Tag Archives: Apollo Brown

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Four) – John Robinson / Backwood Sweetie / Vandal Savage etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Jyroscope & Montana Macks – “Happy Medium” (Jyroscope.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s I.B. Fokuz and Collasoul Structure worked their way through the stresses of daily life on this therapeutic release. Job. Family. Relationships. Social injustice. Health. Finances. Anxiety. Frustration. Doubt. The rhyming duo completely opened up over the five tracks on offer here, giving listeners full access to their personal (and extremely relatable) thoughts. The jazzy, easy-going production supplied by Montana Macks gave the EP a soothing, relaxed vibe, ensuring Jyroscope’s verses had plenty of room to breathe. Easy does it, do it easy.

J Littles & Claude Money – “Godbody Tapestry” (KJamm-BFR.BandCamp.Com) – This blend of cool-but-deadly rhymes and soulful rare groove loops from Nottingham duo J Littles and Claude Money was a supreme display of smoothed-out musical arrogance laced with lyrical gems from two individuals who were clearly meant to build together. Best listened to whilst sat comfortably on a butter-soft leather sofa, blowing smoke, wearing a velour robe and a pair of box-fresh Air Max. Exquisite.

John Robinson – “King JR” (JohnRobinson.BandCamp.Com) – Sounding as fresh and enthusiastic in 2021 as he did when debuting as a member of Scienz Of Life back in the mid-90s, NY-raised emcee John Robinson called on the production talents of West Coast favourite Blu for this stimulating collection of thoughtful wordplay and dynamic beats. Music with substance.

Shortie No Mass – “here goes nothing.” (ShortieNoMass.BandCamp.Com) – Having first made a name for herself in the 90s working with the likes of De La Soul and The Roots, Boston-born, Philly-based artist Shortie No Mass made a welcome return to the mic after a long hiatus and sounded like she’d never been away. Her lively, infectious flow and straight-to-the-point rhymes sat comfortably here over production from Da Beatminerz, J-Zone and Shortie’s son Jay Law.

DJ Cosm – “Natural Within” (MakeBelieveHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – DJ Cosm of Canada’s Dragon Fli Empire pulled together a varied selection of underground talent for this follow-up to his 2011 release “Time And Space”, with Brand Nubian’s Sadat X, Brown Bag Money’s Daniel Son and Bankai Fam’s Skanks The Rap Martyr all making stellar appearances.

Al-J & Kane Major – “Blak To The Old School” (KaneMajor.BandCamp.Com) – Boston emcee Al-J (of Blak Madeen) painted vivid lyrical pictures of his experiences growing up in the 80s on this Kane Major-produced album. Covering everything from watching Saturday morning cartoons and first hearing Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five to navigating his way through the crack era, Al-J’s personal memories were further brought to life by the authentic electro-influenced sounds of Major’s production. A sonic blast of back to the future flavour.

Dagha – “D-A To The G” (Dagha.BandCamp.Com) – With this being his first release since 2014, it was apparent even before the end of the first track that Boston’s Dagha was intending on making-up for lost time with this album. No distractions. No gimmicks. “D-A To The G” was all about skills. Dagha tore through the beats of collaborator DJ Real with his confident delivery and clever wordplay, keeping it funky throughout with flows for days.

The Good People – “The Greater Good” (TheGoodPeople.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding NY duo Emskee and Saint came correct with yet another collection of quality true-school beats and rhymes, offering lyrical food for thought and warm, melodic production throughout. Joined by the likes of Lords Of The Underground, Craig G and Shabaam Sahdeeq, “The Greater Good” was the sound of artists really doing it for the culture.

Apollo Brown & Stalley – “Blacklight” (ApolloBrown360.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit producer Apollo Brown has built a career on bringing the best out of the emcees he chooses to collaborate with. From Boog Brown and OC to Skyzoo and Che Noir, Apollo’s brand of soulful boom-bap has inspired some brilliant performances from a variety of lyricists. “Blacklight” continued that trend. Formerly signed to Rick Ross’s Maybach Music label, Ohio’s Stalley sounded totally at home over Brown’s mellow thump, spitting down-to-earth, street-smart verses that stayed with you long after the music stopped.

Wish Master x Illinformed – “Cold Harbour Tales” (WishMaster.BandCamp.Com) – Bristol’s Wish Master has consistently sharpened his skills with each release he’s dropped over the last few years. This full-length collaboration with producer Illinformed saw Wish Master finding an ideal musical partner, with crisp beats and atmospherics samples providing the perfect backdrop for the UK lyricist’s raw wit and life lessons.

Breeze Brewin – “Hindsight” (Juggaknots.BandCamp.Com) – Some people are just born to rhyme. It’s as simple as that. NYC’s Breeze Brewin is one such individual. Twenty-five years after debuting as a member of The Juggaknots with a cult classic release on Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em label, Breeze proved that his underground legend status is still firmly intact with the release of this brilliant album. Backed by production from the likes of Sebb Bash, Marco Polo and DJ Spinna, the BX emcee covered a lot of lyrical ground here, delivering every verse with charisma, skill and originality.

