you about the eagerness involved in tearing the wrapping off of a new purchase. But when it’s an album you’ve been anticipating for a period of time, that eagerness is heightened. When I returned from holiday and got my hands on my CD copy of “Represent”, I needed to hear it immediately.

I remember looking at that cover shot of Fat Joe standing on a darkened Bronx street-corner and thinking how rugged it looked (I hadn’t yet seen the “Flow Joe” video), then flipping the case over and seeing the picture of the In Memory Of…mural dedicated to Joe’s late friend Anthony Crespo aka Tony Montana. Then I ran down the tracklist which was followed by these words – Produced By Diamond D. Additional Production By Lord Finesse, The Beatnuts, Showbiz and Chilly Dee.

I had no idea who Chilly Dee was, but I remember thinking that if his production work was sitting next to beats provided by dudes who were already considered living legends then he must be up-to-par.

I plugged in my headphones and hit ‘Play’ on the CD.

The segue from the short “Scarface”-sampling intro “A Word To Da Wise” into the beginning of the moody and atmospheric Lord Finesse-crafted “Livin’ Fat” remains one of the greatest album openings ever, with the Funkyman’s work behind the boards on that particular cut standing as unquestionable proof as to why he should forever be considered one of Hip-Hop’s greatest producers.

With the echoing horns, heavy bass and pounding drums of “Livin’ Fat” capturing the ominous energy of a late-night encounter in a Bronx project building hallway, the track offered the perfect opportunity for Fat Joe to make his intentions clear, shouting out his affiliation with the late Chris Lighty (“I can’t get played ‘cos I roll with Baby Chris…”), detailing his expectations of “Represent” reaching Gold status (at least), and offering some very direct info on his day-to-day routine (“I be rippin’ the mic, Clockin’ dough, Stickin’ the hoes, After every single show, y’know?!”)

Joe’s claims on “Livin’ Fat” of being “One of the best to grab the mic…” may have seemed unfounded to many in 1993, but in reality who was going to argue with someone who by their own admission used to bully their way onto the mic at block parties and was able to remain in control of said microphone because people were scared to tell him his lyrical skills just weren’t as impressive as those of others.

“Bad Bad Man” was another immediate standout from the album, with Joe giving props to Gang Starr, threatening to hand-out physical beatdowns and “checking out stunts in the Polo Grounds” over an ill Diamond D-dissected loop from Yvonne Fair’s 1975 track “Let Your Hair Down”.

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In more recent times,  Fat Joe has mentioned that he is unable to listen to “Represent”. In 2010 he told HipHopDX.Com, “I can’t listen to my first album. It’s like brutal to me…Lyrically, I’ve grown so much over the years.”

Yet, if the rapper had any doubts about his rhyming abilities in 1993, he definitely didn’t let it show, placing himself on tracks alongside emcees with deservedly formidable reputations and defiantly holding his own, resulting in “Represent” containing three of my favourite 90s posse cuts.

The Tenor Saw-sampling “Watch The Sound” found Diamond D and Grand Puba delivering politically-incorrect punchlines over speaker-rattling jeep beats, whilst amidst dialogue snippets from the Matty Rich-directed film “Straight Out Of Brooklyn” and the sound of loud gunfire, Fat Joe called on the tough-guy terminology of lyrical architect Kool G Rap and the Flavor Unit’s Apache for the Hip-Hop adrenaline rush that was “You Must Be Out Of Your F**kin’ Mind” (with Joe verbally date-stamping the track with his infamous line “I’m sick and tired of muthaf**kers trying to sound like Das EFX!”).

The greatest posse cut on “Represent”, however, has to be the Chilly Dee-produced “Another Wild N****r From The Bronx”. Based around the same Bobbi Humphrey “Blacks And Blues” sample made popular by K.M.D.’s 1991 track “Plumskinzz”, Fat Joe was joined by homeboys Gismo, Kieth Kieth and NY legend King Sun for an absolute juggernaut of a track, with all involved (Kieth Kieth in particular – or should that be Keith Keith?) delivering some potent New York straight talk.

The Beatnuts supplied Joe with a swaggering head-nodder in the form of the autobiographical “The S**t Is Real” (a track which would gain further traction when released as a single in ’94 complete with a DJ Premier remix), whilst the huge drums of the Showbiz-produced “I Got This In A Smash” inspired the Bronx representative to show some uncharacteristic vulnerability as he described the moment he found out about the murder of his friend Tony Montana (“Ahhh s**t, Another brother hit, This time it’s Tone, Life is a f**kin’ bitch, It really hurts when the s**t hits home, Early in the morning, They’re callin’ me on the phone, Tellin’ me my man caught eight to the chest, Nah this couldn’t be, Tone always wore a vest…Man, I’m gonna miss him, I love him to death, Charlie’s in jail and I’m the only brother left…”).

The juvenile humour of “Shorty Gotta Fat Ass” and the lively “Get On Up” offered moments of light-hearted respite from Joe’s relentless, hardcore attack. Yet the closing “I’m A Hit That” left me scratching my head at the time. Obviously aimed at the ladies, this Showbiz-produced track featured Fat Joe adopting a playful, Heavy D-style flow which seemed out of place within the overall context of the album. To end the project with a track that almost seemed like an afterthought seemed like a strange decision.

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In the September 1993 issue of The Source, “Represent” was given a three-and-a-half-mic review. I believed then (as I do now) that the album deserved four-mics (which would have elevated it to ‘Slammin’ – Definite Satisfaction’ status). The overall response to the project from Da Ghetto Communicator was positive. But obviously the magazine’s mighty Mind Squad weren’t all as enthusiastic about Fat Joe when it came time for the group vote to take place which determined the mic-rating the album would receive.

“Represent” would reach a peak position of 46 on Billboard’s Top R&B / Hip-Hop Albums chart.

