Frank Nitt – “Grateful” (@FrankNitt / 2022)
Horn-laced head-nod flavour produced by King Michael Coy and taken from the Deluxe Edition of the Detroit emcee’s “Serene OG” album.
Frank Nitt – “Grateful” (@FrankNitt / 2022)
Horn-laced head-nod flavour produced by King Michael Coy and taken from the Deluxe Edition of the Detroit emcee’s “Serene OG” album.
Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene – “Time Goes” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com / 2022)
One of the most consistent emcees in the Chicago Hip-Hop scene, Philmore Greene comes correct as always with thoughtful, straight-talking lyricism on this quality lead single from the forthcoming Apollo Brown-produced album “Cost Of Living”.
Guilty Simpson ft. DJ Ragz – “Go Where I Please” (ManBitesDogRecords.Com / 2022)
Detroit’s Guilty Simpson bruises the competition over speaker-crunching Kount Fif production on this lead single from his forthcoming album “GUILT”.
MED x Guilty Simpson ft. Kokane – “The Hundreds” (@MEDa4OX / @GuiltySimpson / 2022)
Melodic 14KT-produced funk from the 2019 MED / Guilty Simpson album “Child Of The Jungle”.
Miz Korona – “Heartbreaker” (MizKorona.BandCamp.Com / 2022)
Detroit’s Miz Korona gets up-close-and-personal on this Blizzard-produced track from her recent concept-based EP “The Healer and The Heartbreaker”.
Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Nefertiti” (NatureSoundsMusic.Com / 2022)
Gifted Detroit lyricist Elzhi delivers a powerful celebration of Black women from his brilliant Georgia Anne Muldrow-produced album “Zhigeist”.
Jamal Gasol ft. Ty Farris – “10000 Hours” (JamalGasol.BandCamp.Com / 2022)
Steel sharpens steel on this dope Standouts-produced Niagra Falls, NY / Detroit, Michigan collabo taken from Gasol’s recent “More True Stories” release.
Lord Jessiah – “Sermon On The Mount” (Black7Productions.BandCamp.Com / 2022)
Horn-laced head-nod flavour from the Detroit emcee’s Bronze Nazareth-produced album “Time Waits For No One”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Noveliss – “Spirit Bomb” (@TheNoveliss / 2021)
Bronze Nazareth ft. Roc Marciano – “Survivor’s Vow” (@BronzeNazareth / 2021)
Ty Farris – “Slow Down” (TyFarris.BandCamp.Com / 2021)
Kain – “Feel This Way” (Kain734.BandCamp.Com / 2021)
flowz4daze & DJ Mitsu The Beats ft. Belve & illadope – “’21 Type 3” (InnerTribeRecords.BandCamp.Com / 2021)
Noveliss & Dixon Hill – “Cold Mountain” (Noveliss.BandCamp.Com / 2021)
Bronze Nazareth & Roc Marciano – “Crazy Horse” (BronzeNazareth.BandCamp.Com / 2021)
Noveliss – “Sincerity and Reverence” (@TheNoveliss / 2021)
Bronze Nazareth & Roc Marciano – “The Precipice” (FatBeats.Com / 2021)