Planet Asia x Evidence – “Rule Of Thirds” (BiggerPictureRecordings.Com) – West Coast giants Planet Asia and Evidence had worked together before this release earlier in their respective careers. But to hear the pair come together in 2021 having long established themselves as two of the most consistent artists the game has seen was a beautiful thing. Asia’s effortlessly dope flow swaggered over the stripped-down production supplied by Evidence, lyrically blending the fly and the righteous as always, with Domo Genesis, Milano Constantine and Rome Streetz offering verbal support.

Ea$y Money x Nozs – “2090” (STDaSquad.BandCamp.Com) – 2021 was a productive year for Massachusetts-based microphone fiend Ea$y Money, with his name gracing the cover of a handful of projects during the twelve month period. Whilst quality control was high on all of those releases, this six-track EP with New England producer Nozs was the standout for me. Street-smart rhymes were paired here with boom-bap beats that were full of character, resulting in a memorable, concise release. Also, props to Ea$y Money for the respectful nod to the great Grand Puba with the EP’s cover art.

Backwood Sweetie – “Christina Shauntay” (BackwoodSweetie.BandCamp.Com) – As a fan of Hip-Hop there’s nothing better than the moment you hear an artist for the first time whose talent immediately captures your attention and has you sitting with your ear pressed against the speaker hanging off every word being said. In 2021, Maryland’s Backwood Sweetie was one of those artists. Rhyming with passion and purpose over a well-chosen selection of beats from a variety of producers, Sweetie had a lot to say as she touched on a number of topics, including Black pride, white supremacy, police brutality and social injustice. Urgent, thought-provoking Hip-Hop.

Beneficence & Confidence – “Stellar Mind” (IllAdrenalineRecords.Com) – A no-nonsense collection of heavyweight head-nodding Hip-Hop, New Jersey’s Beneficence and Boston’s Confidence made a great team here, celebrating the essence of golden-era beats and rhymes whilst injecting their own personalities into the music. A long line of guest artists also complimented the album’s true-school vibe, including El Da Sensei, Craig G and Chubb Rock.

Ka – “A Martyr’s Reward” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – At this point, highlighting Ka’s incredible lyrical ability just feels like stating the obvious. The Brooklyn emcee is a truly unique artist and for some time his only real competition has been himself, with each of his releases setting the bar even higher for what we can expect to come from his pen. The largely self-produced “A Martyr’s Reward” was another deep dive into Ka’s life experiences, his thoughts, his hopes and his regrets. This was the work of a genuine poet containing pain and peace in equal measures.

Kaimbr & Sean Born – “Nino Green” (NinoGreen7.BandCamp.Com) – A potent mixture of vividly raw rhymes laced with street-smart swagger and intoxicating production full of uncut vintage soul flavour, this “New Jack City”-influenced collaboration from longstanding Maryland artists Kaimbr and Sean Born was as fly as a 1988 Dapper Dan sweatsuit with a matching Kangol. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. I. Am.

Heist Life – “Heist New York” (HeistLife.BandCamp.Com) – Ty Da Dale, Sauce Heist and Baby Maine repped for the Rotten Apple with pride on this short-but-effective EP, evoking images of rattling subway trains, street-corner ciphers and scuffed Timberlands over production from Spanish Ran, Nes and Wavy Da Ghawd.

Vandal Savage & Sonnyjim – “Sauvage” (IAmVandalSavage.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s very own Bic Master Vandal Savage leaned heavily into the luxury loops supplied by Sonnyjim throughout this release, with his conversational delivery overflowing with lyrical jewels, life observations and witty punchlines. With appearances from Da Flyy Hooligan, Juga-Naut and Sonnyjim himself adding further verbal weight to the project. “Sauvage” was a laidback lesson in how to craft understated hardcore Hip-Hop.

N.R.F.S. – “N.R.F.S.” (NRFS.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Neak, Rashid Hadee, F.A.B.L.E. and Since9ine6ix joined forces on this impressive collabo album as “uncrowned kings on the underground sharing thrones”, with all four artists bringing their best to the table, complimenting each other’s styles and putting together a potent showcase of undeniable Windy City talent.

Check Part Five here.

New Joint – Apollo Brown & Stalley

Apollo Brown & Stalley – “Blacklight” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2021)

Soulful, string-laced title track off the quality new album from Detroit’s brilliant Apollo Brown and Ohio emcee Stalley.

New Joint – Apollo Brown & Stalley

Apollo Brown & Stalley – “No Monsters” (ApolloBrown360.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Taken from the forthcoming album “Blacklight”.

New Joint – Apollo Brown & O.C.

Apollo Brown & O.C. – “Just Walk” (MelloMusicGroup / 2021)

Diggin’ In The Crates legend (and one of my all-time favourite emcees) O.C. revisits one of the many standout tracks from his brilliant 2012 Apollo Brown-produced album “Trophies”.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2020 (Part One) – Busta Rhymes / Juga-Naut / Lyric Jones etc.