Fast-forward to the winter of 1993, almost six months after “Represent” dropped, and I can clearly remember still rocking the album in my headphones on freezing cold mornings as I walked to my local bus station en route to university lectures.

When I say I kept “Represent” on heavy rotation long after its initial release, I really do mean heavy rotation.

Whilst “Represent” may not have had a particularly influential impact on the culture, to me, it was, and still is, a rough diamond of an album that had undeniable character, with Fat Joe’s sense of purpose and determination to succeed remaining tangible throughout.

This was raw, uncut New York Hip-Hop at its best – no frills, no apologies, no sell-out.

As the saying goes, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but looking at the intimidating figure on the cover of “Represent” back in 1993, it’s safe to say few people would have singled Fat Joe Da Gangsta out as being an artist destined for a lengthy career involving mainstream success.

Yet in the years following the release of “Represent”, Fat Joe’s career would indeed go from strength-to-strength, albeit with mixed musical results, as the Bronx rapper navigated his way from his boom-bap beginnings, through the Puffy-dominated late-90s jiggy-era, and on to the radio-friendly R&B trends of the early-2000s and beyond (in-between all of this Joe would of course introduce the incredible Big Pun to the world via his Terror Squad crew).

A quarter-of-a-century after his debut album dropped, Fat Joe remains a larger-than-life figure both inside and outside of Hip-Hop. And if his Coca Vision interviews are anything to go by, Joe’s passion for the culture definitely doesn’t appear to have been worn-down by the politics and drama of the music industry.

So, Fat Joe, if you ever find yourself stumbling across this write-up whilst online, let me take this opportunity to personally thank you for dropping a classic debut album which has given me hours of listening pleasure over the years.

As the man himself said on “Another Wild N****r From The Bronx” – “My rhymes are homicidal, I take your title, I’m Joe Da Fat Gangsta, Far from Billy Idol!”

True, indeed!

Ryan Proctor

Album Review – Micall Parknsun & Mr Thing

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Micall Parknsun & Mr Thing

“Finish What We Started”

(Village Live Records)

Genuine creative chemistry is something that’s hard to come by in any artistic partnership. It’s something magical that can’t really be fully explained by those involved, but it can definitely be felt, heard and seen by those on the outside of the process.

Chemistry doesn’t even just come down to having talent – two of the most gifted individuals in their respective fields may choose to work together, but if they’re not on the same page creatively then the end result is likely to be hollow and underwhelming.

Thankfully, that isn’t a problem UK duo Micall Parknsun and Mr Thing need to worry about, with their brilliant new album “Finish What We Started” pulsating from beginning to end with an energy that can only be achieved when people share the same drive, focus and passion for what they do.

As two of the most consistent figures within the UK Hip-Hop scene, both Parksnun and Thing have spent years building concrete-solid reputations as reliable purveyors of true-school flavour, with the pair deciding to join forces last year for the well-received single “The Raw” (which is included here in all its rugged glory).

The overwhelmingly positive response to “The Raw” inspired the duo to complete “Finish What We Started”, with DMC DJ champ Mr Thing handling all of the production, leaving Micall Parknsun, a talented producer in his own right, to concentrate on delivering lyrically throughout the project.

The anthemic album-opener “Started” sets the tone in no uncertain terms, as London-raised rhymer Park-E drops confident, self-assured bars over full-bodied, sample-driven beats.

The head-nodding “Certain For The Win” showcases some of Thing’s best work behind the boards, with the former Scratch Perverts member blending slow, deliberate drums and a hypnotic piano sample, topping it all off with some deft cuts.

“Don’t You Care” is a relentless, bass-heavy, soul-laced banger, featuring Parknsun showing the rap game some tough love via no-nonsense rhymes which come from a genuine place of love and concern for the culture (“What happened to the emcees? What happened to stage presence over dope beats? How come we keep on forgetting ’bout its history? It seems we never learn our lesson ‘cos we don’t teach…”).

“Klingon Face” is an up-tempo floor-rocker, with MP being joined by fellow UK wordsmith Joker Starr to trade quick-fire lyrics over explosive break-beats, paying tribute to Hip-Hop’s golden-era in the process. All that’s missing here is a multi-syllable late-80s verse from either Big Daddy Kane or Rakim.

The head-nodding “I’m So Glad” signals a shift in the album’s mood, with Essa (pka Yungun) and Parknsun displaying sincere gratitude for their blessings, which include marriage, fatherhood and family bonds, whilst the stirring “Still Struggling” balances the uncertainty of life as an artist with the responsibilities and financial pressures of the wider world.

An album with real replay value, “Finish What We Started” is the sound of both Micall Parknsun and Mr Thing at the top of their game, mixing old-school values with now-school skills.

Let’s hope neither of them have finished just yet.

Ryan Proctor

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2017 (Part Four) – Benaddict / Sean Price / Da Flyy Hooligan etc.

Check Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Benaddict – “The Garden Of England” (Yogocop.BandCamp.Com) – This debut album from UK emcee Benaddict was a brilliantly crafted collection of down-to-earth, observational rhymes delivered over impeccable, boom-bap-influenced production from Mr Slipz, Ded Tebiase, Gonza and more.

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Molecules & Showbiz – “A Bronx Tale” (Legion Records) – The Legion’s Molecules dropped an uncompromisingly hardcore example of traditional Rotten Apple rap in the form of this Showbiz-produced EP. With a respectful nod to NYC’s Hip-Hop heritage, this release contained everything you’d expect from a D.I.T.C.-associated project – dusty, thunderous beats, true-school rhyme skills and an unwavering hometown pride. The Bronx keeps creating it.

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Logic Marselis & Illien Rosewell – “Wally Renaissance” (MagnetikMoments.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia producer / emcee combo Logic Marselis & Illien Rosewell showcased their undeniable creative chemistry over five tracks of neck-snapping, sample-driven beats and confident wordplay on this short-but-impressive EP.

