Category Archives: Album Reviews

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part Five) – Dres & Stu Bangas / Little Simz / Tommy Evans etc.

Fifth and final part of my 2022 wrap-up – check Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.

Homeboy Sandman – “Still Champion” (HomeboySandman-MMG-BandCamp.Com) – There was a genuine sense of hope and optimism running throughout this album that gave it a rejuvenating quality, both for listeners and Sandman himself it would seem. Sounding relaxed and at ease, the NY emcee bounced all over the lively, melodic production supplied by Colorado’s Deca, resulting in an entertainingly upbeat collection of tracks that contained its fair share of life-affirming lyrical gems.

Rapper Big Pooh – “To Dream In Color” (Soulspazm.BandCamp.Com) – Little Brother’s Big Pooh has always been known for personal, honest lyrics, but on “To Dream…” it felt like the North Carolina emcee was peeling back even more layers of his story as he masterfully looked back over his life and career whilst also looking towards the future. From his beginnings as a young rapper with a dream, then signing and leaving a major label deal, to his present situation as an independent artist, Pooh offered insight and transparency very step of the way, with his candour being given just the right amount of thump by producers such as DK The Punisher, D.R.U.G.S. Beats and Nottz.

Eddie Kaine x K-Sluggah – “Chosen” (EddieKaine.BandCamp.Com) – Exuding the street-smarts, swagger, bravado and lyrical wit we’ve come to expect from top-tier Brooklyn emcees, Eddie Kaine delivered the goods once again on this collaborative album with Sweden’s K-Sluggah. Telling vivid stories of the BK outside his window that were laced with struggle, tragedy and determination, Kaine’s verses were complimented by Sluggah’s atmospheric, almost gothic style of production. Crooklyn keeps on taking it.

Dres & Stu Bangas – “Sheep Stu” (BrutalMusic.Org) – Black Sheep member Dres’s place in the Hip-Hop history books is secured. As part of the Native Tongues family the Bronx-bred emcee helped to define an era in rap with one of the most recognisable voices (and flows) in the game. Some thirty years later and this team-up with hardcore composer Stu Bangas found D-R-E-S delivering his trademark blend of slick punchlines and life observations over a well-chosen selection of quality beats (this EP also included “Hate”, possiby my favourite song of 2022).

All Hail Y.T. & Anthony Danza – “All Hail Danza” (AllHailtYT.BandCamp.Com) – Any album featuring a track entitled “Keith Sweat” was almost guaranteed to be on some smooth, cool-out ish and this collaboration from Delaware’s All Hail Y.T. and Seattle’s Anthony Danza didn’t disappoint. Calmly and confidently delivering lessons from the hustler’s handbook over 80s / 90s R&B loops, Y.T. and Danza shared stories of the paper chase with genuine chemistry and aplomb.

Roc Marciano & The Alchemist – “The Elephant Man’s Bones” (RocMarci.Com) – Underground kings Roc Marc and Uncle Al joined forces here and it could be argued brought the best out of each other in the process. Strong Island’s Marcberg dropped his understated crime rhyme drama with his usual cool, calm demeanour, appearing to be living the luxury life of a high roller, whilst at times the subtle tension in Alchemist’s expert production hinted that at any moment the walls could come closing in with the unknown being just around the corner.

Ka – “Languish Arts” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – One of two albums released in 2022 by Brooklyn’s Ka and further proof (if it were needed) that the Brownsville emcee is one of the most gifted writers of his generation. “Languish Arts” found Ka once again finding meaning in the delicate balance of life, capturing feelings of love, pain, peace, turmoil, hope, regret and a myriad of other emotions in his mesmerising verses. An elite talent whose music is chiseled out of the memories and experiences of a period in New York history never to be forgotten, Ka once again allowed us the privilege of looking into his soul.

TrueMendous – “Great. On Purpose” (TrueMendous.BandCamp.Com) – Birmingham’s TrueMendous showcased her creative brilliance once again on this sophomore album for the UK’s High Focus label, wrapping her shape-shifting flow around a diverse array of production from the likes of Illinformed, Pitch 92 and Forest DLG. True’s magnetic personality shone brightly here, as she waxed lyrical about life, relationships and the world at large in her own inimitable style.

junclassic – “Long Days And Short Lives” (junclassic.BandCamp.Com) – This release from NY’s junclassic played out like an audio diary, with the Queens emcee vividly recounting numerous memories, scenarios and situations that captured a variety of feelings and moods, all linking back to the overall concept of the album and reminding us all that however difficult some of our days may seem, ultimately life can be short so should never be taken for granted. Production from the likes of Semi, J Slikk and The SOULution offered a smooth backdrop for junclassic’s verses.

Vic Spencer & August Fanon – “Psychological Cheat Sheet 3” (VicSpencer.BandCamp.Com) – The third installment of Vic Spencer’s “Psychological…” series featured the Chicago artist teaming-up with producer August Fanon for another striking display of clever, conversational rhymes with a personal edge, complimented by brilliant, jazz-influenced beats.

J. Sands – “Women” (LoneCatalysts.BandCamp.Com) – A feel-good collection of fly love songs, this album from Pittsburgh’s J. Sands bumped and bounced with all the upbeat energy of a new relationship. Playful, humorous and butter-smooth, Sands showed himself to be a stone cold gentleman as he celebrated the ladies in sincere fashion over a selection of soulful cool-breeze beats that would definitely make Bonita Applebum bob her head.

Archibald Slim – “Worldly Ways” (POWRecordings.BandCamp.Com) – Offering listeners a constant flow of street-smart thoughts and observations delivered over lush, laidback soundscapes, Atlanta’s Archibald Slim packed a lot into the ten cuts that made up this album. Possessing a talent for being able to quickly pull you into his world on each track, the Southern emcee’s down-to-earth demeanor and openness meant you found yourself willing Slim to win as he detailed his everyday struggles.

Truck North – “Feast Of Violence” (TruckNorth.BandCamp.Com) – An absolute master of his craft, Philly’s Truck North (who first came to the attention of many via his work with The Roots) stands as part of a long line of talented Illadelph emcees, capable of turning his experiences in the shadows of the City Of Brotherly Love into vivid, hard-hitting verses of gritty poetic excellence. This album was further proof of North’s potent rhyming abilities and was the sound of an individual making music with a genuine sense of purpose.

Jermiside & The Expert – “The Overview Effect” (TheExpert.BandCamp.Com) – An album crafted for today’s unsettling times, New Jersey’s Jermiside and Dublin’s The Expert shared a creative partnership here which resulted in some truly powerful and striking music that pushed buttons, demanded thought and prompted reaction. With lyrics tackling subjects such as war, racism and social unrest being paired with an eclectic, unpredictable selection of sample-heavy, 60s-influenced beats, “The Overview Effect” succeeded in its mission to draw lessons from the past, comment on the present and offer hope for the future.

Artifacts x Buckwild – “No Expiration Date” (SmokeOnRecords.Com) – At the time of its release announcement, this long-awaited album was a cause for celebration as Brick City favourites El Da Sensei and Tame One reunited over the production of D.I.T.C. legend Buckwild, with the duo of course offering a nod of respect to the late DJ Kaos who passed away in 2019. By the end of 2022, however, this project stood as an unexpected tribute to Tame One who sadly passed himself in November. That said, “No Expiration Date” captured everything that has always been great about Artifacts – lyrical skills, brotherhood, true-school attitude and speaker-shaking beats. RIP Tame One and DJ Kaos!

Renelle 893 & King Kashmere – “Cocoa Butter” (Renelle893.BandCamp.Com) – As a recent signing to the UK’s mighty High Focus label, London-based emcee Renelle 893 made sure everyone knew he’d arrived on this five-track EP. Possessing a laidback delivery and a penchant for sharp punchlines, Renelle calmly swaggered through this release, with his entertaining rhymes being complimented by the off-kilter funk and hazy retro soul vibes of cult hero King Kashmere. Vibes and stuff in abundance.

Danger Mouse & Black Thought – “Cheat Codes” (DangerMouseBlackThought.Com) – Philly’s Black Thought has been so good for so long that it could be easy for some to take his consistently incredible feats of lyrical excellence for granted. This album with boundary-pushing producer Danger Mouse was a reminder that, yes, Thought is still that good (one of the best to do it, in fact) and that his rhyming capabilities are anything but normal. As always, the Roots front-man’s verses spilled out here like a roller-coaster of verbal virtuosity, twisting, turning, requiring the listener to hold on to every word uttered in an attempt to keep up with his unrelenting rap momentum.

Little Simz – “NO THANK YOU” (LittleSimz.Com) – To say this album from London’s Little Simz was brilliant would be an understatement. Having received critical acclaim, media attention and awards for 2021’s “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” after years of hard work and numerous releases, “NO THANK YOU” was the sound of an artist who had finally been let through the music industry door, looked around, didn’t like what she saw and walked back out wanting to talk about it. The level of honesty heard here was both courageous and refreshing as Simz tackled the greed, racism and overall fickleness found within the corporate music game in measured tones, with justified anger and frustration just below the surface. Longtime collaborator Inflo’s production ranged from subtle to symphonic, perfectly complimenting Simz and adding further levels of emotion to the album which helped the rhymes hit that bit harder. True greatness.

Tommy Evans – “Tragedy And Hope” (TommyEvansOfficial.Com) – A longstanding fixture of the UK Hip-Hop scene, Tommy Evans delivered an album that felt uplifting and optimistic whilst still touching on some of life’s daily challenges. Produced entirely by Bobby Hex who provided a unique sonic dimension to the release with the attention to detail displayed in his work, this was an album that massaged your spirit with a warm, inspiring energy.

Grunge Gallardo – “Before The Winner Comes The Fall” (TheOpioidEra.BandCamp.Com) – Dropping right at the end of the year, Grunge Gallardo (of Virginia’s Opioid Era crew) showcased his formidable rhyme skills on this impressive UKAT-produced album, spitting passionate verses packed with life reflections, street knowledge and social / cultural commentary over raw beats.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part Four) – Priest Da Nomad / Nas / Stalley etc.

Check Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Priest Da Nomad – “Receipts” (PriestDaNomad.BandCamp.Com) – A longstanding figure in the DMV Hip-Hop scene with numerous releases to his name, Maryland emcee Priest Da Nomad took the opportunity on his latest album to celebrate, document and evaluate his artistic journey that began in the early-90s. Part nostalgia trip, part reminder of his lyrical prowess and continued dedication to Hip-Hop culture, “Receipts” felt alive, with Priest’s personal recollections and thoughts repeatedly hitting home and stirring emotions.

Big Kahuna OG & Graymatter – “Metal Gear Solid (Catastrophic Inventions 2)” (SchemeTeamAllstars.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia’s charismatic Big Kahuna OG glided across producer Graymatter’s smooth, dusty-fingered beats on this quality release from the talented Mutant Academy / Scheme Team camp. Slick, fluid rhymes detailing Kahuna’s daily hood operations meshed perfectly with Graymatter’s vintage soul samples, as Lord Jah-Monte Ogborn, Fly Anakin and 3WaySlim passed through to offer their assistance.

Libretto & Vitamin D – “Rusty Bladez” (LiquidBeat.BandCamp.Com) – An ambitious, brilliantly executed concept album which found Cali-raised, Portland, Oregon-based emcee Libretto drawing on his time spent in the US prison system and his experiences reintegrating with society, “Rusty Bladez” was far from your typical rap release. Avoiding glorifying or trivializing any of the situations he touched on, Libretto spoke for those caught up in the system, with veteran Seattle producer Vitamin D’s beats adding further weight to the first-hand rhymes heard here.

The Bad Seed – “Four Finger Ring” (TheBadSeed6.BandCamp.Com) – A product of Hip-Hop’s golden-era and an active participant in the mid-to-late 90s indie scene, Brooklyn’s Bad Seed is a master of the punchline, an artistic strength put to good use on this rambunctious album. Full of rewind-worthy ‘What did he just say?’ rhymes, “Four Finger Ring” featured Seed attacking tracks as if he were face-to-face with a lyrical opponent in a street-corner cypher, accompanied by rough, rugged and raw production from Team Demo, CJ Dove, Takenotez and more.

White Girl Wasted – “White Girl Wasted” (Sonnyjim.BandCamp.Com) – The UK’s inimitable Sonnyjim cruised through this entertaining EP as an international man of mic mastery, detailing global tales of debauchery and substance-fuelled antics over exquisite Purist production, with heavy-hitters MF DOOM, Jay Electronica, Madlib and DJ Premier along for the trip.

1773 & E Brown – “KOTODAMA” (1773Live.BandCamp.Com) – 2022 was a busy twelve months for Chicago’s Wisdm Uno and Jay Nagoma, with the duo dropping a handful of releases over the time period. But it was this album produced by Ohio’s E Brown that set the year off for the Windy City duo. A vibrant affair full of contemplative, inspiring rhymes and fresh, clean beats, this was music guaranteed to fill your soul and lift your mood.

Che` Noir – “Food For Thought” (CheNoir.BandCamp.Com) – Buffalo-based artist Che` Noir’s pen game is undeniable and this album was further proof of that claim. Whether detailing the struggles of her past, the triumphs of her present or the aspirations of her future, Noir remained grounded and insightful, telling her story, owning her narrative and continuing to push herself forward using music as a tool of salvation.

Rob Cave & Small Professor – “Respect Wildlife” (RobCaveJr.BandCamp.Com) – If New York is the concrete jungle then think of Brooklyn’s Rob Cave as an urban anthropologist on this album, immersing himself in the Big Apple environment, stomping through the streets wearing Timberlands and a backpack, studying the humanity of those around him and applying those findings to the wider world. Produced by Philly’s Small Professor and narrated by NY legend Dallas Penn, this was a clever, well-executed release which reminded us, in Cave’s own words, that as human beings we’re all just looking for warmth, food and love at the end of the day.

Kenautis Smith x Race Bannon – “Aandete” (Race.BandCamp.Com) – A great example of underground Hip-Hop made with character and ingenuity, this album from Chicago duo Kenautis Smith and Race Bannon struck a casual balance between social commentary, life advice and competion-crushing emcee bravado, all delivered over memorable production.

Nas – “King’s Disease III” (MassAppeal.Com) – The fact that Nasir Jones is even still making music over thirty years since his debut Main Source appearance is an achievement in itself. But when you consider he’s still operating at such a high level of rhyming ability and doesn’t appear to be jaded after what has been one of Hip-Hop’s most scrutinized and debated careers, it’s almost a miracle. How much of an influence producer Hit-Boy has had on Nas’s NY state of mind over the last few years is open to discussion, but on the strength of this album, their creative partnership only seemed to grow stronger in 2022, with the Queensbridge legend appearing to revel in his elder statesman rap role.

Big Shot Manceeni – “Culinary Art” (BigShotManceeni.Com) – As a member of both D.M.P. and The Proz, Virginia’s Big Shot Manceeni is no stranger to raw Hip-Hop. Taking the decision to strike out on his own, this solo album found Manceeni dropping straight-talking street knowledge as well as offering his thoughts on the issues of the day, accompanied by speaker-rattling beats from long-time collaborator Nottz, plus Ilien Rosewell, Logic Marsalis and Crummie Beats.

Your Old Droog – “Yodney Dangerfield” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – As the saying goes, it’s quality not quantity that counts. However, that doesn’t seem to apply to Your Old Droog, who appears to have mastered both elements of that statement, dropping a steady stream of impressive releases over recent years. This EP continued the NY emcee’s consistent run, full of quotable punchlines backed by beats from Wino Willy, Nicholas Craven and Jonwayne.

BodyBagBen & Planet Asia – “Heist The Crown” (BodyBagBen.BandCamp.Com) – Gold Chain Music general Planet Asia dipped into his seemingly bottomless bag of rhymes for this EP produced by fellow West Coast representative BodyBagBen. Backed by dramatic, pounding beats, PA let off a barrage of lyrical darts here laden with vivid imagery, further reinforcing his reputation as one of the rap game’s most skillful wordsmiths.

D-Styles & J Scienide – “The Periodic Tables Of Excellence” (BeatJunkieSound.BandCamp.Com) – A perfectly balanced collaboration, D-Styles of LA’s Beat Junkies crew supplied Washington D.C. lyricist J Scienide with a sublime selection of beats here, over which the DMV emcee deftly delivered a string of impressive verses, joined by underground favourites Blu and DanielSon.

Da Buze Bruvaz Prezent Clever 1 – “Kevlar Ski Jacketz” (GrilchyParty.BandCamp.Com) – Well known for his unapologetic brand of bare-knuckle boom-bap rap, Buze Bruvaz member Clever 1 could be heard stamping through the streets of Philly on this album, engaging in a series of action-packed capers with his usual larger-than-life bravado, backed-up by a posse of producers which included Vic Grimes, Conflikt and Amen.

Rome Streetz – “Kiss The Ring” (RomeStreetz.BandCamp.Com) – NY’s Rome Streetz has been putting in work throughout the underground for a number of years now, so the added attention he received due to the Griselda stamp of approval on this album was well-deserved. A self-assured selection of hard-knock rhymes delivered over an eclectic, unpredictable array of beats and loops from the likes of Camoflauge Monk, Conductor Williams and Daringer, “Kiss The Ring” showcased the talents of an emcee ready to move to the next level of the game.

Yashiyah – “Seed Of The Ghetto” (VibesForTheKinfolk.BandCamp.Com) – Baltimore’s Yashiyah offered food for thought in the understated, heartfelt reality rhymes contained here, with moments of personal reflection highlighting the meaning of the EP’s title, building on the importance of staying in control of mind and actions regardless of the situations and environments an individual may find themselves in.

DJ Nappa – “Capital Beat Tape Vol. 1” (DJNappa.BandCamp.Com) – If, like me, you grew-up in the 80s tuning in to the late, great Mike Allen’s Hip-Hop show on London’s Capital Radio then this instrumental release from esteemed UK producer DJ Nappa will have tugged on your old-school heartstrings. Every Friday and Saturday night used to be a musical journey as Mike played the freshest new sounds and Nappa expertly tapped into that feeling of youthful excitement here, pulling together breaks, beats and samples from the time to create a brilliant back-to-the-future blast of boom-box-friendly nostalgia.

HAQK – “Divine Alchemy” (HAQK.BandCamp.Com) – Familiar names within the UK Hip-Hop scene, Nomadic Poet (The Planets) and Particle 2 (New Flesh) came together to craft an album that felt like a truly unique journey into sound and spirituality. Whilst Nomadic offered commentary on the world we live in, Particle 2 supplied beats that managed to simultaneously evoke memories of the past and thoughts of the future. Full of vibes, soul and heart, this album was a sonic portal that allowed listeners to take a trip to a creative destination that was both familiar and new.

Stalley – “Somebody Up There Loves Me” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – His second album for the Mello Music Group label following 2021’s excellent Apollo Brown-produced “Blacklight”, “Somebody…” found Ohio’s Stalley drawing on his own experiences to encourage and motivate others, delivering his verses with an endearing warmth and a laidback openness that was complimented by smooth, hypnotic production from Black Diamond, MadKeys, Namir Blade and others. A soundtrack to personal elevation.

Check Part Five here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part Three) – Cormega / Kamanchi Sly / Fly Anakin etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Es – “You Want A Piece Of Me?” (EsMuzik.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian emcee Es is the type of artist who can can easily feel like a familiar friend the more time you spend listening to his music. With an easy-going-yet-engaging flow, relatable rhymes and a willingness to be open and honest about a variety of topics, Es has a priceless ability to make his listeners feel a little better about the world than perhaps they did before they hit ‘Play’. On this J. Pal-produced album, Es kept it personal as always, delivering an uplifting collection of beats and rhymes that touched on family, childhood memories and creative goals.

Cormega – “The Realness II” (RealCormega.BandCamp.Com) – Hip-Hop sequel albums can be a risky prospect. At their worst such releases can sound like an artist’s hollow attempt to relive past glories, which only succeeds in highlighting the possibility that their best days may actually be behind them. Thankfully, this follow up to 2001’s “The Realness” avoided such pitfalls. Speaking from a place of personal growth, this album evoked images of Mega sitting on a bench outside the infamous Queensbridge housing projects contemplating his past, present and future as a boom-box blasted beats from Large Professor, Havoc and The Alchemist amongst others.

Isatta Sheriff & Koralle – “Eat The Kiwi Skin” (IsattaSheriff.BandCamp.Com) – Some artists follow trends to try and fit in. Then there are those artists who couldn’t hide their uniqueness and individuality even if they tried. Artists like Isatta Sheriff, for example. This EP from the East London emcee packed a lot of substance into the six tracks on offer here, with Isatta detailing her own personal journey, speaking on her experiences as a female rapper and her thoughts on the commercialisation of Black culture. The subtle, jazz-influenced production from Spain’s Koralle provided the perfect musical backdrop to allow Sheriff’s rhymes to really shine here.

