Category Archives: West Coast Hip-Hop

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part Four) – Phonte / O.C. / Ty etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Phonte – “No News Is Good News” (Phonte.BandCamp.Com) – Whilst the music industry continued trying to reinforce the misconception that rap is only a sport for the young, North Carolina’s ever-impressive Phonte delivered a solid slice of grown-man Hip-Hop that was defiant, honest, realistic and entertaining. Accompanied by producers such as Marco Polo, Tall Black Guy and Nottz, this was the sound of an artist facing his mortality through music that was so good it will guarantee his immortality.

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Sleep Sinatra – “[D]Arkangel” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Sometimes you can just hear the sense of satisfaction an emcee derives from twisting words into verses full of verbal virtuosity. Nebraska’s Sleep Sinatra is one such emcee. This album was a lesson in lyricism that felt like Sinatra was channelling some other-worldly energy, enabling him to craft the non-stop barrage of intricate wordplay found here. As the man himself says, you should study the science more.

darkangel cover

AWAR – “The Spoils Of War” (AWAR.BandCamp.Com) – Calling on production heavy-hitters such as The Alchemist, Lord Finesse and Showbiz, Rotten Apple rhymer AWAR delivered an album that was grounded in golden-era attitude yet managed to avoid sounding like an artist simply trying to relive a time that has passed. “The Spoils Of War” showcased the skills of an emcee clearly passionate about his craft.

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Benaddict – “A New Leaf” (VinDig.BandCamp.Com) – Following up 2017’s impressive “The Garden Of England”, UK artist Benaddict continued to deliver his take on modern-day living in his own inimitable style with “A New Leaf”, a quality collection of mellow, jazz-influenced beats and subtle, insightful wordplay. Sharing production duties with the talented Ded Tebiase, Benaddict carefully crafted his own sonic world here and proudly invited us all in. Sublime mood music.

benaddict cover

The P Brothers – “Mentaltainment” (PBrothers.BandCamp) – Nottingham, England’s DJ Ivory and Paul S have spent years building a strong reputation as suppliers of hardcore beat science. This latest release from the two Notts bombers didn’t disappoint on that front. With Daniel Son, Your Old Droog, Doo Wop and Milano matching the P Brothers’ uncompromising rawness with equally impressive performances, this EP was short yet effective.

p brothers cover

O.C. – “A New Dawn: 2nd Phase” (OmarCredle.BandCamp.Com) – One of the greatest emcees of all-time, Diggin’ In The Crates legend O.C. added to his impressive album catalogue with this sturdy collection of mature, thoughtful Hip-Hop. Backed by the production of Showbiz, Motif Alumni, Dark Keys and Gwop Sullivan, the Rotten Apple rhymer demonstrated that it is possible for veteran artists to give original fans some of what first grabbed their attention in the past whilst still showing growth that reflects the present. Word…life!

a new dawn cover

AnyWay Tha God & Micall Parknsun – “Over P’s” (AnyWayThaGod.BandCamp.Com) – UK emcee AnyWay Tha God sought to inspire and motivate on this Micall Parknsun-produced EP, attempting to bring the best out of both himself and his listeners in the process. Mixing intelligent, meditative rhymes with soul-stirring beats, AnyWay continued his journey along the path of mastery. Spiritually minded music.

anyway cover

Conway The Machine – “Everybody Is F.O.O.D.” (WhoIsConway.Com) – The title of this project from Griselda’s Conway told you everything you needed to know about the Buffalo resident’s attitude as an emcee. If you’re not part of the family then you’re getting rolled over. Largely produced by regular collaborator Daringer (with input from Pete Rock, Green Lantern and Statik Selektah), “Everybody Is…” tightened the Griselda camp’s grip on the underground just that little bit more, with Conway yet again combining street knowledge with natural rhyme skills.

conway-everybody-is-f-o-o-d

Mr Slipz – “It Don’t Stop” (Yogocop.BandCamp.Com) – A master at crafting atmospheric, off-kilter soundscapes, Brighton-based producer Mr Slipz delivered a seamless album which made the listener feel like they’d stumbled into an open-mic session in a hazy, smoke-filled basement. With emcees such as Vitamin G, Verbz and Benaddict lending their lyrical talents to the project, “It Don’t Stop” was music to zone out to.

