Brother Ali – “Greatest That Never Lived” (@BrotherAli / 2020)
Forthright flows from last year’s Evidence-produced album “Secrets & Escapes”.
Brother Ali – “Greatest That Never Lived” (@BrotherAli / 2020)
Forthright flows from last year’s Evidence-produced album “Secrets & Escapes”.
Check Part One here.
Gang Starr – “One Of The Best Yet” (Gang Starr Enterprises) – The trials and tribulations DJ Premier experienced in order to complete this album were well documented in 2019, but the hardcore composer’s determination definitely paid off, with this celebration of the late, great Guru largely succeeding where so many posthumous rap albums have failed. Nothing about this project appeared forced or rushed, with Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal sounding as timeless as ever and Preemo delivering quality boom-bap throughout. Input from crew affiliates such as Group Home, Jeru The Damaja, Big Shug, Freddie Foxxx and M.O.P. made “One Of The Best Yet” a true family affair. RIP Guru! Gang Starr forever!
Your Old Droog – “It Wasn’t Even Close” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – The first of three full-length projects released by the prolific NY emcee during 2019, Droog’s natural rhyming ability shone through here, with the Rotten Apple lyricist making the writing and delivery of intricate verses appear easy, backed by production from the likes of Sadhugold, Daringer and Tha God Fahim (also props to the UK’s Emily Catherine for the album’s ill cover art).
A.J. Munson – “Cigarettes & Coffee” (AJMunson.BandCamp.Com) – Boasting an impressive list of guest artists. including Tha God Fahim, Mach-Hommy, Recognize Ali and more, West Coast producer A.J. Munson dropped this quality collection of true-school flavour geared towards the ears of those listeners who’re passionate about sample-based Hip-Hop.
JayARE – “Youth Culture Power” (JayARE.BandCamp.Com) – True-school veterans J Rawls and John Robinson delivered some edutainment in the truest sense of the term, with this concept-based album being released in conjunction with the pair’s book, highlighting the potential benefits of utilising Hip-Hop in the classroom to engage students and improve teacher / pupil relationships. Each one, teach one.
NDEFRU & Ohbliv – “Foreign Local” (NDEFRU.BandCamp.Com) – Further proof that Virginia is a strong breeding ground for dope Hip-Hop, this EP from emcee NDEFRU and producer Ohbliv was the sound of two individuals clearly on the same page musically, resulting in a thoroughly cohesive project packed with laidback-yet-confident wordplay and mellow, sample-heavy soundscapes.
Sean Peng & Illinformed – “Trips To The Medicine Cabinet” (LostScrollRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Part entertainment, part therapy session, this project from Creatures Of Habit members Sean Peng and Illinformed was a lesson in creative chemistry, demonstrating the level of quality that can be achieved from the good old-fashioned one emcee / one producer combo. The Bristol emcee’s sometimes cryptic, always engaging rhymes were perfectly complimented by Illinformed’s solid, multi-layered style of production. Get your prescription renewed here.
Him Lo & Giallo Point – “OJ Glovez” (MarQSpekt.BandCamp.Com) – Having released two group projects in 2018, Him Lo and Clever 1 of Phillys Buze Bruvaz both decided to step out solo in 2019, with this EP being the first of four releases in total to come from the Illadelph duo throughout the year. Produced entirely by the UK’s Giallo Point, this was more of the punch-you-in-the-face-rap that Buze fans have come to expect, mixing hardcore threats and politically incorrect punchlines with inappropriate humour and old-school bravado.
DIE-REK – “The Dying Ones” (Illect.BandCamp.Com) – Canada’s DIE-REK channelled his spirituality throughout this self-produced collection of inspiring, life-affirming anthems, crafted to motivate and encourage anyone out there struggling to swim against the tide of today’s turbulent times. The Toronto emcee’s sincere, commanding flow added further weight to the sentiments and thoughts expressed here, with the end product leaving the listener feeling as if their Hip-Hop soul had been given a thorough musical massage.