Bub Styles – “Outerwear Szn 2” (BubStyles.BandCamp) – One of a handful of releases Bub Styles dropped in 2022, for this EP the gravel-voiced Brooklyn emcee sounded like he laced up his Timberlands, pulled on his hoodie, visited the corner-store, battled a kid stood outside who was talking ish, then went straight to the studio and laid down this brilliant slice of rugged New York rap.

Diamonds In Space – “Diamonds In Space Vol. 1” (DiamondsInSpace.BandCamp.Com) – Lively, animated rhymes and mellow, melodic beats could be found in abundance on this well-crafted album from Kansas City-based duo Aaron Alexander and Lnrd D$troy. A compelling, addictive mix of street-smart observations, moments of introspection and intoxicating production.

Shane Kidd – “Good Mourning” (ShaneKidd.BandCamp.Com) – Emerging from a period of depression and creative frustration, Atlanta-based artist Shane Kidd drew heavily on those personal experiences for his third album, an emotionally-charged selection of tracks that found the Southern emcee reevaluating life with a strong sense of hope and determination. Truly inspirational music.

Paul Wall & Termanology – “Start 2 Finish” (TermanologyST.BandCamp.Com) – On paper, Houston’s Paul Wall and Lawrence, MA’s Termanology may have looked like an unexpected combination, but the end result was a full-length collaboration which showcased a genuine partnership that brought the best out of both artists. Produced largely by Statik Selektah, with contributions from Pete Rock, Dame Grease and J Cardim, the album comfortably occupied the musical middle ground between Southern bass and East Coast boom-bap. Grills optional.

OC From NC – “The List God Sent Us” (OCFromNC.BandCamp.Com) – Representing his North Carolina stomping grounds in no uncertain terms, OC From NC sounded hungry and focused on this album, attacking tracks with the energy of an emcee in a rhyme cypher with something to prove rather than an established artist dropping his eighth release.

Verbz & Mr Slipz – “Where It Started” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – Taking a walk down memory lane, London’s Verbz relived the trials and triumphs of his Croydon youth on this impressive EP, with the sample-free production of Brighton’s Mr Slipz providing a mesmerizing sonic backdrop which perfectly complimented the nostalgic verses heard here.

iLLah – “MiDNigHT SoUP” (iLLah.BandCamp.Com) – Toronto’s iLLah had a lot on his mind in 2022, with this album finding the dynamic emcee darting in all directions lyrically, touching on politics, religion, social unrest and conspiracy theories whilst accompanied by the vintage jazz-infused sound of producer SuNYA.

Tokyo Cigar x August Fanon – “Lexus Money” (TokyoCigarMusic.BandCamp) – Epic collaboration album from Maryland’s Tokyo Cigar and Dallas-raised producer August Fanon that was packed with intricate, deep-dive lyricism and expertly selected samples. Music to ponder the science of life to whilst dipped in the freshest Polo gear.

IAMGAWD x The Black Depths – “Murder Castle” (Filthe.BandCamp.Com) – When Chicago’s IAMGAWD said on this album “No, I do not fear a single one of my Hip-Hop peers, I drop bombs, You drop tears..” it was difficult not to believe him on all points. A formidable emcee who clearly rhymes with the intention of every word having maximum impact, GAWD dominated the raw, ominous beats of The Black Depths, spitting venomous darts at the competition with expert accuracy whilst also offering up-close-and-personal commentary on the reality of the Windy City’s cold streets.

Kamanchi Sly – “Master Plan” (HipHop73.Com) – Almost thirty-five years since his vinyl debut with legendary group Hijack and having dropped over ten self-produced solo albums since 2017, this latest K-Sly release was further proof that time definitely hasn’t dampened the London emcee’s passion for Hip-Hop culture and the art of rap. Sounding energetic and enthused, Kamanchi tore through a selection of true-school breaks and beats with all the attitude and confidence we’ve come to expect from one of the UK’s homegrown pioneers.

DK x Ghettosocks – “Listen To The Masters” (DKProducer.BandCamp.Com) – Students of the game, Canada’s DK and Ghettosocks put the lessons learnt from growing-up with the greats in rotation to good use on this collection of sophisticated mood music. Timeless flows could be found throughout this album, with microphone royalty such as Skyzoo, CL Smooth and O.C. joining Ghettosocks to bless DK’s jazz-tinged beats with butter-smooth verses.

Fly Anakin – “Frank” (LexRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia’s Mutant Academy have been one of the most exciting collectives in the rap game for a number of years now, with Fly Anakin playing a large part in building the crew’s reputation for great music. This album went some way to introducing Anakin’s rapid-fire rhymes to a wider audience, with the lush, hypnotic soundscapes provided by the likes of Foisey, Sycho Sid and Jay Versace helping to this full-length masterpiece feel like a seamless sonic high.

DoamPeace x DFACE DXA – “The Goldilocks Zone” (DoamPeace.BandCamp.Com) – NY’s DXA crew have consistently delivered quality music over many years now and this release from two members of the camp was no exception to that rule – solid beats, clever rhymes and creative sampling.

Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Zhigeist” (NatureSounds.BandCamp.Com) – Absolute greatness. That’s the quickest and easiest way to describe this album from Detroit’s Elzhi and LA’s Georgia Anne Muldrow. Both parties involved floated close to another creative dimension on this one, with the Motor City emcee challenging your third-eye to keep-up with his densely packed wordplay, whilst Muldrow’s ethereal grooves simultaneously massaged and soothed those same brain-cells that were being put to work.

Bloo Azul & Spanish Ran – “Once In A Bloo” (BlooAzul.BandCamp.Com) – There are some musical partnerships who bring the best out of each other with such apparent ease it would appear they were destined to work together. Bronx pair Bloo and Spanish Ran definitely deserve a place on that list and this album was another undeniable example of why. Ran’s exquisite, vibe-filled loops seemed tailor-made for Bloo’s observational, everyman lyrics, resulting in a few more of New York’s eight million stories being told in memorable fashion.

J.Rocc – “A Wonderful Letter” (JRocc.BandCamp.Com) – Turntable titan and Beat Junkies member J.Rocc paid homage to his hometown of Los Angeles with this ambitious concept album, deftly covering many styles associated with the City Of Angels, from 80s-style electro and speaker-slapping funk to the underground Hip-Hop of featured artists such as LMNO, Key-Kool and MED. California love, indeed.

Touré Masters – “Kin9” (ToureMasters.BandCamp.Com) – A genuinely skilled wordsmith, Arizona’s Touré Masters dropped one of the most captivating albums of 2022, with his urgent rhyme style driving home the meaning in his verses and really pulling the listener into his world. Navigating the realities of street life whilst looking forward towards positive progression, Masters came across here as a real person with real feelings rather than as a one-dimensional rapper retreading familiar creative ground. He really put his lifetime in-between the paper’s lines.

Check Part Four here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part Two) – Triple Darkness / Chill Rob G / Storm Watkins etc.

Check Part One here.

Napoleon Da Legend & Giallo Point – “Buckets” (NapoleonDaLegend.BandCamp.Com) – There may be an ocean and thousands of miles separating this US / UK partnership, but the latest outing from Napoleon Da Legend and Giallo Point flowed so seamlessly you would have been forgiven for thinking they were sat next to each other in a studio throughout the entire recording process. Confident, street-savvy verses were paired here with tight, polished production.

Triple Darkness – “KURAYAMI” (TripleDarkness.BandCamp) – Coming through like an army of battle-ready Hip-Hop warriors swinging heavy lyrical swords, the UK’s mighty Triple Darkness collective dropped their first group album since 2015, with members such as Solar Black, Ray Vendetta and Cyrus Malachi spitting evocative, powerful rhymes over thunderous beats from Soss, Tony Mahoney and DJ Drinks. This album was proof that TD remain one of the most talented and formidable crew’s in the rap game.

DIE-REK – “Year Of Redemption” (Illect.BandCamp.Com) – Drawing inspiration from both his spiritual beliefs and personal experiences, this second album from Canada’s DIE-REK was an impressive collection of life-affirming rhymes and standout, self-produced tracks. Music designed to invigorate your mind, body and soul.

Tom Caruana – “Strange Planet” (TeaSeaRecords.BandCamp.Com) – UK producer Tom Caruana voyaged back-to-the-future on this sci-fi-influenced concept album, with intergalactic rhyme explorers such as Mr. Lif, Jehst and Prince Po defying gravity as they floated over the unique beats on offer here with their lyrical phasers set to stun. Lift off!

ActProof – “Between Us And The World – Ep 1: Amped Up” (ActProofOfficial.Com) – Ten years after the release of their well-received “Black Boy Radio” album, North Carolina’s Sundown and Enigma made a welcome return from their musical hiatus with a three-part EP series, with this first instalment featuring the pair trading conversational rhymes over drum-heavy, neck-snapping production from long-time collaborator AMP.

Prox Centauri – “Emergence” (ProxCentauri.BandCamp.Com) – Flint, Michigan’s Prox Centauri has quickly become one of my favourite artists of recent times, with this release placing tracks that dropped throughout 2022 (featuring Skyzoo, Planet Asia and KXNG Crooked) alongside a handful of new cuts, all of which effectively showcased the Midwest-based microphone master’s intricate wordplay and self-assured flow.

Backwood Sweetie & Furious Stylez – “Sweetie Got Stylez” (BackwoodSweetie.BandCamp.Com) – Following-up 2021’s brilliant “Christina Shauntay” album, Maryland’s Backwood Sweetie teamed-up with talented Chicago-raised producer Furious Stylez for a seven-track dose of passionate Hip-Hop rooted in empowerment and integrity. Possessing the type of delivery that demands attention, this EP further highlighted Sweetie as being a gifted artist with much to offer the rap world (also, a special mention has to go to featured emcee K!ng jvmes for dropping one of the hardest-hitting verses of the year on “Long Story Short”).

J Rawls – “#jazzhop” (PolarEntLLC.BandCamp.Com) – The Ohio producer exceeded his own high standards with this album, a warm, welcoming collection of expertly-crafted instrumentals which, as the man himself said, were “reminiscent of the J Rawls sound from the late 90s and early 2000s”. A perfect sonic snapshot of the Midwest maestro’s well-rounded musical abilities.

I Self Devine – “That Which Is Hidden” (ImprovisedWeaponry.BandCamp.Com) – The veteran Minneapolis artist pondered questions around religion, spirituality and life on this concept album produced by The Original Copy. As we all find ourselves attempting to navigate the maze of today’s increasingly unsettled times, I Self Devine sought to encourage listeners to walk towards a path of enlightenment that would ultimately allow us to transcend the constraints of the matrix we find ourselves surrounded by.

Westside Gunn – “10” (GriseldaxFR.Com) – Love him or hate him one thing was for certain, Buffalo’s king of curation Westside Gunn wasn’t about to allow anyone to prevent him from continuing to supply the culture with his distinctive brand of art in 2022. Although “10” featured a long list of carefully chosen guests such as Black Star, Busta Rhymes and Ghostface, it was Gunn’s inimitable vocal delivery and vivid street commentary that remained the main attraction here. The FlyGod continued to soar above the clouds.

Agallah Don Bishop – “The Year Of The Tiger” (Agallah.BandCamp.Com) – Brooklyn’s Agallah has had a storied career both behind the mic and behind the boards. Since the 90s the NY-raised artist’s name has continuously rung bells within Hip-Hop circles and deservedly so. But not content with resting on past glories, the Don Bishop’s work rate in recent years has continuously proven his ability to compete in today’s underground scene whilst he’s dropped some of his best work. “The Year Of The Tiger” was a testament to Agallah’s staying power, combining moments of raw honesty and reflection with sheer confidence and boldness.

Sean Boog – “Between Midnights” (SeanBoog.BandCamp.Com) – The talented Sean Boog dropped the third release in his “Midnight” series, which was another brilliant EP from the North Carolina emcee that was full of down-to-earth, contemplative rhymes laced with sharp wit, backed by masterful production from Chris Charles.

T-Nyce & Jorai – “Supreme Talk” (JoraiMusic.BandCamp.Com) – South Carolina-based duo T-Nyce and Jorai delivered personal, heartfelt rhymes on this collaborative album, with production from Sypooda, Juno, Happy Walters and more matching the mood of the pair’s verses. Fully aware of the influence Hip-Hop can have on its audience, this Southern partnership clearly wanted this album to have a positive impact on those who heard it thanks to their honest approach to the music.

Sol Messiah – “GOD CMPLX” (SolMessiah.BandCamp.Com) – Having initially caught the attention of many thanks to his work with the great Sa-Roc (who was featured heavily here), eyes and ears were on Atlanta producer Sol Messiah when this album was announced. Thankfully it lived up to expectations, with the likes of Murs, TriState and Che Noir spitting over SM’s diverse and unpredictable soundscapes.

Daniel Son – “The Bush Doctor” (FXCKRXP.Com) – It’s a real talent to be able to make rhymes that have clearly been crafted with attention and precision sound completely effortless. This is something that Canada’s Daniel Son has been doing since the early days of his musical journey and that he continued to do with charismatic flair throughout this release for Germany’s FXCK RXP label. Cinematic verses detailing capers and escapades created vivid images in the listener’s mind, with sonic contributions from the likes of Futurewave, Finn and Giallo Point adding to the feeling of dramatic tension running throughout the album.

Chill Rob G – “Empires Crumble” (ChillRobG.BandCamp.Com) – As a member of New Jersey’s legendary Flavor Unit, Chill Rob G secured his place in Hip-Hop’s history books with his involvement in a handful of late-80s / early-90s classics. Over three decades later, this C-Doc-helmed album found the veteran emcee proving that ain’t a damn thing changed but the year, coming correct with elder statesman rhymes over lively, energetic beats which nodded respectfully towards the golden-age.

Storm Watkins – “Blue” (StormWatkins.BandCamp.Com) – Dedicated to the memory of his father who sadly passed away in 2022, Baltimore’s Storm Watkins channeled his feelings into this very personal instrumental project with powerful and poignant results. Emotionally-charged beats that made speakers pop at the same time as they tugged on heartstrings.

Sadat X – “Science Of Life” (Soulspazm.BandCamp.Com) – One of the most recognisable voices in rap, Brand Nubian’s Sadat X continued to add-on to his legacy with this aptly-titled album, which found the Now Rule emcee dropping grown man jewels laced with Five Percent lessons accompanied by underground favourites such as Crimeapple, Roc Marciano and Planet Asia.

Stan Ipcus – “Foliage” (StanIpcus.BandCamp) – If you were looking for an emcee with genuine character and personality in 2022, then NY’s Stan Ipcus deserved your attention. Possessing an easygoing, laidback flow and a natural lyrical wit, Big Ip showcased his notable rhyming talents on this seven-track selection of both previously-released and brand new cuts, with production from Jason Griff, Disco Vietnam and Max Bent.

Enrichment – “It’s A New Day” (Enrichment.BandCamp.Com) – Having worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks and Benny The Butcher, New Jersey artist Enrichment offered thoughtful, contemplative rhymes here with smooth-yet-sturdy self-produced beats which perfectly matched his confident, conversational flow.

Check Part Three here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part One) – Phife Dawg / Juga-Naut / Count Bass D etc.

Another year goes by. Another almost endless stream of best-of lists get written and posted on websites, blogs and social media platforms. We agree with some lists. We disagree with most lists. We argue over all the lists. We love lists. We hate lists. Some people believe these lists have value. Some people question the point of even attempting to put such lists together. But remember, a best-of list can’t please everyone and should never try to.

For me, compiling a year-end round-up has never been about claiming to have made a definitive list that covers every release that’s been worthy of attention over a particular twelve month period. That would be impossible.

Instead, a year-end list is just a way of me being able to give a nod of gratitude to as many artists as possible whose music I’ve especially enjoyed. It’s really as simple as that.

So, with that being said, who gets props over here?

Phife Dawg – “Forever” (SmokinNeedles.BigCartel.Com) – Handled with obvious love, patience and care, this album from A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife avoided the shortcomings often associated with posthumous releases, sounding fresh, vibrant and organic. Backed by production from the likes of Nottz, DJ Rasta Root and 9th Wonder, the rhymes from the Five-Foot Assassin ranged from witty, humorous punchlines to moments of genuine reflection and vulnerability, the poignancy of which wasn’t lost on listeners fully aware we were hearing the thoughts and feelings of an individual no longer with us. Ultimately a celebration of the life, career and talent of an artist gone far too soon, “Forever” stood as a fitting (if bittersweet) tribute to a Hip-Hop great whose voice many of us grew-up with in our headphones. Rest in peace Phife Dawg.

Juga-Naut – “Time & Place” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Nottingham’s Juga-Naut is one of the most constistent and talented artists of the last decade. Since his debut to the present day, Jugz has walked his own path, inspired by a genuine love of the art and an inner drive to be creative. Ten years in the making, this concept-based album was an epic self-produced journey through the UK artist’s many musical and personal influences, resulting in some of the finest beats and rhymes you were likely to hear in 2022 and beyond. A naturally gifted individual, Juga-Naut has repeatedly reached new levels of excellence with each of his releases, and “Time & Place” pushed the bar even higher. The man appears to have no competition but himself.

A.G. – “Giant In The Mental” (FatBeatsRecords.BandCamp.Com) – A true golden-era great, Diggin’ In The Crates favourite Andre The Giant delivered his well-known brand of hardcore lyrical Bronx science throughout this succinct release, accompanied by choice production from DJ Manipulator, Dark Keys and Showbiz. With no guest appearances to be found, A.G. went for dolo on the mic here, giving listeners ample opportunity to fully appreciate both his timeless flow and dedication to his craft over thirty years since he first dropped on wax.

Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene – “Cost Of Living” (MellowMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – An authoritative voice of experience speaking from inner-city Chicago, Philmore Greene had already dropped a number of notable projects prior to teaming-up with Detroit boom-bap maestro Apollo Brown, but it quickly became apparent that “Cost Of Living” was some of the Windy City representative’s best work. Bolstered by Apollo’s knocking drums, sweeping strings and soulful vocal snippets, Greene painted detailed verbal pictures of Chicago’s West Side, weaving personal memories, life observations and social commentary into his often sobering verses. This album was the sound of two masters at work.

3 The God Way – “Mount Olympus” (HumbleMonarch.BandCamp.Com) – DMV trio Kaimbr, Sean Born and Let The Dirt Say Amen combined their talents on this quality group album which was full of soul-drenched production, sharp rhymes and appearances from notable names like Kenn Starr, yU and Uptown XO. Evoking images of the threesome passing mics in a basement, chopping it up about world events and local news inbetween unearthing dope loops and spitting competition-crushing rhymes with a casual swagger, “Mount Olympus” was a totally immersive listening experience that pulled you deep into the God zone.

SPNDA x Grubby Pawz – “Oil Can” (CityYardMusic.BandCamp) – Reigniting the creative chemistry heard on 2017’s “Steel Sharpens Steel” and 2018’s “Holographic”, Boston duo SPNDA and Grubby Pawz came together once again to deliver a full-length collection of streetwise rhymes from a balanced perspective coupled with smooth, mellow production. A shining example of the musical magic that can be created when one emcee and one producer lock in together on the same target.

Funky DL – “Still Classic” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Twenty five years ago in 1997 prolific UK artist Funky DL dropped his debut album “Classic Was The Day”. In 2022, instead of celebrating the album’s anniversary by simply re-releasing it, the London-raised producer-on-the-mic put together this entertaining concept-based EP full of new music capturing DL’s memories and experiences from those early days in his career.

Farma – “Farma’s £10 Bag Volume 1” (FarmaBeats.BandCamp.Com) – UK Hip-Hop legend Farma of MUD Fam / Task Force fame has kept busy in recent years supplying beats to underground heavyweights such as Mach-Hommy, Rome Streetz, Conway and many more. With this particular compilation release, however, Farma chose to focus on the undeniable amount of talent within the British scene. Homegrown favourites such as Essa, MysDiggi and SonnyJim were on the roll call here, showcasing their skills over stellar sample-driven production.

Jay iLLestrate – “Doctor Jay” (JayiLLestrate.BandCamp.Com) – Cincinnati’s Jay iLLestrate took it to the hoop creatively on this entertaining basketball-influenced album that was packed with accomplished, sometimes quirky lyricism and engaging production from Toonorth, Gatekeeper, Grillo and Prof Logik. A lively mix of personality and talent.