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LEX – “Alex” (LEXNYRE.BandCamp.Com) – The Queens, NY emcee attempted to find meaning in the struggle of the daily grind on this self-produced project. Blending life observations and brotherly advice with personal experience, LEX’s down-to-earth persona endeared him to listeners, making his rhymes all the more relatable.

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Jaz Kahina – “School Run” (JazKahina1.BandCamp.Com) – The London lyricist showcased her versatility on this six-track EP, with the talented emcee stamping her irrepressible personality over a diverse selection of production from DJ LoK, Nutty P, Micall Parknsun and more.

jaz kahina cover

Roc Marciano – “Behold A Dark Horse” (Marci Enterprises) – Sayings such as ‘less is more’ and ‘quality over quantity’ just don’t apply to Strong Island’s Roc Marci. The second of three full-length Marcberg projects to drop in 2018, “Behold…” offered more macked-out microphone techniques delivered over a smooth selection of minimalist loops, with input from Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip and Black Thought.

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DJ Muggs – “Soul Assassins: Dia Del Asesinato” (SoulAssassins.Com) – Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs may have sold millions of records, toured the world and won industry awards, but at the end of the day, the NY-raised, LA-based producer is still a fan of that grimy, hardcore Hip-Hop first and foremost. If you needed proof, this project found the likes of Kool G Rap, Meyhem Lauren and Raekwon spitting darts over Muggs’ unapologetically dark and moody beats.

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J-Live – “Lose No Time” (RealJLive.BandCamp.Com) – Since his initial mid-90s releases, NYC’s J-Live has remained one of Hip-Hop’s most consistent emcees. This self-produced EP was another worthy addition to the talented lyricist’s catalogue, with Live dropping clever, witty and entertaining verses over quality beats.

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After Ourz – “After Ourz” (StarvinB.BandCamp.Com) – Starvin B, Foul Monday and Flushing Tek repped for the borough of Queens in no uncertain terms throughout this EP, accompanied by production from Stu Bangas, Fel Sweetenberg, Fifth Element and more.

ourz cover

Big Cakes – “No Expenses” (BigCakes.BandCamp.Com) – Featuring Cakes’ usual engaging mix of life observations, social commentary and political insight, this eighth album from the talented London-based emcee was heavy with substance and heartfelt sentiments.

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Fraction & Finsta – “Thoughtwork” (Fraction.BandCamp.Com) – Quality collaborative effort from Finsta (of New York 90s favourites Finsta Bundy) and Canadian vet Fraction, this album was all about dope rhymes and dope beats. The pair were clearly determined to deliver some undiluted true-school flavour on this project and they succeeded in no uncertain terms.

thought cover

Ty – “A Work Of Heart” (TyMusics.BandCamp.Com) – Known for his observational writing style, sharp wit and progressive musical approach, London’s Ty upped the creative ante once again on his fifth album. Inspiring, forward-thinking and life-affirming, “A Work Of Heart” reminded us all that Ty is an artist in the truest sense of the term; always pushing, always elevating, always growing.

ty cover

Precyce Politix & D.R.U.G.S. Beats – “Drug-Politix” (PrecycePolitix.BandCamp.Com) – NY-raised, North Carolina-based emcee Precyce Politix delivered well-crafted, substance-filled verses over quality production from D.R.U.G.S. Beats on this impressive long-player featuring OC From NC, Illpo and Major Green.

drugs cover

Dell-P – “Wordsmith” (WHOMAG Distribution) – This aptly-titled album offered further evidence that Philadelphia’s Dell-P is one of the most gifted emcees to have entered the rap game in recent years. Forthright, intelligent and always remaining true to his own artistic vision, the 215 representative put his lifetime inbetween the paper’s lines throughout this release,  proving that the name Dell-P deserves to be mentioned alongside the long line of Illadelph greats.

