Body Bag Ben & J Scienide – “Stepping Stone” (@FatBeats / 2022)
Henney Ruxpin-directed video from the 2021 Body Bag Ben / J Scienide album “Enough To Plague A Saint”.
Body Bag Ben & J Scienide – “Stepping Stone” (@FatBeats / 2022)
Henney Ruxpin-directed video from the 2021 Body Bag Ben / J Scienide album “Enough To Plague A Saint”.
Masta Ace & Marco Polo ft. Pav Bundy – “Sunken Place – Remix” (@FatBeats / 2019)
This compelling, socially-aware cut is given a smooth, piano-laced reworking for the Deluxe Edition re-release of Ace and Polo’s brilliant 2018 album “A Breukelen Story”.
Masta Ace & Marco Polo – “Get Shot” (@MastaAce / @MarcoPoloBeats / 2019)
Juice Crew legend Masta Ace and Canadian producer Marco Polo have proven their shared creative chemistry time and time again over the years, with this latest drum-heavy example being lifted from their brilliant 2018 album “‘A Breukelen Story”.
The Legion – “Three The Bronx Way” (FatBeats.Com / 2019)
NYC’s “boom-bap warlords” Chucky Smash, Diceman and Molecules stomp all over the title track of their recent album with true-school BX attitude.
The Legion – “Drop The Beat” (@FatBeats / 2019)
The Rotten Apple trio take to the streets of New York in these Pritt Kalsi-directed visuals from their new album “Three The Bronx Way”.
Jones Brothers – “Roughs With The Smooth” (FlukebeatMusic.BandCamp.Com) – UK emcees Joker Starr and AnyWay Tha God came with that “street knowledge and supreme wisdom” on this dope collaborative project. Striving to protect Hip-Hop from culture vultures, whilst annihilating anyone claiming to be lyrical competition in the process, the pair stood tall, backed by the loose, funky production of Manchester’s El Ay.
Fly Anakin & Koncept Jack$on – “Chapel Drive” (FxckRxp.BandCamp.Com) – Representing Richmond, Virginia to the fullest, Anakin and Jackson involved every member of their Mutant Academy camp on this well-crafted album. Spontaneous rhymes and straight-out-the-basement beats were combined here to memorable effect, with “Chapel Drive” boasting a fluid, natural vibe that ensured it was high in replay value.
Son Of Sam – “Cinder Hill” (SonOfSamMusic.BandCamp.Com) – The idea of a live band playing Hip-Hop is nothing new, just ask Stetsasonic, Brand New Heavies or The Roots. But whilst the concept may not raise the eyebrows it once did, the execution of said concept still takes a huge amount of skill. UK-based musical collective Son Of Sam rose to the challenge on their debut album, with the likes of J-Live, Large Professor and Prince Po all shining on the project’s lively, organic soundscapes.
True God – “Inception” (TrueGodImmortal.BandCamp.Com) – Reporting live and direct from inner-city Baltimore, the talented True God delivered vivid, emotionally-charged street-corner sermons with skill, insight and sensitivity throughout this project.
Roughneck Jihad – “The Wretched Of The Verse” (JihadTheRoughneckMC.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran West Coast emcee and Third Sight member Roughneck Jihad delivered a non-stop barrage of heavy-mental wordplay throughout this well-crafted collection of underground gems.
DJ Manipulator & Louie Gonz – “The Loops” (DJManipulatorLouiGonz.BandCamp.Com) – This Massachusetts producer / emcee duo dropped an accomplished project in the form of “The Loops”, an album packed with cocky, street-smart rhymes and dusty, stripped-down beats, with the pair displaying a musical chemistry that gave this release a vibe reminiscent of a lost 90s-era demo tape.
Dell-P – “4 Da Art” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Philly emcee Dell-P continued to build his reputation as one of the nicest lyricists to have emerged from the 215 in recent years with this release. A ‘total package’ wordsmith who sounded just as comfortable delivering heartfelt social commentary as he did spitting claims of microphone dominance, this Illadelph artist quite rightly demanded to be heard with “4 Da Art”.