C.A.M – “Just Breathe” (CAMOfficial.BandCamp.Com) – Following up his previous EP releases (2017’s “The First Move” and 2018’s “Persian Rugs”), talented London-based emcee C.A.M joined forces with Bristol music man BigLikeBaz for this five-track release, a well-crafted blend of head-nodding beats, echoing horns, smooth keys and a positive lyrical outlook.
Cor Stidak – “Dry Tears” (CorStidak.BandCamp) – Virginia-based emcee Cor Stidak showcased his undeniable microphone mastery throughout this largely self-produced EP, delivering competition-crushing verses, robust flows and poignant lyrical gems over a quality selection of beats.
The Jerzadelphians – “Era Of The Get Back” (JDelph.BandCamp.Com) – New Jersey emcee P-Rawb and Philly producer Shane Great demonstrated what a true musical partnership should sound like on this impressive release, channelling the spirit of the golden-era through their beats and rhymes whilst remaining fresh and in the moment.
Benny The Butcher – “The Plugs I Met” (GriseldaxFR.Com) – 2019 was definitely the year of the Griselda family, with Benny, Conway and Westside Gunn all releasing potent solo projects, along with their long-awaited group effort for Shady Records. This EP picked up where The Butcher left off on 2018’s classic “Tana Talk 3”, spitting vividly descriptive street life rhymes over raw, drama-laced production from Daringer, Beat Butcha, DJ Shay and The Alchemist.
Train Robbers – “Expect Delays” (RobbingTrains.BandCamp.Com) – UK duo Bucket Hat Jack and Casa Blanca ensured no listeners were left waiting on the platform as they were right on time with this lively EP, a release full of mischievous, well-crafted verses and solid, chunky production. The project bubbled with the energy of two individuals whose main motivation for making music appeared to be the sheer joy and satisfaction of simply creating dope material. Mind the gap!
Skyzoo & Pete Rock – “Retropolitan” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Skyzoo is one of the greatest emcees of his generation. The Brooklyn artist’s attention to detail and ability to draw listeners into his world through the art of rhyme elevates him above many of his peers. No matter what walk of life you come from, there is something in a Skyzoo verse that you will be able to relate to. Backed here by the soul brother beats of the legendary Pete Rock, Skyzoo delivered a full-length dedication to NYC, adding to his already impeccable catalogue of album projects.
Smif-N-Wessun – “The All” (DuckDownMusic.Com) – Bucktown’s Tek and Steele succeeded in releasing an album that was rooted in their mid-90s Timberlands-and-hoodies flavour whilst still reflecting the personal growth and present day perspectives of the Duck Down duo. Production from Jamla’s 9th Wonder-led Soul Council squad provided the project’s melodic thump, effectively complimenting the BK pair’s tag-team rude-bwoy rhymes, with the end result respectfully adding on to Smif-N-Wessun’s twenty-five year legacy.
Ketch P – “Gift Certificate” (KetchP.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran Detroit emcee and Street Justice member Ketch P returned from a six-year hiatus to deliver this free project, which was an extremely generous gesture considering the high quality of the material included here. Showcasing a strong pen game and an authoritative flow, the Middle Finger Music affiliate got busy over a strong selection of soulful boom-bap from the likes of Simple Cuts, Foul Mouth and Chanes.
Verb T & Pitch 92 – “A Question Of Time” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – Following up their quality 2017 collabo album “Good Evening”, London lyricist Verb T and Manchester music man Pitch 92 joined forces once again for this equally dope project. An accomplished writer and one of UK Hip-Hop’s most consistent artists, Verb T once again successfully allowed the listener to see the world through his eyes, with the rapper’s introspective rhymes being complimented by the talented Pitch’s dynamic production.
Flashius Clayton & DirtyDiggs – “Fronto Fever Dreams” (FlashiusClayton.BandCamp.Com) – This heavily-anticipated project from Knuckle Sandwich Deli representative Flashius Clayton definitely didn’t disappoint, with the Cali emcee dropping razor-sharp rhymes over the dusty-fingered, sample-based soundscapes of DirtyDiggs, joined by the likes of Planet Asia, Lisaan’dro and AA Rashid – guard ya grill!