Milano Constantine & Big Ghost Ltd – “Pay The Ghost” (BigGhostLimited.BandCamp.Com) – Over twenty years since his debut, Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano is still carrying on tradition and repping for the 80s / 90s New York he grew-up in with all the pride of a Yankees fan on game day. Teaming-up here with ever-impressive producer Big Ghost Ltd, this album featured Constantine’s cinematic verses being matched with tense, atmospheric beats. The end product sounded like a late-night subway ride across the Rotten Apple.

Nejma Nefertiti – “Tongue Fu” (NejmaNefertiti.BandCamp.Com) – A short, potent dose of firebrand lyricism, this four-track EP from Brooklyn’s Nejma Nefertiti found the NY-based artist dropping punchy rhymes full of b-girl attitude over Kool M Da Loop Digga production, with strong guest appearances from Napoleon Da Legend and Zach Lost.

El Jazzy Chavo – “S950 Funk” (Funkypselicave.BandCamp.Com) – Imitated but never duplicated, the crunch and thump of the Akai S950 was fully celebrated by Greece’s El Jazzy Chavo on this instrumental album. The head-nod factor was high throughout, with the dusty-fingered beats stirring-up memories of an era that has long since passed but that remains a time period cherished by all who lived through it.

Dell-P – “The People’s Emcee” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Produced entirely by New Jersey duo Trac-Qaeda, this latest album from Philly’s Dell-P was another worthy addition to his already impeccable catalogue. Grounded in the realities of daily life but laced with optimism and hope as always, the Illadeph artist’s rhymes offered motivation and inspiration in equal measures, backed by well-crafted beats.

Jazz Spastiks – “Intomental” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding purveyors of sublime sample-based music, the UK’s Jazz Spastiks returned once more with a rich collection of laidback flavour for our listening pleasure. Expertly put together and with a genuine feeling of warmth running throughout, this album was the perfect way to ease your mind in today’s stressful times.

Jones Brothers – “Apollo” (FlukeBeatMusic.BandCamp.Com) – The UK’s Joker Starr and Anyway Tha God reunited for a new Jones Brothers project, with the pair delivering incisive, swaggering rhymes laced with social commentary over brilliant production from veteran London-based music man Apollo.

Brainorchestra – “Big Brain” (Brainorchestra.BandCamp.Com) – The rise of producer-on-the-mic Brainorchestra during recent years has been a genuine pleasure to witness. “Big Brain” appeared to draw a metaphorical line in the sand, simultaneously signalling the end of one career phase and the beginning of the next stage of growth and progression for the New Jersey artist. With a keen ear for a great sample and a natural rhyming ability, Brainorchestra could only continue to move in the right direction after the release of this album.

Da Flyy Hooligan – “Ben Kingsley” (GourmetDeluxx.BandCamp.Com) – Smooth, sharp and stylish like butter-soft leather jackets and box-fresh footwear, London’s Da Flyy Hooligan lived up to his name once again on this album, delivering larger-than-life rhymes over top-shelf production from the mighty Micall Parknsun.

360 Physicals – “Style Crown” (NoelPolandRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Skills. That’s what this album was about. Having honed their respective crafts within the UK’s 90s Hip-Hop scene, the 360 Physicals crew reunited in 2022, with Killa Kela, Koaste, Jonny Virgo and Cristo Cannes celebrating the past whilst demonstrating their ability to still reign supreme in the present and beyond. Brilliantly produced by Kong The Artisan, “Style Crown” bristled with energy and passion.

Fatnice – “The Baddest” (IllVibeMedia.BandCamp.Com) – A stalwart of the Philly rap scene, Fatnice blended emcee bravado, social commentary and storytelling skills on this short-but-effective album, proving that sometimes less really is more. With the likes of The Blue Ninja, Mr. Sonny James and Kush Oxford supplying melodic, upbeat production, “The Baddest” blew out of the speakers like a refreshing blast of cool air.

Count Bass D – “All Due Respect” (CountBassD.BandCamp.Com) – The ever-busy Count Bass D returned with another lesson in high-level beat science, crafting an instrumental album that pulsated with the sounds of slick funk and sweet soul. Music to groove to.

Check Part Two here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Five) – Verb T & Illinformed / Little Simz / Nas etc.

Final part of my 2021 wrap-up – check Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

UFO Fev & Vanderslice – “Enigma Of Dali” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com) – One thing that’s become abundantly clear over the last couple of years is that Harlem’s UFO Fev has a great ear for choosing producers to work with that really compliment his style. With Statik Selektah, Termanology and Big Ghost Ltd all having laced the NY emcee with superb beats on full-length efforts during 2020, 2021 found Fev teaming-up with the consistently dope Vanderslice for “Enigma Of Dali”, painting colourful lyrical portraits which captured the essence of life in the Rotten Apple.

Damu The Fudgemunk – “Conversation Peace” (DamuTheFudgemunk.BandCamp.Com) – Having been given full access to the musical vaults of London’s KPM Library for this release, you could almost feel Damu’s glee and excitement bursting out of the grooves here from beats crafted after being blessed with the opportunity to dig through thousands of records. Joined by Raw Poetic, Insight, Blu and Nitty Scott, the Washington DC producer soared above the clouds, nodding to the 90s on the way up without getting stuck in the past or overdosing on nostalgia. “Conversation Peace” was a genuinely invigorating listening experience.

Cesar Comanche & Poe Mack – “A Promise Not To Sting” (CesarComanche.BandCamp.Com) – This collaborative album from North Carolina’s Cesar Comanche (of Justus League fame) and Virginia’s Poe Mack really struck a chord with me. It was the sound of two individuals who’ve lived life and learnt lessons ruminating on the past, present and future in a world undergoing huge change. Production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Khrysis and DJ Flash gave the album a vintage (and at times fittingly melancholy) feel, with Comanche and Mack bouncing purposeful verses back and forth with ease.

Verb T & Illinformed – “Stranded In Foggy Times” (VerbT.BandCamp.Com) – The third and final part of Verb T and Illinformed’s “Foggy” trilogy, this album once again showcased the brilliant writing ability of the UK emcee with the verses here consisting of well-crafted meaningful lyrics, some of which were straight-to-the-point whilst others were open to interpretation. Backed by the quality production of Illinformed, which perfectly complimented Verb’s conversational, laidback rhyme style, T approached this release with all the skill, poise and confidence you’d expect from an artist who has shown nothing but constant elevation throughout his twenty year career.

Kamanchi Sly – “Electrosis 2” (HipHop73.Com) – Pulling on his shelltoes and Nike windbreaker once again, UK legend K-Sly dropped three “Electrosis” albums during 2021, with each one celebrating the sounds and excitement of Hip-Hop in the early-to-mid 1980s with genuine love and authenticity. The Hijack legend sounded as sharp and enthusiastic as ever, clearly reveling in the opportunity to revisit old-school memories of being a young London b-boy four decades ago, whilst still proudly displaying the same competition-crushing attitude that fuelled UK classics such as “Style Wars” and “Hold No Hostage”.

Swank & King Draft – “Long Story Short” (JamlaRecords.Com) – North Carolina’s Swank and King Draft once again proved themselves to be a potent combination on this sophomore album. Slick, witty wordplay glided effortlessly over the smooth, R&B-influenced production from 9th Wonder and Jamla’s Soul Council. At a time when playlists and random shuffle options have contributed to some artists thinking less about an album as a cohesive body of work sequenced to take listeners on a journey, Swank and Draft succeeded in capturing and maintaining a mood throughout “Long Story Short” which gave the album a strong sense of momentum. For that, they get props over here.

Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” (LittleSimz.Com) – The latest long-player from London’s Little Simz was an album of epic proportions. The subject matter. The delivery. The production. The interludes. The cover. The execution. The openness. The honesty. Every element of this album contributed to it being something truly special. Simz confronted a number of issues with a mix of both strength and vulnerability, accompanied by the masterfully diverse musicality of producer Inflo, as listeners were swept along on a wave of emotion that by the end of the album made it feel as if we to had been on our own voyage of self-discovery.

Mach-Hommy – “Pray For Haiti” (Mach-Hommy.Com) – Reunited with Griselda Records’ Westside Gunn and backed by ambitious production from the likes of Camoflauge Monk, Conductor Williams and Nicholas Craven, with “Pray For Haiti” New Jersey’s enigmatic Mach-Hommy delivered a rich tapestry of sound that was packed with elegant arrogance, unabashed individuality and joyful spontaneity. This album felt like the musical equivalent of looking through a kaleidoscope and sounded all the better for it.

Cons – “B.A.D.A.” (Ottoman Elf) – A veteran of the UK Hip-Hop scene, London’s Cons (aka Conspicuous) returned after an eight year hiatus with the hunger and vigour of a new artist, balanced with the benefit of hindsight and a wisdom that can only come from life experience. Reuniting with longstanding collaborators such as Apollo, LG and Evil Ed, Cons dropped street knowledge and elder statesman advice throughout “B.A.D.A.”, proving that if you’re nice on the mic device it really doesn’t matter how much time passes between projects.

Tanya Morgan – “Don and Von” (TanyaMorgan.BandCamp.Com) – Fifteen years since Tanya Morgan’s cult classic debut “Moonlighting” dropped, Von Pea and Donwill added a new release to their already impressive catalogue. Combining everyday life events and social commentary with wit and humour, the duo endeared themselves to listeners as always, coming across as two down-to-earth individuals who it might be cool to spend time kicking it with about music, politics and current events. Production from the likes of Brick Beats, Clint Taylor and Aeon also helped this album standout from the pack.

Fashawn & Sir Veterano – “All Hail The King” (FreshYardRecords.Com) – Fresno’s Fashawn returned to claim his crown with this album skillfully produced by fellow Cali Hip-Hop head Sir Veterano, with features from Elzhi, Aloe Blacc and Planet Asia. Coming in at a concise nine tracks, the West Coast wordsmith didn’t waste a single moment here, tightly packing his verses with fast-paced lyricism which covered hometown pride, building a life with his queen, raising the next generation and, of course, reigning supreme over his kingdom as rap royalty.

Benny Diction – “Facepalm / Brainwave?” (BoomBapPro.Com) – One of the UK’s most consistent artists, any new release from Benny Diction is always a welcome, enjoyable listening experience and this album was no different. Musing on the mundane to the magnificent and everything in-between, the BBP-affiliated emcee’s ability to inject insight and thoughtful observation into his rhymes shone brightly here, with Benny reflecting on the world around him accompanied by top-notch production from the likes of jas0nbeats, Krang and Deltatone.

Joell Ortiz – “Autograph” (JoellOrtiz.BandCamp.Com) – Honesty has been a theme that’s always run throughout the music of Brooklyn’s Joell Ortiz. Good times. Bad times. Successes. Failures. The NY emcee has consistently spoken on both sides of the game, whether discussing street life, personal life or industry life. “Autograph” was another does of up-close-and-uncut reality, with Ortiz recalling his struggle to get put on in the rap game, his life before that time and his life now as he embraces OG status. The detailed, sincere rhymes heard here were complimented by the production of Apollo Brown, The Heatmakerz, Salaam Remi and more.

Ransom & Big Ghost Ltd – “Heavy Is The Head” (Ransom.Com) – Jersey City’s Ransom clearly had one thing on his mind when recording this album and one thing only – lyrical domination. Joined by the likes of Mickey Factz, RJ Payne and Rome Streetz, Ransom fired off barrages of relentlessly aggressive rhymes over Big Ghost’s fittingly raw production. No holds barred. No prisoners taken. This was the sound of an emcee getting medieval on the competition.

Minnesota – “Once Upon A Handshake” (JBS Management) – Producer-slash-emcee Minnesota of the Bronx’s legendary Money Boss crew served up a raw slice of Rotten Apple rap with this solo album. A collection of hardcore beats and rhymes straight from the birthplace of Hip-Hop, this project was full of vivid inner-city imagery, BX swagger and vintage beat science. As KRS-One once said, the Bronx keeps creating it.

Passport Rav – “Sand In My Carry On” (PassportRav.BandCamp.Com) – Brooklyn’s Passport Rav crafted a laidback, reflective masterpiece for his seventh release to have dropped over the last two years. Mixing dense lyricism with breezy hooks and mellow production from Sebb Bash and Wavy Da Ghawd, Rav’s latest opus was mood music of the highest quality that both soothed and stimulated the mind.

Your Old Droog – “Space Bar” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – To be honest, NYC’s Droog has been on a winning streak since his debut in 2014, but with his musical output having noticeably increased since 2019 it would be hard for anyone to question both the work ethic and the talent. An artist who has always seemed simultaneously unimpressed and untouched by whatever else is happening in the Hip-Hop world, Droog continued to create in his own zone with this short-but-effective album. The unshakeable confidence and sly humour heard in YOD’s verses was matched here with production from the likes of 88 Keys, Sadhugold and Elaquent.

Uptown XO – “Culture Over Corporate Vol. III” (OneForceUnited.BandCamp.Com) – The third instalment of the Washington D.C. artist’s COC series, this album saw Uptown XO once again teaming-up with fellow Diamond District member Oddisee to deliver another stellar collection of intelligent, topical rhymes and soulful, neck-snapping beats.

Sean Boog – “It’s Midnight Somewhere: Sector 2” (SeanBoog.BandCamp.Com) – The female voice that guided us through A Tribe Called Quest’s classic third album told us that seven times out of ten, we listen to our music at night. With that in mind, this six-track EP from North Carolina’s Sean Boog appeared tailor-made for nocturnal head-nodding. Dallas-based producer Keelon Donnel’s laidback beats were the perfect match for Boog’s “smooth grown-up s**t” and life-affirming rhymes. This was the ideal soundtrack to throw on when the sun had set to help ease the stresses of the daily grind.

Nas – “Magic” (MassAppeal.Com) – A surprise release on Christmas Eve, as expected the third full-length collaboration from Nas and producer Hit-Boy caused chaos in the social media world over the festive season as heads responded to the album with a variety of opinions. Personally, I really liked it. Nothing on “Magic” sounded forced or overthought. The album had a great natural flow to it from beginning to end. Nas sounded inspired and motivated throughout, with Hit-Boy providing arguably the best production he’s supplied the Queensbridge legend with yet. A memorable way to close what was a great year for new Hip-Hop.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Four) – John Robinson / Backwood Sweetie / Vandal Savage etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Jyroscope & Montana Macks – “Happy Medium” (Jyroscope.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s I.B. Fokuz and Collasoul Structure worked their way through the stresses of daily life on this therapeutic release. Job. Family. Relationships. Social injustice. Health. Finances. Anxiety. Frustration. Doubt. The rhyming duo completely opened up over the five tracks on offer here, giving listeners full access to their personal (and extremely relatable) thoughts. The jazzy, easy-going production supplied by Montana Macks gave the EP a soothing, relaxed vibe, ensuring Jyroscope’s verses had plenty of room to breathe. Easy does it, do it easy.

J Littles & Claude Money – “Godbody Tapestry” (KJamm-BFR.BandCamp.Com) – This blend of cool-but-deadly rhymes and soulful rare groove loops from Nottingham duo J Littles and Claude Money was a supreme display of smoothed-out musical arrogance laced with lyrical gems from two individuals who were clearly meant to build together. Best listened to whilst sat comfortably on a butter-soft leather sofa, blowing smoke, wearing a velour robe and a pair of box-fresh Air Max. Exquisite.

John Robinson – “King JR” (JohnRobinson.BandCamp.Com) – Sounding as fresh and enthusiastic in 2021 as he did when debuting as a member of Scienz Of Life back in the mid-90s, NY-raised emcee John Robinson called on the production talents of West Coast favourite Blu for this stimulating collection of thoughtful wordplay and dynamic beats. Music with substance.

Shortie No Mass – “here goes nothing.” (ShortieNoMass.BandCamp.Com) – Having first made a name for herself in the 90s working with the likes of De La Soul and The Roots, Boston-born, Philly-based artist Shortie No Mass made a welcome return to the mic after a long hiatus and sounded like she’d never been away. Her lively, infectious flow and straight-to-the-point rhymes sat comfortably here over production from Da Beatminerz, J-Zone and Shortie’s son Jay Law.

DJ Cosm – “Natural Within” (MakeBelieveHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – DJ Cosm of Canada’s Dragon Fli Empire pulled together a varied selection of underground talent for this follow-up to his 2011 release “Time And Space”, with Brand Nubian’s Sadat X, Brown Bag Money’s Daniel Son and Bankai Fam’s Skanks The Rap Martyr all making stellar appearances.

Al-J & Kane Major – “Blak To The Old School” (KaneMajor.BandCamp.Com) – Boston emcee Al-J (of Blak Madeen) painted vivid lyrical pictures of his experiences growing up in the 80s on this Kane Major-produced album. Covering everything from watching Saturday morning cartoons and first hearing Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five to navigating his way through the crack era, Al-J’s personal memories were further brought to life by the authentic electro-influenced sounds of Major’s production. A sonic blast of back to the future flavour.

Dagha – “D-A To The G” (Dagha.BandCamp.Com) – With this being his first release since 2014, it was apparent even before the end of the first track that Boston’s Dagha was intending on making-up for lost time with this album. No distractions. No gimmicks. “D-A To The G” was all about skills. Dagha tore through the beats of collaborator DJ Real with his confident delivery and clever wordplay, keeping it funky throughout with flows for days.

The Good People – “The Greater Good” (TheGoodPeople.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding NY duo Emskee and Saint came correct with yet another collection of quality true-school beats and rhymes, offering lyrical food for thought and warm, melodic production throughout. Joined by the likes of Lords Of The Underground, Craig G and Shabaam Sahdeeq, “The Greater Good” was the sound of artists really doing it for the culture.

Apollo Brown & Stalley – “Blacklight” (ApolloBrown360.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit producer Apollo Brown has built a career on bringing the best out of the emcees he chooses to collaborate with. From Boog Brown and OC to Skyzoo and Che Noir, Apollo’s brand of soulful boom-bap has inspired some brilliant performances from a variety of lyricists. “Blacklight” continued that trend. Formerly signed to Rick Ross’s Maybach Music label, Ohio’s Stalley sounded totally at home over Brown’s mellow thump, spitting down-to-earth, street-smart verses that stayed with you long after the music stopped.

Wish Master x Illinformed – “Cold Harbour Tales” (WishMaster.BandCamp.Com) – Bristol’s Wish Master has consistently sharpened his skills with each release he’s dropped over the last few years. This full-length collaboration with producer Illinformed saw Wish Master finding an ideal musical partner, with crisp beats and atmospherics samples providing the perfect backdrop for the UK lyricist’s raw wit and life lessons.

Breeze Brewin – “Hindsight” (Juggaknots.BandCamp.Com) – Some people are just born to rhyme. It’s as simple as that. NYC’s Breeze Brewin is one such individual. Twenty-five years after debuting as a member of The Juggaknots with a cult classic release on Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em label, Breeze proved that his underground legend status is still firmly intact with the release of this brilliant album. Backed by production from the likes of Sebb Bash, Marco Polo and DJ Spinna, the BX emcee covered a lot of lyrical ground here, delivering every verse with charisma, skill and originality.

Planet Asia x Evidence – “Rule Of Thirds” (BiggerPictureRecordings.Com) – West Coast giants Planet Asia and Evidence had worked together before this release earlier in their respective careers. But to hear the pair come together in 2021 having long established themselves as two of the most consistent artists the game has seen was a beautiful thing. Asia’s effortlessly dope flow swaggered over the stripped-down production supplied by Evidence, lyrically blending the fly and the righteous as always, with Domo Genesis, Milano Constantine and Rome Streetz offering verbal support.

Ea$y Money x Nozs – “2090” (STDaSquad.BandCamp.Com) – 2021 was a productive year for Massachusetts-based microphone fiend Ea$y Money, with his name gracing the cover of a handful of projects during the twelve month period. Whilst quality control was high on all of those releases, this six-track EP with New England producer Nozs was the standout for me. Street-smart rhymes were paired here with boom-bap beats that were full of character, resulting in a memorable, concise release. Also, props to Ea$y Money for the respectful nod to the great Grand Puba with the EP’s cover art.

Backwood Sweetie – “Christina Shauntay” (BackwoodSweetie.BandCamp.Com) – As a fan of Hip-Hop there’s nothing better than the moment you hear an artist for the first time whose talent immediately captures your attention and has you sitting with your ear pressed against the speaker hanging off every word being said. In 2021, Maryland’s Backwood Sweetie was one of those artists. Rhyming with passion and purpose over a well-chosen selection of beats from a variety of producers, Sweetie had a lot to say as she touched on a number of topics, including Black pride, white supremacy, police brutality and social injustice. Urgent, thought-provoking Hip-Hop.

Beneficence & Confidence – “Stellar Mind” (IllAdrenalineRecords.Com) – A no-nonsense collection of heavyweight head-nodding Hip-Hop, New Jersey’s Beneficence and Boston’s Confidence made a great team here, celebrating the essence of golden-era beats and rhymes whilst injecting their own personalities into the music. A long line of guest artists also complimented the album’s true-school vibe, including El Da Sensei, Craig G and Chubb Rock.