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VVV – “Bozo Boyz” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham microphone masters Juga-Naut, Cappo and Vandal Savage flexed heavyweight rhyme skills over an eclectic selection of beats on this entertainingly unpredictable project.

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Kesper – “Beautifully Ugly” – Queens, NY representative Kesper delivered a strong, full-length dose of Rotten Apple attitude with this project, which was rooted in the traditionally rugged, sample-driven sound of East Coast Hip-Hop.

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Spider Jaroo & Pro P – “Photons” (ProPProducer.BandCamp.Com) – Bluntskins producer Pro P teamed-up with fellow Northern England-based Hip-Hop head Spider Jaroo for this fine collection of jazz-flavoured samples, knockin’ drums and everyman lyricism.

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Von Poe VII – “The Hype” (VonPoeVII.BandCamp.Com) – Talented West Coast wordsmith Von Poe VII continued to elevate his artistry with this well-crafted collection of personal, introspective rhymes delivered with natural skill and ability.

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Daniel Son & Giallo Point – “Remo Gaggi” (GialloPoint.BandCamp.Com) – Once again displaying the  chemistry showcased on their 2016 release “The Gunners”, Canadian wordsmith Daniel Son and UK producer Giallo Point dropped another high-calibre batch of razor-sharp rhymes and sample-driven beats.

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Bub Styles – “Long Nights, Cold Winters” (BubStyles.Com) – The gruff Brooklyn wordsmith teamed-up with producer Ace Fayce for this standout collection of Rotten Apple rawness, evoking images of street-corner crews, scuffed Timberlands and late-night bodega visits.

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Tha 4orce – “Setting Standards” (Tha4orce.BandCamp.Com) – UK Hip-Hop vet Tha 4orce delivered his long-awaited production album “Setting Standards”, featuring lyrical heavyweights such as Ray Vendetta, Dubbledge and Arise King David all living up to the project’s title as they dropped accomplished wordplay over a stellar selection of beats.

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Therman Munsin – “Sabbath” (Hard Times Records) – The highly-anticipated album from New Jersey’s Therman Munsin arrived in 2017 following an effective blog-assisted build up, produced entirely by Strong Island’s Roc Marciano and featuring appearances from AG Da Coroner, Big Twins and Guily Simpson.

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PhybaOptikz & Giallo Point – “Voynich Manuscript” (CrateDivizion.BandCamp.Com) – A quality batch of atmospheric, suspenseful beats and rhymes from the ever-reliable Crate Divizion camp, featuring Daniel Son, SmooVth and Task Force’s Farma G assisting London’s PhybaOptikz as he embarked on a new Hip-Hop mission.

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Allstar Stacks – “BodybagKing – The Reaper’s Alliance” (AllStarStacks.BandCamp.Com) – Moody, atmospheric late-night vibes from the North London-based New Guardz member, with appearances from Ray Vendetta, Flowtecs and Honours Tea adding further lyrical weight to this well-crafted project.

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Crimeapple – “Metralleta” (FxckRxp.BandCamp.Com) – New Jersey’s Crimeapple spent 2017 consistently leaking impressive free music across the internet. But this official EP release was undoubtedly the grimy rhymer’s crowning achievement of the year. Produced entirely by Buck Dudley, this release found Crimeapple weaving his sharp, street-influenced verses around minimalist, stripped down beats.

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Muja Messiah – “Saran Rap” (ManBitesDogRecs.BandCamp.Com) – The veteran Minneapolis microphone master was blessed with production from NY’s mighty Roc Marciano throughout this short-but-satisfying EP. Engaging rhymes and suble, mellow loops were combined here with memorable results.

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Phat Kat & DJ Dister – “The S.O.S. Project” (BelowSystem.BandCamp) – Veteran Detroit emcee Phat Kat (aka Ronnie Euro) teamed-up with Berlin-based producer DJ Dister for this solid selection of true-school cuts, full of confident, self-assured rhymes and speaker-rattling beats.

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Doc Brown – “Stemma” (DocBrown.Co.UK) – Before he became known as a comedian and actor, London’s Doc Brown spent some years establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the UK Hip-Hop scene.  Returning to his rap roots, “Stemma” found the talented emcee demonstrating that his passion for music still burns strong, dropping both personal verses and boisterous braggadocio over an eclectic mix of genre-blurring production.

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Sean Price – “Imperius Rex” (DuckDown.Com) – This posthumous project from the late, great Sean P was as impressive as it was bittersweet. A quality showcase of the Brooklyn emcee’s unique skills and irrepressible personality, the album was also a poignant reminder of the talent the rap world lost following Price’s untimely death in 2015. That being said, Dru Ha and the Duck Down camp did a sterling job here of ensuring “Imperius Rex” was a worthy addition to both the man’s discography and legacy. Ruck Down lives on. P!!!

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Da Flyy Hooligan – “S.C.U.M.” (22Entertainment.BandCamp.Com) – The artist formerly known as Iron Braydz came correct in no uncertain terms on this dope full-length effort, cutting through the mellow, hypnotic production of Agor with his razor-sharp wordplay and bold delivery. Fresh like a pair of brand new sneakers.

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Apollo Brown & Planet Asia – “Anchovies” (ApolloBrown360.BandCamp.Com) – It was clear from the outset that only good things could come from a collaboration between Detroit producer Apollo Brown and West Coast vet Planet Asia. Both masters of their respective crafts, Brown’s minimalist production style on this project gave PA’s heavy-mental verses plenty of room to breathe, which allowed the listener to really digest the content of the rhymes on offer here. Once again, another Mello Music Group sureshot!

