Tag Archives: Athletic Mic League

Playground Legends Vol. 2 EP Stream – Athletic Mic League

Michigan’s mighty AML crew make a welcome return with this seven-track selection of vibrant and creative Hip-Hop.

New Joint – Athletic Mic League

Athletic Mic League – “Complications” (AthleticMicLeague.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Animated visuals accompany this quality 14KT-produced track from the Michigan crew’s 2020 EP “Playground Legends Vol. 1”.

New Joint – Athletic Mic League

Athletic Mic League ft. Mila.Akilah – “Never Coming Home” (AthleticMicLeague.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Soulfully stimulating beats and rhymes from the longstanding Ann Arbor, Michigan crew’s 2020 reunion album “Playground Legends Vol. 1”.

New Joint – Athletic Mic League

Athletic Mic League – “Winners Win” (AthleticMicLeague.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Celebratory vibes from the veteran Michigan crew’s 2020 release “Playground Legends Vol. 1”.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2020 (Part Four) – Vic Spencer / Tesla’s Ghost / Elzhi etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Vic Spencer – “Psychological Cheat Sheet” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Joined by the brilliant August Fanon on production duties, Chicago’s inimitable Vic Spencer dropped verses packed with punchlines, dry humour and charisma throughout this album. As ever, Vic came across as the type of artist who would kick it with you for a few minutes if you bumped into him on the street, but he’d also be likely to laugh in the face of your favourite rapper if they happened to walk past.

Royce 5’9 – “The Allegory” (Royce59.Com) – This self-produced effort found Royce using the same microscopic attention to detail he’d applied to his personal life throughout 2018’s brilliant “Book Of Ryan”, but this time he turned to look outwards at wider society. Covering issues such as racism, violence and economic inequality, the Detroit artist used laser-like lyrical precision to cut through the noise and deliver some striking commentary on life in Amerikkka.

Stove God Cooks – “Reasonable Drought” (The Conglomerate Entertainment / Marci Enterprises) – 2020 was a breakout period for Stove God Cooks, but this was definitely no overnight success story, with the NY emcee having spent recent years working with both Lord Jamar and Busta Rhymes under the name Aaron Cooks prior to Roc Marciano’s involvement in his career. But it wasn’t just the name change and album full of Marci beats that gained people’s attention, it was also Cooks’ ability to breathe new life into the coke-rap genre with his distinctive delivery and creative punchlines involving references to aliens, singer Jon B and DITC’s Diamond D, amongst others.

Verbz & Mr Slipz – “Radio Waves” (HighFocus.Com) – Proving themselves to be a potent partnership, this full-length collaboration from London emcee Verbz and Brighton-based producer Mr Slipz was an absolute gem of an album, blending inner-city introspection and mellow beats with sublime results. Appearances from the likes of Melanin 9, Confucius MC and Coops added further depth to what was already an impressive release.

Craig G – “The Fragile Ego” (Soulspazm) – Juice Crew legend Craig G put us all on the therapist’s couch with this thematic release revolving around the human psyche. In today’s social media-driven era of instant gratification and the constant desire people have for attention, the Queensbridge-raised emcee took a step back to look at how our relationship with our ego can impact mental health and have real life consequences. Compelling stuff.

Oddisee – “Odd Cure” (Oddisee.BandCamp.Com) – In mid-July, inspired by the shared pandemic experience being endured globally and heightened social tensions in America, DMV favourite Oddisee dropped this life-affirming EP which dealt with the realities of the situation, with some moments of light relief sprinkled throughout. Leaning heavily on live instrumentation, which gave the EP a warm, soulful feel, this release may not have solved all the problems people were facing, but it did provide a welcome distraction from the madness.

D.C. Cortez & Drew Dave – “Stoop Stories” (DrewDaveMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Emcee / producer duo D.C. Cortez and Drew Dave stopped to take a look around in order to craft this observational, concept-based project inspired by everyday life in America’s capital city. Dealing with issues such as systemic racism, gentrification, education, unemployment, family and friendships, Cortez tackled potentially difficult subject matter in an engaging, conversational manner, complimented by Drew Dave’s full-bodied beats.