Ka – “A Martyr’s Reward” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – At this point, highlighting Ka’s incredible lyrical ability just feels like stating the obvious. The Brooklyn emcee is a truly unique artist and for some time his only real competition has been himself, with each of his releases setting the bar even higher for what we can expect to come from his pen. The largely self-produced “A Martyr’s Reward” was another deep dive into Ka’s life experiences, his thoughts, his hopes and his regrets. This was the work of a genuine poet containing pain and peace in equal measures.

Kaimbr & Sean Born – “Nino Green” (NinoGreen7.BandCamp.Com) – A potent mixture of vividly raw rhymes laced with street-smart swagger and intoxicating production full of uncut vintage soul flavour, this “New Jack City”-influenced collaboration from longstanding Maryland artists Kaimbr and Sean Born was as fly as a 1988 Dapper Dan sweatsuit with a matching Kangol. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. I. Am.

Heist Life – “Heist New York” (HeistLife.BandCamp.Com) – Ty Da Dale, Sauce Heist and Baby Maine repped for the Rotten Apple with pride on this short-but-effective EP, evoking images of rattling subway trains, street-corner ciphers and scuffed Timberlands over production from Spanish Ran, Nes and Wavy Da Ghawd.

Vandal Savage & Sonnyjim – “Sauvage” (IAmVandalSavage.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s very own Bic Master Vandal Savage leaned heavily into the luxury loops supplied by Sonnyjim throughout this release, with his conversational delivery overflowing with lyrical jewels, life observations and witty punchlines. With appearances from Da Flyy Hooligan, Juga-Naut and Sonnyjim himself adding further verbal weight to the project. “Sauvage” was a laidback lesson in how to craft understated hardcore Hip-Hop.

N.R.F.S. – “N.R.F.S.” (NRFS.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Neak, Rashid Hadee, F.A.B.L.E. and Since9ine6ix joined forces on this impressive collabo album as “uncrowned kings on the underground sharing thrones”, with all four artists bringing their best to the table, complimenting each other’s styles and putting together a potent showcase of undeniable Windy City talent.

Check Part Five here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Three) – Evidence / Children Of Zeus / Arrested Development etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Ca$ablanca x The Mali Empire – “Xtreme Xcellence” (Casablanca92fs.BandCamp.Com) – Dallas, Texas-based emcee Ca$ablanca has been dropping gems for a number of years now, but this Mali Empire-produced album may just have been his finest moment yet. Featuring the likes of Ray Vendetta, YNX716 and Nowaah The Flood, “Xtreme Xcellence” was packed with hard-hitting, precise lyricism delivered over a sublime selection of sample-driven tracks.

AZ – “Doe Or Die II” (QuietMoneyDirect.Com) – The idea of the ‘sequel album’ has become something of a cliché amongst golden-era rap artists. Some have seen the light of day. Some have remained unexecuted concepts destined only to be repeatedly mentioned during interviews. Some have succeeded. Some have failed. Thankfully, Brooklyn’s ever-consistent AZ managed to live up to the hype surrounding this follow-up to his 1995 debut, matching his slick, street-savvy verses with an experienced perspective and smoothed-out production from the likes of Bink!, Baby Paul and Pete Rock.

Milano x Showbiz – “Eating But Still Hungry” (MilanoxShowbiz.BandCamp.Com) – Any release coming from the Diggin’ In The Crates camp brings with it a high level of expectation from fans. Understandably, there’s a certain level of quality expected from members of the crew who really did it for the culture and became one of the most dominant forces in East Coast Hip-Hop. Milano and Showbiz rose to that challenge in no uncertain terms on this album packed with swaggering Rotten Apple attitude, skills sharpened in unforgiving street-corner ciphers and dope, dusty-fingered beats.

Kev Brown & J Scienide – “Stray From The Pack” (KevBrown.BandCamp.Com) – Following up their impressive 2019 collaboration “Drum Machine Tape Cassette”, DMV duo Kev Brown and J Scienide offered up another collection of loose, spontaneous sounding beats and rhymes inspired by both a love of the art and the satisfaction of making the competition feel inadequate. B-boy basement flavour.

The Primeridian & Rashid Hadee – “Prime Diesel” (RashidHadee.BandCamp.Com) – A product of Chicago’s rich underground scene, this collaboration between veteran duo The Primeridian and fellow Windy City representative Rashid Hadee was a shining example of top-tier beat science and carefully crafted lyricism. With additional production from Tall Black Guy and featured artists such as Thaione Davis, Pugs Atomz and Philmore Greene, this album captured a lot of talent at their very best.

Flashius Clayton x Jster – “The Dust Diary” (25NoteDope.BandCamp.Com) – A naturally gifted emcee, Cali’s Flashius Clayton was firing on all cylinders here, with his usual high-standard of lyrical expertise accompanied by the dark, hypnotic beats of West Coast producer Jster. An atmospheric dose of rough, rugged and raw Hip-Hop. As Doug E. Fresh once said, play this only at night.

Khrysis – “The Hour Of Khrysis” (JamlaRecords.Com) – Featuring a diverse selection of artists, from golden-era greats De La Soul and Hiero legend Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, to Compton’s Problem and Jamla Records own Reuben Vincent, this long-awaited album from Away Team / Soul Council producer Khrysis was firmly held together by the North Carolina music man’s sonic creativity. Drawing the most out of his list of collaborators thanks to the masterful, carefully constructed soundscapes on offer, Khrysis succeeded in stamping his own personality all over this release, complimenting the variety of emcees and vocalists included here rather than being overshadowed by them.

Vic Spencer – “Legend Laws Of Power” (SupaSounds.BandCamp.Com) – The last few years has been a relentless period of productivity for Chicago’s Vic Spencer, with the talented emcee dropping four albums in 2021 alone. “Legend Laws Of Power” found Spencer teaming-up with Chi-town producer Original Super Legend, delivering his barbed punchlines over strong beats, making it abundantly clear how unimpressed he’s been with the so-called opposition.

Nas – “King’s Disease II” (MassAppeal.Com) – Aside from a few tracks, I wasn’t a big fan of the first “King’s Disease” album. I just didn’t connect with it. This follow-up, however, prompted a totally different reaction. Aside from a couple of misplaced tracks I felt this was an inspired piece of work, with Nas and Hit-Boy really hitting their stride as a creative partnership. The Queensbridge legend sounded relaxed and focused here, embracing his elder statesman status and reminiscing on the experiences that shaped him, whilst still clearly looking towards the future.

L-Biz & Castle Money Beats – “The Cool Table LP” (IStayBizzy.Com) – Backed by the solid, melodic production of California’s Castle Money Beats, Buffalo, NY’s L-Biz encouraged artists and listeners alike not to conform and follow trends in order to have a place at “the cool table”, but instead walk your own path and carve out your own niche as an individual. Head-nodding Hip-Hop that was guaranteed to have a positive impact on your confidence levels and self-esteem.

Arrested Development – “For The FKN Love” (OfficialArrestedDevelopment.BandCamp.Com) – Powerful. Uplifting. Needed. Just a few of the words that could be used to describe this epic album from the longstanding Arrested Development crew. Largely produced by the UK’s Configa, who matched Speech’s motivational verses with some rousing work behind the boards, this was ultimately a positive album with a realistic outlook that was further enhanced by appearances from the likes of Masta Ace, Freddie Foxxx and Big Daddy Kane. Music to feed your Hip-Hop soul in today’s unsettled times.

DJ Nappa – “Redress” (DJNappa.BandCamp.Com) – A veteran of the UK Hip-Hop scene, Phi-Life Cypher’s Nappa dropped a stellar instrumental release for the We Stay True label which found the Luton-based producer upping the creative ante and moving in potentially unexpected directions, whilst remaining clear about his artistic vision at all-times. Steering away from typical boom-bap territory, “Redress” encapsulated a variety of styles, whilst capturing Nappa’s genuine passion for the art of making music.

Evidence – “Unlearning Vol. 1” (MisterEvidence.BandCamp.Com) – As a fan, the growth and evolution shown by West Coast emcee-slash-producer Evidence over the years has been a joy to behold (and hear). From his keep-it-underground approach in the 90s as a member of Dilated Peoples, to the more personal content of his solo albums, through to his instrumental work, Evidence has consistently moved forward whilst remaining rooted in his Hip-Hop foundations. “Unlearning Vol. 1” represented yet another important step in the right direction, with Evidence dropping timely lyrical gems over carefully selected production from the likes of The Alchemist, Nottz and Daringer.

Children Of Zeus – “Balance” (ChildrenOfZeus.BandCamp.Com) – To describe this sophomore album from Manchester’s Children Of Zeus as being a masterpiece would definitely be no overstatement. Having already appeared to have perfected their blend of soul and Hip-Hop on previous releases, Konny Kon and Tyler Daley refined their sonic aesthetic even further on “Balance”, reaching higher heights of creative perfection that transcended typical categorization. This was spiritual music that existed in its own unique time and place.

Awon & Phoniks – “Nothing Less” (AwonAndPhoniks.Com) – A partnership whose chemistry clearly points to them being destined to make music together, Virginia / Maine duo Awon & Phoniks came correct once again on their fourth long-player, effortlessly bringing together personal, socially-aware rhymes and strong production packed with sublime soul and jazz samples.

Guilty Simpson & Gensu Dean – “EGO” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit’s Guilty Simpson has built a career on straight-no-chaser verses full of been-there-done-that life observations and cautionary street knowledge. Simpson offered more of the same on this collaboration with esteemed producer Gensu Dean, who provided the Motor City emcee with a raw, stripped-down collection of beats over which to reassert his position in the rap game.

Confucius MC – “Somewhere” (YNRProductions.BandCamp.Com) – London’s Confucius MC really took listeners on a lyrical journey throughout this album. Where was the destination? Well, that was largely down to your interpretation of the cerebral rhymes on offer here, which contained splashes of nostalgia, present day commentary and depictions of an uncertain future. The jazz-influenced production of France’s Keor Meteor fully complimented the UK emcee’s musings, with appearances from the likes of Jehst, Sonnyjim and Verbz adding to the overall feel of the album.

El Da Sensei & Jake Palumbo – “Solving Cases” (SpaceLABRecordings.BandCamp.Com) – Buoyed by a real sense of momentum and energy, this collaboration between Artifacts legend El Da Sensei and NY’s Jake Palumbo was full of upbeat joints powered by punchy, drum-heavy production and true-school lyricism. With appearances from Sadat X, John Robinson and Shabaam Sahdeeq, this album had the feel of a lively cipher session at times, with everyone involved clearly on a mission to celebrate Hip-Hop.

Ambassador Rick – “The Tape Nobody Made” (TheOpioidEra.BandCamp.Com) – One-third of Virginia’s Opioid Era crew, Ambassador Rick continued the group’s tradition of crafting uncompromising, emotionally-charged street music on this solo release. Bridging the gap between raw and righteous, Rick combined verbal grit with moments of genuine reflection, all delivered over vintage soul samples and smooth loops.

Snaggapuss & Ramzee – “Bronx Dundee” (RapRecordsAU.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran NY emcee Snaggapuss joined forces with Australian producer Ramzee for this hardcore-yet-entertaining album, with the former member of Doo Wop’s Bounce Squad utilising his inimitable flow to deliver punchline-heavy rhymes laced with humour over satisfyingly sparse, stripped-down beats.

Part Four coming soon.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Two) – Eternia & Rel McCoy / Lloyd Luther / Edo.G & Insight Innovates etc.

Check Part One here.

Eternia & Rel McCoy – “FREE” (Eternia.BandCamp.Com) – Over ten years since the release of her last full-length album, Canada’s Eternia returned with this emotionally-charged project produced by the talented Rel McCoy. Having never been afraid to share her thoughts and feelings through her music, this release found Eternia as potent on the mic as ever but drawing on a new set of life experiences for inspiration this time around, including marriage and motherhood. A lot might have changed both globally and personally since her last musical endeavour, but “FREE” demonstrated that Eternia is still more than capable of making music that connects with listeners in a meaningful way.

T.R.A.C. & Maverick Soul – “Sonically Speaking” (AmpleAptitude.BandCamp.Com) – A fruitful collaboration between veteran NY emcee T.R.A.C. and Connecticut producer Maverick Soul, this album found the pair effortlessly blending together the sounds of Hip-Hop and Drum & Bass, with satisfyingly vibrant results. Whether backed by the warm bounce of jazz-influenced beats or the futuristic flavour of fast-paced electronic grooves, the sincere, uplifting rhymes of T.R.A.C. hit their target every time.

Opal-Kenobi – “Synapse Therapy” (GrandChoiceRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Described by Kenobi himself as “an exercise in healing”, this thoroughly engrossing EP from the Massachusetts-based lyricist was packed with expertly crafted verses that required you to pull up a chair, sit down and pay full attention. A maze-like journey through Opal’s mindstate set to a soundtrack of mellow, melodic production from the likes of Jaisu, DJ Manipulator and Brainorchestra, this was music made to accompany contemplation.

Five Steez & SonoTWS – “Quietude” (FiveSteez.BandCamp.Com) – Produced by Brazil’s SonoTWS, this album from Jamaica’s Five Steez was impressive on all levels, with the talented wordsmith delivering engaging rhymes full of personal experience, social commentary and emcee bravado over superb beats. The Kingston emcee has spent the last decade dropping music laced with positive vibes and that approach continued on this release, but the message felt more direct and tangible this time around. Perhaps that was Steez’s intention? Or maybe the music just hit me differently considering the circumstances we’ve all been living under during the past two years? Either way, “Quietude” possessed an overall tone that touched the mind, body and soul.

Vakill – “God’s G.U.N.S.” (PanikOnTheBeat.Com) – Chicago’s Vakill has been carrying out lyrical surgery since the 90s with laser-like precision. His first release for a decade, this seven-track EP was proof that time hasn’t diminished his formidable skills, with the rhymes contained here remaining as sharp as ever. Able to deftly move from vivid descriptions of emcee dominance to stark social observations, Vakill verbally pummeled beats supplied by Memo, Nottz, Panik and SC, reasserting his positon as one of the Windy City’s greats in the process.

Bash Brothers – “Bloodsport Champions” (Mallz.BandCamp.Com) – Partly inspired by the rowdy, larger-than-life antics of 80s / 90s wrestling, the North Carolina trio of Mallz, Precyce Politix and DJ Sharp Cuts launched themselves off the top rope and crash-landed onto their musical opponents throughout this album, pinning them to the mat with a combination of pounding beats and tag-team verses packed with aggressive wordplay and verbal beat-downs. Rap royal rumble vibes in full effect.

Pitch 92 – “Intervals” (HighFocus.Com) – A talented producer with a deft touch behind the boards, a good ear for quality samples and a clear understanding that sometimes less is more, Manchester’s Pitch 92 once again showcased his impressive sonic skills on his second full-length release for the High Focus imprint. Supported by a collective of top-tier emcees, including Jehst, Verb T and Lord Apex, it was Pitch’s individual brand of beat science that remained the focal point here, with the album possessing a spontaneous, organic feel that pushed it far beyond simply being a collection of stand alone tracks.

Dell-P – “We Owe The World” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Philadelphia’s irrepressible Dell-P has been consistently dropping quality material for years now, with this latest album finding the 215 representative delivering his usual brand of intelligent, thought-provoking lyricism over the soul-drenched, true-school production of Donnie Boy.

1773 – “As Above” (1773Live.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago duo Wisdm Uno and Jay Nagoma delivered relatable, down-to-earth rhymes on this standout Joe Tyse-produced album. Whether speaking on life, family or Hip-Hop, Wisdm and Jay maintained a laidback, familiar tone throughout this release, reducing the gap between listener and artist in the process, making it feel like you were being welcomed into a warm but honest conversation between friends.

Bloo & Spanish Ran – “Nowhere Bloo” (SpanishRan1.BandCamp.Com) – Further solidifying their reputation as one of the tightest emcee / producer pairings to have emerged in recent times, this latest collaborative release from Bronx duo Bloo and Spanish Ran was another strong example of their undeniable chemistry. Swaggering, punchline-packed rhymes from Bloo flowed effortlessly over the inspired sample choices of Ran, resulting in memorable music which demanded (and deserved) to be revisited.

Fatt Father – “Soccer Dad” (FattFather.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit’s Fatt Father proved with this album that he’ll crush the ego of your favourite rapper, hit the studio to record some thunderous bangers, handle any pressing street politics, and still get his son to sports practice on time. Produced by fellow Motor City Hip-Hop head Foul Mouth, “Soccer Dad” was a potent combination of speaker-crunching beats and supremely confident rhymes.

Blak Madeen – “Let The Good Get Even” (BlakMadeen.BandCamp.Com) – The raw-but-righteous rhymes of Boston duo Al-J and Yusuf were bolstered here by the adrenaline-rush production of Public Enemy affiliate C-Doc, resulting in an album that made your head nod as much as it sparked your third-eye. With guest features from the likes of Freeway, Tragedy and Chuck D, this was an energetic and captivating explosion of Hip-Hop excellence.

Planet Asia – “Block Shaman” (TuffKongRecords.Com) – One of a handful of projects Planet Asia dropped during 2021, the West Coast master craftsman teamed-up with talented production duo DirtyDiggs for this relentless barrage of verbal science, trading rhymes with the likes of Rome Streetz, Flashius Clayton and Defari, further cementing his reputation as one of the rap game’s most consistent emcees in the process.

Isatta Sheriff – “A Kind Of Biography” (IsattaSheriff.BandCamp.Com) – An ambitious self-produced project merging Hip-Hop and grime influences with live instrumentation, this four-track release from East London’s Isatta Sheriff covered a lot of creative ground. A sonic nod to the area of the UK’s capital that Isatta calls home, the emcee’s lively verses switched quickly and effortlessly here from insightful social commentary to introspective nostalgia, all brilliantly matched with standout musicianship and uplifting vibes.

Blaq Herman – “The Return Of Blaq Herman” (BlaqHerman.BandCamp.Com) – South Carolina’s Kimani Robinson took on the character of a resurrected 1940s magician named Blaq Herman (inspired by the real life Black Herman) for this short-but-entertaining concept-based EP, swapping his wand for the microphone in an attempt to carve out a new modern-day career for himself. Purposely random and playfully intriguing, this release made no sense and absolute sense all at the same time.

Lloyd Luther – “Re Pro Gram” (LloydLuther.BandCamp.Com) – An emcee on a mission to offer some balance in the world of rap, Leicester’s Lloyd Luther rhymed with the drive and focus of an artist with a point to prove throughout this release. Offering his thoughts on what it means to be Black in Britain, Luther touched on a variety of topics here, including structural racism, politics and a short-sighted music industry. Powerful material that was talking loud and saying something.

Tarik Robinson – “Rotations” (MakeBelieveHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – Canada’s Tarik Robinson (aka Teekay of Dragon Fli Empire) delivered a life-affirming selection of soulful, self-produced cuts on this superb solo album. Honest and compelling, Robinson succeeded in providing an almost spiritual experience which couldn’t help but motivate those of us listening as we all continued with our attempts to find a way through the labyrinth of everyday living.

Ty Farris x Machacha – “Dark Nights & D Fitteds” (CPHCrates.Com) – Hard-knock rhymes delivered with insight and compassion, Detroit’s Ty Farris spoke with a voice of experience and offered street narratives from a well-rounded perspective throughout this album, showing all sides of the game over beats provided by Denmark’s Machacha.

Edo.G & Insight Innovates – “Edo.G & Insight Innovates” (BrickRecords.Com) – Boston greats Edo.G and Insight joined forces on this memorable album, offering a nod of respect to the 80s / 90s golden-era they came up in, whilst very much remaining in the present day in terms of their lyrical content and subject matter. Forward-thinking, head-nodding Hip-Hop from two true masters of the culture.

Wize King – “Affirmations” (WizeKing.BandCamp.Com) – Seattle’s Wize King sought to navigate the everyday struggle by keeping his third-eye wide open and hoped to move listeners to do the same with this quality EP, offering meditative rhymes, stimulating energy and smooth, laidback production throughout.

Check Part Three here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part One) – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point / Genesis Elijah / Eddie Kaine etc.

It’s that time again. Hard to believe that 2021 has ended already. The last twelve months seemed to pass by at a lightning pace and as I approach my late-forties I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

That said, it was another difficult year for most, regardless of how fast the days and weeks may or may not have felt like they were moving. But music remained an essential escape for many of us. Listening to it. Talking about it. Making it. Writing about it. Remembering it. Arguing about it. Loving it.