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Fifth and final part coming soon.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2017 (Part Three) – Raekwon / Ded Tebiase / Tesla’s Ghost etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Jones Brothers – “Roughs With The Smooth” (FlukebeatMusic.BandCamp.Com) – UK emcees Joker Starr and AnyWay Tha God came with that “street knowledge and supreme wisdom” on this dope collaborative project. Striving to protect Hip-Hop from culture vultures, whilst annihilating anyone claiming to be lyrical competition in the process, the pair stood tall, backed by the loose, funky production of Manchester’s El Ay.

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Fly Anakin & Koncept Jack$on – “Chapel Drive” (FxckRxp.BandCamp.Com) – Representing Richmond, Virginia to the fullest, Anakin and Jackson involved every member of their Mutant Academy camp on this well-crafted album. Spontaneous rhymes and straight-out-the-basement beats were combined here to memorable effect, with “Chapel Drive” boasting a fluid, natural vibe that ensured it was high in replay value.

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Son Of Sam – “Cinder Hill” (SonOfSamMusic.BandCamp.Com) – The idea of a live band playing Hip-Hop is nothing new, just ask Stetsasonic, Brand New Heavies or The Roots. But whilst the concept may not raise the eyebrows it once did, the execution of said concept still takes a huge amount of skill. UK-based musical collective Son Of Sam rose to the challenge on their debut album, with the likes of J-Live, Large Professor and Prince Po all shining on the project’s lively, organic soundscapes.

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True God – “Inception” (TrueGodImmortal.BandCamp.Com) – Reporting live and direct from inner-city Baltimore, the talented True God delivered vivid, emotionally-charged street-corner sermons with skill, insight and sensitivity throughout this project.

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Roughneck Jihad – “The Wretched Of The Verse” (JihadTheRoughneckMC.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran West Coast emcee and Third Sight member Roughneck Jihad delivered a non-stop barrage of heavy-mental wordplay throughout this well-crafted collection of underground gems.

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DJ Manipulator & Louie Gonz – “The Loops” (DJManipulatorLouiGonz.BandCamp.Com) – This Massachusetts producer / emcee duo dropped an accomplished project in the form of “The Loops”, an album packed with cocky, street-smart rhymes and dusty, stripped-down beats, with the pair displaying a musical chemistry that gave this release a vibe reminiscent of a lost 90s-era demo tape.

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Dell-P – “4 Da Art” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Philly emcee Dell-P continued to build his reputation as one of the nicest lyricists to have emerged from the 215 in recent years with this release. A ‘total package’ wordsmith who sounded just as comfortable delivering heartfelt social commentary as he did spitting claims of microphone dominance, this Illadelph artist quite rightly demanded to be heard with “4 Da Art”.

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Your Old Droog – “PACKS” (FatBeatsRecords.BandCamp.Com) – With the Nas comparisons well and truly behind him, NYC’s Droog stood as his own man throughout this sophomore effort, blending humour, street smarts and razor-sharp wit throughout his verses, backed by production from The Alchemist, El RTNC and 88 Keys.

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Hus Kingpin & Big Ghost Ltd – “Cocaine Beach” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Epic fly ish from the NY-raised Kingpin, with the likes of Milano Constantine, Vinnie Paz and Planet Asia all passing through to bless the impeccable production of Big Ghost Ltd, resulting in one of 2017’s ‘event’ albums which appeared to grab the attention of nearly all underground Hip-Hop heads upon its release.

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Justo – “Black Ops” (Black Jewel Entertainment)Brooklyn’s Justo picked some choice beats from D.I.T.C. legend Showbiz’s “Rare Breaks” series for this collection of traditional, lyrically-impressive Rotten Apple Hip-Hop.

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Raekwon – “The Wild” (Ice H20 Records) – Almost twenty-five years since his debut as a member of Staten Island’s mighty Wu-Tang Clan, the Chef proved that his Shaolin sword was as sharp as ever with the release of this solid album. Full of cinematic verses and strong production, “The Wild” was a worthy addition to Raekwon’s discography, with only a couple of unnecessary guest-spots (Lil Wayne / G-Eazy) slowing the project’s momentum.

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Tristate & Oh No – “3 Dimensional Prescriptions” (HieroglyphicsImperium.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the eclectic, sample-driven beats of  infamous crate-digger Oh No, Gold Chain Music’s Tristate remained consistently impressive throughout this album, with his razor-sharp microphone techniques effortlessly keeping the listener engaged at all times.

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Ded Tebiase – “Landspeed” (VillageLive.BandCamp.Com) – Talented Bristol producer Ded Tebiase served up more of his drum-heavy, sample-based musical mastery on his latest album, featuring Da Flyy Hooligan, Ash The Author and Benaddict, with all proceeds from the release being donated to Pancreatic Cancer UK.

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DoamPeace – “Sidetrack” (DoesBros.BandCamp.Com) – The NYC-based DXA crew member educated listeners with pure true-school science on this eight-track EP.

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Big Toast & Ill Move Sporadic – “You Are Not Special” (StarchMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Tired of self-obsessed social media posts, shallow celebrity culture and rampant consumerism? This UK duo had the remedy for all of the above and then some with this sonic reality check. Toast’s blunt delivery and dry wit blended perfectly with Ill Move’s hefty beats, resulting in an album that was guaranteed to bring anyone with delusions of grandeur down to earth with a serious bump.

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Tesla’s Ghost – “Stretch Lincolns” (TeslasGhost.BandCamp.Com) – Late in 2017, gruff-voiced London lyricist Tesla’s Ghost dropped the perfect soundtrack for the cold, dark wintery nights ahead with this brilliantly-crafted album. Full of ominous, minimalist soundscapes and vivid, uncompromising verses, “Stretch Lincolns” was a strong example of pure, uncut mood music.

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El Camino – “El Camino” (Griselda Records) – The next chamber in the Griselda Records takeover came in the form of this self-titled EP from Buffalo’s El Camino; eight tracks of raw, gritty beats and rhymes, with the younger member of the GxFR camp being joined, of course, by Westside Gunn and Conway, plus the late, great Prodigy.