What’s left to say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? Not much. It’s been an unforgettable twelve months that will have affected everyone in different ways. But during a year of change, worry, loss and uncertainty, music has remained an important and consistent sanctuary for many of us  – word to Gary Bartz!

The pace of releases throughout 2020 has been relentless and the level of quality extremely high, which meant that when I sat down before Christmas to start compiling this annual Old To The New ‘best-of’, I was initially looking at a list of approximately three-hundred-and-fifty notable projects which had caught my attention throughout the year.

As always, the criteria used to reduce the size of that list was simple – which albums and EPs had I enjoyed the most?

So, with all that being said, huge thanks to everyone who dropped good music during 2020 and played a part in helping to ease the day-to-day pressures of so many – as Digital Underground once said, you get those heartbeat props.

Now, in no particular order, it’s about that time…

Busta Rhymes – “Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath Of God” (ELE2.BustaRhymesUniverse.Com) – As suggested by its title, this long-awaited project from the mighty Busta Rhymes truly was one of the year’s ‘event’ albums, largely receiving a collective nod of approval from Hip-Hop heads across social media in the days following its release. Effectively providing what you’d expect to hear from a veteran emcee on a greatest hits collection, but via new material instead, “ELE 2” showcased all facets of the former Leaders Of The New School member’s artistry, personality and character. Rowdy, Dungeon Dragon Busta. Playful, party-starting Busta. Timberland-wearing, East-Coast stompin’ Busta. Radio-friendly Busta. Socially-aware, Five Percent / Nation Of Islam-influenced Busta. All of the above and more could be found here, on an album which not only further cemented Busta’s legacy as a genuine Hip-Hop great, but also delivered music that captured and reflected the energy of 2020.

Juga-Naut – “Bem” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Released to coincide with his 30th birthday, this largely self-produced triumph from Nottingham’s Juga-Naut added further weight to the opinion that this multi-talented artist is one of the best of his generation. Steeped in true-school tradition whilst avoiding banal nostalgia, “Bem” effortlessly achieved the balancing act of sounding (and feeling) both familiar and fresh. This was upper-echelon emceeing, as stated by the man himself.

Uptown XO – “Culture Over Corporate” (OneForceUnited.BandCamp.Com) – The Washington DC-based lyricist (of Diamond District fame) started 2020 off the right way with this incredibly dope solo album, which featured XO delivering thought-provoking rhymes over soulful, speaker-rattling production from Drew Dave, touching on issues that would become major talking points as the year unfolded.

Lyric Jones – “Closer Than They Appear” (LyricJones.BandCamp.Com) – Boston-raised, LA-based Lyric Jones showcased both her influences and musical range on this exceptional album, weaving together a rich tapestry of sound that was simultaneously diverse and cohesive. Drawing on both struggles and triumphs as inspiration, the gifted artist packed a lot of herself into this project, resulting in an album that was as personal as it was entertaining. This was music that stuck to your soul.

Brainorchestra -“Marmalade” (Brainorchestra.BandCamp.Com) – A quality collection of rugged-but-smooth mood music, this album found New Jersey’s Brainorchestra utilising his sharp delivery to slice through mellow, loop-based production from the likes of Ohbliv, Foisey and Big Daddy Chop with slick, bravado-fuelled verses that were rich in rewind-worthy lines.

Kamanchi Sly – “Electrosis” (KamanchiSly.Com) – Tugging on the heartstrings of ageing b-boys everywhere, UK legend Kamanchi Sly pulled out his fat laces, name-plate belt buckle and Nike windbreaker to take a moonwalk down memory lane with this brilliantly executed tribute to the electro sounds of the early-80s. Capturing the urgent creativity and futuristic flavour of that particular time period, the Hijack emcee’s lively, spontaneous rhymes sat perfectly atop the pulsating, self-produced soundscapes found here. Don’t stop the rock!

Strizzy Strauss – “Trust The Process” (IAmStrizzyStrauss.BandCamp.Com) – Grounded in the realities of life’s everyday drama but buoyed by a genuine sense of hope and optimism, this full-length debut from Leicester’s Strizzy Strauss built on the promise of the down-to-earth emcee’s previous material, showcasing his natural ability to deliver relatable rhymes that resonate with honesty and integrity.

Casual – “Big Head Science” (Casual1.BandCamp.Com) – Hieroglyphics legend Casual (aka Smash Rockwell) made a welcome return with his latest long-player which featured the West Coast wordsmith delivering an onslaught of lyrical destruction alongside the likes of Planet Asia, Killah Priest and Ras Kass, demonstrating the same swaggering skills that ensured his 1994 debut “Fear Itself” left an indelible mark on the rap game.

Heist Life – “Get Money Teach Babies” (SauceHeist.BandCamp.Com) – In 2020, the Bronx kept creating it! Rotten Apple rhymers $auce Heist and Ty Da Dale matched street-smart, Five Percent-influenced verses with drum-heavy production from Spanish Ran throughout this eight-track dose of uncut New York Hip-Hop, which also featured Flee Lord, Rome Streetz and Tree Mason.