Rhythm is life, as the great philosopher Warren G once said, and life is rhythm.

As I post the five installments of my 2021 list over the coming week, there will, of course, be releases missing that people may have expected or hoped to see. If an album or EP hasn’t been included, that doesn’t automatically mean I didn’t like it. It could just mean I didn’t like it as much as everything else I have included. In today’s social media-driven world, it can often feel like it’s all or nothing when discussing music (or anything for that matter). If you don’t love an album or think it’s an instant classic, that must mean you hate it or think it’s worthless. The middle-ground in-between where constructive debate occurs appears to be shrinking by the day. But I digress.

As always, this round-up celebrates the Hip-Hop I connected with most over the past twelve months. It contains the Hip-Hop I revisited most throughout the year. It shines a light on the Hip-Hop I enjoyed most in 2021.

So, let’s set if off…

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – “Smoke Filled Room” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Having already worked together on 2019’s sterling effort “Back To The Grill Again”, expectations were understandably high for the second full-length collaborative project to come from the UK’s Juga-Naut and Giallo Point, with the finished product finding the pair further cementing their reputations as masters of their respective crafts. An exquisite combination of top-tier lyricism and perfectly selected sample-based production, this album brilliantly showcased Juga-Naut’s natural talent for penning intricate verses packed with multiple layers that were a joy to follow, unravel, rewind and listen to again and again.

Skyzoo – “All The Brilliant Things” (MMG-Skyzoo.BandCamp.Com) – Another year passed by and NYC’s Skyzoo added yet another masterpiece to his already stellar catalogue. At this point in his career, Skyzoo’s ability to make his lyrical brilliance appear effortless should never stop us from remembering just how much work no doubt goes into every bar, every line and every verse that he commits to the pages of his rhyme pad. Like many of Skyzoo’s previous releases, this was a concept-driven project which found the talented emcee commenting on the gentrification of his beloved Brooklyn over an impeccable selection of jazz-infused beats from the likes of Kenny Keys, MarcNfinit and Tuamie. Writing with incredible attention to detail as always, Skyzoo pulled listeners into his world, placing us all amongst the sights, sounds and experiences of past, present and future New York.

IAMGAWD & Doc Da Mindbenda – “Hell’s Angels & Heaven’s Demons” (GawdsGift.BandCamp.Com) – Being able to create meaningful art out of the uglier aspects of life is a unique skill and one clearly shared by Chicago partnership IAMGAWD and Doc Da Mindbenda, as demonstrated on this captivating album. A quality example of the greatness that can be achieved when an emcee and producer share undeniable creative chemistry, GAWD’s commanding flow was matched perfectly here with Doc’s robust beats. Touching on a variety of topics, including the vicious cycle of gang life, structural racism and street politics, this album offered a powerful and sobering dose of reality.

Funky DL – “Beautiful Soul” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Paying tribute to the soul music of the 60s and 70s in clever and subtle ways, this 21st (!!!) album from the UK’s Funky DL was an ambitious and expertly executed project. Accompanied by the organic sound of live musicians, DL delivered personal, heartfelt rhymes with sincerity and feeling, resulting in an album that was both inspiring and uplifting. A much needed ray of musical light.

Sons Phonetic – “Nakatomi” (SonsPhonetic.BandCamp.Com) – Having spent the last decade consistently delivering their own unique brand of quality Hip-Hop, Ireland’s mighty Sons Phonetic crew dropped their new long-awaited album “Nakatomi”, a skilful combination of sublime, sample-based production and expertly penned verses full of meaningful depth and striking imagery. A remarkable release.

Genesis Elijah – “A Prophet In His Hometown…” (GenesisElijah.BandCamp.Com) – A lot of artists will talk about keeping it real, but how real are they really keeping it? Are they talking about their struggles, emotions and mistakes? Are they letting you hear their true feelings through music? Are they being genuine? Watford-based emcee Genesis Elijah did all of the above throughout this striking collection of beats and rhymes. We cheered when Genesis spoke on his successes and cared when he touched on his personal battles. Backed by unique production from Pastor Dutchie and Shapes that blurred lines between genres, Elijah stood loud and proud throughout “A Prophet…”, rightfully staking his claim as one of the UK’s finest lyricists.

Codenine – “LVNDR” (TragicAlliesCodenine.BandCamp.Com) – Mood music of the highest quality, this latest album from Tragic Allies member Codenine was a towering creative triumph, blending sharp lyrical darts with smooth, emotive production from the likes of Chronic Tone and Karnate, lending the release a cinematic, soundtrack-like feel. This wasn’t an album you could (or should) just dip in and out of. It was a body of work that deserved to be listened to in its entirety in order to be fully appreciated.

TrueMendous – “Misdiagnosis Of Chyvonne Johnson” (TrueMendous.BandCamp.Com) – Personality. Flow. Ingenuity. Three things you’re guaranteed to hear on any release from Birmingham emcee TrueMendous. Having signed with the High Focus label in 2020 and subsequently dropping the well-received “HUH?” EP, this album release for the imprint found the UK talent in full artistic flight, clearly seeing every moment here as an opportunity to revel in her own individuality as she touched on relationships, self-image and personal history, accompanied by diverse and inventive production.

Tall Black Guy & Ozay Moore – “Of Process And Progression” (TallBlackGuy.BandCamp.Com) – A celebratory album with a message, Tall Black Guy and Ozay Moore combined their individual expertise and crafted something truly special here. Whilst the hype sticker on the front of this album boasted of the duo being here to “revive the pulse of Hip-Hop’s golden-era”, that statement only told half the story. Far from simply being a collection of predictable throwback tracks full of 90s nostalgia, this was a vibrant, inspirational release that respectfully nodded toward its back-in-the-day influences, yet very much remained a soundtrack made for the present day.

Fresh Daily – “The Quiet Life 2” (HighWaterMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Raised in Brooklyn, now residing in Oakland, Fresh Daily came correct on his long-awaited sequel album “The Quiet Life 2”, an absolutely brilliant release which found the talented artist matching his observational rhymes and conversational flow with warm, melodic production from the likes of Chris Keys, Lakim, Suff Daddy and more.

Jazz Spastiks – “Camera Of Sound” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com) – Scotland’s Jazz Spastiks never fail to operate at the top of their game whenever it’s time for the gifted production duo to bless us with a new release. This latest album from Coconut Delight and Mr Manyana featured a who’s who of underground heavyweights taking full advantage of the pair’s full-bodied beats. Wee Bee Foolish, Artifacts, Soundsci and more stepped up with their best microphone techniques, ensuring this album had maximum replay value.


Prox Centauri – “Mending What’s Broken: Odes For Stalwart Days & Fearless Nights” (ProxCentauri.BandCamp.Com) – Flint, Michigan’s Prox Centauri showcased his talent for penning sincere, life-affirming rhymes on this thoroughly engaging album release. Containing some of the best lyricism you were likely to have heard in 2021, Centauri floated above the clouds as he explored the meaning of the human experience via thoughts on spirituality, consciousness and community.

Wavy Da Ghawd – “Ghawd’s Eden” (WavyDaGhawd.BandCamp.Com) – Having worked with the likes of Rome Streetz, Bub Rock and Sauce Heist in recent years, Brooklyn-based producer Wavy Da Ghawd entered 2021 already known for delivering quality soundscapes. This album further cemented the NY music man’s reputation for stellar work behind the boards, with underground favourites such as Planet Asia, Eddie Kaine and Ty Farris all eager to spit over one of Wavy’s carefully selected loops. Producer-based albums can sometimes sound disjointed, but the dusty-fingered basement vibe running throughout “Ghawd’s Eden” ensured it stood out as a cohesive collection with plenty of musical character.


Lewis Parker – “Frequency Of Perception” (LewisParker.BandCamp.Com) – A product of an era in Hip-Hop when skills were really all that mattered, it’s easy to imagine UK producer-on-the-mic Lewis Parker stood in a b-boy stance next to his trusty SP1200 whenever you listen to the self-proclaimed Man With The Golden Sound. A true master (you can check his credentials), Parker’s ability to craft timeless, sample-based music has only become more refined over the years, with “Frequency Of Perception” proudly standing as an example of what can be achieved when a veteran artist is still passionate and enthusiastic about their craft.

Rita J – “The High Priestess” (RitaJ.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Rita J made a welcome return to the rap game with this superb album which found the skilled emcee being joined by fellow Windy City representatives Neak (producer) and Rashid Hadee (executive producer), who both also added their lyrical talents to the mix. Full of potent, thoughtful rhymes laced with a strong b-girl attitude and delivered over quality beats, “The High Priestess” stood out as a refreshing listening experience which fully tapped into the potential Hip-Hop has to touch the soul.


Let The Dirt Say Amen – “God Hates Gucci” (LetTheDirtSayAmen.BandCamp.Com) – Washington DC’s Let The Dirt Say Amen (aka Tim Hicks of The Cornel West Theory) delivered one of the most powerful albums of 2021, offering a thought-provoking critique of present-day Hip-Hop that came from a place of genuine love. Inspired by a time when Hip-Hop wasn’t just entertainment, but an artform that also attempted to motivate, inspire and inform its listeners, Let The Dirt Say Amen encouraged us all to do better, to be better and to treat this incredible culture with the respect it deserves.

Charlie K – “Sunshine Philadelphia: The God Hour” (CharlieK1.BandCamp.Com) – Accomplished Philly emcee Charlie K filled his well-crafted verses with spirituality, social commentary and poignant observations on this concise EP, backed by soulful production from the likes of Lim0, Kulture, DviousMindz and more.

Twizzy – “Crabs In A Bucket” (Twizzy.BandCamp.Com) – With a wink and a knowing smile, Bristol’s Twizzy offered his thoughts on the world around us and his place in it throughout this thoroughly enjoyable Chillman-produced album. Highlighting the growth that can come from personal struggle, as well as the importance of not allowing the matrix of daily life to distract you from what really matters, Twizzy focused on silver linings here rather than the dark clouds we all find ourselves under sometimes.

Eddie Kaine – “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” (BigGhostLimited.BandCamp.Com / 2021) – For me, what elevates a good emcee to a standout emcee isn’t just their ability to put words together, but whether an artist can deliver those words in such a way that makes you genuinely feel them as a listener? A rapper can be technically gifted, but if the verses in an artist’s book of rhymes don’t come alive with character and emotion once they’re in front of a microphone, is it really worth it? Whether speaking on personal hardships, painting images of Crooklyn life, or simply stating his lyrical prowess, NYC’s Eddie Kaine made you feel his bars, accompanied by the wailing soul samples of the always impressive Big Ghost Ltd.

Philmore Greene – “Knowledge And Power” (PhilmoreGreene.BandCamp.Com) – On this album, Chicago’s Philmore Greene delivered a soul-stirring collection of honest, contemplative rhymes rooted in the reality of his Windy City life experiences whilst reaching towards a better future. Produced by fellow Chi-town representative Rashid Hadee with features from Natasha Robinson, Skyzoo and Vic Spencer, “Knowledge And Power” lived up to its title with Greene possessing both in abundance.

Check Part Two here.

Album Review – DJ Nappa

DJ Nappa

“Redress”

(WeStayTrue.BandCamp.Com)

DJ Nappa is a name that really should need no introduction. A veteran of the UK Hip-Hop scene, the Luton-based producer first caught the attention of many heads back in the late 90s as the sonic backbone of the mighty Phi-Life Cypher crew, with the group’s debut “Baddest Man EP” release quickly becoming a cult classic, due in part to Nappa’s accomplished, sample-based beats. Just from hearing that initial PLC white label back in 1998 stood at the counter of London’s Deal Real Records (and promptly buying a copy), it was clear to my ears (and to those jostling for room at the same counter) that the tracks thundering from the shop’s speakers had been made by someone who obviously took their craft seriously.

Fast-forward over twenty years later and Nappa’s impressive discography shows exactly how serious he’s remained about his music, with a number of critically-acclaimed Phi-Life Cypher projects under his belt, plus work with the likes of MCM, Inja, Cappo and many more.

The talented crate-digger previously dabbled in the realm of instrumental Hip-Hop back in 2014, releasing two volumes of his “Late Night Beat Tape” cassettes, but his first release for the We Stay True label finds Nappa really upping the creative ante, moving in potentially unexpected directions yet remaining on-point and clear about his artistic vision at all times.

Nappa could quite easily have taken the predictable approach to this project and put together a collection of typical boom-bap beats, all of which, I’m sure, would have been made to a very high standard. But that would have been the easy option. Listening to “Redress” you definitely get the feeling that Nappa wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity, to both challenge himself and also to offer a nod of respect to many of his influences.

The album’s opening track “The Fear” is an immediate attention-grabber, with the ominous combination of rattling drums and threatening synths hinting at what 80s TV show “The Equalizer” may have sounded like had Nappa been asked to provide a musical score for it in a different lifetime.

Any tension that may have been created by that first cut is gently blown away by the soothing pianos, echoing horns and deft scratches of “Speak”, a track that succeeds in its mission to showcase music as not only a means of communication, but also as something that can have a positive impact on our personal well-being. Good vibrations, indeed.

The aptly-titled “Make It Funky” is a loose and lively tribute to the iconic James Brown, whilst the KRS-One-sampling “Get What I’m Saying” is also drenched in old-school vibes, with the blend of slick, repetitive guitar licks and soulful vocal snippets possessing a hypnotic quality which is both relaxing and simultaneously slightly unsettling (in the best possible way).

Arguably my favourite track on the album, the retro drum-machine thump and syncopated handclaps of “Friday Late Night” immediately took me back to being a youngster in the mid-80s tuning in over the weekend to the late, great Mike Allen on London’s Capital Radio and hearing the latest fresh sounds from the likes of Just-Ice, MC Chill and DJ Cheese. So I couldn’t help but smile when right at the very end of this blast of b-boy-influenced nostalgia the warm, inimitable voice of Mr. Allen himself can be heard for a few brief seconds lifted straight from one of his many classic shows. Brilliant.

The melodic head-nodder “Relax Your Mind” ends the album on a mellow note, demonstrating Nappa’s knack for knowing how to let a track breathe, whilst also ensuring there’s enough happening to keep the listener locked on and in the zone.

An album that encapsulates a variety of sounds and styles yet remains cohesive and concise throughout, “Redress” is a body of work Nappa should be proud of, which not only highlights his undeniable technical abilities, but also captures his genuine passion for the art of making music.

Give the man behind the beats some credit.

Ryan Proctor

“Redress” is available here via We Stay True.

Album Review – Rocdwell

rocdwell cover

Rocdwell

“SIMPLICITY (The Life That Makes The Songs)”

(Rocdwell.BandCamp.Com)

I first became aware of Detroit’s Rocdwell in 2014 following the release of his “Daily Chronicles” project, an album which showcased the talents of an emcee who was clearly determined to standout from the crowd, injecting his music with honesty, personal experience and a grounded, real-world perspective. Regardless of whether you’d shared similar life situations to those described in Rocdwell’s music or not, it wasn’t hard to connect with the Motor City artist due to the sincerity and feeling conveyed in his verses.

Six years later and Rocdwell’s new full-length release offers more lyrical food for thought, encouraging listeners to step back for a moment from the Matrix of our day-to-day existence, focus on what’s really important in a world full of distractions, and grab life with a renewed sense of purpose.

The opening one-two combination of “SIMPLICITY (Intro)” and “Fresher” makes Rocdwell’s approach to this album abundantly clear, with the mellow Jesse James-produced opening track encouraging people to “Cherish your moments while you got ’em..“, whilst the latter cut is a strong statement of intent, with Rocdwell revealing his feelings of artistic rejuvenation over loose, horn-laced beats from S3oulCIty.

“No Debate” looks at the importance of maintaining self-belief and ignoring negative thoughts as we travel along our individual paths, with Rocdwell reminding both himself and us that he’s “destined to shine, destined to climb” over the understated, soulful bounce of producer Juno.

The crisp, piano-laced thump of the Track PROS-helmed “Memory Lane” provides the ideal musical backdrop for the emcee’s youthful recollections of playing with action figures, Sega Genesis and feeling inspired by Ras Kass, KRS-One and Eminem, whilst the shuffling “Tres Uno Tres” is a heartfelt dedication to Detroit which encompasses both the history of the city as well as current issues such as gentrification (“Pops put me on heavy ’bout the heydays, Stories about The Temptations and The Supremes, Before the riots when all the neighbourhoods was clean…The new Detroit on the up and up though, A hot bed of development but up close, I don’t see much poppin’ where I’m from though, I guess them dollars haven’t made it to our front door…”).

The closing JPMoore Music-produced “Happy” finds Rocdwell providing a poignant reminder that every day is a new opportunity to chase dreams, reach goals and make a change for the better, relying on yourself first and foremost instead of looking for others to take responsibility for your personal fulfilment (“Life goes on, Right or wrong, I recite it in a song, The world keeps turning every three-sixty, five, I’m just glad that I’m alive, With everything that I own, My happiness is mine…”).

What really makes this album work is its overall feel and tone. Given some of the subject matter included here, Rocdwell could easily have ended-up sounding self-righteous or condescending, but instead his conversational flow enables him to comes across like a familiar friend who simply wants to see others succeed and grow.

As De La Soul’s Posdnuos once said on the group’s 1996 classic “Stakes Is High”, life can get all up in your ass, baby, you better work it out. With “SIMPLICITY”, Rocdwell is hoping to give his fan base the motivation to do just that.

Ryan Proctor

 

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part Five) – Little Brother / 38 Spesh & Big Ghost Ltd / Foreign Beggars etc.

Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.

Little Brother – “May The Lord Watch” (LittleBrotherNC.Com) – An absolute masterpiece of an album, this reunion project from Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh found the two North Carolina emcees offering mature, honest views and opinions on life, career and society, backed by the soulful thump of producers such as Khrysis, Nottz and Focus.

little brother cover

Ded Tebiase & Ash The Author – “Apex” (VillageLiveRecords.Com) – Succeeding in their shared mission for 2019 which was to “step the levels up”, this joint effort from UK producer / emcee combo Ded Tebiase and Ash The Author was full of sublime, drum-heavy beats and sharp, charismatic wordplay. Tebiase proved himself to be a true master of his craft here, blending the influence of golden-era greats with his own sonic personality, whilst Ash remained lively and engaging throughout. Brilliant musical team-work.

apex cover

Sleep Sinatra – “Sources Of Nature” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Delivering more of that “intricately manufactured quality product” that he’s become known for, Sleep Sinatra continued his run of consistency with this Custodian Of Records-produced project. Showcasing his impressive brand of thoughtful, introspective wordplay over melodic, full-bodied beats, the Nebraska-based emcee once again proved himself to be a lyricist who is clearly invested in elevating the art of rhyme.

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Kev Brown & J Scienide – “Drum Machine Tape Cassette” (KevBrown.BandCamp.Com) – The DMV duo shared their undeniable creative chemistry throughout this full-length collabo project, packed with impressive beat science and accomplished verses. Grounded in a satisfyingly raw and spontaneous dusty basement sound, this album proved itself to be a joy for crate-diggers and lyric-lovers alike.

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Knowledge The Pirate – “Black Cesar” (FXCKRAP.BandCamp.Com) – Following up 2018’s “Flintlock” album, East Coast emcee Knowledge The Pirate dropped more street-related rhymes from an OG’s perspective on this Elemnt-produced project. Detailed, cinematic verses sat perfectly atop a meticulously crafted selection of loops and samples.

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Big Tone + House Shoes – “Big Shoes” (StreetCornerMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Years of combined personal Hip-Hop history were poured into this collaborative effort from Big Tone and House Shoes, two individuals who each played a key role in the Detroit Hip-Hop scene during a pivotal period for the city in terms of it receiving attention on a global scale. Aside from dope bars and quality production in abundance, this album resonated with experience, passion and determination.

Ronnie Bosh – “All People Expect” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – Full of character and understated swagger, this long-awaited debut album from London’s Bosh definitely delivered the goods. Mixing punchline-heavy verses and concept-driven tracks with infectious hooks and the well-executed production of Dirty Dike, this was a slow-burner that offered something new each time you played it.

Murs – “The Iliad Is Dead And The Odyssey Is Over” (MursRaps.Com) – Time has proven again and again that when former Living Legends member Murs gets together with producer 9th Wonder, good music is guaranteed. This concise project from the LA lyricist (featuring additional musical input from 9th’s Soul Council) continued that tradition. Murs’ talent for blending humour, social observations and emcee arrogance was in full effect here, backed by brilliantly tailored production which gave his personality-filled rhymes just the right amount of sonic kick.

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Bandana” (Madlib.BandCamp.Com) – Following up 2014’s brilliant “Piñata”album,  sonic odd couple Gibbs and Madlib once again demonstrated that opposites really do attract, with Freddie’s Indiana-influenced gangsta rhymes sounding right at home over the eclectic, unpredictable sample-heavy soundscapes of the West Coast producer.