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Fifth and final part coming soon.

New Joint – Chali 2na

Chali 2na – “How We Do” (@Chali2na / 2019)

Produced by House Of Vibe.

New Joint – Banish Habitual / Shokryme / Supreme Cerebral

Banish Habitual ft. Shokryme & Supreme Cerebral – “Lord Forgive Me” (BanishHabitual.BandCamp.Com / 2019)

Daringer-produced rawness from the San Diego emcee.

New Joint – Ras Kass

Ras Kass – “Featuring Myself” (@RasKass / 2019)

Typically sharp bars from the always-impressive West Coast emcee’s forthcoming project “Soul On Ice 2: The Leaks”.

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,

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part One) – Masta Ace & Marco Polo / Children Of Zeus / Funky DL etc.

Politically, socially and economically, 2018 will no doubt go down in the history books as a particularly disastrous year. Wherever you looked across the globe, there was chaos, unrest and mistrust. In contrast, however, and on a more positive note, 2018 was an incredible year for new Hip-Hop.

It’s been near impossible to keep up with the vast amount of product flooding the market, with both veteran artists and a new generation of talented emcees, producers and deejays all contributing to the rich selection of beats and rhymes that have been made available over the past twelve months.

As I’ve said before when writing previous ‘best-of’ intros, some ‘heads” still seem surprised that I’m able to find a hundred releases during the course of a year that I’ve genuinely enjoyed. In reality, there have been more than that, and this 2018 selection, as with other years, has been scaled down from an original list which far exceeded that number.

So if you’re still of the opinion that quality Hip-Hop isn’t being released in high quantities, then you’re really not listening or looking hard enough – and in today’s digital era, when most of that music is available at the click of a button without you even having to leave your house, it really couldn’t be easier to find something that suits your sonic preferences.

On a mainstream level (as has largely always been the case) the best that Hip-Hop has to offer isn’t being represented. But in the underground, talent, skill and creativity are still there to be found by those prepared to dig and support.

So with all that being said, this list represents what I had in heavy rotation throughout 2018.

Props as always to all the artists out there making memorable music from a genuine place of love for this incredible culture.

Peace!

Masta Ace & Marco Polo – “A Breukelen Story” (Fat Beats) – One of the best to ever do it, since his 1990 debut long-player “Take A Look Around” Juice Crew legend Masta Ace has consistently proven himself to be a true virtuoso of the album format, delivering a long line of well-rounded, concept-based projects. This collaborative effort with the ever-impressive Marco Polo successfully bound together the pair’s individual BK-related narratives, demonstrating what quality, timeless music sounds like in the process. They live in Brooklyn, baby.

masta ace cover

Royce Da 5’9 – “Book Of Ryan” (Heaven Studios / eOneMusic) – Intensely personal and brilliantly executed, Detroit wordsmith Royce’s seventh album ran the full gamut of emotions, presenting the listener with a sonic photo album which captured poignant moments in the emcee’s family history, both past and present. Displaying a no-holds-barred honesty in his writing, Royce’s ability to tackle difficult subjects here such as addiction, domestic abuse and suicide, without coming across as overly judgemental or preachy, was a testament to his level of dedication to his craft. “Book Of Ryan” was an album that was shocking, humourous, tragic and inspiring in equal measures.

Children Of Zeus – “Travel Light” (First Word Records) – Arguably the best blend of Hip-Hop and soul since Mary J. Blige enquired about the 411 back in 1992, Manchester duo Konny Kon and Tyler Daley proved that hard work does pay off when, after years of building a cult fanbase for their unique brand of UK street music, the pair finally gained the wider recognition they’ve deserved for so long with the release of this brilliant debut album. An organic mix of sonic influences both past and present, “Travel Light” proudly took its place next to defining works by the likes of Loose Ends, Soul II Soul and London Posse as a truly individual example of quality British music.

