Tag Archives: Essenchill Records

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2014 (Part Five) – Verb T / PRhyme / Bronze Nazareth etc.

Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

DJ Lord Ron & Wildelux – “The Sinister Theory” (String Note Recordings) – West Coast producer Lord Ron joined forces with Bronx-born emcee Wildelux for this raw, concise lesson in quality boom-bap-driven Hip-Hop. The quality, sample-heavy beats supplied by Ron provided the perfect musical backdrop for ‘Lux’s take-no-prisoners lyrical approach, with the skilled wordsmith displaying a relentless verbal vigour as he offered his thoughts on a variety of topics. Salute!

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MKV & Concept – “Dreams & Reality” (Essenchill Records) – Chicago-born, Pittsburgh-based emcee MKV took full advantage of New Zealand producer Concept’s soulful, drum-heavy musical style on this mellow-yet-captivating EP. Sharing his hopes, regrets and personal memories throughout this release, MKV exorcised some personal demons whilst encouraging listeners to make the most out of life. Motivational true-school beats and rhymes.

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John Robinson & PVD – “Modern Vintage” (Brick Records) – A potent combination of present-day technology and old-school musical equipment, this joint effort from veteran NY emcee John Robinson and composer / producer Pat Van Dyke lived up to its title with plenty of style and creativity. Celebrating the potential music has to be timeless, organic and powerful, the pair drew inspiration from old-school Hip-Hop, jazz and soul to deliver an uplifting collection of positive vibes.

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Men Of Many Crowns – “Men Of Many Crowns” (MenOfManyCrowns.Com) – San Diego duo MoodSwingKing and W. Steele mixed razor-sharp lyricism and soul-drenched production with West Coast sensibilities on this confidently-delivered project, further proving that the artists currently ruling the mainstream don’t always deserve to wear the crown.

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The Kingdom – “No Rest In The Kingdom” (TheKingdomMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Based in North Carolina but originally from New Jersey and Pennsylvania respectively, emcee King Draft and producer Jerm Scorcese dropped one of the most accomplished debuts of the year with “No Rest In The Kingdom”. Lyrical food-for-thought and melodic soundscapes meshed together perfectly, taking the listener on a unique and intoxicating sonic journey. Plus, anyone who samples Art Of Noise’s 80s classic “Moments In Love” always gets props over here.

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PRhyme – “PRhyme” (PRhyme Records) – Based around samples from the catalogue of LA music man Adrian Younge, this collabo album from the mighty DJ Premier and Detroit mic vet Royce Da 5’9 could only have resulted in quality music. Packing each track with endless punchlines and clever references, Royce provided numerous rewind-worthy verses throughout the project, whilst Primo worked magic behind the boards and gave his traditional boom-bap sound an interesting twist.

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Verb T – “Medicated Dreams” (High Focus Records) – Since his debut on wax back in the early 2000s, UK emcee Verb T has consistently stood out from the crowd with his distinctive delivery, dry wit and unique worldview. On this sonic prescription, the Four Owls member administered multi-layered verses packed with self-reflection over down-tempo, self-produced beats. A musical remedy to the stresses of everyday life.

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Your Old Droog – “Your Old Droog” (Droog Recordings) – Once the dust had settled and (almost) everyone had gotten over the Nas / mistaken identity episode, one thing remained crystal clear – this upcoming NY emcee could really rap. This compilation-style project pulled together previously-heard material and unreleased gems, with Droog effortlessly rhyming circles around the competition. Proving himself to be a genuine talent in his own right, Your Old Droog definitely wasn’t about to spend a second longer standing in someone else’s shadow. Even if that someone was the dude who recorded “Illmatic”.

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Planet Asia & TzariZM – “Via Satellite” (Doxside Music Group / Gold Chain Music) – Broadcasting live and direct from Planet Rock, Florida-based producer TzariZM blessed underground West Coast icon Planet Asia with a heavy-duty selection of speaker-rattling beats for this collaborative effort. A weighty combination of skillful lyricism and uncompromising production, “Via Satellite” was received loud and clear by Hip-Hop heads wherever they resided. Do not attempt to adjust your dial.