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Big Twins & DJ Skizz – “Billy Ocean” (DJSkizz.BandCamp.Com) – The Infamous Mobb emcee dropped some typically direct Queensbridge dunn language over old-school R&B grooves on this rugged-but-smooth EP.

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Figub Brazlevic – “4×4 Palestine Jeep Beats” (FigubBrazlevic.BandCamp.Com) – The nod factor was high on this quality collection of sample-based beats laced with live instrumentation from the German producer.

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Soul King – “The Diaspora” (SoulKingSK.BandCamp.Com) – Likwit Crew affiliate Soul King represented the Cali underground to the fullest throughout “The Diaspora”, with the project also featuring Montage One, Phil The Agony, Born Allah and more blessing beats from DirtyDiggs, DJ Breeze and Default.

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Part Four coming soon.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2017 (Part Two) – Leaf Dog / Spit Gemz / Talib Kweli etc.

Check Part One here.

Leaf Dog – “Dyslexic Disciple” (High Focus Records) – The Four Owls member went for delf on this thoroughly entertaining long-player, with the UK artist showcasing both his production skills and lyrical abilities over sixteen tracks, fuelled by a larger-than-life personality and an unshakeable love for the culture of Hip-Hop.

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Gatecrasherz – “Uninvited” (Revorg Records) – This album from the UK super-crew consisting of Oliver Sudden, Big Toast, Jack Diggs, Gee Bag and Downstroke pulled together rowdy microphone bravado, sincere personal recollections and relatable social commentary. The end result achieved the goal of sounding like a genuine collaboration between like-minded individuals rather than a collection of unconnected verses from four solo artists stitched together simply for the sake of throwing an album out.

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Must Volkoff – “Aquanaut” (Pang Productions) – Australian producer Must Volkoff showcased his passion for dusty drums and obscure, atmospheric samples on this lengthy album featuring Jehst, Nelson Dialect, Sonnyjim and more. With each cut sounding like it was painstakingly crafted thanks to Volkoff’s obvious attention to sonic detail, “Aquanaut” stood as an impeccable example of subterranean Hip-Hop.

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Asun Eastwood – “Nimbus” (AsunEastwood.BandCamp) – 2017 saw this Toronto emcee leave his mark  on the rap game as one to watch, taking his place amongst the current crop of upcoming artists who’re ensuring lyricism remains alive and well, as evidenced by this debut EP which featured Eastwood dropping confident, street-orientated content over solid, full-bodied beats.

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Magno Garcia – “Chandelier Shining” (MagnoGarcia.BandCamp.Com) – Boston wordsmith Magno Garcia delivered an underground masterpiece in the form of his “Chandelier Shining” album, calling on the likes of Conway, Estee Nack and Paranom for verbal assistance whilst ensuring his own jewel-filled verses remained the focus of the project.

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Koss – “Born To Live” (BelowSystem.BandCamp.Com) – Production wizard Koss dropped a fresh new batch of Belgian boom-bap, following-up his impressive EP releases with a full-length album featuring golden-era greats such as Masta Ace, Large Professor and Craig G demonstrating that true skills are timeless.

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SmooVth & Giallo Point – “Medellin” (Fxck Rxp / Crate Divizion) – Strong Island’s ever-impressive SmooVth and talented UK producer Giallo Point crafted a quality collection of stripped-down, suspenseful crime sagas for this brilliant collaborative project, with “Medellin” gaining immediate cult classic status upon release whilst boasting a supporting cast which included Vinnie Paz, Milano Constantine and Hus Kingpin.

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Juga-Naut & Micall Parknsun – “Six Bricks” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s Juga-Naut is one of the nicest emcees currently gripping microphones. London’s Micall Parknsun is one of the dopest producers currently punching MPC pads. So any collaboration between the two was bound to impress and “Six Bricks” lived up to expectations. Grounded in a traditional boom-bap sound, but with a slightly futuristic flavour, this EP showcased two gifted individuals at the top of their game.

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Da Villins & Skizz – “Cashmere Dice” (DJSkizz.BandCamp.Com) – Sean Price protégés and Brownsville representatives Da Villins did both their mentor and borough proud with this DJ Skizz-produced collection of raw-yet-refined Rotten Apple flavour. Blending the duo’s Crooklyn attitude with Skizz’s smoothed-out beats, “Cashmere Dice” captured the soulful, organic sound of two native New Yorkers who just want to rhyme and be heard.

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Spit Gemz – “The God Who Forgot Himself” (SpitGemz.BandCamp.Com) – NYC’s Spit Gemz solidified his reputation as one of the game’s illest wordsmiths as he devoured emcees like a rhyming Galactus throughout his latest project, with assistance from Chino XL, Big Twins, Apathy and more.

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K. Sparks & Es-K – “Urban Couture” (KSparks.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the sublimely soulful, jazz-influenced production of the talented Es-K, NYC’s K. Sparks waxed lyrical about the highs and lows of city life throughout this release, drawing on personal experiences and life observations to craft a project full of emotion and feeling.

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Nicholas Craven – “Craven N” (NicholasCraven.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian producer Nicholas Craven called on the microphone talents of WestsideGunn, Roc Marciano, Planet Asia and more for this well-crafted collection of uncut rawness, showcasing his ability to pair elegantly soulful loops with the hardcore rhymes of the project’s featured artists.

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Various Artists – “The Spacebreaks” (FunkypseliCave.BandCamp.Com) – Quality instrumental compilation from Greece’s Funkypseli Cave label featuring fourteen cuts by producers such as Tengu (Russia), Thelonious Coltrane (Germany) and Devaloop (Austria), all influenced by the drum-fuelled, jazz-tinged low-end theory of 90s East Coast boom-bap.