Spittzwell x Boog Brown – “Summer Daze Vol. 1” (Spittzwell1.BandCamp.Com) – Refreshing like a cool breeze, Detroit-raised, Atlanta-based emcee Boog Brown glided over the sublime, jazz-influenced production of fellow ATL resident Spittzwell on this quality addition to her already impressive catalogue – sincere and inspiring.

Rocdwell – “SIMPLICITY (The Life That Makes The Songs)” (Rocdwell.BandCamp.Com) – Dropping very early in the year, this full-length release from Detroit’s Rocdwell offered plenty of lyrical food for thought, encouraging listeners to step back from the Matrix of our daily existence, focus on what’s really important in a world full of distractions, and grab life with a renewed sense of purpose. A message which carried further weight as 2020 progressed.

Dell-P – “MEGA (Make Emceeing Great Again)” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Philadelphia’s Dell-P made good on his promise to make emceeing great again throughout this 16-track opus, delivering well-crafted verses full of substance and character over a varied selection of beats. No throwaway tracks or filler to be found here, “MEGA” was the sound of an artist determined to uplift and inform his audience whilst further building on his reputation as a highly-skilled lyricist.

Skyzoo & Dumbo Station – “The Bluest Note” (TuffKongRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the organic jazz grooves of Italy’s Dumbo Station band, Brooklyn’s Skyzoo added yet another release to his already impeccable discography in the form of this six-track EP. A genuine master of his craft, the New York emcee has been at the top of his game for so long now it would be easy to take his brand of top-tier lyricism for granted. We shouldn’t. Skyzoo is one of the best in the rap game with a catalogue of work that should be celebrated at every given opportunity.

Fly Anakin – “at the end of the day.” (MutantAcademyRVA.BandCamp.Com) – Richmond, Virginia’s Mutant Academy crew continued to prove themselves to be one of the most talented collectives currently dropping music with a string of releases throughout 2020, starting in January with this quality project from core member Fly Anakin. Flexing his energetic, engaging flow over perfectly chosen production from Graymatter, All Ceven, Ohbliv and more, Anakin took listeners deep into his VA state of mind.

Apollo Brown & Che’ Noir – “As God Intended” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – The creative chemistry between Detroit’s Apollo Brown and Buffalo’s Che’ Noir resulted in an album that sounded like the pair had been working together closely for years. Che’s descriptive and at times painfully personal rhymes gave this project a real emotional depth, whilst the subtle tweaks Brown made to his signature style to compliment  and enhance the talented emcee’s flow further demonstrated his skill as a producer.

Superbad Solace – “Sol Controller 2” (SuperbadSolace.BandCamp.Com) – Timeless Truth member Superbad Solace returned with a worthy sequel to his 2018 solo release, once again teaming up with producer Mono En Stereo (formerly known as El RTNC) to capture the essence of Rotten Apple rap, blending New York straight talk and a natural flyness with an exquisite selection of beats and loops.

Kinetik & Micall Parknsun – “Spin Cycle” (IAmKinetik.BandCamp.Com) – Calling on production supremo Micall Parknsun to provide beats for this impressive EP, London-based emcee (and Breaking Atoms podcast host) Kinetik covered a lot of lyrical ground here, using his conversational flow to deftly switch from humorous recollections and witty punchlines to social commentary and poignant observations.

Milano Constantine – “Winston Wolf” (MilanoConstantine.BandCamp.Com) – Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano has spent the last two decades dropping consistently strong material, with his skills appearing to reach new levels of Ginsu-like sharpness on each release. This short five-track offering was another potent showcase of the NY emcee’s infinite talent, with Constantine still clearly influenced by the Rotten Apple of his youth yet managing to avoid sounding tied to any particular time period thanks to his effortless flow.

Helsinki Booze Merchants – “Film Poster Whips” (BrokeRecords.BandCamp.Com) – With alter-egos in full effect, UK wordsmiths Luca Brazi (Lasagna Baghdad), Benny Diction (Paolo Pumpernickel) and MNSR Frites (Bald Daniels) offered up a dope concept-based project which aimed to deliver “an introspective take on getting older in rap and an appreciation for the finer things” in the trio’s own unique style. They succeeded. Packed with punchline-heavy verses, laced with humour, sarcasm and, at times, self-deprecation, this was a thoroughly entertaining release on all levels.

Godfather Don & Parental – “Osmosis” (DJParental.BandCamp.Com) – NYC’s Godfather Don became a cult figure within underground Hip-Hop circles back in the 90s and rightly so. The Brooklyn rhymer’s brain-busting wordplay ensured tracks like “Properties Of Steel” and “Piece Of The Action” were widely-received as classics during the decade’s independent era. For this new project, Don joined forces with French producer Parental, whose well-established brand of polished beats provided a solid backdrop for the Godfather’s forthright, competition-crushing verses.