Brother Ali – “Secrets & Escapes” (BrotherAli.BandCamp.Com) – The mighty Brother Ali made a welcome return with this Evidence-produced collection of masterful, worldly lyricism and stripped-down beats, recorded over a few spontaneous sessions in a California garage studio during visits the Minneapolis emcee made to see the Dilated Peoples member.
Sparkplug – “The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth” (ColdCaseRecords.BandCamp.Com) – This full-length effort from Leeds-based emcee Sparkplug offered listeners an honest look into the life of an individual navigating his way through the everyday struggles of the human experience, embracing the small wins, owning personal shortcomings, dealing with disappointment and facing reality head-on with a self-deprecating sense of humour and a talent for sharp punchlines.
Part Three coming soon.
The mighty Brother Ali makes a welcome return with this Evidence-produced collection of masterful lyricism and stripped-down beats, recorded over a few spontaneous sessions in a California garage studio during visits the Minneapolis emcee made to see the Dilated Peoples member.
Brother Ali – “Sensitive” (@BrotherAli / 2018)
The always-impressive Brother Ali speaks honestly about his artistry on this brilliant new track.
So here we are again. Another year has come to an end. Time to look back over the last twelve months and give my traditional round-up of the beats and rhymes I had in heavy rotation throughout 2017.
It’s never easy putting ‘best-of’ lists together. Regardless of how many releases are included, it’s impossible to compile something like this without always feeling like you’re having to leave something out. But this year has been particularly difficult, given the sheer amount of quality Hip-Hop that has been released over the past 365 days.
In addition to the albums and EPs that actually made it into this five-part overview, there was approximately a further fifty included on my initial short-list, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
So, whilst there will no doubt be projects not featured here that some will feel should have been mentioned, those that made the cut have been selected based purely on being one of the releases I listened to (and enjoyed) the most throughout 2017.
That being said, huge props to every emcee, producer and deejay out there making music that comes from a genuine place of creativity and artistic integrity – your efforts are appreciated by Hip-Hop heads across Planet Rock.
But now, like we always do about this time….
Melanin 9 – “Old Pictures” (Red Snow Records) – A decade after the release of his debut project “High Fidelity”, Triple Darkness member Melanin 9 delivered arguably his best body of solo work to date. A personal, introspective walk through the experiences, struggles and memories of the London-based lyricist, “Old Pictures” found M9 matching his impressive verses with fittingly mellow, laidback soundscapes from producers such as Ohbliv, Wun Two and Anatomy. Timeless beats and rhymes.
O.C. – “Same Moon Same Sun: 1st Phase” (D.I.T.C. Studios) – One of the greatest emcees of all-time, Diggin’ In The Crates legend Omar Credle personified the term ‘grown man business’ on his seventh solo album, offering an assured blend of social commentary, life observations and lyrical bravado, proving that truly talented artists never lose their importance or relevance in the rap game.
Trauma 74 – “The God Given Image” (Evil Twin Records) – The result of a life-long passion for Hip-Hop that began in the early-80s, this debut album from UK emcee Trauma 74 was clearly a labour of love. Grounded in true-school traditions and creative integrity, “The God Given Image” was packed with accomplished wordplay and soulful boom-bap beats, resulting in a project that any fellow Hip-Hop junkie could appreciate and relate to.
Strizzy Strauss – “The Art Of Summarising Life” (IAmStrizzyStrauss.BandCamp.Com) – The upcoming Leicester-based lyricist definitely made his mark on the homegrown scene in 2017 with this impressive EP, full of personal, heartfelt verses delivered with street-savvy sensitivity and a sharp social awareness. Honest, life-affirming and inspirational, “The Art Of…” showcased the voice of an artist clearly keen to inject his music with substance as well as style.
Milano Constantine – “The Way We Were” (Different Worlds Music Group) – A tribute to the New York of yesteryear, Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano utilised the top-notch, drum-heavy production of DJ Skizz and Marco Polo to reminisce about old-school fashion trends, graffiti-covered subway trains and wild nights at the Latin Quarter throughout this release, drawing on both the youthful energy of 80s Hip-Hop and the volatile Rotten Apple environment of the time for inspiration.