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Rozewood – “The Beautiful Type” (Working Class Music) – Like a Hip-Hop soundtrack to the best blaxploitation flick never made, “The Beautiful Type” found NY-raised lyricist Rozewood delivering a barrage of cool-but-deadly street knowledge wrapped up in intricate wordplay, all cushioned by the plush soundscapes of Atlanta producer Illastrate. With regular collaborators Hus Kingpin and SmooVth on-hand to offer support, Rozewood lived up to the promise displayed on prior releases such as “The Ghost Of Radio Raheem” and singled himself out as a talent to watch in 2015.

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Chairman Maf – “Paint” (ChairmanMaf.BandCamp.Com) – Following up 2013’s brilliant “1976” project, UK producer Chairman Maf crafted another stimulating collection of instrumental flavours for this latest sonic endeavor. Combining his ear for both melody and quality samples with a clear passion for dusty drums, the Sheffield sound man splashed a variety of sonic moods over his canvas throughout “Paint”, allowing the listener to conjure up a number of pictures in their minds-eye as the album unfolded.

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Omniscence – “The God Hour” (Gentleman’s Relief Records) – With his shelved 1996 debut “The Raw Factor” finally being given a welcome release in 2014, North Carolina punchline-king Omniscence proved he still deserved the title of the Funky One-Liner by coming back like he forgot something with this EP of new material. Produced entirely by Australia’s Debonair P, “The God Hour” featured the talented lyricist shooting the gift over quality, head-nodding beats. True indeed!

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Kev Brown & Hassaan Mackey – “That Grit” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – 2014 was definitely a busy year for Kev Brown, with the DMV producer-on-the-mic dropping a second project on the Ill Adrenaline imprint, this time offering Rochester, NY lyricist Hassaan Mackey his trademark brand of boom-bap. With the likes of yU, Kenn Starr and Grap Luva all delivering noteworthy appearances on the mic device, “That Grit” had the organic feel of a back-in-the-day freestyle tape, with both Mackey’s witty wordplay and Brown’s sublime beats remaining on-point at all times.

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A.Y.E. – “90 Now” (Makebelieve Records) – The idea of a young twenty-something artist paying homage to a decade that had ended before he’d hit his teens may not sit particularly well with some 90s purists. But when that idea is executed as well as it was on this release from Canadian emcee A.Y.E., it’s hard to deny the flavour. Effectively capturing the traditional mid-90s East Coast sound, complete with heavy drums, echoing horns and hypnotic keys, this self-produced project also found A.Y.E. coming correct with the rhymes, whether referencing golden-era artists or commenting on the world around him. Old-school, new-school, no school rules.

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Bronze Nazareth – “Thought For Food Vol. 3” (Black Day In July Productions) – Detroit-based Wu-Tang affiliate Nazareth offered listeners his usual mix of the raw and the righteous with this latest hardcore onslaught. Blending grimy beats and classic soul samples, the Motor City producer-on-the-mic created music that sounded like sun-rays shining through inner-city alleyways.

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SilentSomeone – “I Have Company” (Peasant Podium Music) – Bronx producer SilentSomeone demonstrated his talent behind the boards to great effect on this quality collection of underground jewels. Featuring the likes of Sadat X, John Robinson and Tame One, “I Have Company” ranged from boisterous big-beat brilliance to the hypnotically haunting, with SilentSomeone putting his own sonic stamp on each track, lifting the album head-and-shoulders above similar producer-based projects.

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Swamp Thing – “Outer Limits” (URBNET) – Canadian rap astronauts Timbuktu, Chokeules and Savilion attempted to travel at magnificent speeds around the universe on “Outer Limits”, joined by Ghettosocks, D-Sisive and Wordburglar. A rocket-fuelled blast of sci-fi-inspired beats and rhymes, this long-player fully engaged the imagination thanks to the crew’s intriguing, out-of-this-world rhymes. Space is the place!