Check Part Two here.

New Joint – REKS

REKS – “Animal Kingdom” (@TheRealREKS  / 2020)

Clever, concept-driven wordplay on this Apollo Brown-produced track from REKS’ brilliant new album “T.H.I.N.G.S. (The Hunger Inside Never Gets Satisfied)”.

New Joint – Cambatta & Apollo Brown

Cambatta & Apollo Brown – “Nightmare” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2020)

Unsettling, unapologetically hardcore beats and rhymes off a forthcoming compilation project from the Mello Music Group label.

New Joint – Apollo Brown / Ro Spit / NameTag / Ty Farris

Apollo Brown ft. Ro Spit, NameTag & Ty Farris – “365” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2020)

Piano-laced head-nodder off the talented Motor City producer’s epic album “Sincerely, Detroit”.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part Three) – KingDem / Apollo Brown / Ray Vendetta etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Fly Anakin & Big Kahuna OG – “Holly Water” (MutantAcademyRVA.BandCamp.Com) – Raekwon and Ghostface. Erick and Parrish. Run and DMC. There are some emcees who were simply meant to rhyme together. Mutant Academy’s Fly Anakin and Big Kahuna OG can also be added to that list. Following up their four-part “Big Fly” EP series, the Richmond, Virginia duo delivered arguably their finest work to date in the form of this album, blending their undeniable skills with smooth, intoxicating production.

holly cover

Phyba & Giallo Point – “René Mesrine” (CDVZ.BandCamp.Com) – 2019 was an extremely busy year for producer Giallo Point, with this project alongside fellow UK resident Phyba just one of a handful of collabo releases helmed by the talented music man. Revisiting the cinematic undercover spy-themed flavour of their previous work together, the combination of Phyba’s laidback, nonchalant delivery and Giallo’s atmospheric sonic drama once again made for a uniquely captivating listening experience.

phyba cover

People Under The Stairs – “Sincerely, The P” (PL70.Net) – Bringing their twenty year musical journey to a suitably impressive end, Thes One and Double K’s final album was another finely-tuned selection of funky beats, spontaneous energy and proud West Coast attitude, held together by the duo’s seasoned wisdom and genuine gratitude to fans for sticking with the PUTS brand over the last two decades.

puts cover

Rick Hyde – “Plates” (RickHyde.BandCamp.Com) – Buffalo, NY emcee-slash-producer Rick Hyde delivered personal, emotionally-charged street-level rhymes on his debut album, executive produced by Griselda’s Benny The Butcher and featuring beats from DJ Shay, IceRocks, Chup and more.

rick cover

Motman & Micall Parknsun – “Everyday Craft” (Motman1.BandCamp.Com) – Bristol emcee Motman dropped honest, down-to-earth rhymes over quality production from the ever-impressive Micall Parknsun on this long-player, with lyrical assistance from Flowtecs, Gee Bag and Ray Vendetta.

motman cover

Westside Gunn – “Flygod Is An Awesome God” (GrisdeldaXFR.Com) – The Griselda juggernaut continued to steam-roll its way through the rap scene with this summer release from WSG, a worthy addition to the crew’s collective catalogue, featuring the Buffalo emcee showcasing sharp, street-related verses over elegantly raw production from the likes of The Alchemist, Evidence and DJ Muggs.

Rashad ThaPoet x The BeatHead – “Jefferson Street Blues” (RashadThaPoet.BandCamp.Com) – Nashville, Tennessee emcee / spoken word artist Rashad ThaPoet balanced the promise of the American Dream with the reality of the Amerikkkan Nightmare throughout this impressive BeatHead-produced EP, offering poignant, thoughtful observations on politics, race and the shortcomings of society.

Hubbs – “Tony Peña” (Hubbs.BandCamp.Com) – The Pittsburgh-based lyricist flexed his conversational-yet-authoritative flow to good effect on this quality, baseball-influenced project, backed by smooth, laidback production from the likes of Nysceworkk, Billy Hoyle, JR Swiftz and more.

Louis Cypher – “Cypher Sore Eyes” (BoomBap.BandCamp.Com) – Having been a consistently reliable outlet for quality Hip-Hop over the last fifteen years. UK label Boom Bap Professionals presented this free EP from Punning Clan member Louis Cypher, featuring the Nottingham-based emcee putting a nice selection of beats from DJ Severe, Kastanza and Pete 1st Blood to good use.

Chris Skillz & Storm Watkins – “Creer” (ChrisSkillz.BandCamp.Com) – A  naturally gifted emcee, Delaware’s Chris Skillz lived up to his name on this five track EP, blessing the dope, sample-heavy production of Baltimore’s Storm Watkins with a stream of captivating, well-crafted verses, accompanied by Left Lane Didon, All Hail Y.T. and Ronnie Alpha.

Leaf Erikson – “A Canvas Of Hope” (LeafErikson1.BandCamp.Com) – The first of three planned projects dedicated to his Detroit stomping grounds, emcee Leaf Erikson used this project to weave together Motor City stories grounded in “tragedy, triumph and the journey people experience along the way” accompanied by the subtle production expertise of Meftah.