Roc Marciano – “Rosebudd’s Revenge” (Marci Enterprises) – The Strong Island representative gave the game yet another back-handed pimp slap in the form of his fourth solo album, a cool-but-deadly collection of cold-blooded, elegantly-delivered rawness, evoking images of 70s Blaxploitation flicks and golden-era NY Hip-Hop in equal measures. Fresh, fly and bold.
Brother Ali – “All The Beauty In This Life” (Rhymesayers Entertainment) – Long-established as one of Hip-Hop’s most inspiring and warm-hearted artists, Minneapolis’s Brother Ali dropped a truly fitting Ant-produced soundtrack to today’s troubled times, drawing inspiration from both personal situations and global issues as he encouraged listeners to find meaning and purpose in their lives, despite the struggles and hardships we each face on a daily basis.
Funky DL – “Marauding At Midnight” (Washington Classics) – Multi-talented UK artist Funky DL paid tribute to the musical genius of A Tribe Called Quest with this inspired instrumental remake of the Queens crew’s classic 1993 album “Midnight Marauders”. Achieving the difficult balance of staying faithful to ATCQ’s jazzy, low-end aesthetic whilst allowing his own musical personality to shine through, DL proved himself to be both a student and master of the production game throughout this ambitious release.
Saipher Soze – “Godbody” (SaipherSoze.BandCamp.Com) – Rough, rugged and raw flavour from the Toronto emcee packed with razor-sharp rhymes and quality beats, this Finn-produced album found Soze cementing his position as one of the most skilled microphone fiends to have emerged from the Canadian underground in recent times.
Dillon & Diamond – “Black Tie Affair” (FullPlate.BandCamp.Com) – Successful in their promise of crafting “sophisticated rap music”, Atlanta-based emcee Dillon and Diggin’ In The Crates giant Diamond D mixed the rough with the smooth on this five-track EP, resulting in a polished listening experience which still bore the musical marks of dusty fingerprints.
Sons Phonetic – “Deloreans” (SonsPhonetic.BandCamp.Com) – Atmospheric, captivating beats and rhymes from Ireland’s mighty Sons Phonetic crew, with “Deloreans” proving once again why the multi-faceted collective can lay claim to being one of the most consistent groups in the game.
The Almighty $amhill – “The Epilogue” (LowTechRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Bronx native $amhill delivered more of his unapologetically raw street-smart lyricism on this quality EP release, a potent dose of gritty NY flavour direct from the birthplace of Hip-Hop produced largely by the talented Preservation.
Es – “We Are Only Getting Older” (EsMuzik.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian lyricist Es followed up his brilliant 2014 album “Aspire To Inspire” with the equally impressive “We Are Only Getting Older”, a concept-based project dealing with Hip-Hop’s generation gap, featuring production from IV The Polymath, Rel McCoy, Kelpi Nine and more.
Eloh Kush & BudaMunk – “Fly Emperor” (AnglezInc.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the melodic, drum-heavy production of Japan’s BudaMunk, New Jersey’s Eloh Kush mixed streetwise attitude with vividly creative wordplay on this impressive long-player.
The Cornel West Theory – “The T.A.B.L.E. Too” (TheCornelWestTheory.BandCamp.Com) – Washington D.C.’s Cornel West Theory continued to go against the grain on their fifth album release, a collection of radio-unfriendly soundscapes and challenging, thought-provoking lyrics.
Creestal – “Differences” (MunchieRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Talented French producer Creestal (of CM Jones fame) dug deep in his crates for this sample-driven collection of dusty flavours featuring Roc Marciano, Conway, Torae and more. Blending together raw drums, obscure loops and random film dialogue, “Differences” was a masterclass in sonic creativity.
J Scienide – “The Actual Heat” (JSciende-OfficialCrateMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Washington D.C.-based artist J Scienide delivered his highly-anticipated album “The Actual Heat”, an accomplished collection of sample-based beats and intelligent, witty wordplay, with the likes of Grap Luva, Kev Brown and Nolan The Ninja making notable appearances on what was easily one of 2017’s best releases.