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The 1978ers – “People Of Today” (Mello Music Group) – In a modern-day world of social detachment, rampant consumerism and media manipulation, the eclectic music found on this album from DMV duo yU and Slimkat encouraged listeners to retain a positive sense of self, overcome obstacles and reach for their goals. Laced with positive sentiments grounded in personal experience and intelligent thinking rather than simple self-righteousness, “People Of Today” uplifted your spirit at the same time as it made your head nod.

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Gee Bag – “Show And Tell” (Starch Records) – Combining a strong personality with his tell-it-like-it-is lyrical approach and undeniable passion for Hip-Hop, UK artist Gee Bag demonstrated real character on the microphone throughout “Show And Tell”, blessing producer Downstroke’s selection of beats with humorous punchlines, infectious hooks and everyday observations. Show and tell? With this release the South London lyricist showed and proved.

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The Almighty $amhill – “The $amhill Story” (Aaron Michael Entertainment) – Bursting through the back door just as 2014 was coming to an end, NY emcee $amhill dropped this up-close-and-personal autobiographical masterpiece full of raw, honest rhymes and quality production from the likes of Minnesota, RTNC and Molecules. Proving that the Bronx still keeps creating it, “The $amhill Story” was a timeless body of work rooted in the tradition of golden-era Rotten Apple rap.

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100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2014 (Part One) – TPS Fam / Starvin B / Ghostface Killah etc.

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It can’t be denied that 2014 was a great year for quality Hip-Hop. When I initially sat down to start putting together Old To The New’s annual 52 Best Albums & EPs list, it soon became clear that staying with that format would mean having to leave out a large amount of releases that I’ve had in heavy rotation over the last twelve months.

Another reason for wanting to highlight just how many worthwhile albums and EPs dropped in 2014 was to prove a point to those who still insist there just isn’t a notable amount of good music being released today. There are still plenty of talented emcees, deejays and producers across the globe who’re busy in their respective labs, meticulously crafting beats and rhymes in the hope that those of us who say we’re looking for high-standard Hip-Hop will take the time to listen.

As always, by no means am I presenting this as the definitive list of 2014 releases. In today’s internet-era, it’s impossible for anyone to say they’ve heard everything that’s worth listening to. No matter how much time you spend online listening to music, there will always be a dope project out there from someone, somewhere on Planet Rock that you won’t yet have heard of. The search is never-ending.

So, with all that being said, here are the albums and EPs that kept my head nodding throughout 2014…

TPS Fam – “Hot Water Music” (Revorg Records) – Finding creative inspiration in the mundane aspects of the daily grind, Jack Diggs, Big Toast and Strange Neighbour crafted a brilliant, sample-driven soundtrack for the working-class Hip-Hop fan. Balancing dreams and aspirations with day-jobs and overdue bills, the UK trio delivered down-to-earth rhymes with passion and sincerity, encouraging us all to make every day count whilst promoting their motto of “living like kings on a tight budget.”

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Starvin B – “Blood From A Stone” (Goblin Music) – The first of two projects released by the talented Queens, NY resident in 2014, the One-Take-produced “Blood From A Stone” showcased the Rotten Apple rhymer as being a true student of the lyrical arts. Packing his vivid verses with gritty imagery, raw humour and witty wordplay, Starvin B let his personality shine throughout this project, with the likes of Spit Gemz, Tragedy Khadafi and Foul Monday on-hand to fill some well-placed guest spots.

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Ray West & OC – “Ray’s Cafe” (RedApples45) – Proving that true talent really is timeless, two decades after the release of his classic debut album “Word…Life”, Diggin’ In The Crates legend OC teamed-up with Bronx producer Ray West to serve hungry Hip-Hop customers with this appetising platter of flawless lyricism and warm, soulful production. What’s next on the menu?