Supreme Cerebral & Eloh Kush – “Clark Connoisseurs” (BugzyNino17.BandCamp.Com) – Showcasing a shared passion for Clarks footwear that even Ghostface would be proud of, LA’s Supreme Cerebral and New Jersey’s Eloh Kush combined forces on this Wallabee-influenced collection of punchy wordplay and suede-smooth production from Clypto and Juelz White. As Tony Starks said himself on the Purple Tape, this how you freak ’em!

KingDem – “The KingDem EP” (Tru-Thoughts.BandCamp.Com) – Coming to the table with timeless skills, unmistakable character and a whole heap of personal Hip-Hop history under their respective belts, legends Ty, Rodney P and Blak Twang spoke with experience and authority on this four-track release, offering some tough love to the UK scene they helped shape whilst looking forever forward. Vibes, substance and longevity in abundance.

Jay NiCE & Farma Beats – “POMPEii” (FarmaBeats.BandCamp.Com) – Delaware’s Jay NiCE spat hot lava over an impeccable production selection from the UK’s Farma Beats throughout his fourth release of 2019, a project which succeeded in elevating itself above most of the competition thanks to a satisfying combination of lyrical urgency and genuine creative chemistry.

Apollo Brown – “Sincerely, Detroit” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp,Com) – Motor City producer Apollo Brown celebrated the Hip-Hop legacy of the city that shaped his sound on this ambitious project, featuring a huge list of over fifty Detroit artists (including Black Milk, Slum Village and Phat Kat) all rising to the challenge of justifying their inclusion on this epic release, blessing a satisfying batch of stripped-down-but-soulful beats with accomplished lyricism.

Ray Vendetta – “The Billion Bar Mind EP” (PrestigiousRecordings1.BandCamp.Com) – Produced by Buffalo, NY’s TheRealSkitso, London lyricist Ray Vendetta let his mind spray in all directions on the third instalment of his 5 Star Saga series, showcasing the formidable street-savvy verbal science that’s kept the Triple Darkness / New Guardz member on the radar of underground heads both in the UK and overseas.

Clever 1 & Giallo Point – “Kiss Da Converse” (MarQSpekt.BandCamp.Com) – The second 2019 release to drop from the Buze Bruvaz camp, Philly emcee Clever 1 followed the example set by this rhyming partner Him Lo by also calling on the production talent of the UK’s Giallo Point for this solo release, pounding the understated loops and samples heard here with his always entertaining brand of brass-knuckle rap.

1520 – “Mosquito Fly & Starships” (1520.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran London emcee Nomadic Poet (of The Planets fame) teamed-up with gifted producer Drematic XL to celebrate the pair’s shared passion for the culture of Hip-Hop on this well-executed collection of true-school anthems, packed with lively rhymes and blistering beats.

Oxygen – “Age Appropriate” (Ox-The-Architect.BandCamp.Com) – Strong Island legend and Soundsci member Oxygen celebrated his 50th birthday with the release of this heavily-anticipated album, a project pairing the NY emcee’s unquestionable skills with top-shelf production from the UK’s Tom Caruana.

Supastition – “Sacrifice EP” (Supastition.BandCamp.Com) – Since his debut album dropped in 2002, North Carolina’s Supastition has deservedly earned himself a reputation as one of the rap game’s most consistent emcees. This release signalled the return of the always impressive lyricist, with four years having passed since his last project. A self-produced effort, this EP offered further proof as to why Supastition is held in such high regard by fans, with the rapper offering listeners a strong combination of personal opinions, life experiences and microphone techniques.

Part Four coming soon.

New Joint – Apollo Brown / Clear Soul Forces

Apollo Brown ft. Clear Soul Forces – “Deception & Woes” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2019)

One of the many standout cuts from the Motor City producer’s guest-packed album “Sincerely, Detroit”.

New Joint – Finale / Illa J

finale cover

Finale ft. Illa J – “F.A.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D.” (FinaleDet313.BandCamp.Com / 2019)

The Detroit emcee delivers sincere, heartfelt rhymes over Apollo Brown’s melodic soundscape off the forthcoming album “62”.

New Joint – Apollo Brown / Guilty Simpson / Fat Ray / Melanie Rutherford

Apollo Brown ft. Guilty Simpson, Fat Ray & Melanie Rutherford – “The Backbone” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2019)

Taken from producer Apollo Brown’s Motor City tribute album “Sincerely, Detroit”, featuring fifty-six of the city’s most talented artists, including Elzhi, Phat Kat, Nolan The Ninja and more.

New Joint – Apollo Brown / Black Milk / Ketchphraze / DJ Los

apollo cover

Apollo Brown ft. Black Milk, Ketchphraze & DJ Los – “God Help Me” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2019)

Lead single from producer Apollo Brown’s forthcoming double-album “Sincerely, Detroit”, an ambitious project featuring over fifty Motor City artists, including Guilty Simpson, Phat Kat, Ty Farris and many, many more.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part Five) – Evidence / Juga-Naut / Chuck D etc.