Da Buze Bruvaz – “Adebisi Hat” (Grilchy Party) – Run and DMC. Rae and Ghost. Billy Danze and Lil Fame. The key to a great rap duo is chemistry. Philly’s Him-Lo and Clever One can add themselves to that list. The Lo-Life-affiliated pair have dropped plenty of worthwhile material over the years, but this full-length effort upped the hardcore ante, with the true-school twosome verbally bullying top-drawer production with their trademark brand of boisterous, politically-incorrect punchlines.
MC Eiht – “Which Way Iz West” (Blue Stamp Music / Year Round Records) – Approximately two years after West Coast legend MC Eiht announced his next album would be backed by DJ Premier, the project finally saw a release. Thankfully, “Which Way…” lived up to expectations. With Eiht solidifying his OG status throughout, this long-player deservedly found itself being heralded as a standout dose of Cali attitude. Compton’s still in the house. Geeah!
Children Of Zeus – “The Story So Far…” (First Word Records) – Manchester’s Konny Kon and Tyler Daley have been blessing a cult following with sonic gems for some time now, but 2017 was the year the talented pair’s unique brand of soulful, Hip-Hop-influenced music started to reach a wider audience and receive the acclaim it deserved. This compilation pulled together both previously-released tracks and new material from the UK duo, paving the way for the official Zeus debut album due for release in 2018.
Check Part Two here.
Brother Ali – “Never Learn” (@BrotherAli / 2017)
Honest, heartfelt lyricism from Ali’s forthcoming album “All The Beauty In This Whole Life”.
Brother Ali – “Own Light (What Hearts Are For)” (@BrotherAli / 2017)
Positive, inspirational vibrations from the veteran Minneapolis artist’s forthcoming album “All The Beauty In This Whole Life”.
Brother Ali – “Pen To Paper” (@BrotherAli / 2017)
Ant-produced track from the gifted Minneapolis emcee’s forthcoming album “All The Beauty In This Whole Life”.
Muja Messiah ft. Brother Ali & Boots Riley – “Pocket Full Of Slave Owners” (@MujaMessiah / 2014)
The Minneapolis lyricist attempts to spark your brain cells on this Mike The Martyr-produced track from his album “God Kissed It, The Devil Missed It”
R.A. The Rugged Man ft. Brother Ali & Masta Ace – “The Dangerous Three” (Nature Sounds / 2013)
Taken from the album “Legends Never Die”.
An artist who has always delivered food for thought in his music, Brother Ali delivers some emotional words about race, life and Hip-Hop in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict.
Jasiri X ft. Brother Ali – “Pillars” (WanderingWorxEnt.Com / 2013)
Produced by Rel!g!ion and taken from the Pittsburgh emcee’s album “Ascension”.
Brother Ali – “Work Everyday” (Rhymesayers Entertainment / 2013)
Motivational beats and rhymes from the talented emcee’s 2012 album “Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color”.
Public Enemy ft. Brother Ali – “Get Up Stand Up” (Enemy Records / 2013)
Produced by Gary G-Wiz and featured on PE’s new digital project “Evil Vs Heroes”.
Beneficence – “Concrete Soul” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – This veteran New Jersey emcee’s latest album boasted enough featured golden-era talent to make true-school enthusiasts think they’d woken up back in the 90s, with the likes of Lord Tariq, El Da Sensei and Da Beatminerz all making solid contributions to this impressive release. But Beneficence didn’t allow himself to become a guest on his own project, ensuring his forthright lyricism kept him centre-stage throughout.
Brother Ali – “Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color” (Rhymesayers Entertainment) – The Minneapolis-based Ali has long been one of Hip-Hop’s most interesting and inspiring emcee’s, with this fifth full-length project finding the lyricist teaming-up with Seattle producer Jake One to delve into politics, economics and spirituality, resulting in a rousing soundtrack for society’s everyman to struggle to.
Juga-Naut – “Battle Of The Bulge” (Juganaut.BandCamp.Com) – The talented UK emcee delivered some serious verbal darts on this self-produced EP which also featured fellow Nottingham wordsmith Vandal Savage, with the pair expertly wielding vivid imagery and metaphors to paint potent pictures of lyrical excellence.