DJ Muggs & Crimeapple – “Medallo” (SoulAssassins.Com) – Another fine example of Cypress Hill’s Muggs keeping his ear to the underground, this release found the LA-based producer linking with New Jersey’s Crimeapple, an artist who has steadily built a buzz for himself over the last few years with his sharp lyrical wit. The sparse, stripped-back sonics heard here gave the East Coast artist’s verses plenty of room to breathe, allowing Crime’s skills to be fully appreciated.

MED & Guilty Simpson – “Child Of The Jungle” (BangYaHead.BandCamp.Com) – An entertaining meeting of two sonically like-minded individuals, this joint effort from Cali’s MED and Detroit’s Guilty Simpson was organic, impressive and thoroughly enjoyable. The pair delivered blue-collar bars throughout, backed by some of the finest production of the year from the likes of Madlib, Nottz, Apollo Brown and more.

Griselda – “WWCD” (ShadyRecords.Com) – Having flooded the market in recent times with a string of quality solo projects, Buffalo’s Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine and Benny The Butcher finally delivered the crew album that Griselda fans had been waiting for. Produced by Daringer and the UK’s Beat Butcha, this project was another dose of uncut street music, with the trio showing no signs of running out of hard-knock stories to tell.

Nolan The Ninja – “SPORTEE” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit’s Nolan The Ninja rhymes like his life depends on it, and that sense of urgency was felt throughout this 5YNot-produced album; a well-crafted collection of vibrant, energetic verses, broken beats and crackling samples. The Motor City artist’s passion for Hip-Hop could clearly be heard on every track included here.

Micall Parknsun & Giallo Point – “The Magnum Opus” (GialloPoint.BandCamp.Com) – Arguably the hardest working producer of 2019, Giallo Point closed the year out alongside fellow UK representative Micall Parknsun, delivering this epic sixteen-track project packed with robust rhymes, understated, drama-fuelled loops and strong appearances from the likes of Da Flyy Hooligan, Juga-Naut, Jehst and more.

38 Spesh & Big Ghost Ltd – “A Bullet For Every Heathen” (38SpeshAirVinyls.BandCamp.Com) – Continuing his relentless work ethic of recent times, Rochester, NY’s 38 Spesh teamed-up with the mighty Big Ghost Ltd for this impressive display of gritty, street-related beats and rhymes. Vivid verses matched with atmospheric production ensured this project stood-out from those in a similar lane.

Sean Price & Lil Fame – “Price Of Fame” (SeanPriceLilFame.BandCamp.Com) – Tag-teaming like a heavyweight Hip-Hop wrestling duo, the late, great Sean Price and M.O.P.’s Lil Fame delivered some good old-fashioned Brooklyn hard-rock flavour on this rowdy collection of stripped-down beats and New York straight talk. BK all day!

junclassic – “SIZE: Husky” (junclassic.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran Queens, NY emcee junclassic dropped a new addition to his already extensive catalogue of unique Rotten Apple rap in the form of this quality Husky-produced project, which mixed true-school sensibilities with moments of musical experimentation.

Klashnekoff – “Iona” (Klashnekoff.BandCamp.Com) – UK rap legend Klashnekoff has always had a talent for injecting heartfelt emotion and personal experience into his verses, but on this particular project (his first for seven years), the London emcee proved that his pen game had elevated to even higher heights since we last heard from him. A concept-driven album, based around the loss of his mother, K-Lash poured raw honesty and feeling into every track here, resulting in a genuinely soul-stirring listening experience.

Pounds x Buckwild – “Trafficante” (Pounds.BandCamp.Com) – Rochester, NY’s Pounds paired his gruff, street-savvy delivery with the dusty-fingered production of Diggin’ In The Crates legend Buckwild for this brooding collection of East Coast head-nodders. Appearances from Roc Marciano, Benny The Butcher and Crimeapple added further lyrical weight to the project.

Foreign Beggars – “Matriarchy” (ForeignBeggars.BandCamp.Com) – Since the 2003 release of their classic debut album “Asylum Speakers”, London’s Foreign Beggars crew have built a strong reputation for delivering genre-blurring beats and rhymes of the highest standard. This final long-player from the group was a brilliant blend of styles, offering a grateful nod to the late-90s / early-2000s UK Hip-Hop scene the Beggars came out of, whilst embracing the more contemporary sounds of the present day. Sonically refreshing and lyrically inspiring, this was a fitting way for the FBs to say farewell. Thanks for the musical memories!

 

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part Four) – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point / Diamond D / Da Flyy Hooligan etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – “Back To The Grill Again” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham emcee Juga-Naut is a force of nature when it comes to this rhyming ish. A genuine talent, the UK wordsmith has been delivering high-end wordplay for years now. The resulting album from his partnership with producer Giallo Point was a match made in Hip-Hop heaven. Creative verses and smooth, sublime beats were on the menu here, with the pair succeeding in satisfying the musical cravings of fans across the globe.

Smoke DZA & Benny The Butcher – “Statue Of Limitations” (CinematicMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – Packed with captivating, street-related rhymes and quality Pete Rock production, this collabo EP from DZA and Griselda’s Benny effectively showcased the pair’s genuine chemistry as they each sought to capture their hard-knock life experiences via the art of rap. B-b-b-b-boom!

DJ Enyoutee Presents Planet Asia & Milano Constantine – “The Planet Asia & Milano Constantine EP” – These two phenomenal emcees joining forces was the sonic equivalent of me getting amped as a kid seeing my favourite super-heroes appearing together in an issue of “Marvel Team-Up”. Asia and Milano exchanged razor-sharp rhymes throughout this release, backed by dope production from BodyBag Ben, Cool FD, DirtyDigs and more.

Nujericans – “PBS – Puertoriqueno Barrio Sound” (Nujericans.BandCamp.Com) – New Jersey’s Joey Dynomite and Sol Zalez returned to burn with a rowdy selection of uncut East Coast flavour, featuring beats from A-$harp, The Custodian Of Records and Stu Bangas.

Von Poe VII – “Diary Of The Se7en III” (VonPoeVII.BandCamp.Com) – Cali’s multi-talented Von Poe VII dropped the final part in his “Diary Of The Se7en” EP series, with this third instalment consisting of the West Coast wordsmith’s usual blend of sharp, intelligent, multi-layered rhymes and equally impressive production.

Kwote – “List Worthy?” (TunnelMovement.BandCamp.Com) – Tunnel Movement member and Chicago representative Kwote has built a strong reputation over the years for being a talented emcee, with this collection of true-school beats and rhymes offering further proof that the Windy City wordsmith possesses a voice that deserves to be heard.

DEMOTAPEZ – “Real Life Situations” (DEMOTAPEZ.BandCamp.Com) – Lithuania-born, London-based producer DEMOTAPEZ worked some musical magic on his trusty Akai samplers here, crafting a quality collection of mellow, full-bodied beats laced with echoing horns, melodic keys and warm basslines.

Him Lo – “Prince Akeem Jewelz” (MarQSpekt.BandCamp.Com) – Following up his solo EP released earlier in the year, Buze Bruvaz member Him Lo dropped this self-produced long-player, packed with boisterous verses and unpolished beats, adding further weight to the perception that the Philly emcee will happily steal your beer, snatch your girl and then blow weed smoke in your face on the way out.

Kamanchi Sly – “The Domination Mentality” (HipHop73.Com) – UK legend and Hijack member K-Sly has been on a creative roll since 2017, with this being his seventh album project to see the light of day during that time (with more having dropped since). Attacking the mic with the same vigour heard on his late-80s / early-90s releases, the London emcee’s passion for Hip-Hop obviously remains strong, with his enthusiasm for his craft clear for all to hear throughout this self-produced effort.

Your Old Droog – “Transportation” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – Having already released one of 2019’s best albums with “It Wasn’t Even Close”, NYC’s Your Old Droog made a swift return with the equally impressive “Transportation”, featuring production from The Purist, Mono En Stereo and Oh No, plus an unexpected but welcome remake of former Bad Boy artist G Dep’s mid-90s favourite “Head Over Wheels”.

Diamond D – “The Diam Piece 2” (DymondMineRecords.Com) – Legendary producer-on-the-mic Diamond D delivered a sterling sequel to his 2014 “Diam Piece” release, putting a contemporary twist on his traditional Diggin’ In The Crates sound, with an eclectic lists of artists on-hand to offer their creative input, including Pharoahe Monch, David Banner and Xzibit.

Ras Kass – “Soul On Ice 2” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – One of the game’s finest lyricists, West Coast wordsmith Ras Kass’s follow-up to his 1996 debut demanded repeated listens in order to be fully appreciated. Dense verses packed with verbal expertise were the order of the day here, further cementing Ras Kass’s place in the Hip-Hop hall of fame.

Jack Jones – “The Fix” (MrJackJones.BandCamp.Com) – This long-awaited solo album from Mass Influence / Soundsci member Audessey featured the Atlanta wordsmith delivering accomplished rhymes over stellar production from the UK’s Jonny Cuba and Ollie Teeba, with microphone assistance from Prince Po, Supastition, Oxygen and more.

Anyway Tha God & Ocelot – “Allow Me To Interject…” (AnywayThaGod.BandCamp.Com) – UK emcee AnyWay Tha God sought to spark some positive change amidst today’s troubled times with this Ocelot-produced collection of inspirational beats and rhymes. Relax your mind and let your conscience be free.

XL Middleton – “2 Minutes Till Midnight” (MoFunkRecords.Com) – A long-time purveyor of “the new sound of LA funk”, California’s XL Middleton served up a new batch of smoothed-out grooves which evoked images of warm West Coast nights, packed house-parties and bouncing low-riders, with sonic influences such as The Bar-Kays, Zapp and DJ Quik all being mixed in to the Pasadena-based artist’s skin-tight brand of backyard boogie.

Da Flyy Hooligan – “FYLPM II” (GourmetDeluxx.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by quality production from the likes of Micall Parknsun, Ded Tebiase and DJ Flash, London’s Flyy Hooligan swaggered with stylish arrogance throughout this brilliant album. Packed with character and personality, this project was yet another worthy addition to the UK emcee’s catalogue.

DJ Muggs & Mach Hommy – “Tuez-Les Tous” (SoulAssassins.Com) – Production legend Muggs continued his run of working with today’s new generation of talented underground emcees throughout 2019, uniting with the rhyming enigma Mach Hommy for this particular project which found the pair complimenting each other stylistically and crafting a sparse, atmospheric collection of beats and verses.

Rapsody – “Eve” (JamlaRecords.Com) An honest, insightful and ultimately powerful celebration of Black womanhood, this well-received project from North Carolina’s Rapsody found the Jamla-affiliated emcee continuing her own decade-long tradition of taking large artistic steps forward with each release. A mixture of social observation, cultural analysis and B-girl confidence, Rapsody demanded the listener’s attention throughout this album, commanding a refined and varied production selection supplied largely by 9th Wonder and Eric G.

Ghostface Killah – “Ghostface Killahs” (GhostfaceMusic.Com) – Larger-than-life and as lyrically entertaining as always, the Wally Champ dipped into crime-rhyme mode for the majority of this project, accompanied by his Wu brothers Cappadonna, Method Man, Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa.

Datkid & Leaf Dog – “Confessions Of A Crud Lord” (High-Focus.Com) – A rambunctiously raw offering, this album from Split Prophets member Datkid found the Bristolian emcee dropping attitude-fuelled verses laced with politically-incorrect punchlines over the gleefully radio-unfriendly production of The Four Owls’ Leaf Dog. Heavyweight guest appearances from Roc Marciano, Conway and Westside Gunn only added to the project’s hardcore appeal.

Fifth and final part of this 2019 best-of list coming soon.

 

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part Three) – KingDem / Apollo Brown / Ray Vendetta etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Fly Anakin & Big Kahuna OG – “Holly Water” (MutantAcademyRVA.BandCamp.Com) – Raekwon and Ghostface. Erick and Parrish. Run and DMC. There are some emcees who were simply meant to rhyme together. Mutant Academy’s Fly Anakin and Big Kahuna OG can also be added to that list. Following up their four-part “Big Fly” EP series, the Richmond, Virginia duo delivered arguably their finest work to date in the form of this album, blending their undeniable skills with smooth, intoxicating production.

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Phyba & Giallo Point – “René Mesrine” (CDVZ.BandCamp.Com) – 2019 was an extremely busy year for producer Giallo Point, with this project alongside fellow UK resident Phyba just one of a handful of collabo releases helmed by the talented music man. Revisiting the cinematic undercover spy-themed flavour of their previous work together, the combination of Phyba’s laidback, nonchalant delivery and Giallo’s atmospheric sonic drama once again made for a uniquely captivating listening experience.

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People Under The Stairs – “Sincerely, The P” (PL70.Net) – Bringing their twenty year musical journey to a suitably impressive end, Thes One and Double K’s final album was another finely-tuned selection of funky beats, spontaneous energy and proud West Coast attitude, held together by the duo’s seasoned wisdom and genuine gratitude to fans for sticking with the PUTS brand over the last two decades.

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Rick Hyde – “Plates” (RickHyde.BandCamp.Com) – Buffalo, NY emcee-slash-producer Rick Hyde delivered personal, emotionally-charged street-level rhymes on his debut album, executive produced by Griselda’s Benny The Butcher and featuring beats from DJ Shay, IceRocks, Chup and more.

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Motman & Micall Parknsun – “Everyday Craft” (Motman1.BandCamp.Com) – Bristol emcee Motman dropped honest, down-to-earth rhymes over quality production from the ever-impressive Micall Parknsun on this long-player, with lyrical assistance from Flowtecs, Gee Bag and Ray Vendetta.

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Westside Gunn – “Flygod Is An Awesome God” (GrisdeldaXFR.Com) – The Griselda juggernaut continued to steam-roll its way through the rap scene with this summer release from WSG, a worthy addition to the crew’s collective catalogue, featuring the Buffalo emcee showcasing sharp, street-related verses over elegantly raw production from the likes of The Alchemist, Evidence and DJ Muggs.

Rashad ThaPoet x The BeatHead – “Jefferson Street Blues” (RashadThaPoet.BandCamp.Com) – Nashville, Tennessee emcee / spoken word artist Rashad ThaPoet balanced the promise of the American Dream with the reality of the Amerikkkan Nightmare throughout this impressive BeatHead-produced EP, offering poignant, thoughtful observations on politics, race and the shortcomings of society.

Hubbs – “Tony Peña” (Hubbs.BandCamp.Com) – The Pittsburgh-based lyricist flexed his conversational-yet-authoritative flow to good effect on this quality, baseball-influenced project, backed by smooth, laidback production from the likes of Nysceworkk, Billy Hoyle, JR Swiftz and more.

Louis Cypher – “Cypher Sore Eyes” (BoomBap.BandCamp.Com) – Having been a consistently reliable outlet for quality Hip-Hop over the last fifteen years. UK label Boom Bap Professionals presented this free EP from Punning Clan member Louis Cypher, featuring the Nottingham-based emcee putting a nice selection of beats from DJ Severe, Kastanza and Pete 1st Blood to good use.

Chris Skillz & Storm Watkins – “Creer” (ChrisSkillz.BandCamp.Com) – A  naturally gifted emcee, Delaware’s Chris Skillz lived up to his name on this five track EP, blessing the dope, sample-heavy production of Baltimore’s Storm Watkins with a stream of captivating, well-crafted verses, accompanied by Left Lane Didon, All Hail Y.T. and Ronnie Alpha.

Leaf Erikson – “A Canvas Of Hope” (LeafErikson1.BandCamp.Com) – The first of three planned projects dedicated to his Detroit stomping grounds, emcee Leaf Erikson used this project to weave together Motor City stories grounded in “tragedy, triumph and the journey people experience along the way” accompanied by the subtle production expertise of Meftah.

Supreme Cerebral & Eloh Kush – “Clark Connoisseurs” (BugzyNino17.BandCamp.Com) – Showcasing a shared passion for Clarks footwear that even Ghostface would be proud of, LA’s Supreme Cerebral and New Jersey’s Eloh Kush combined forces on this Wallabee-influenced collection of punchy wordplay and suede-smooth production from Clypto and Juelz White. As Tony Starks said himself on the Purple Tape, this how you freak ’em!

KingDem – “The KingDem EP” (Tru-Thoughts.BandCamp.Com) – Coming to the table with timeless skills, unmistakable character and a whole heap of personal Hip-Hop history under their respective belts, legends Ty, Rodney P and Blak Twang spoke with experience and authority on this four-track release, offering some tough love to the UK scene they helped shape whilst looking forever forward. Vibes, substance and longevity in abundance.

Jay NiCE & Farma Beats – “POMPEii” (FarmaBeats.BandCamp.Com) – Delaware’s Jay NiCE spat hot lava over an impeccable production selection from the UK’s Farma Beats throughout his fourth release of 2019, a project which succeeded in elevating itself above most of the competition thanks to a satisfying combination of lyrical urgency and genuine creative chemistry.

Apollo Brown – “Sincerely, Detroit” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp,Com) – Motor City producer Apollo Brown celebrated the Hip-Hop legacy of the city that shaped his sound on this ambitious project, featuring a huge list of over fifty Detroit artists (including Black Milk, Slum Village and Phat Kat) all rising to the challenge of justifying their inclusion on this epic release, blessing a satisfying batch of stripped-down-but-soulful beats with accomplished lyricism.

Ray Vendetta – “The Billion Bar Mind EP” (PrestigiousRecordings1.BandCamp.Com) – Produced by Buffalo, NY’s TheRealSkitso, London lyricist Ray Vendetta let his mind spray in all directions on the third instalment of his 5 Star Saga series, showcasing the formidable street-savvy verbal science that’s kept the Triple Darkness / New Guardz member on the radar of underground heads both in the UK and overseas.

Clever 1 & Giallo Point – “Kiss Da Converse” (MarQSpekt.BandCamp.Com) – The second 2019 release to drop from the Buze Bruvaz camp, Philly emcee Clever 1 followed the example set by this rhyming partner Him Lo by also calling on the production talent of the UK’s Giallo Point for this solo release, pounding the understated loops and samples heard here with his always entertaining brand of brass-knuckle rap.

1520 – “Mosquito Fly & Starships” (1520.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran London emcee Nomadic Poet (of The Planets fame) teamed-up with gifted producer Drematic XL to celebrate the pair’s shared passion for the culture of Hip-Hop on this well-executed collection of true-school anthems, packed with lively rhymes and blistering beats.

Oxygen – “Age Appropriate” (Ox-The-Architect.BandCamp.Com) – Strong Island legend and Soundsci member Oxygen celebrated his 50th birthday with the release of this heavily-anticipated album, a project pairing the NY emcee’s unquestionable skills with top-shelf production from the UK’s Tom Caruana.

Supastition – “Sacrifice EP” (Supastition.BandCamp.Com) – Since his debut album dropped in 2002, North Carolina’s Supastition has deservedly earned himself a reputation as one of the rap game’s most consistent emcees. This release signalled the return of the always impressive lyricist, with four years having passed since his last project. A self-produced effort, this EP offered further proof as to why Supastition is held in such high regard by fans, with the rapper offering listeners a strong combination of personal opinions, life experiences and microphone techniques.

Part Four coming soon.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part Two) – Gang Starr / Benny The Butcher / Train Robbers etc.

Check Part One here.

Gang Starr – “One Of The Best Yet” (Gang Starr Enterprises) – The trials and tribulations DJ Premier experienced in order to complete this album were well documented in 2019, but the hardcore composer’s determination definitely paid off, with this celebration of the late, great Guru largely succeeding where so many posthumous rap albums have failed. Nothing about this project appeared forced or rushed, with Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal sounding as timeless as ever and Preemo delivering quality boom-bap throughout. Input from crew affiliates such as Group Home, Jeru The Damaja, Big Shug, Freddie Foxxx and M.O.P. made “One Of The Best Yet” a true family affair. RIP Guru! Gang Starr forever!

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Your Old Droog – “It Wasn’t Even Close” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – The first of three full-length projects released by the prolific NY emcee during 2019, Droog’s natural rhyming ability shone through here, with the Rotten Apple lyricist making the writing and delivery of intricate verses appear easy, backed by production from the likes of Sadhugold, Daringer and Tha God Fahim (also props to the UK’s Emily Catherine for the album’s ill cover art).

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A.J. Munson – “Cigarettes & Coffee” (AJMunson.BandCamp.Com) – Boasting an impressive list of guest artists. including Tha God Fahim, Mach-Hommy, Recognize Ali and more, West Coast producer A.J. Munson dropped this quality collection of true-school flavour geared towards the ears of those listeners who’re passionate about sample-based Hip-Hop.