Final part of Old To The New’s  2018 round-up – Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.

DJ Muggs & Roc Marciano – “KAOS” (SoulAssassins.Com) – Following the 2018 release of both “RR2” and “Behold A Dark Horse”, Roc Marci teamed-up with Cypress Hill’s Muggs to put together what resulted in being arguably the best of the three projects. Whilst Muggs’ dark trademark production style may not have seemed the first choice to fit with the Strong Island emcee’s laidback, conversational flow, the pair brought the best out of each other here, with the West Coast music man largely supplying Roc with a string of 70s soundtrack-style samples to lay his lyrical pimp-hand down on.

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Evidence – “Weather Or Not” (Rhymesayers.Com) – The third solo album from Dilated Peoples member Evidence, this project found the West Coast emcee capturing an almost melancholy vibe, an observation which isn’t meant to sound negative at all. As down-to-earth as always, Evidence delivered his usual high-standard of blue-collar beats and rhymes, expertly mixing personal reflection with claims of lyrical dominance over production from the likes of The Alchemist, Nottz and DJ Premier. Let it rain!

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Shay D – “Human Writes” (ShayDMusic.Com) – London-based emcee Shay D’s growth as an artist over recent years has been inspiring to witness, culminating in this project which is arguably her finest body-of-work to date, effectively blending spoken-word and rap, at times blurring the lines between Hip-Hop and grime with bold confidence. Painfully personal, proudly feminist and undeniably street-savvy, “Human Writes” stood as an artistic triumph which refused to be squeezed into the usual boxes female artists often find themselves confined to. Ladies first!

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Knowledge The Pirate – “Flintlock” (Treasure Chest Entertainment / FXCKRXP.BandCamp.Com) – The Roc Marciano-affiliated Pirate has been moving behind-the-scenes within the music industry for years now, with the brilliant “Flintlock” finally giving the East Coast emcee the opportunity to captain his own sonic ship. Detailed hustler tales were delivered here with an understated suggestion of menace, matched perfectly by the soulful, drama-laced production of Elemnt, Roc Marc, Mushroom Jesus and Knowledge himself. Vivid, cinematic crime rhymes. Ahoy!

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Juga-Naut – “Bon Vivant” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s Juga-Naut is a craftsman with words. Next level talent. This impressive album showcased the UK emcee in all his larger-than-life lyrical glory, masterfully weaving confidently delivered verses with style and finesse around high-grade production from the likes of Cappo, Joe Buhdha and Jugz himself. There are some individuals who were just born to rhyme and “Bon Vivant” proved that Juga-Naut definitely falls into that category.

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Ty Farris – “No Cosign Just Cocaine 2” (TyFarris.BandCamp.Com) – Street-wise swagger and lyrical dexterity collided on this project with memorable results, as Detroit’s Ty Farris navigated his way through beats from Trox, Stu Bangas and Foulmouth (to name just a few) with focus, purpose and a razor-sharp tongue.

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Coops – “Life In The Flesh” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – A thoroughly captivating and engrossing listening experience, this concept-based project from UK emcee Coops was a weighty mix of both style and substance. Produced entirely by the talented Talos, the album documented the London resident’s unique perspective on the struggles and challenges of modern-day life in Britain, showcasing the voice of an artist who is as spiritually-aware as he is socially-aware.

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Benny The Butcher – “Tana Talk 3” (GriseldaxFR.Com) – Griselda’s Benny upped the ante on this epic project, following in the footsteps of artists such as Jay-Z and Scarface as he gave listeners the full spectrum of the street life experience, including the losses, betrayals and regrets. Backed by fittingly sombre production from Daringer and The Alchemist, Benny delivered a true masterpiece here.

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Recognize Ali – “The Outlawed” (Greenfield Music / GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Possessing a tireless work ethic, Ali has blazed his own trail through the underground in recent times with a string of consistently strong releases. This album found the Greenfield emcee once again demonstrating his formidable rhymes skills over production from the likes of Farma Beats, Big Ghost Ltd and Frank Grimes.

Daniel Son & Futurewave – “Pressure Cooker” (BrownBagMoney.BandCamp.Com) – Two of Canada’s finest Hip-Hop talents joined forces to craft this raw-yet-creative example of hardcore Hip-Hop, with the pair sharing an undeniable chemistry which ensured this album remained engaging throughout, as Daniel Son used the drum-heavy production of Futurewave for lyrical dart target-practice.

The Diceman – “The Power Of Now” (KingOfTheBeats.Com) – As a member of veteran Bronx crew The Legion, Dice’s Hip-Hop credentials are unquestionable. On this dope solo album, the Rotten Apple rhymer delivered rugged, witty rhymes over speaker-shaking boom-bap beats, resulting in an album that was grounded in golden-era traditions without sounding stuck in the past. The Bronx keeps creating it.