Conway The Machine – “From King To A GOD” (WhoIsConway.Com) – The third 2020 project from The Machine found the Buffalo emcee balancing the code of the streets with the politics of the rap game, as Conway acknowledged the pain and loss he still experiences due to his connections with hood life, whilst dealing with new pressures and issues associated with his rising industry reputation. Perhaps Conway’s most revealing release to date, fittingly original production from the likes of Daringer, Beat Butcha and DJ Premier really allowed his verses to resonate.

Rashid Hadee – “6 Packs & Cognac” (RashidHadee.Com) – The Chicago artist delivered lyrics with substance throughout this dope six-track EP, featuring production from Kenny Keys, Nottz, 5ifth Element and Hadee himself. Offering thoughts on the realities of life as a Black male in the Windy City, Rashid addressed issues such as police brutality, white privilege and mental health, with the finished product providing heads with a poignant listening experience.

MidaZ The Beast – “Where The Sidewalk Ends” (MidaZTheBeast.BandCamp.Com) – Orlando’s MidaZ teamed-up with producer Delle Digga to craft this collection of short-but-effective tracks which played like sonic chapters in an engrossing musical book. Needing to be heard in its entirety to be fully appreciated, the relationship here between the Florida-based emcee’s detailed verses and Digga’s subtle, sample-based tracks was nothing less than exquisite.

Phoenix Da Icefire x The Strange Neighbour – “Cinematic” (RevorgRecords.BandCamp.Com) – A clever album, this film-influenced collaboration between London’s Phoenix Da Icefire and producer Strange Neighbour offered plenty of high-definition, action-packed beats and rhymes, drawing listeners in with gripping lyrical narratives and a dramatic, well-crafted score. Pass the popcorn!

Tesla’s Ghost – “Strange Heirlooms” (TeslasGhost.BandCamp.Com) – A true lyrical craftsman, Triple Darkness emcee Tesla’s Ghost has an incredible talent for penning verses that combine raw street rhetoric with striking gothic-like imagery, leading listeners into a captivating creative space somewhere between reality and fiction. Production from the likes of Evil Ed, Karnate and The Historian provided the Ghost with some fittingly moody and eerie sonic backdrops. Play this only at night.

Sleep Sinatra – “No Anthems” (SleepSinatra1.BandCamp.Com) – When you’re an emcee who constructs lyrics that are as intricate and layered as those penned by Sleep Sinatra, you have to choose your beats carefully. On this release, the Nebraska-based artist found ideal musical allies in the form of production duo Parish & Bird, whose brand of understated mellow madness gave the rhymes here plenty of room to breathe, with Sinatra’s expert wordplay floating over hypnotic soundscapes.

Willie Waze – “Avant Scarred” (WillieWaze.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia-based emcee Willie Waze used the events of 2020 as inspiration for this honest, hard-hitting release, with production from the likes of DreamLife Beats, Kount Fif and Jewels Polaar bolstering the talented wordsmith’s striking bars. Acting almost as an audio diary, Waze did a great job here of expressing his thoughts, feelings and experiences during these undeniably turbulent times.

Ransom & Nicholas Craven – “Director’s Cut: Scene Two” (Presidential / Momentum) – Jersey City emcee Ransom definitely left his mark on 2020, releasing a trilogy of “Director’s Cut” projects with Canada’s Nicholas Craven behind the boards that effectively showcased his formidable rhyme skills. To be fair, any of the pair’s releases could have filled a slot on this list, but there was something about the “Scene Two” EP that stood-out to me in particular. Craven’s soulful-yet-melancholy production really brought the emotion out of Ransom’s hard-knock life lyricism on this one.

Elzhi – “Seven Times Down Eight Times Up” (FBDistribution.BandCamp.Com) – Former Slum Village member Elzhi’s first full-length release since 2016 was a deep dive into the Detroit representative’s mind-state, produced entirely by JR Swiftz. Encouraging persistence and resilience in all areas of life, not one word was wasted here, as Elzhi rhymed with a clear purpose, further cementing his status as one of the rap game’s most talented artists.