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JayARE – “Youth Culture Power” (JayARE.BandCamp.Com) – True-school veterans J Rawls and John Robinson delivered some edutainment in the truest sense of the term, with this concept-based album being released in conjunction with the pair’s book, highlighting the potential benefits of utilising Hip-Hop in the classroom to engage students and improve teacher / pupil relationships. Each one, teach one.

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NDEFRU & Ohbliv – “Foreign Local” (NDEFRU.BandCamp.Com) – Further proof that Virginia is a strong breeding ground for dope Hip-Hop, this EP from emcee NDEFRU and producer Ohbliv was the sound of two individuals clearly on the same page musically, resulting in a thoroughly cohesive project packed with laidback-yet-confident wordplay and mellow, sample-heavy soundscapes.

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Sean Peng & Illinformed – “Trips To The Medicine Cabinet” (LostScrollRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Part entertainment, part therapy session, this project from Creatures Of Habit members Sean Peng and Illinformed was a lesson in creative chemistry, demonstrating the level of quality that can be achieved from the good old-fashioned one emcee / one producer combo. The Bristol emcee’s sometimes cryptic, always engaging rhymes were perfectly complimented by Illinformed’s solid, multi-layered style of production. Get your prescription renewed here.

Him Lo & Giallo Point – “OJ Glovez” (MarQSpekt.BandCamp.Com) – Having released two group projects in 2018, Him Lo and Clever 1 of Phillys Buze Bruvaz both decided to step out solo in 2019, with this EP being the first of four releases in total to come from the Illadelph duo throughout the year. Produced entirely by the UK’s Giallo Point, this was more of the punch-you-in-the-face-rap that Buze fans have come to expect, mixing hardcore threats and politically incorrect punchlines with inappropriate humour and old-school bravado.

DIE-REK – “The Dying Ones” (Illect.BandCamp.Com) – Canada’s DIE-REK channelled his spirituality throughout this self-produced collection of inspiring, life-affirming anthems, crafted to motivate and encourage anyone out there struggling to swim against the tide of today’s turbulent times. The Toronto emcee’s sincere, commanding flow added further weight to the sentiments and thoughts expressed here, with the end product leaving the listener feeling as if their Hip-Hop soul had been given a thorough musical massage.

C.A.M – “Just Breathe” (CAMOfficial.BandCamp.Com) – Following up his previous EP releases (2017’s “The First Move” and 2018’s “Persian Rugs”), talented London-based emcee C.A.M joined forces with Bristol music man BigLikeBaz for this five-track release, a well-crafted blend of head-nodding beats, echoing horns, smooth keys and a positive lyrical outlook.

Cor Stidak – “Dry Tears” (CorStidak.BandCamp) – Virginia-based emcee Cor Stidak showcased his undeniable microphone mastery throughout this largely self-produced EP, delivering competition-crushing verses, robust flows and poignant lyrical gems over a quality selection of beats.

The Jerzadelphians – “Era Of The Get Back” (JDelph.BandCamp.Com) – New Jersey emcee P-Rawb and Philly producer Shane Great demonstrated what a true musical partnership should sound like on this impressive release, channelling the spirit of the golden-era through their beats and rhymes whilst remaining fresh and in the moment.

Benny The Butcher – “The Plugs I Met” (GriseldaxFR.Com) – 2019 was definitely the year of the Griselda family, with Benny, Conway and Westside Gunn all releasing potent solo projects, along with their long-awaited group effort for Shady Records. This EP picked up where The Butcher left off on 2018’s classic “Tana Talk 3”, spitting vividly descriptive street life rhymes over raw, drama-laced production from Daringer, Beat Butcha, DJ Shay and The Alchemist.

Train Robbers – “Expect Delays” (RobbingTrains.BandCamp.Com) – UK duo Bucket Hat Jack and Casa Blanca ensured no listeners were left waiting on the platform as they were right on time with this lively EP, a release full of  mischievous, well-crafted verses and solid, chunky production. The project bubbled with the energy of two individuals whose main motivation for making music appeared to be the sheer joy and satisfaction of simply creating dope material. Mind the gap!

Skyzoo & Pete Rock – “Retropolitan” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Skyzoo is one of the greatest emcees of his generation. The Brooklyn artist’s attention to detail and ability to draw listeners into his world through the art of rhyme elevates him above many of his peers. No matter what walk of life you come from, there is something in a Skyzoo verse that you will be able to relate to.  Backed here by the soul brother beats of the legendary Pete Rock, Skyzoo delivered a full-length dedication to NYC, adding to his already impeccable catalogue of album projects.

Smif-N-Wessun – “The All” (DuckDownMusic.Com) – Bucktown’s Tek and Steele succeeded in releasing an album that was rooted in their mid-90s Timberlands-and-hoodies flavour whilst still reflecting the personal growth and present day perspectives of the Duck Down duo. Production from Jamla’s 9th Wonder-led Soul Council squad provided the project’s melodic thump, effectively complimenting the BK pair’s tag-team rude-bwoy rhymes, with the end result respectfully adding on to Smif-N-Wessun’s twenty-five year legacy.

Ketch P – “Gift Certificate” (KetchP.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran Detroit emcee and Street Justice member Ketch P returned from a six-year hiatus to deliver this free project, which was an extremely generous gesture considering the high quality of the material included here. Showcasing a strong pen game and an authoritative flow, the Middle Finger Music affiliate got busy over a strong selection of soulful boom-bap from the likes of Simple Cuts, Foul Mouth and Chanes.

Verb T & Pitch 92 – “A Question Of Time” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – Following up their  quality 2017 collabo album “Good Evening”, London lyricist Verb T and Manchester music man Pitch 92 joined forces once again for this equally dope project. An accomplished writer and one of UK Hip-Hop’s most consistent artists, Verb T once again successfully allowed the listener to see the world through his eyes, with the rapper’s introspective rhymes being complimented by the talented Pitch’s dynamic production.

Flashius Clayton & DirtyDiggs – “Fronto Fever Dreams” (FlashiusClayton.BandCamp.Com) – This heavily-anticipated project from Knuckle Sandwich Deli representative Flashius Clayton definitely didn’t disappoint, with the Cali emcee dropping razor-sharp rhymes over the dusty-fingered, sample-based soundscapes of DirtyDiggs, joined by the likes of Planet Asia, Lisaan’dro and AA Rashid – guard ya grill!

Brother Ali – “Secrets & Escapes” (BrotherAli.BandCamp.Com) – The mighty Brother Ali made a welcome return with this Evidence-produced collection of masterful, worldly lyricism and stripped-down beats, recorded over a few spontaneous sessions in a California garage studio during visits the Minneapolis emcee made to see the Dilated Peoples member.

Sparkplug – “The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth” (ColdCaseRecords.BandCamp.Com) – This full-length effort from Leeds-based emcee Sparkplug offered listeners an honest look into the life of an individual navigating his way through the everyday struggles of the human experience, embracing the small wins, owning personal shortcomings, dealing with disappointment and facing reality head-on with a self-deprecating sense of humour and a talent for sharp punchlines.

Part Three coming soon.

 

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part One) – Roc Marciano / Nems / Jeff Smith etc.

Every year this ‘best-of’ list becomes increasingly harder to put together, with 2019 possibly having been the most challenging round-up to compile yet. Not because there haven’t been enough worthy projects released over the past twelve months, but because there has potentially been too many!

I initially sat down with a list of approximately three hundred albums and EPs that had dropped this year which I felt deserved to be considered. Three hundred??!! After plenty of deliberation and arguments with myself, I finally managed to get that list down to the one hundred releases you’ll find featured in this five-part 2019 overview.

Of course, there are going to be artists not included who some heads will feel should have been. That’s the beauty of music – everyone has their own opinion. But if a particular album or EP hasn’t been mentioned, that shouldn’t lead anyone to automatically assume I didn’t rate that project at all. As previously stated, I started with three hundred releases. When scaling that list down I had to really just consider which albums and EPs I’d enjoyed the most. It was as simple as that. No politics. No favours. Just the thoughts of a lifelong fan of beats and rhymes.

As always, huge props to all the talented artists out there (whether included in this list or not) who put their time, effort and creative energy into making music that adds something of value to this incredible culture called Hip-Hop.

Now, like we always do about this time….

Roc Marciano – “Marcielago” (RocMarci.Com) – As one of the most influential artists of the last decade it’s fitting that ten years after the release of “Marcberg”, an album that made an indelible impact on the sound of underground Hip-Hop, Strong Island’s Roc Marci would book-end his incredible run of releases with a project that further solidified his position in the game. Once again proving himself to be a master of his craft (both lyrically and musically),  the NY favourite fused vivid, larger-than-life rhymes with smooth, atmospheric (largely self-produced) beats and loops. Cinematic mood music best heard late at night in a haze of weed smoke.

 

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Nems – “Gorilla Monsoon” (Lyfer Gang) – Brooklyn emcee Nems is no newcomer, having released a string of projects over the past fifteen years. But on this album, the Mayor Of Coney Island appeared to capture Hip-Hop lightning in a bottle, elevating his skills to new heights in the process. Backed by the masterful production of fellow BK resident Jazzsoon, whose beats thumped harder than a heavyweight boxer working a punch-bag, Nems paid homage to the traditional Rotten Apple sound without getting caught up in nostalgia, delivering rhymes that ranged from aggressive, competition-crushing bars to brutally personal and honest life stories. Powerful music.

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Joker Starr – “G.A.W.D.” (FlukeBeatMusic.BandCamp.Com) – The irrepressible UK artist made a welcome return at the beginning of the year with another quality collection of unrestrained lyricism to add to his catalogue, at times sounding about ready to burst out of the speakers like a Hip-Hop Hulk. Largely produced by Micall Parknsun (with input from Anyway Tha God and OphQi), the UK wordsmith mixed social commentary and Black pride with larger-than-life emcee bravado throughout this entertaining showcase of raw hardcore talent.

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Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim – “Spencer For Higher 2” (Daupe Media) – Chicago’s Vic Spencer delivered slick wit and smooth arrogance over sublime production from the UK’s Sonnyjim on this sequel to the pair’s original 2018 “Spencer For Higher” project. A naturally gifted emcee, Spencer dominated the beats and loops on offer here with seemingly effortless skill, sharing a creative chemistry with Sonnyjim that lent the project a satisfyingly seamless and organic feel.

Funky DL – “Life After Dennison” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Following on from 2018’s “Dennison Point” project, which captured Funky DL’s memories and experiences between 1992 and 2005 as a resident of Stratford, East London, “Life After Dennison” found the multi-talented UK artist bringing listeners up-to-date with his personal journey in his inimitable warm and witty style, accompanied by his jazzy and soulful trademark production sound.

Pitch 92 – “3rd Culture” (HighFocus.Com) – An album of epic proportions, this project from Pitch 92 fully showcased the Manchester music man’s range as a producer, incorporating Hip-Hop, jazz and soul influences into one smooth and cohesive listening experience, featuring a long list of top-tier UK talent including Jehst, MysDiggi and DRS. An ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable release.

Jeff Smith – “Fear Of A Black Messiah” (GiftedJeffSmithStore.BandCamp.Com) – In today’s divided and troubled times, music from artists such as Virginia’s Jeff Smith is needed more than ever. Following in the footsteps of acts such as Public Enemy, Paris and Kam, the outspoken emcee delivered an uncompromising look at what it means to be Black in Amerikkka today from his own perspective. Dealing with racial, social and political issues head-on, Smith proved that edutainment is still alive and well in Hip-Hop.

The Legion – “Three The Bronx Way” (FBDistribution.BandCamp.Com) – Grounded in memories of 80s Bronx block parties, street-corner ciphers and nights at the Latin Quarter, NY trio Molecules, Chucky Smash and Dice Man (aka Cee-Low) jingle jangled their way through this uncompromising dose of traditional Rotten Apple rap. The BX keeps creating it.

Damani Nkosi and ill Camille – “HARRIETT” (DamCam.BandCamp.Com) – West Coast duo Damani Nkosi and ill Camille combined their talents on this full-length project, determined to satisfy your soul and stimulate your third-eye via an organic blend of smooth, melodic production and uplifting lyrical content which was influenced by the past, grounded in the present and looking towards the future.

Infinite Thoughts – “Instrumentals” (1990SomethingLLC.BandCamp.Com) – Washington’s DJ NOZs and E Boogie delivered a stunning selection of uplifting, soulful beats on this brilliantly crafted project, showcasing not only their passion for boom-bap but also their shared ear for quality musicianship, blending dusty, basement-style drums with melodic keys and horns.

Showbiz x Milano – “Boulevard Author” (DITCEnt.Com) – A shining example of quality now-school Rotten Apple rap, this concise collection of dusty-fingered beats and well-executed, laser-precise rhymes found the Diggin’ In The Crates duo each residing at the top of their game. Milano has been a lyrical force to be reckoned with since his debut in the late-90s and Show’s ear for an ill loop definitely hasn’t faded over time, with this album carrying on DITC tradition and proudly supporting the classic sound of NYC.

Lisaan’dro – “M.A.D.E. (My Allies Died Early)” (Lisaandro.BandCamp.Com) – Gang Starr’s Guru once said it’s mostly the voice of an emcee that sets him or her apart from the competition. If Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal were still here today he would no doubt hold NY’s Lisaan’dro up to prove his point. The Long Island lyricist’s immediately recognizable raspy flow does indeed give his music a unique quality, but aside from that, as showcased on this album, Lisaan’dro also has a real talent for penning verses filled with pimpish slick talk and street-wise observations, which were backed up here by production from the likes of The Custodian Of Records, Leaf Dog, Flashius Clayton and more.

Es – “Social Meteor Vol. 1:Inspired By My Timeline” (EsMusik.BandCamp.Com) – If you were already familiar with Canadian emcee Es before 2019 via previous albums such as “Aspire To Inspire” (2014) and “We Are Only Getting Older” (2017), then you would have already been well aware that this talented wordsmith offers plenty of food for thought in his music. This latest project continued that tradition, with Es tackling the pros and cons of social media and our obsession with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram etc, accompanied by production from Pro-Logic, DJ QVP and Rel McCoy.

O The Great – “This Art Is Real” (OTheGreat,BandCamp.Com) – NY’s O The Great swung a heavy lyrical sword throughout this project, which bristled with a true passion for the art and culture of Hip-Hop. Mixing contemplative rhymes and observational jewels with raw bravado, the skilled emcee (who also produced the majority of this release) held the listener’s attention with ease via his sharp delivery and down-to-earth attitude. The album also featured worthwhile appearances from the likes of  Supreme Cerebral, BanishHabitual and Supreme Magnetic.

Benny Diction & Able8 – “Oak Dreams” (MillenniumJazz.BandCamp.Com) – Recapturing the creative chemistry heard on their brilliant 2013 collabo album “Life Moves”, UK emcee Benny Diction and Australian producer Able8 joined forces once again for this EP on the Millennium Jazz label. A concise collection of honest, thoughtful lyricism and forward-thinking soundscapes, “Oak Dreams” was yet another worthy addition to Benny’s already impressive catalogue.

WateRR & The Standouts – “The Honorable” (WateRR.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago emcee WateRR appeared to have found the perfect sonic backdrop for his swaggering, forthright rhymes in the form of Texas production duo The Standouts, who supplied the Windy City wordsmith with a strong selection of attention-grabbing loops and samples on this impressive long-player.

Finale – “62” (FinaleDet313.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding supporters of Detroit’s Finale will already know he is an emcee determined to fill his verses with substance, honesty and integrity. This latest album from the Motor City wordsmith continued in that tradition, with Finale offering personal rhymes about family, relationships and fatherhood over a well-chosen selection of soulful production.

Otis Mensah – “Rap Poetics” (OtisMensah.BandCamp.Com) – Unique, refreshing and possessing an undeniable mastery of words, flow and language, UK rapper-slash-poet Otis Mensah packed this six-track EP with a seemingly effortless stream of vivid imagery, stimulating lyricism and magnetic energy, all delivered over a nice selection of crisp, jazzy beats.

Super Duty Tough Work – “Studies In Grey” (SuperDutyToughWork.BandCamp.Com) – The idea of a live band making Hip-Hop is nothing new, but it is a concept that takes real skill to execute effectively. At the top end of the scale, groups like The Roots and the UK’s Mouse Outfit have consistently released incredible music based around the live band format. But when done badly, the end product can sound limp and bland, lacking the thump and grit many Hip-Hop fans demand. Based on this EP, it would appear that Canadian band Super Duty Tough Work are definitely masters of their craft, balancing head-nodding beats and nimble rhymes with smooth instrumentation, incorporating vibrant keys, lively bass and punctuating horns.

Asun Eastwood & Onaje Jordan – “Danger My Ally” (AsunEastwood.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian artist Asun Eastwood has steadily built himself a reputation over the last couple of years as one of the nicest emcees making noise in the underground. This latest release (produced by Chicago’s Onaje Jordan) offered more of the raw, uncut wordplay that supporters have grown accustomed to, reflecting the darker side of Toronto’s streets.

Part Two coming soon.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part Five) – Evidence / Juga-Naut / Chuck D etc.

Final part of Old To The New’s  2018 round-up – Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.

DJ Muggs & Roc Marciano – “KAOS” (SoulAssassins.Com) – Following the 2018 release of both “RR2” and “Behold A Dark Horse”, Roc Marci teamed-up with Cypress Hill’s Muggs to put together what resulted in being arguably the best of the three projects. Whilst Muggs’ dark trademark production style may not have seemed the first choice to fit with the Strong Island emcee’s laidback, conversational flow, the pair brought the best out of each other here, with the West Coast music man largely supplying Roc with a string of 70s soundtrack-style samples to lay his lyrical pimp-hand down on.

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Evidence – “Weather Or Not” (Rhymesayers.Com) – The third solo album from Dilated Peoples member Evidence, this project found the West Coast emcee capturing an almost melancholy vibe, an observation which isn’t meant to sound negative at all. As down-to-earth as always, Evidence delivered his usual high-standard of blue-collar beats and rhymes, expertly mixing personal reflection with claims of lyrical dominance over production from the likes of The Alchemist, Nottz and DJ Premier. Let it rain!

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Shay D – “Human Writes” (ShayDMusic.Com) – London-based emcee Shay D’s growth as an artist over recent years has been inspiring to witness, culminating in this project which is arguably her finest body-of-work to date, effectively blending spoken-word and rap, at times blurring the lines between Hip-Hop and grime with bold confidence. Painfully personal, proudly feminist and undeniably street-savvy, “Human Writes” stood as an artistic triumph which refused to be squeezed into the usual boxes female artists often find themselves confined to. Ladies first!

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Knowledge The Pirate – “Flintlock” (Treasure Chest Entertainment / FXCKRXP.BandCamp.Com) – The Roc Marciano-affiliated Pirate has been moving behind-the-scenes within the music industry for years now, with the brilliant “Flintlock” finally giving the East Coast emcee the opportunity to captain his own sonic ship. Detailed hustler tales were delivered here with an understated suggestion of menace, matched perfectly by the soulful, drama-laced production of Elemnt, Roc Marc, Mushroom Jesus and Knowledge himself. Vivid, cinematic crime rhymes. Ahoy!

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Juga-Naut – “Bon Vivant” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s Juga-Naut is a craftsman with words. Next level talent. This impressive album showcased the UK emcee in all his larger-than-life lyrical glory, masterfully weaving confidently delivered verses with style and finesse around high-grade production from the likes of Cappo, Joe Buhdha and Jugz himself. There are some individuals who were just born to rhyme and “Bon Vivant” proved that Juga-Naut definitely falls into that category.

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Ty Farris – “No Cosign Just Cocaine 2” (TyFarris.BandCamp.Com) – Street-wise swagger and lyrical dexterity collided on this project with memorable results, as Detroit’s Ty Farris navigated his way through beats from Trox, Stu Bangas and Foulmouth (to name just a few) with focus, purpose and a razor-sharp tongue.

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Coops – “Life In The Flesh” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – A thoroughly captivating and engrossing listening experience, this concept-based project from UK emcee Coops was a weighty mix of both style and substance. Produced entirely by the talented Talos, the album documented the London resident’s unique perspective on the struggles and challenges of modern-day life in Britain, showcasing the voice of an artist who is as spiritually-aware as he is socially-aware.

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Benny The Butcher – “Tana Talk 3” (GriseldaxFR.Com) – Griselda’s Benny upped the ante on this epic project, following in the footsteps of artists such as Jay-Z and Scarface as he gave listeners the full spectrum of the street life experience, including the losses, betrayals and regrets. Backed by fittingly sombre production from Daringer and The Alchemist, Benny delivered a true masterpiece here.