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Stu Bangas & Blacastan – “Watson & Holmes” (Brutal Music) – Joining forces with producer Stu Bangas, Connecticut emcee Blacastan retained his reputation as one of the rap game’s most consistent artists with the release of this abrasive, hard-hitting album. Backed by Stu’s cinematic, drama-laced beats, the AOTP member delivered his usual high standard of raw rhyming, with brothers-in-arms Esoteric, Vinnie Paz and Apathy each taking a turn to help crush the competition.

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String Theory – “String Theory” (Mic Theory Records) – Breaking the periodic table of poetry down to its very last compound, Florida’s Hex One (of the duo Epidemic) and Swiss producer B.B.Z. Darney came together to “swallow planets and freeze suns”, combining inter-dimensional mic techniques with rocket-fuelled boom-bap beats as they pondered both the laws of the universe and the art of rap.

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DJ JS-1 – “It Is What It Isn’t” (Ground Original) – Veteran NY turntablist and long-standing Rock Steady Crew member JS-1 enlisted the help of a lengthy list of talented lyricists for his fourth collection of underground science. From golden-era icons such as Sadat X, KRS-One and X-Clan’s Brother J, to more recently established wordsmiths like Spit Gemz, Fashawn and Rasheed Chappell, “It Is What It Isn’t” effectively bridged the gap between the old and the new with impressive results.

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Union Blak – “Union Blak Friday” (Effiscienz) – US-born emcee Kimba and UK beatsmith Sir Williams joined forces with France’s Effiscienz label to deliver a solid, succinct debut album. Demonstrating their shared passion for Hip-Hop with positive, upbeat rhymes and melodic production, the duo made it clear throughout “Union Blak Friday” that their aim is to add on to the culture rather than simply take from it.

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J-Live – “Around The Sun” (Mortier Music) – There may not be anything new under the sun, but there’s still plenty of quality music to be found. Case in point, veteran NY-raised, ATL-based emcee J-Live’s seventh album release, which found the accomplished wordsmith delivering the clever, intelligent lyricism fans have come to rely on him for over production from Oddisee, Audible Doctor and DJ Spinna.

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Souls Of Mischief / Adrian Younge – “There Is Only Now” (Linear Labs) – A concept album set in 1994 involving jealous emcees, kidnapping and revenge, “There Is Only Now” found the Souls Of Mischief members weaving intricate, story-telling rhymes around the live, drum-heavy musicianship of the talented Adrian Younge, resulting in an epic Hip-Hop tale  which contained more drama than an episode of “The Wire”.

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Es – “Aspire To Inspire” (Essenchill Records) – Inviting everyone along on his quest for self-improvement, Canadian emcee Es’s second full-length project lived up to its lofty title in no uncertain terms. Packed with full-bodied production and uplifting rhymes about everything from fatherhood and relationships to self-worth and striving to maintain a positive mental attitude, it was near impossible to play this album and not feel better about life whilst listening.

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Skyzoo & Torae – “Barrel Brothers” (First Generation Rich / Internal Affairs) – Self-confessed “products of Albee Square Mall” and Brooklyn-based brothers-from-other-mothers, Skyzoo and Torae came together to create one of the best examples of pure emceeing you were likely to hear in 2014. With bold deliveries and painstakingly well-crafted verses, the two BK lyricists sparred with each other over heavyweight production from the likes of Illmind and DJ Premier, each proving why their place among NY’s long line of noteworthy mic controllers is well-deserved. No frills, just skills.

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Figub Brazlevic – “Train Yards” (FigubBrazlevic.BandCamp.Com) – Having already demonstrated his undeniable production skills via his work with the Man Of Booom crew, this instrumental EP release from Berlin’s Brazlevic blended head-nodding beats with jazzy samples and well-placed vocal snippets, creating a spell-binding project with plenty of musical depth and soul.

