Category Archives: Independent Hip-Hop

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.

sleep sinatra cover

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.

brown scienide cover

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.

cesar cover

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 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!

gang starr cover

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).

your old droog cover

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.

munson cover

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.

ycp cover

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.

foreign local cover

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.

 

Bunker Beats 2 Album Stream – IceRocks

icerocks

Pulling together beats produced for the likes of Does Bros, Meyhem Lauren and Ren Thomas, NY-based DXA music man IceRocks displays his undeniable talents on this thoroughly satisfying instrumental project.

New Joint – Detane

Detane – “Break” (@Detane / 2015)

The West Coast emcee shows love to the old-school on this funky cut produced by the mighty Domingo.

Box Cutter Brothers III Album Sampler – Ayatollah & Drasar Monumental

East Coast / West Coast production duo Ayatollah and Drasar Monumental have dropped the third installment of their “Box Cutter Brothers” projects, featuring another finely-crafted selection of sample-heavy instrumental tracks – peep my review of the album here.

New Joint – Giallo Point / MC Mell’O’ / Naba Napalm / Maikal X

giallo point cover 4

Giallo Point ft. MC Mell’O’, Naba Napalm & Maikal X – “Tha Report” (@GialloPoint / 2015)

The UK producer enlists the assistance of some heavyweight lyrical talent on this new single featuring British Hip-Hop pioneer MC Mell’O’.