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Recognize Ali – “The Outlawed” (Greenfield Music / GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Possessing a tireless work ethic, Ali has blazed his own trail through the underground in recent times with a string of consistently strong releases. This album found the Greenfield emcee once again demonstrating his formidable rhymes skills over production from the likes of Farma Beats, Big Ghost Ltd and Frank Grimes.

Daniel Son & Futurewave – “Pressure Cooker” (BrownBagMoney.BandCamp.Com) – Two of Canada’s finest Hip-Hop talents joined forces to craft this raw-yet-creative example of hardcore Hip-Hop, with the pair sharing an undeniable chemistry which ensured this album remained engaging throughout, as Daniel Son used the drum-heavy production of Futurewave for lyrical dart target-practice.

The Diceman – “The Power Of Now” (KingOfTheBeats.Com) – As a member of veteran Bronx crew The Legion, Dice’s Hip-Hop credentials are unquestionable. On this dope solo album, the Rotten Apple rhymer delivered rugged, witty rhymes over speaker-shaking boom-bap beats, resulting in an album that was grounded in golden-era traditions without sounding stuck in the past. The Bronx keeps creating it.

DJ Jazzy Jeff – “M3” (DJJazzyJeff215.BandCamp.Com) – Presenting the third and final instalment of his “Magnificent” album trilogy, Philly legend Jazzy Jeff gave listeners his usual high-quality trademark blend of Hip-Hop, soul and jazz on a project which was life-affirming, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining. With The Trinity (Rhymefest, Dayne Jordan and Uhmeer) bridging the generation gap on mic duties, “M3” offered sonic sustenance in today’s troubled times.

Black Thought – “Streams Of Thought Vol. 2” (Passyunk Productions / Human Re Sources) – Illadelph icon Black Thought is one of the greatest of all-time. That shouldn’t even be up for debate at this stage in his career. Showcasing his always on-point blend of street knowledge, social observations, life lessons and emcee bravado over loose, funky Salaam Remi-orchestrated soundscapes, Thought continued to set the standard for anyone claiming to be a lyricist.

Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz – “Mona Lisa” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp) – Detroit producer Apollo Brown has made a career out of working with already impressive artists and being able to bring just that little bit more out of them (Skyzoo, Ras Kass, O.C. etc).  Capturing Brooklyn’s Joell Ortiz at a potential crossroads following the Slaughterhouse split, “Mona Lisa” was the sound of an emcee taking stock of both his career and his life, world-weary but not bitter, experienced but not jaded, realistic but looking for a better tomorrow.

Nowaah The Flood & The Architect – “Trill Life Mathematiks” (NowaahTheFlood7.BandCamp.Com) – Texas-based wordsmith Nowaah was one of a crop of upcoming emcees who put their stamp on 2018 via a strong work ethic, quality music and genuine rhyme skills. Produced by the Bay Area’s Architect (of Homeliss Derilex fame), “Trill Life…” found Flood dropping street-based science and righteous rawness over a strong selection of impeccable beats.

Chuck D As Mistachuck – “Celebration Of Ignorance” (ChuckDAsMistachuck.BandCamp.Com) – Public Enemy’s Rhyme Animal returned to burn on this C-Doc-produced project with assistance from P.E. 2.0’s Jahi. Speaking his mind as always, Chuck D took the opportunity to address numerous political and social issues impacting Trump’s Amerikkka and beyond, proving that after thirty-plus years since his debut on wax, the Strong Island legend still doesn’t rhyme for the sake of riddling.

Hermit & The Recluse (Animoss & Ka) – “Orpheus vs. The Sirens” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – Brooklyn’s master craftsman Ka took listeners on another lyrical odyssey with this  concept-based project. Packed with rich imagery, Ka’s verses here were delivered with incredible skill, woven together by life experience and creative genius, complimented by the dramatic, emotionally-charged work of Cali producer Animoss.

Habitat – “617 Black Label” (HeavyLinks.BandCamp.Com) – Heavy Links member Habitat came correct on his second solo album, pulling together a number of talented producers (including Giallo Point, DJ Severe and CrabbMan) to deliver the boom-bap backbone he was looking for. Full of forthright rhymes and true-school attitude, this was another strong outing for the UK emcee.

Codenine & Grubby Pawz – “Auerbach’s Garden” (CityYardMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by some of the smoothest production to be heard in 2018 courtesy of Grubby Pawz, Massachusetts-based microphone fiend Codenine cut through the mellow mood music on offer here with consistently impressive displays of sharp, intricately-woven wordplay.

Stanza Divan – “Poetry In Motion” (StanzaDivan.BandCamp.Com) – Although it was billed as a mixtape rather than an official album or EP release, this impressive offering from Leicester-based artist Stanza Divan needed to be included here, as the lyrical skill, content and conviction contained within “Poetry In Motion” doesn’t come along every day. Definitely an artist to watch in 2019.

 

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part Three) – Concept Of Thought / Roc Marciano / Kev Brown etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Concept Of Thought – “Misty Blue” (Yogocop.BandCamp.Com) – A truly life-affirming listening experience, emcees Awfew and Illiterate shone some light into the darkness on this beautifully crafted EP. Blessing the jazzy elegance of producer Joe Corfield with a steady flow of positive vibes, the pair delivered verses inspired by both their Brighton stomping grounds and the memory of a friend lost during their youth. Soothing, dream-like mood music.

Ankhlejohn & Big Ghost Ltd – “Van Ghost” (ShaapRecords.BandCamp.Com) – An undeniably good combination, the raspy rhymes of Washington’s Ankhlejohn sat perfectly atop the uncompromisingly raw production of Big Ghost throughout this satisfyingly sinister release. Eerie pianos, unsettling samples and solid drums provided a fittingly atmospheric backdrop for Ankhlejohn’s unique brand of verbal violence.

Fliptrix – “INEXHALE” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) –  There was something therapeutic about listening to Fliptrix’ seventh solo album.. The project resonated with a feeling, an energy, a vibration that did more than simply make your head-nod or inspire you to pick-out a few favourite quotables. Possessing a tone, flow and delivery which was as effective puncturing holes in the egos of his competition as it was delivering commentary on aspects of the human experience, all facets of Fliptrix’s artistry were brought together brilliantly on “INEXHALE”, with the project giving a sincere nod of respect to UK Hip-Hop’s past whilst boldly striding forward into its future.

Roc Marciano – “RR 2 – The Bitter Dose” (RocMarci.Com) – Largely self-produced, this sequel to last year’s “Rosebudd’s Revenge” album set off what was an extremely productive year for the Strong Island emcee. Roc’s trademark brand of slick New York pimp talk glided over smooth, old-school soul loops, resulting in an album that sounded like it could be the soundtrack to a yet-to-be-completed “Willie Dynamite” film remake.

Klaus Layer & Figub Brazlevic – “Slice Of Paradise” (FigubBrazlevic.Bandcamp.Com)Featuring an international line-up of collaborators from countries such as the UK, Russia and France, talented German producers Klaus Layer and Figub Brazlevic showcased their shared passion for dusty drums and soulful samples on this impressive long-player.

Skyzoo – “In Celebration Of Us” (First Generation Rich Inc) – Skyzoo’s catalogue is impeccable. Since 2005 the Brooklyn emcee has released project after project which have each seen his writing abilities reach new heights. It could be argued that “In Celebration…” stands as Skyzoo’s greatest piece of work to date. Boasting multi-layered rhymes which reveal new meaning with each listen, plus top-notch production from the likes of Apollo Brown, !llmind and Tuamie, this album found the gifted emcee capturing his life experiences growing-up in inner-city NY with an engrossing blend of subtle inflection and vivid descriptions.

Vinnie Paz – “The Pain Collector” (Enemy Soil / JMTHipHop.Com) – The Jedi Mind Tricks frontman delivered another heavy dose of his trademark righteous rawness on his fourth solo album, balancing punch-you-in-the-face aggression with moments of poignant reflection. This project definitely wasn’t made for the faint-hearted, but if you were expecting the Philly legend to drop anything other than uncompromising, hardcore Hip-Hop then you obviously haven’t been paying attention over the last twenty-plus years since JMT’s debut.

Bumpy Knuckles & Nottz – “Pop Duke Volume One” (BumpyKnuckles.BandCamp.Com) – Bumpy Knuckles (aka Freddie Foxxx) has made a career out of lyrically slapping wack emcees with absolutely no regrets. The man’s place in Hip-Hop’s history books is unshakeable. This collaborative project with producer Nottz found Bumpy fully embracing his OG status, showing the game some tough love in his usual gruff manner, dropping jewels in the process.

WateRR & DirtyDiggs – “Wizard Of The Crystal” (WateRR.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago emcee WateRR delivered slick, swaggering wordplay over the dusty loops of West Coast production outfit DirtyDiggs on this concise EP. Featuring the likes of Supreme Cerebral, Recognize Ali and Nowaah The Flood, this release was all about lyricism and genuine rhyme skills. Show and prove.

Kev Brown – “Homework” (KevBrown.BandCamp.Com) – Clocking in at an ambitious twenty-nine tracks, this welcome return from Maryland-based producer-on-the-mic Kev Brown captured the sound of a master at work. Blending  gritty sample chops with understated wordplay, the talented music man delivered an effective sonic lecture demonstrating how a student can become the teacher.

Parallax – “Auditory Vision” (ParallaxOfficialStore.BandCamp.Com) – Delivering on the potential displayed throughout his impressive 2014 EP “Depth Perception”, London lyricist Parallax dropped his official debut album “Auditory Vision”, an accomplished, well-executed project featuring personal, thought-provoking rhymes and quality production from the likes of Ded Tebiase, DJ Nappa and Wickstarr.

OC From NC – “It’s Not You, It’s Me” (OCFromNC.BandCamp.Com) – Having spent recent years proving himself to be an exceptionally consistent artist thanks to a string of quality projects, North Carolina’s OC added another release to his already impressive catalogue, with “It’s Not You, It’s Me” featuring the talented lyricist’s usual mix of boisterous bravado and thoughtful life observations.

Chairman Maf – “Ginger” (ChairmanMaf.BandCamp.Com) – This sixth instrumental album from UK producer Chairman Maf showcased the Sheffield music man’s ever-sharp ear for a soulful sample. Ranging from upbeat quirkiness and sophisticated smoothness to raw boom-bap, Maf proved himself to be a genuine chairman of the board with this masterful collection of dusty-fingered dopeness.

Funky DL – “Dennison Point” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Having already dropped the impressive “Blackcurrent Jazz 3” earlier in the year (included in Part One of this list), multi-talented UK artist Funky DL looked back to his youth for the inspiration behind this brilliantly crafted concept album, with the longstanding Hip-Hop vet reminiscing on his time growing-up in East London over his trademark jazzy, true-school production.

Tragedy Khadafi & BP – “Immortal Titans” (FBDistribution.BandCamp) – Having influenced various Queensbridge legends such as Nas, Mobb Deep and Killa Sha, the Intelligent Hoodlum joined forces with producer BP to deliver his timeless brand of project poetry and pyramid wisdom over concrete-cracking beats. Aura check!

Summers Sons – “Undertones” (SummersSons2.BandCamp.Com) – London-raised, Bristol-based blood brothers Turt and Slim showcased their organic, jazz-influenced stylings on this quality collection of mellow head-nodders. The perfect soundtrack to warm, hazy July evenings, “Undertones” was a satisfyingly soothing listening experience. You gots to chill.

Nujericans – “A La Mala” (Nujericans.BandCamp.Com) – New Jersey representatives Sol Zalez and Joey Dynomite dropped their debut collection of raw-yet-funky beats and rhymes, with the pair offering a nod of respect to the 90s East Coast underground whilst maintaining their own flavour and sonic personality.

Shuko – “1996” (Shuko.BandCamp.Com) – German producer Shuko paid homage to the mid-90s with this brilliantly crafted collection of drum-heavy, sample-based instrumentals, respectfully offering a sonic nod to the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest in the process.

Joe Corfield – “Patterns” (RadioJuicy.BandCamp.Com) – Having already blessed two of 2018’s finest releases with his trademark production sound (Fliptrix’s “Inexhale” and Concept Of Thought’s “Misty Blue”), UK music man Joe Corfield kept the momentum going with this sublime selection of hypnotic, jazz-influenced instrumentals via Germany’s Radio Juicy imprint.

Juga-Naut & Sonnyjim – “The Purple Door” (EatGoodRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Two of the UK’s finest joined forces for this brilliant collection of well-crafted verses and ill beats, with Nottingham’s Juga-Naut proving yet again why he deserves to be mentioned in any conversation regarding the dopest emcees currently gripping microphones, whilst Sonnyjim flexed his production muscle like a true master, flipping some quality samples throughout..

Part Four coming soon.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part Two) – Kamanchi Sly / Ocean Wisdom / Westside Gunn etc.

Check Part One here.

K-Sly – “Me And My SP” (KamanchiSly.Com) – Kamanchi Sly is a legend and pioneer of the UK Hip-Hop scene, but the Hijack emcee hasn’t been prepared to simply rest on his laurels, with “Me And My SP” being the London mic vet’s third album in six months at the time of its release in May 2018. A rambunctious mix of true-school attitude, classic breaks and raw rhymes, this release was powered by the undeniable and infectious energy generated by Sly’s unwavering love for the culture of Hip-Hop.

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Crimeapple & Big Ghost Ltd – “Aguardiente” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the dramatic and ominous production of the mighty Big Ghost (Ankhlejohn, Ghostface Killah etc), New Jersey’s Crimeapple demonstrated throughout this project why he has grown to become one of the most revered rhymers of rap’s new generation, with a sneering confidence in his rugged verses that evoke images of the bearded lyricist holding the mic in one hand and a wack emcee by the scruff of his neck in the other.

Poisonous Diggs – “Volume 84” (IAmKillaKali.BandCamp.Com) – A short-but-effective barrage of fly beats and razor-sharp rhymes from the Gold Chain Music / Poison Ring Regime camp, this collaborative EP from Dirty Diggs and Killa Kali was the type of Hip-Hop that made you screw your face up, adopt an old-school arms-folded b-boy pose  and pledge allegiance to the culture in no uncertain terms.

Big Toast & Jack Diggs – “Call It On” (RevorgRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Opening with the line “I don’t want to listen to your whinging…”, it was clear from the outset that this project from South London blood brothers Toast and Diggs wasn’t about pandering to the masses, with the pair instead offering blunt insight into modern-day life, taking verbal shots at the self-righteous of the world with a heavy dose of  acidic wit and quality self-produced boom-bap beats.

Raashid Aariz – “Knowledge, Wisdom & Understanding” (RaashidAariz19.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia-based producer Raashid Aariz delivered music to meditate to on this refined instrumental project, mixing his love of soul and jazz with the influence of 90s Hip-Hop, ranging from mellow, late-night electric relaxation vibes to sax-heavy, Wu-Tang-sampling workouts.

Ocean Wisdom – “Wizville” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – An artistic triumph in every sense of the term, this sophomore project from Brighton’s Ocean Wisdom confidently blended genres, bridged generation gaps and cracked the Official UK Album Charts in the process (a massive achievement for an independent homegrown Hip-Hop artist). Easily holding his own on tracks with long-established artists such as Rodney P, Method Man and Dizzee Rascal, Wisdom’s clever, rapid-fire rhymes shone throughout. Welcome to Wizville, indeed.

AG – “The Taste Of AMbrosia” (AGofDITC.BandCamp.Com) – Diggin’ In The Crates member Andre The Giant has remained consistent on wax for almost thirty years now, with the NY emcee managing to balance his old-school Bronx rap roots here with a desire to step forward artistically and not simply retread old ground. “The Taste…” was the sound of a legacy artist who is as passionate about his craft today as he was when he first picked a mic up all those years ago.

Philmore Greene – “Chicago: A Third World City” (PhilmoreGreene.BandCamp.Com) – Talented emcee Philmore Greene took listeners on a sonic tour around his Windy City stomping grounds on this captivating, hard-hitting project, tackling the impact of street violence, social conditions and politics on the people of Chicago, with the soulful soundscapes of Rashid Hadee adding further poignancy to the lyricist’s earnest, heartfelt verses.

Royalz – “Live 95” (GrhymeProductions.BandCamp.Com) – As its title suggests, this well-crafted project from Australian producer Royalz wore its 90s influences on its sonic sleeve, with the likes of SmooVth, Conway and Dialect blessing a strong selection of raw-yet-refined beats.

Rome Streetz & Farma Beats – “Street Farmacy” (RomeStreetz.BandCamp.Com) –  This transatlantic collaboration from NY emcee Rome Streetz and London producer Farma Beats supplied Hip-Hop fiends with plenty of that uncut dope, as grimy, project-building poetry was laid over an eclectic collection of samples and loops.

Dabbla – “Death Moves” (PotentFunkRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Another blazing display of rhyming agility from Dabbla, this follow-up to 2016’s “Year Of The Monkey” album further cemented the UK emcee’s reputation as a naturally gifted talent, with the Problem Child member putting a lyrical leash on a wide-ranging selection of beats, from futuristic, bass-heavy wave twisters to straight-up, sample-based head-nodders.

Westside Gunn – “Supreme Blientele” (Grisleda / Daupe.BandCamp.Com) – The Griselda Records family continued to stamp their dominance on the rap game throughout 2018, with this immediate cult classic from Gunn just one of a handful of quality releases from the camp over the past twelve months. Backed by heavy-hitting producers such as Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, Alchemist and (of course) frequent collaborator Daringer, WG masterfully utilised his distinctive delivery to offer more of his captivating insight and perspective on both the street life and the rap game.

Napoleon Da Legend & Giallo Point – “Coup D’Etat” (FXCKRXP.BandCamp.Com) – It’s always good to hear a full project from an emcee and producer who are truly on the same page creatively. This release from NYC’s NDL and the UK’s Giallo Point definitely hit that mark. Clever, intricate, street-savvy rhymes were coupled here with smooth, atmospheric production, resulting in an album that sounded both familiar and individual at the same time.

K Zorro – “Winnie’s Passion / Bernard’s Legacy” (NewGuardzOnline.BandCamp.Com) – With so much of today’s popular culture dominated by image, hype and empty posturing, it’s always refreshing to hear music from an artist who appears determined to genuinely let the listener into their world, capturing life’s struggles, hopes and regrets along the way. Enter London-based emcee K Zorro with this well-crafted album, which found the New Guardz member getting up-close-and-personal as he spilt his soul over the fourteen tracks on offer here.

Da Flyy Hooligan – “Roman Abramovich” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Possessing a moniker that truly captures his lyrical approach, London’s Da Flyy Hooligan effortlessly elbowed his way through the stripped-down-yet-sublime production of D’Lux Beats on this short-but-satisfying EP. Offering both style and substance, DFH once again proved himself to be a formidable force in the microphone booth.

IceRocks – “Live From The Bunker” (IceRocksDXA.BandCamp.Com) – Following up his 2016 instrumental project “Bunker Beats”, DXA producer IceRocks once again showcased his dope brand of NY boom-bap throughout this album, adding some talented lyricists into the mix this time around, with the likes of AG Da Coroner, Meyhem Lauren and Spit Gemz lending lyrical support. A project best listened to whilst wearing Timberlands and a hoodie.

C.A.M – “Persian Rugs” (CAMOfficial.BandCamp.Com) – The London-based emcee followed-up his impressive 2017 EP “The First Move” with this second collection of sharp, intelligent lyricism superbly produced by Hashfinger. Combining a quick-fire delivery with an attention-grabbing vocal tone able to penetrate a beat like a razor-blade through rice paper , C.A.M’s latest project was immediately captivating, demanding to be revisited again and again.

King Draft – “Two Eyes” (KingDraftMusic.BandCamp.Com) – As both a member of The Kingdom and a solo artist in his own right, King Draft has been on my radar since 2014. The talented North Carolina-based artist added to his already impressive catalogue with this ambitious release, an eclectic blend of organic live instrumentation and concept-driven lyricism.

Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim – “Spencer For Hire” (Eat Good Records / GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Vic Spencer joined forces with the UK’s Sonnyjim to drop this smoothed-out selection of lo-fi liveness, featuring Quelle Chris, Hus Kingpin and Chris Crack. Spencer’s swaggering, self-assured steez meshed perfectly with Sonnyjim’s supreme stash of soundtrack-style loops.

EvillDewer – “Apocrypha” (EvillDewer.BandCamp.Com) – Boston-based producer and self-proclaimed Crown Chakra Rocka EvillDewer showcased his musical imagination on this instrumental project, steering clear of typical boom-bap beats and pushing his creative boundaries, drawing the listener deep into an intricately-crafted collection of inspired, sample-driven soundscapes.

Part Three coming soon,