Oliver Sudden – “Sudden Impact” (RevorgRecords.BandCamp.Com) – This self-produced full-length from the Cronx Don Oliver Sudden was full of South London swagger, soulful loops and sharp wit. Taking time to look back on his career so far, whilst also looking towards what is still to be achieved, this album felt like the work of an artist taking stock of their position in life before embarking on the next chapter of their journey. Quality beats and rhymes.

Radio B – “All ARt AiN’t PreTTy” (KillTheDreamer.Com) – How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That was the question posed at the beginning of this album from Richmond, Virginia’s Radio B. The content of the project, however,  made it very clear what the talented emcee’s answer to that particular query was.  Released during the summer, following the tragic murder of George Floyd and with protests sweeping across American cities, Radio B used this album to drop social commentary, encourage Black pride and inspire independent thought. Powerful.

Magno Garcia x Chairman Chow – “Ba-Loo-S” (ChairmanChow.BandCamp.Com) – A great collaboration between two gifted Boston individuals, Magno Garcia’s contemplative, street-smart rhymes found a perfect match here in the boom-bap-influenced, boundary-pushing production of Chairman Chow. The pair definitely proved themselves to be a good combination throughout this release, increasing hopes that they’ll be working together again in the future.

Athletic Mic League – “Playground Legends Vol. 1” (AthleticMicleague.BandCamp.Com) – Originally hailing from Michigan but with members now scattered across the US, the Athletic Mic League crew (responsible for such underground favourites as 2002’s “Sweats And Kicks”) reunited for this quality seven-track EP, with the likes of Buff1, 14KT and DJ Haircut (aka Mayer Hawthorne) proving that the group’s chemistry and bond were both as strong as ever.

Part Five (the final instalment) coming soon.

Playground Legends Vol. 1 EP Stream – Athletic Mic League

Originally hailing from Michigan but with members now scattered across the US, the Athletic Mic League crew (responsible for such underground favourites as 2002’s “Sweats And Kicks”) have reunited for this quality seven-track EP, with the likes of Buff1, 14KT and DJ Haircut (aka Mayer Hawthorne) proving that the group’s chemistry and bond are both as strong as ever.


Freedom Is Album Stream – Jamall Bufford & Kensaye

freedom is cover

Veteran Michigan emcee and Black Opera member Jamall Bufford employs the eclectic production skills of London’s Kensaye for his latest solo effort, with the former Athletic Mic League lyricist tackling a variety of topics over a boundary-pushing selection of soul-stirring soundscapes.

New Joint – 14KT

14KT – “Five & Ten” (Mello Music Group / 2013)

Taken from the Athletic Mic League member’s new album “Nickel & Dimed”.

New Joint – 14KT / Tony Ozier

14KT ft. Tony Ozier – “Width” (Mello Music Group / 2012)

Soothing cut from the Michigan-based producer’s recent project “A Friendly Game Of KT”.

An Inside Look – 14KT

Interview with Athletic Mic League member 14KT about his musical inspirations, repping the Michigan scene and winning his Red Bull Producer Battle title.

New Joint – Magestik Legend

Magestik Legend – “Scream” (Subterraneous / 2010)

Fan-made video for a leaked track from the Athletic Mic League affiliate’s forthcoming album “The Great Escape”.

New Joint – 14KT

14KT – “The Inside” (A-Side Worldwide / 2010)

Taken from the album “The Golden Hour”.

New Jack Kings Album Download – New Jack Kings

“Two unsung heroes from two of Michigan’s most influential crews (T. Calmese of of the Subterraneous Crew  and Vaughan T. of Athletic Mic League) combine forces to author a coming of age story inspired by the infamous era of high top fades, eye brow parts, and house parties. The album revolves around life, love, women and fashion as a salute to artists such as Teddy Riley, Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson, New Edition and Kid n Play who made songs that everyone could relate to.”

Download here.

Travel Jam (Part One) – Buff1

Michigan’s Buff1 drops the first of his video blogs documenting his trip to perform in Australia.

Speakerboxin’ – Buff1

Michigan’s Buff1 performing his single “Beat The Speakers Up” in Los Angeles at the release party for his new album “There’s Only One”.