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DrxQuinnx – “Richard Pryor” (DrxQuinnx.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago-based artist DrxQuinnx combined unique styles and entertaining individuality on his self-produced debut solo album, resulting in a memorable lo-fi listening experience which was as infectious as it was uncompromising.

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Pounds – “Tuna” (Pounds.BandCamp.Com) – Rochester, NY resident Pounds spat rugged criminology and graphic street tales throughout this intense, moody release, backed by the faultless production of Spittzwell, Max Marciano and Griselda Records affiliate Daringer.

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Talib Kweli – “Radio Silence” (Javotti Media) – When he wasn’t busy during 2017 putting Twitter trolls in their place online, veteran BK emcee Kweli still managed to find time to hit the studio to record some worthwhile music. The latest Talib long-player featured the former Rawkus rhymer dropping his usual brand of intelligent, thoughtful wordplay over a diverse selection of production, as he attempted to illuminate and entertain in equal measures.

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Haze & Grubby Pawz – “The Failures And The Glory” (CityYardMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Clearly an artist who takes the craft of lyricism seriously, Massachusetts mic fiend Haze appeared to approach this album as if he’d been told he may never have the chance to rhyme again, with each verse on this project packed with razor-sharp lines which demanded to be heard again and again in order to be fully appreciated. The minimalist, loop-based production of Grubby Pawz gave Haze’s microphone techniques plenty of room to breathe, whilst ensuring the head-nod appeal of this project remained high.

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Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs – “Gems From The Equinox” (Soul Assassins Records) – How about some hardcore? Queens, NY’s Meyhem Lauren once again laced up his Timberlands and donned the flyest Polo attire he could find, before pairing his boisterous, street brawl rhyme style with the pounding production of Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs. Raw to the core and sounding all the better for it.

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Precyce Politix & K-Hill – “Stallone & Weathers” (StalloneAndWeathers.BandCamp.Com) – North Carolina’s K-Hill and Brooklyn-raised Precyce Politix demonstrated what real artistic chemistry should sound like on this dope collection of sharp, succinct beats and rhymes.

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Heavy Links – “Step Up To Get Your Rep Up” (MujBeats.BandCamp.Com) – Having proven themselves to be one of the most consistent crews to have emerged from the UK scene in recent years, Lincolnshire’s Donnie Propa, El Tel The Dopeness and Habitat dropped their long-awaited debut album in 2017, a concise collection of true-school homegrown boom-bap flavour.

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Part Three coming soon.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2017 (Part One) – Melanin 9 / Roc Marciano / J Scienide etc.

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So here we are again. Another year has come to an end. Time to look back over the last twelve months and give my traditional round-up of the beats and rhymes I had in heavy rotation throughout 2017.

It’s never easy putting ‘best-of’ lists together. Regardless of how many releases are included, it’s impossible to compile something like this without always feeling like you’re having to leave something out. But this year has been particularly difficult, given the sheer amount of quality Hip-Hop that has been released over the past 365 days.

In addition to the albums and EPs that actually made it into this five-part overview, there was approximately a further fifty included on my initial short-list, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

So, whilst there will no doubt be projects not featured here that some will feel should have been mentioned, those that made the cut have been selected based purely on being one of the releases I listened to (and enjoyed) the most throughout 2017.

That being said, huge props to every emcee, producer and deejay out there making music that comes from a genuine place of creativity and artistic integrity – your efforts are appreciated by Hip-Hop heads across Planet Rock.

But now, like we always do about this time….

Melanin 9 – “Old Pictures” (Red Snow Records) – A decade after the release of his debut project “High Fidelity”, Triple Darkness member Melanin 9 delivered arguably his best body of  solo work to date. A personal, introspective walk through the experiences, struggles and memories of the London-based lyricist, “Old Pictures” found M9 matching his impressive verses with fittingly mellow, laidback soundscapes from producers such as Ohbliv, Wun Two and Anatomy. Timeless beats and rhymes.

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O.C. – “Same Moon Same Sun: 1st Phase” (D.I.T.C. Studios) – One of the greatest emcees of all-time, Diggin’ In The Crates legend Omar Credle personified the term ‘grown man business’ on his seventh solo album, offering an assured blend of social commentary, life observations and lyrical bravado, proving that truly talented artists never lose their importance or relevance in the rap game.

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Trauma 74 – “The God Given Image” (Evil Twin Records) – The result of a life-long passion for Hip-Hop that began in the early-80s, this debut album from UK emcee Trauma 74 was clearly a labour of love. Grounded in true-school traditions and creative integrity, “The God Given Image” was packed with accomplished wordplay and soulful boom-bap beats, resulting in a project that any fellow Hip-Hop junkie could appreciate and relate to.

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Strizzy Strauss – “The Art Of Summarising Life” (IAmStrizzyStrauss.BandCamp.Com) – The upcoming Leicester-based lyricist definitely made his mark on the homegrown scene in 2017 with this impressive EP, full of personal, heartfelt verses delivered with street-savvy sensitivity and a sharp social awareness. Honest, life-affirming and inspirational, “The Art Of…” showcased the voice of an artist clearly keen to inject his music with substance as well as style.

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Milano Constantine – “The Way We Were” (Different Worlds Music Group) – A tribute to the New York of yesteryear, Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano utilised the top-notch, drum-heavy production of DJ Skizz and Marco Polo to reminisce about old-school fashion trends, graffiti-covered subway trains and wild nights at the Latin Quarter throughout this release, drawing on both the youthful energy of 80s Hip-Hop and the volatile Rotten Apple environment of the time for inspiration.

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Roc Marciano – “Rosebudd’s Revenge” (Marci Enterprises) – The Strong Island representative gave the game yet another back-handed pimp slap in the form of his fourth solo album, a cool-but-deadly collection of cold-blooded, elegantly-delivered rawness, evoking images of 70s Blaxploitation flicks and golden-era NY Hip-Hop in equal measures. Fresh, fly and bold.