Craig G – “Ramblings Of An Angry Old Man” (Soulspazm Records) – Irrespective of the actual music contained on this project, the former Juice Crew member would have still gotten props for one of the year’s best album covers. The ever-reliable Queensbridge emcee did, however, also have the beats and rhymes to add extra weight to the sentiment expressed in said artwork, with Craig executing non-stop lessons in timeless lyricism over production from the likes of Marco Polo, Jake One and Da Beatminerz.
George Fields – “From The Sticks” (GeorgeFields.BandCamp.Com) – With influences ranging from Pete Rock to D.I.T.C., this young producer from Dorset, England concocted a soulful mix of heavy drums, filtered basslines and floating horns on this instrumental release which only appeared to hint at the quality to come from Fields in the future.
Soundsci – “Formula 99” (Crate Escape Records) – Combining the transatlantic talents of UK producers Jonny Cuba (Dynamic Syncopation) and Ollie Teeba (The Herbaliser) with Stateside emcees Audessey (Mass Influence), U-George (Hemisphere) and Oxygen (Sputnik Brown), this polished underground gem was packed with quality beats, entertaining rhymes and all-round good vibes, with the group’s far-flung members clearly proving themselves to be on the same sonic page throughout.
The Doppelgangaz – “Beats For Brothels Vol. 2” (Groggy Pack Entertainment) – Fresh off the cult success of their 2011 “Lone Sharks” project, NY duo Matter Ov Fact and EP returned with this largely instrumental project, compiling a head-nodding selection of atmospheric, dusty-fingered tracks perfect for late-night strolls shrouded in one of the Ghastly Duo’s trademark black cloaks.
Murs & 9th Wonder – “The Final Adventure” (Jamla Records) – The Living Legends emcee and Little Brother producer ended their successful musical partnership on a high-note with this final release in their series of collaborative albums. Choosing the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it route, the project contained typically soulful production from 9th matched with Murs’ own unique brand of personal reflection and entertaining story-telling.
Meyhem Lauren – “Respect The Fly S**t” (L-R-G.Com) – Having spent recent years building a reputation via various mixtapes and collaborations with homie Action Bronson, 2012 will go down as the year Queens, NY’s Meyhem Lauren truly stepped into the spotlight in his own right. Recorded in a Texas hotel suite over two days during the SXSW music conference, this spontaneous Tommy Mas / Harry Fraud-produced project contained plenty of Lauren’s obligatory clothes and food references over a choice selection of samples, with the likes of Roc Marciano, Thirstin Howl and AG Da Coroner bringing new meaning to the term ‘room service’.
K.I.N.E.T.I.K. – “The Kinesis Thesis Vol. III” (Kinetik.BandCamp.Com) – A shining example of an artist who has consistently striven to perfect his craft, this latest intalment in his “Kinesis Thesis” series found London emcee K.I.N.E.T.I.K. delivering his finest creative moment to date, wrapping up his positive, thoughtful rhymes in melodic soundscapes which perfectly matched the emotional tone of his subject matter, which ranged from the plight of inner-city youth to pondering the responsibilities of fatherhood.
Timeless Truth – “Rock-It Science” (RTTNC) – Having kick-started 2012 with the brilliant “Brugal & Presidentes” EP, NY duo Solace and OPrime39 ended the year by making good on their promise to release their official debut long-player. A punchy collection of boom-bap bangers, the pair evoked images of graffiti-covered subway trains, Timberland boots and Polo gear as they travelled back-to-the-future, bridging the gap between the Rotten Apple’s Hip-Hop golden-era and the present day. Queens get the money.
Footage of Public Enemy, Schoolly D, Monie Love, Wise Intelligent, Dinco D etc. speaking at a Minneapolis press conference held for the “Hip-Hop Gods Tour” earlier this month.
Brother Ali – “Only Life I Know” (Rhymesayers Entertainment / 2012)
Taken from the forthcoming Jake One-produced album “Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color”.
Brother Ali talks about the lyrical content in the track “Won More Hit” from his forthcoming album “Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color”.
Rhymesayers artist Brother Ali explains the inspiration behind the track “Gather Round” from his heavily-anticipated album “Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color”.
Brother Ali discusses the track “Stop The Press” from his forthcoming Rhymesayers album “Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color”.