Buff1 Interview (Originally Posted On StreetCred.Com Aug 13th 2008)

Having spent the late 90s perfecting his craft as a member of underground Michigan crew Athletic Mic League, Ann Arbor’s Buff1 is nowhere near being the newcomer some of today’s current Hip-Hop fans may view him as. Already proving himself to be a skilled lyricist on AML releases such as the well-received 2002 album “Sweats & Kicks”, Buff took center-stage last year with his debut solo project “Pure”, an apt title for an album if ever there was one.

Combining a deep-rooted love of Hip-Hop culture with a passion for cutting-edge sounds, “Pure” found Buff stepping beyond the strength-in-numbers comfort zone offered to him by Athletic Mic League. Using the album as a platform through which to introduce himself to a wider fan base, the forthright MC added his own worthwhile chapter to the Detroit area’s rich rap heritage, which, of course, includes such heavyweights as Eminem and the late J Dilla, with current local favorites like Guilty Simpson and Black Milk also playing their part in helping to shape the next generation of Motor City music.

Now returning with his recently released sophomore set “There’s Only One”, Buff is hoping to take his unique sound to the masses one listener at a time. Under no illusions about the realities of the rap industry, but prepared to grind hard to reach his goals, Buff offers a creative breath of fresh air in an increasingly predictable Hip-Hop scene. Meet a true leader of the new school.

Ryan Proctor: What lessons did you take away from your time as a member of Athletic Mic League?

Buff1: I definitely learnt the importance of having patience. Just being a young MC and being hungry, thinking you’re better than everybody else and wondering why you’re not always getting the shine you think you deserve, I definitely had to learn to be patient. Being in a group also taught me a lot about teamwork. You definitely have to compromise sometimes and you can’t always be on every song you want to be on. You might have an idea about a particular track, someone else in the group might have a different idea about the same track, and sometimes it’ll go your way, sometimes it’ll go the other way. So learning to be patient and the ability to work well with other people are definitely the two biggest lessons I took from being a member of Athletic Mic League. But that said, we all still get along and the crew are just as much a part of my new album as they were the last one.

RP: So what prompted you to go solo?

B: Actually, it was the group’s idea for me to go solo. They came to me and were like, ‘It’s tough focusing on this music thing now we’re getting older and have more responsibilities.’ Some of the guys have children now and other members had to do the regular nine-to-five thing to pay the bills. We weren’t a bunch of kids anymore just making music for the fun of it in the basement. So the group decided to fallback and focus on putting me out as a solo artist. I was reluctant at first, but I’m glad I did it and I’m proud that the group asked me to be the one to step out on their own. There’s a little bit of pressure for me to live up to what we did as a group in the past, but for the most part it’s just pressure that I put on myself because I want to make good quality Hip-Hop music. I’m always trying to grow as an artist and keep the music moving forward, so that’s the main pressure.

RP: How would you describe the Detroit Hip-Hop scene?

B: When the underground Detroit scene as we know it now was first blossoming, Athletic Mic League wasn’t really a part of that. For one, we lived about thirty minutes away in Ann Arbor, and secondly, we just weren’t old enough at that point in time to be able to go to Detroit to see what was happening. We just had to hear through the grapevine about stuff like The Hip-Hop Shop and The Shelter. So we had to create our own scene in Ann Arbor and that’s eventually what we ended up doing. But once we’d done that it was inevitable that we’d venture into the Detroit scene. So around 2001 / 2002 is when we first started doing shows in Detroit and getting recognition out there. It was tough at first because not a lot of people knew us, but once they saw we made good music it’s been all love ever since. It’s like there’s a big family in Detroit now when it comes to music because everyone’s supporting each other and working together. I think that the state of Michigan is producing the best Hip-Hop music out there right now.

RP: How would you say the new album “There’s Only One” differs from last year’s “Pure” project?

B: I would say it’s more aggressive than “Pure”. The Lab Techs brought a bigger sound to their production this time around. I wouldn’t say it’s a step away from what people heard on “Pure” because a few of the tracks on the new album were originally recorded for that project. So it’s not like we’ve tried to create a whole new sound or take my music in a completely different direction, but this album definitely feels bigger than “Pure”. I really think that when it comes to production and lyrics, the Detroit scene is leading the way right now, and it’s definitely an honor to be a part of that. Nowadays, so many people are talking about taking the music back to the old-school, but whilst I think it’s definitely important to pay homage to that era, I think we should be concentrating on moving the music and the culture forward, and that’s something I’ve tried to do with the new album.