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Confidence Presents… – “Confidence Presents GDot & Born Featuring Edo.G” (Audible Con Records) – Building on his already strong reputation as one of today’s most consistent producers, the talented Confidence orchestrated this true-school gem of an album which bridged the gap between the Boston Hip-Hop scene’s past and present. Relative newcomers GDot & Born shared mic time with Beantown vet Edo.G throughout this project, with all three emcees delivering positive messages mixed with b-boy bravado over Confidence’s quality brand of crisp, boom-bap beats.

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Parallax – “Depth Perception” (ParallaxOfficialStore.BandCamp.Com) – The upcoming UK artist proved he’s as nice behind the boards as he is behind the microphone with the release of this succinct, largely self-produced EP. Utilising solid drums and dusty samples, Parallax waxed lyrical about a number of topics, dropping punchline-heavy food-for-thought on the state of Hip-Hop, media manipulation and the British justice system. Mental stamina, indeed.

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Prince Po & Oh No – “Animal Serum” (Wandering Worx / Green Streets Entertainment) – Staying true to his claim of “having a lotta jewels, but don’t gotta wear a chain”, Organized Konfusion’s Prince Po administered a new brand of musical medicine to the Hip-Hop faithful with the welcome assistance of West Coast producer Oh No. Tackling a number of modern-day issues with typically dense, multi-layered lyricism, Po succeeded in soothing the suffering of all free-thinkers who find themselves trapped inside the Matrix.

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Early Reed & J Scienide – “The Dose (The MFN Files)” (J-Scienide.BandCamp.Com) – Whilst putting the finishing touches to his own impressive 2014 releases, Low Budget’s Kev Brown found time to get behind this EP from his two fellow Washington D.C.-based crew members. With Reed demonstrating his mastery of the SP and Scienide proving himself to be a formidable talent on the mic, “The Dose (The MFN Files)” gave listeners a potent shot of pure Hip-Hop.

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Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Pinata” (Madlib Invazion) – Arguably the greatest mix of raw gangsta rhymes and dope breaks since Brad Jordan joined forces with the Rap-A-Lot production squad for his 1991 debut solo album, Gary, Indiana native Gibbs’ drawling delivery sounded right at home over Madlib’s range of random sample material, resulting in an album that covered a variety of moods, from the soothing and laidback to the dramatic and urgent. Witness the strength of street knowledge.

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Akrobatik – “Built To Last” (Playaktion Recordings) – Returning to the rap game after surviving emergency heart surgery in 2011, the title of Boston veteran Akrobatik’s third full-length solo album was as much a statement about enduring personal struggle as it was a comment on his forthright approach to his craft. Balancing content which covered his near-death experience, social commentary and Hip-Hop politics, Ak firmly stood up for his personal principles at a time when so many other artists are busy chasing trends and trying desperately to please the masses.

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Divine – “Ghetto Rhymin'” (Supreme Records) – Mixing Five Percent terminology with the influence of Rakim and a proud New York state of mind, Brooklyn’s Divine proved himself to be a true product of his environment on his latest project, taking it back to a time when Rotten Apple wordsmiths were more concerned with capturing the essence of the five boroughs in their music rather than allowing their sound to be shaped by outside forces.

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Ghostface Killah – “36 Seasons” (Tommy Boy Entertainment) – Fresh from 2013’s “Twelve Reasons To Die” collabo with Adrian Younge, the Wally Champ dove straight into another concept-based project with “36 Seasons”. Based around a story-line that was part 70s blaxploitation flick, part Marvel comic book territory, Ghost was joined by Brooklyn’s AZ and the legendary K00l G. Rap, weaving action-packed tales of love, drama and betrayal over the classic vintage soul thump of NY band The Revelations.

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Part Two coming soon.

Concentrated Forces EP Stream – Ed Rowe / Sleep Sinatra / Concept

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New release from the Essenchill Records camp featuring Atlanta’s Ed Rowe and Nebraska’s Sleep Sinatra delivering introspective, soul-searching verses over New Zealand-based producer Concept’s sublime mix of 90s-era boom-bap influences and hypnotic, next-school flavours.