DJ Jazzy Jeff – “M3” (DJJazzyJeff215.BandCamp.Com) – Presenting the third and final instalment of his “Magnificent” album trilogy, Philly legend Jazzy Jeff gave listeners his usual high-quality trademark blend of Hip-Hop, soul and jazz on a project which was life-affirming, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining. With The Trinity (Rhymefest, Dayne Jordan and Uhmeer) bridging the generation gap on mic duties, “M3” offered sonic sustenance in today’s troubled times.

Black Thought – “Streams Of Thought Vol. 2” (Passyunk Productions / Human Re Sources) – Illadelph icon Black Thought is one of the greatest of all-time. That shouldn’t even be up for debate at this stage in his career. Showcasing his always on-point blend of street knowledge, social observations, life lessons and emcee bravado over loose, funky Salaam Remi-orchestrated soundscapes, Thought continued to set the standard for anyone claiming to be a lyricist.

Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz – “Mona Lisa” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp) – Detroit producer Apollo Brown has made a career out of working with already impressive artists and being able to bring just that little bit more out of them (Skyzoo, Ras Kass, O.C. etc).  Capturing Brooklyn’s Joell Ortiz at a potential crossroads following the Slaughterhouse split, “Mona Lisa” was the sound of an emcee taking stock of both his career and his life, world-weary but not bitter, experienced but not jaded, realistic but looking for a better tomorrow.

Nowaah The Flood & The Architect – “Trill Life Mathematiks” (NowaahTheFlood7.BandCamp.Com) – Texas-based wordsmith Nowaah was one of a crop of upcoming emcees who put their stamp on 2018 via a strong work ethic, quality music and genuine rhyme skills. Produced by the Bay Area’s Architect (of Homeliss Derilex fame), “Trill Life…” found Flood dropping street-based science and righteous rawness over a strong selection of impeccable beats.

Chuck D As Mistachuck – “Celebration Of Ignorance” (ChuckDAsMistachuck.BandCamp.Com) – Public Enemy’s Rhyme Animal returned to burn on this C-Doc-produced project with assistance from P.E. 2.0’s Jahi. Speaking his mind as always, Chuck D took the opportunity to address numerous political and social issues impacting Trump’s Amerikkka and beyond, proving that after thirty-plus years since his debut on wax, the Strong Island legend still doesn’t rhyme for the sake of riddling.

Hermit & The Recluse (Animoss & Ka) – “Orpheus vs. The Sirens” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – Brooklyn’s master craftsman Ka took listeners on another lyrical odyssey with this  concept-based project. Packed with rich imagery, Ka’s verses here were delivered with incredible skill, woven together by life experience and creative genius, complimented by the dramatic, emotionally-charged work of Cali producer Animoss.

Habitat – “617 Black Label” (HeavyLinks.BandCamp.Com) – Heavy Links member Habitat came correct on his second solo album, pulling together a number of talented producers (including Giallo Point, DJ Severe and CrabbMan) to deliver the boom-bap backbone he was looking for. Full of forthright rhymes and true-school attitude, this was another strong outing for the UK emcee.

Codenine & Grubby Pawz – “Auerbach’s Garden” (CityYardMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by some of the smoothest production to be heard in 2018 courtesy of Grubby Pawz, Massachusetts-based microphone fiend Codenine cut through the mellow mood music on offer here with consistently impressive displays of sharp, intricately-woven wordplay.

Stanza Divan – “Poetry In Motion” (StanzaDivan.BandCamp.Com) – Although it was billed as a mixtape rather than an official album or EP release, this impressive offering from Leicester-based artist Stanza Divan needed to be included here, as the lyrical skill, content and conviction contained within “Poetry In Motion” doesn’t come along every day. Definitely an artist to watch in 2019.

 

New Joint – Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz

Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz – “Grace Of God” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2018)

Taken from the album “Mona Lisa”.

 

New Joint – Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz

Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz – “Cocaine Fingertips” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2018)

Taken from the album “Mona Lisa”.

New Joint – Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz / Royce Da 5’9

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Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz ft. Royce Da 5’9 – “Timberlan’d Up” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2018)

Drum-heavy dopeness for all the 40 below troopers off the forthcoming Brown / Ortiz collabo album “Mona Lisa”.

New Joint – Apollo Brown / Juga-Naut / Vandal Savage / Cappo

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Apollo Brown ft. Juga-Naut, Vandal Savage & Cappo – “Time’s Different” (@LowKeySourceAU / 2018)

Detroit producer Apollo Brown teams-up with some heavyweight UK talent for this cut off his EP “Across The Globe Vol. 1” dropping April 20th on Australia’s Low Key Source label.

New Joint – Apollo Brown & Planet Asia

Apollo Brown & Planet Asia – “Deep In The Casket” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2017)

Lo-fi rawness from the pair’s “Anchovies” project.

New Joint – Apollo Brown & Planet Asia

Apollo Brown & Planet Asia – “Get Back” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2017)

Vicious verses and laidback loops from the pair’s recently-released album “Anchovies”.