Pseudo Intellectuals – “Dope Grindwork” (Deep Thinka Records) – Combining their love of Hip-Hop and jazz with a heavy dose of personality and dry humour, this Buffalo, NY trio’s follow-up to 2008’s brilliant “Resourceful Illery” was a slow-burner of an album that gained the crew new supporters fan by fan. If you’ve yet to hear it yourself, there’s still time to play catch up.
Cyrus Malachi – “Ancient Future” (No Cure Records) – Triple Darkness member Cyrus Malachi’s debut solo set was easily one of the best albums to drop in 2011. Accompanied by a choice selection of atmospheric, hardcore beats from the likes of Chemo and Beat Butcha, the London emcee wove a complex lyrical tapestry that touched on everything from the pitfalls of street life to New World Order conspiracy theories. The sound of a master craftsman at work.
Rasheed Chappell & Kenny Dope – “Future Before Nostalgia” (Kay Dee Records) – A true student of Hip-Hop’s golden age, NY emcee Rasheed Chappell blessed boom-bap beats supplied by the legendary Kenny Dope with well-crafted rhymes that mixed socio-political thoughts with personal stories and old-fashioned lyrical bravado straight from the streets of the Rotten Apple.
Metermaids – “Rooftop Shake” (Strange Famous Records) – Their first release for indie favourite Sage Francis’s Strange Famous label, Brooklyn-based duo Sentence and Swell filled this album with random observations of life in New York with production from 9th Wonder and turntable duties handled by Rob Swift. What might initially have seemed to be an unexpected combination of talents led to the recording of a totally refreshing and original slice of true-school Hip-Hop.
Grap Luva – “Neva Done” (Redefinition Records) – Pete Rock’s younger brother delivered a short-but-satisfying collection of soul-drenched tracks that combined new collaborations with the likes of Damu The Fudgemunk and Joc Max with previously-unreleased beat science from Grap’s vaults. Timeless.
Kool G. Rap – “Riches, Royalty & Respect” (Fat Beats) – As one of the architects of new-school rap lyricism, the career of former Juice Crew member G. Rap has been shaky in recent years to say the least. Yet after a period of sub-par releases, the Kool Genius seemed to hit his stride again on this project which was part homage to the era of 70s NY hustlers and part declaration of present-day relevance.
J Rawls – “The Hip-Hop Affect” (Greenstreets Entertainment) – As one half of veteran underground duo Lone Catalysts, Ohio-based music man Rawls has built a well-deserved reputation over the years for being an extremely consistent producer. This album further proved that point with J supplying a diverse group of featured emcees from Brand Nubian’s Sadat X to Hiero’s Casual with his usual brand of melodic, head-nodding beats born out of a near lifelong love of Hip-Hop.
Vakill – “Armor Of God” (Molemen Records) – A lyrical titan of Chicago’s underground scene, the heavily-anticipated return of Vakill no doubt had plenty of wannabe rappers shaking in their bedroom studios. Attacking the album’s pounding Molemen production like a former boxing champion with a point to prove, the Windy City word warrior delivered an impressively cohesive project that blended street knowledge with spiritual wisdom.
The Roots – “Undun” (Def Jam) – Nearly twenty years since their early-90s debut, Philly favourites The Roots delivered the musical goods yet again with this concept-based album that found Black Thought, Questlove and the rest of the crew pushing their creative boundaries. Once again proving their collective ability to stretch their sound in new directions whilst still remaining grounded in their original Illadelph flavour, this project further cemented The Roots’ status as one of the greatest groups of all-time.
Jeff Spec – “Specnology” (City Planners) – This talented Canadian emcee has spent the last decade building up an impressive catalogue of intelligent, heartfelt Hip-Hop. On his latest effort, Spec upped the quality levels once again, delivering a set filled with dusty drums, funky samples and thoughtful lyricism.
Part Three coming soon.