Micall Parknsun & Mr Thing – “Finish What We Started” (Village Live Records) – Genuine creative chemistry is something that’s hard to come by in any artistic partnership. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem UK duo Micall Parknsun and Mr Thing had to worry about, with their brilliant album “Finish What We Started” pulsating from beginning to end with an energy that could only be achieved when people share the same drive, focus and passion for what they do. An album with real replay value, “Finish What We Started” was the sound of both Parknsun and Thing at the top of their game, mixing old-school values with now-school skills.

Superbad Solace – “Sol Controller” (SuperbadSolace.BandCamp.Com) – Teaming up with frequent collaborator Mono En Stereo (pka El RTNC), Timeless Truth member Superbad Solace went for dolo on this quality EP, reppin’ for the borough of Queens in no uncertain terms, weaving fly NY wordplay around melodic, sample-based soundscapes with impressive results.

Planet Asia – “The Golden Buddha” (Brick Records) – A key figure in the West Coast indie scene of the mid-to-late 90s, an increase in output over recent years has further proven Planet Asia to be one of the most consistent artists in the game.  Produced entirely by San Francisco’s izznyce, “The Golden Buddha” was packed with quality beats and pyramid-precise verses, with PA flowing like the Nile with authority and apparent effortlessness.

The Mouse Outfit – “Jagged Tooth Crook” (TheMouseOutfit.BandCamp.Com) – Having further refined their live, organic sound on each  of the group’s full-length releases, this third album from Manchester-based collective The Mouse Outfit was arguably the crew’s most musically sophisticated effort to date. Largely based around mellow, jazzy production laced with tinges of reggae and soul, “Jagged Tooth Crook” found the likes of Dubbul O, Black Josh and Ellis Meade dropping life-affirming lines and spontaneous styles throughout this mammoth seventeen-track project.

Showbiz – “A-Room Therapy” (DITCEnt.Com) – With sonic input from producers Motif Alumni and Dark Keys, legendary crate-digger Showbiz pulled together members of the core DITC crew and extended family affiliates for this showcase of quality Rotten Apple rap, with the likes of O.C., A.G, David Bars and the late Tashane bridging the generation gap with their undiluted rhyme skills.

Flashius Clayton – “Wolf Moon” (FlashiusClayton.BandCamp.Com) – Cali-based Knuckle Sandwich Deli representative Flashius Clayton set 2018 off the right way with this tight EP which dropped on Jan 1st. Combining competition-crushing attitude with natural rhyming ability and an ear for strong production, the West Coast wordsmith singled himself out as one to watch with this release.

Blueprint – “Two-Headed Monster” (WeightlessRecordings.Net) – Grounded in golden-era traditions yet refusing to wallow in nostalgia, veteran Ohio-based producer-on-the-mic Blueprint’s latest long-player was a shining example of thoughtful, mature Hip-Hop which succeeded in sparking your brain cells whilst making your head nod.

Farma Beats – “The Sentimental Alien” (FarmaBeats.BandCamp.Com) – Having made his name in the UK Hip-Hop scene of the 90s primarily as an emcee with London’s Bury Crew, M.U.D. Family and then Task Force, 2018 saw Farma go global with his production skills, with “The Sentimental Alien” featuring an impressive list of collaborators including Chester P, Recognize Ali and Estee Nack showcasing their skills over obscure loops and quality beats.

