Supastition – “Scatterbrained” / “Last Word (Interlude)” (@Supastition_NC / 2023)
Talented North Carolina-raised emcee Supastition has announced that pre-orders are now live on BandCamp for his forthcoming self-produced EP “Every Last Word”, the first of two releases the skilled lyricist will be releasing in the coming months.
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.
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.
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.
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.