RP: Speaking of paying homage, the album cut “Classic Rap” is a throwback track with a difference – instead of calling out artists’ stage names you refer to them only by their real names. Why did you decide to do that?

B: Everyone knows that artists paying homage on record to those who’ve come before them has been done many times. I also wanted to show respect to those artists I looked up to coming up, but I wanted to do it in a different way. I had the first couple of lines to the song in my head for a couple of weeks and I didn’t really know what I was gonna do with them, then I heard the beat and it inspired me to keep writing the song and I decided I was going to go all the way with the concept of using artist’s real names rather than the names they record under. If people hear the song and don’t recognize the names I’m mentioning then I hope they’ll jump on their computers and do some research because if you really love this music then studying the history behind it is something you should be prepared to do.

RP: The album’s lead single “Beat The Speakers Up” is a potentially radio-ready record that actually criticizes the same playlist system it could possibly find itself a part of. Isn’t that something of a risk on your part?

B: Yeah, definitely. It’s tough as far as the radio is concerned, especially here in Detroit, because there’s only a handful of people who support local music on Detroit radio. I don’t think that’s right and it just doesn’t make sense to me that you can listen to the radio for a short period and hear the same song three or four times. The purpose of “Beat The Speakers Up” was to highlight that issue. I like to go to the club and I enjoy club music, so I wanted the song to be catchy, but I also wanted to put a twist on it with the lyrics. I wanted the track to be able to be played in the club and on the radio, but at the same time, I wanted to challenge people and make them think about the music that they’re hearing.

RP: Another album track that really stands out from a lyrical point of view is “Rain Dance”. What was the inspiration behind that?

B: That came from being in the club and seeing everybody doing something like the Soulja Boy dance. I was watching all these people reacting the exact same way to certain records, whether it was by doing a dance or some call-and-response routine, and I started thinking, ‘What if everyone could be on the same page and reacting in unison to other things in life that matter a bit more than a dance or the fashions people follow?’ I mean, what if we were all working together to help raise the next generation of kids or cleaning up our communities? That’s where the idea for “Rain Dance” came from. Obviously, I wanted people to be able to groove to it, but I also wanted the song to capture the feel of a large group of people all moving and pushing in the same direction for something that matters, like the marches that used to happen back in the day with Martin Luther King.

RP: Do you still feel that Hip-Hop has the ability to instigate positive change amongst its listeners? Or do you think we’re at a point now where most people aren’t even looking towards Hip-Hop for any sort of lyrical substance, they just want the simple, redundant music that’s largely become the norm on a mainstream level today?

B: To answer the first part of your question, I definitely think the potential is still there in the music to make a change. But really, in the current musical climate we’re in right now, I think it will take someone unexpected to do something in that vein for it to really make a difference. I mean, I’m doing my part, but I’ve only got so many listeners right now. I’m not really on TV or on the radio, so I can only reach so many people. Obviously the internet helps a great deal, but even still, I’m not the coolest cat on these blogs right now (laughs). But if someone like a 50 Cent was to try something different and start addressing certain issues in his music, I know it would have a real impact on his listeners because so many people really follow what he does. But that’s the whole conundrum in Hip-Hop right now because I don’t really know what people want, but I still make music because I do feel that I can have a positive effect on people and I feel that there is room for me in today’s Hip-Hop landscape. I don’t know if the masses will ever get sick of only being offered a particular representation of mainstream Hip-Hop music, but I do feel that artists like myself could get to that same level of exposure if people within the industry and the media were willing to push the envelope in order to help us get there. It’s tough because it seems like nowadays we’re pitted against each other in Hip-Hop, like you have to choose a side. But I’m trying to do my part to balance it out.

Ryan Proctor

Buff1 – “Beat The Speakers Up” ( A-Side Worldwide / 2008 )

New Joint – Buff1

Buff1- “Beat The Speakers Up” ( A-Side Worldwide / 2008 )

New single from the former Athletic Mic League member’s forthcoming album “There Is Only One”.