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Brother Ali – “All The Beauty In This Life” (Rhymesayers Entertainment) – Long-established as one of Hip-Hop’s most inspiring and warm-hearted artists, Minneapolis’s Brother Ali dropped a truly fitting Ant-produced soundtrack to today’s troubled times, drawing inspiration from both personal situations and global issues as he encouraged listeners to find meaning and purpose in their lives, despite the struggles and hardships we each face on a daily basis.

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Funky DL – “Marauding At Midnight” (Washington Classics) – Multi-talented UK artist Funky DL paid tribute to the musical genius of A Tribe Called Quest with this inspired instrumental remake of the Queens crew’s classic 1993 album “Midnight Marauders”. Achieving the difficult balance of staying faithful to ATCQ’s jazzy, low-end aesthetic whilst allowing his own musical personality to shine through, DL proved himself to be both a student and master of the production game throughout this ambitious release.

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Saipher Soze – “Godbody” (SaipherSoze.BandCamp.Com) – Rough, rugged and raw flavour from the Toronto emcee packed with razor-sharp rhymes and quality beats, this Finn-produced album found Soze cementing his position as one of the most skilled microphone fiends to have emerged from the Canadian underground in recent times.

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Dillon & Diamond – “Black Tie Affair” (FullPlate.BandCamp.Com) – Successful in their promise of crafting “sophisticated rap music”, Atlanta-based emcee Dillon and Diggin’ In The Crates giant Diamond D mixed the rough with the smooth on this five-track EP, resulting in a polished listening experience which still bore the musical marks of dusty fingerprints.

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Sons Phonetic – “Deloreans” (SonsPhonetic.BandCamp.Com) – Atmospheric, captivating beats and rhymes from Ireland’s mighty Sons Phonetic crew, with “Deloreans” proving once again why the multi-faceted collective can lay claim to being one of the most consistent groups in the game.

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The Almighty $amhill – “The Epilogue” (LowTechRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Bronx native $amhill delivered more of his unapologetically raw street-smart lyricism on this quality EP release, a potent dose of gritty NY flavour direct from the birthplace of Hip-Hop produced largely by the talented Preservation.

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Es – “We Are Only Getting Older” (EsMuzik.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian lyricist Es followed up his brilliant 2014 album “Aspire To Inspire” with the equally impressive “We Are Only Getting Older”, a concept-based project dealing with Hip-Hop’s generation gap, featuring production from IV The Polymath, Rel McCoy, Kelpi Nine and more.

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Eloh Kush & BudaMunk – “Fly Emperor” (AnglezInc.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the melodic, drum-heavy production of Japan’s BudaMunk, New Jersey’s Eloh Kush mixed streetwise attitude with vividly creative wordplay on this impressive long-player.

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The Cornel West Theory – “The T.A.B.L.E. Too” (TheCornelWestTheory.BandCamp.Com) – Washington D.C.’s Cornel West Theory continued to go against the grain on their fifth album release, a collection of radio-unfriendly soundscapes and challenging, thought-provoking lyrics.

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Creestal – “Differences” (MunchieRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Talented French producer Creestal (of CM Jones fame) dug deep in his crates for this sample-driven collection of dusty flavours featuring Roc Marciano, Conway, Torae and more. Blending together raw drums, obscure loops and random film dialogue, “Differences” was a masterclass in sonic creativity.

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J Scienide – “The Actual Heat” (JSciende-OfficialCrateMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Washington D.C.-based artist J Scienide delivered his highly-anticipated album “The Actual Heat”, an accomplished collection of sample-based beats and intelligent, witty wordplay, with the likes of Grap Luva, Kev Brown and Nolan The Ninja making notable appearances on what was easily one of 2017’s best releases.

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Da Buze Bruvaz – “Adebisi Hat” (Grilchy Party) – Run and DMC. Rae and Ghost. Billy Danze and Lil Fame. The key to a great rap duo is chemistry. Philly’s Him-Lo and Clever One can add themselves to that list. The Lo-Life-affiliated pair have dropped plenty of worthwhile material over the years, but this full-length effort upped the hardcore ante, with the true-school twosome verbally bullying top-drawer production with their trademark brand of boisterous, politically-incorrect punchlines.

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MC Eiht – “Which Way Iz West” (Blue Stamp Music / Year Round Records) – Approximately two years after West Coast legend MC Eiht announced his next album would be backed by DJ Premier, the project finally saw a release. Thankfully, “Which Way…” lived up to expectations. With Eiht solidifying his OG status throughout, this long-player deservedly found itself being heralded as a standout dose of Cali attitude. Compton’s still in the house. Geeah!

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Children Of Zeus – “The Story So Far…” (First Word Records) – Manchester’s Konny Kon and Tyler Daley have been blessing a cult following with sonic gems for some time now, but 2017 was the year the talented pair’s unique brand of soulful, Hip-Hop-influenced music started to reach a wider audience and receive the acclaim it deserved. This compilation pulled together both previously-released tracks and new material from the UK duo, paving the way for the official Zeus debut album due for release in 2018.

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Check Part Two here.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2016 (Part Five) – Westside Gunn / De La Soul / Booda French etc.

Fifth and final part of Old To The New’s overview of 2016  – check Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

Westside Gunn – “FLYGOD” (Griselda Records) – Having spent recent years steadily building a reputation as one of the underground Hip-Hop scene’s most promising talents, 2016 saw Buffalo, NY emcee Westside Gunn solidify his position as a go-to-artist for that gritty-yet-understated street ish, packing the heavily-anticipated “FLYGOD” with densely-woven verses of verbal violence delivered in his signature vocal tone.

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Jigmastas – “Resurgence” (BBE Records) – Revisiting the creative chemistry that made their string of 90s singles immediate underground classics, Brooklyn duo DJ Spinna and Kriminul effectively showcased their trademartrue-school sound on this solid collection of beats and rhymes.