Scran Cartel – “Blue Plaque Candidates” (ScranCartel.BandCamp.Com) – Possibly the best combination of Hip-Hop and food since the Fat Boys cracked open a pizza box on the cover of their 1984 debut album, this collaborative project from UK duo MNSR Frites and Benny Diction contained high-protein beats and rhymes that were guaranteed to satisfy the appetite of any music connoisseur. Featuring production from Chemo, Downstroke, Blue Buttonz and more, “Blue Plaque Candidates” was three-course home-cooked goodness – no fast-food rap to be found here.

Da Buze Bruvaz – “Ni$&@tivity” (Grilchy Party) – Philly’s Clever One and Him Lo continued to steam-roller over the competition on their latest collection of put-you-in-a-headlock Hip-Hop, with the larger-than-life pair dropping aggressive-yet-entertaining punchlines and thinly-veiled threats over fittingly hardcore production from affiliates such as Shaheed Mudfoot, Claymore and Gosilla. Guard ya grill!

Kool G Rap & 38 Spesh – “Son Of G Rap” (38Spesh.BandCamp.Com) – A collection of unapologetically raw street knowledge  which attempted to join the dots between various eras in New York Hip-Hop, “Son Of…” found lyrical architect Kool G Rap passing the baton to Rochester’s 38 Spesh, with the likes of Cormega, AZ and Meyhem Lauren on-hand to rep for the Rotten Apple over production from sonic craftsman such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock and The Alchemist.

Funky DL – “Blackcurrent Jazz 3” (FunkyDL.Bandcamp.Com) – As suggested by its title, this release from London-based producer-on-the-mic Funky DL was grounded in the UK veteran’s love of all things soulful and jazzy, with his witty couplets and entertaining story-telling rhymes meshing perfectly with a seamless sample-based blend of mellow pianos, smooth horns and 90s-influenced beats. He got the jazz, he got the jazz.

Kyo Itachi – “Night Life” (ShinigamieRecords.BandCamp.Com) – France’s king of boom-bap Kyo Itachi pulled together an impressive guest list for this well-executed collection of underground gems, with the likes of Artifacts, Keith Murray and Milano Constantine displaying their well-tested skills over head-nodding, full-bodied production.

Spnda & Grubby Pawz – “Holographic” (CityYardMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Following up their brilliant 2017 project “Steel Sharpens Steel”, Boston’s Spnda and Grubby Pawz once again showcased their creative chemistry on this equally impressive project, a collection of masterfully vivid rhymes and superbly selected samples stitched together with a sci-fi undertone.

Rasheed Chappell – “First Brick” (RasheedChappell.BandCamp.Com) – Seven years since the release of his critically-acclaimed debut album “Future Before Nostalgia”, NY-based emcee Rasheed Chappell joined forces once again with production legend Kenny Dope  for this undiluted dose of East Coast Hip-Hop, demonstrating growth in his already impressive writing abilities, drawing inspiration from yesterday whilst looking towards tomorrow.

Ray Vendetta & Karnate – “The Master Chambers LP” (PrestigiousRecordings1.BandCamp.Com) – Having already proven himself to be one of the game’s most consistent and hard-working emcees, London-based lyricist Ray Vendetta didn’t take any time off in 2018, with this Karnate-produced album ranking as arguably the Triple Darkness member’s most complete body of work, highlighting all facets of Vendetta’s rhyming abilities, from street-savvy barbs to moments of subtle personal reflection.

Milano Constantine – “Attache Case” (FXCKRXP.BandCamp.Com) – Co-signed by both Big Pun and Big L, Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano is an emcee who has always stayed dedicated to the art of lyricism and this project with Netherlands-based producer Oh Jay didn’t find the Rotten Apple representative deviating from his path. Action-packed wordplay and drama-fuelled soundscapes were the order of the day here, with Milano yet again standing head-and-shoulders above most of his competition on the microphone.

Part Two coming soon.

New Joint – Sauce Heist & DirtyDiggs

Sauce Heist & DirtyDiggs – “Love 43VA” (@Sauce_Heist / @DirtDiggs / 2018)

Taken from the album “Diamond Dust Shoes”.