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Enlish – “Slumdog Hundredaire” (Enlish.BandCamp.Com) – Packed with cocky bravado, politically-incorrect punchlines and moments of personal honesty, this thoroughly-entertaining album found UK emcee Enlish stomping all over the competition in his own inimitable fashion.

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De La Soul – “and the Anonymous Nobody…” (A.O.I. Records) – Following a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Strong Island legends Plugs One, Two and Three returned with this highly-anticipated album, a project which masterfully balanced the group’s ambitious creativity with their golden-era roots.

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DJ Rude One – “ONEderful” (Closed Sessions) – Chicago-raised, NY-based producer Rude One tapped the likes of Conway, Your Old Droog and Roc Marciano to lace his moody, atmospheric lo-fi beats with their respective brands of street-savvy wordplay, resulting in an album that was undeniably raw to the core.

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Da Flyy Hooligan – “Ray Winstone” (Gourmet Deluxxx) – Formerly known as Iron Braydz, London’s Da Flyy Hooligan served up a hefty helping of “gourmet rap” in the form of this nine-track release, displaying razor-sharp microphone techniques and a strong sense of individuality over production from Micall Parknsun, Beat Butcha, Ded Tebiase and more.

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Jakk Frost – “The Beard Awakens” (BeardGangClikk.Com) – Whilst technically a ‘mixtape’, this project from Philly’s Jakk Frost was so dope it had to be included here. Featuring the Illadelph emcee getting busy over self-produced loops of classic material from the likes of Donald Byrd, Keni Burke and Ronnie Laws, “The Beard Awakens” was a captivating blend of street smarts, raw humour and genuine lyrical skill. The beard is still in the building!

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Benny Diction & Blue Buttonz – “Button Up” (BoomBapPro.Com) – Backed by the soulful boom-bap of South African producer Blue Buttonz, Benny Diction one again proved himself to be one of UK Hip-Hop’s most consistent emcees throughout this album, delivering relatable rhymes in his usual down-to-earth style with memorable results.

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Agallah – “Bo: The Legend Of The Water Dragon” (Propain Campaign) – The Rotten Apple-raised producer-on-the-mic was joined by the likes of Hus Kingpin, Planet Asia and the late Sean Price on this expertly-executed collection of hardcore jewels.

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Classic Material – “Classic Material” (ClassicMat.BandCamp.Com) – Meticulously-crafted, sample-driven true-school flavour from UK producer Ill Treats alongside Soundsci members Oxygen and Audessey (with the project also featuring liner notes from yours truly).

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Booda French – “Awesome Is Everyday” (BoodaFrench.BandCamp.Com) – Produced by Brown Bag Allstars member J57, Jimmy Green and Apatight, this EP from UK emcee Booda French was arguably the artist’s best work-to-date, with his unique delivery and likeable, somewhat world-weary personality meshing effortlessly with the quality beats on offer here.

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Apathy – “Handshakes With Snakes” (Dirty Version Records) – A strong addition to an already rock-solid discography, the latest long-player from Connecticut’s Apathy found the Demigodz member delivering his usual high-standard of rhymes over polished self-produced beats, with the likes of Ras Kass, O.C. and Spit Gemz offering worthwhile lyrical assistance along the way.

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Babylon Warchild – “War Journals” (BabylonWarchild.Com) – Known for their politically-charged, uncompromising Hip-Hop, Canada’s Babylon Warchild crew offered more of the same on their latest effort, crafting a fitting soundtrack for the everyday struggle faced by many in an increasingly volatile world.

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MindsOne & DJ Iron – “Phaseology” (IllAdrenaline.Com) – New Jersey’s Ill Adrenaline Records added to the label’s ever-growing catalogue of quality releases with the brilliant “Phaseology”, a sublime, understated blend of intelligent, personal lyricism from Tronic and KON Sci with top-notch production courtesy of Belgium’s DJ Iron.

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AG Da Coroner – “Sip The Nectar” (Man Bites Dog Records) – Personifying the term ‘New York straight talk’, Rotten Apple emcee AG Da Coroner’s long-awaited debut album didn’t disappoint, with its gruff rhymes and drama-fuelled beats carrying on tradition and proudly flying the flag for East Coast Hip-Hop.

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Kyza Sayso – “Miverione: Vol. 1” (KyzaSayso.BandCamp.Com) – London lyricist and former Terra Firma member Kyza made a welcome return to the mic with a potent mix of vivid street-related rhymes and competition-crushing barbs, proving once again why he’s long been considered one of the nicest emcees to have emerged from the UK Hip-Hop scene.

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Airklipz – “Single Speed” (Airklipz.BandCamp.Com) – The UK emcee delivered vivid, captivating verses over a varied selection of soundscapes from producers such as Session 600, Jimmy Screech and Illternal Beats on this project, mixing both traditional and contemporary Hip-Hop flavours throughout.

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SmooVth – “SS96J” (Fat Beats) – The Strong Island representative definitely lived up to his name on this impressive release, which found the talented emcee weaving intricate narratives around mellow, melodic production, accompanied by the likes of Hus Kingpin, Milano Constantine and Sage Infinite.

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Big Toast & Sofa King – “Save Yourself Kill Them All” (RevorgRecords.BandCamp.Com) – UK flavour from the always-reliable Revorg Records camp, which featured producer Sofa King and emcee Big Toast delivering seven tracks of rough, rugged and raw homegrown Hip-Hop with a socially-aware edge.

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Estee Nack & al.divino – “Triple Black Diamonds” (TragicAllies.Com) – Dropping just before the end of the year, Tragic Allies member Estee Nack and fellow Massachusetts microphone fiend al.divino joined forces for this ice-cold collection of winter mood music, with the pair proving to be a formidable partnership as they spat rewind-worthy darts over laidback, and at times melancholy, production.

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