Your Old Droog – “PACKS” (FatBeatsRecords.BandCamp.Com) – With the Nas comparisons well and truly behind him, NYC’s Droog stood as his own man throughout this sophomore effort, blending humour, street smarts and razor-sharp wit throughout his verses, backed by production from The Alchemist, El RTNC and 88 Keys.
Hus Kingpin & Big Ghost Ltd – “Cocaine Beach” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Epic fly ish from the NY-raised Kingpin, with the likes of Milano Constantine, Vinnie Paz and Planet Asia all passing through to bless the impeccable production of Big Ghost Ltd, resulting in one of 2017’s ‘event’ albums which appeared to grab the attention of nearly all underground Hip-Hop heads upon its release.
Justo – “Black Ops” (Black Jewel Entertainment) – Brooklyn’s Justo picked some choice beats from D.I.T.C. legend Showbiz’s “Rare Breaks” series for this collection of traditional, lyrically-impressive Rotten Apple Hip-Hop.
Raekwon – “The Wild” (Ice H20 Records) – Almost twenty-five years since his debut as a member of Staten Island’s mighty Wu-Tang Clan, the Chef proved that his Shaolin sword was as sharp as ever with the release of this solid album. Full of cinematic verses and strong production, “The Wild” was a worthy addition to Raekwon’s discography, with only a couple of unnecessary guest-spots (Lil Wayne / G-Eazy) slowing the project’s momentum.
Tristate & Oh No – “3 Dimensional Prescriptions” (HieroglyphicsImperium.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the eclectic, sample-driven beats of infamous crate-digger Oh No, Gold Chain Music’s Tristate remained consistently impressive throughout this album, with his razor-sharp microphone techniques effortlessly keeping the listener engaged at all times.
Ded Tebiase – “Landspeed” (VillageLive.BandCamp.Com) – Talented Bristol producer Ded Tebiase served up more of his drum-heavy, sample-based musical mastery on his latest album, featuring Da Flyy Hooligan, Ash The Author and Benaddict, with all proceeds from the release being donated to Pancreatic Cancer UK.
DoamPeace – “Sidetrack” (DoesBros.BandCamp.Com) – The NYC-based DXA crew member educated listeners with pure true-school science on this eight-track EP.
Big Toast & Ill Move Sporadic – “You Are Not Special” (StarchMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Tired of self-obsessed social media posts, shallow celebrity culture and rampant consumerism? This UK duo had the remedy for all of the above and then some with this sonic reality check. Toast’s blunt delivery and dry wit blended perfectly with Ill Move’s hefty beats, resulting in an album that was guaranteed to bring anyone with delusions of grandeur down to earth with a serious bump.
Tesla’s Ghost – “Stretch Lincolns” (TeslasGhost.BandCamp.Com) – Late in 2017, gruff-voiced London lyricist Tesla’s Ghost dropped the perfect soundtrack for the cold, dark wintery nights ahead with this brilliantly-crafted album. Full of ominous, minimalist soundscapes and vivid, uncompromising verses, “Stretch Lincolns” was a strong example of pure, uncut mood music.
El Camino – “El Camino” (Griselda Records) – The next chamber in the Griselda Records takeover came in the form of this self-titled EP from Buffalo’s El Camino; eight tracks of raw, gritty beats and rhymes, with the younger member of the GxFR camp being joined, of course, by Westside Gunn and Conway, plus the late, great Prodigy.
Big Twins & DJ Skizz – “Billy Ocean” (DJSkizz.BandCamp.Com) – The Infamous Mobb emcee dropped some typically direct Queensbridge dunn language over old-school R&B grooves on this rugged-but-smooth EP.
Figub Brazlevic – “4×4 Palestine Jeep Beats” (FigubBrazlevic.BandCamp.Com) – The nod factor was high on this quality collection of sample-based beats laced with live instrumentation from the German producer.
Soul King – “The Diaspora” (SoulKingSK.BandCamp.Com) – Likwit Crew affiliate Soul King represented the Cali underground to the fullest throughout “The Diaspora”, with the project also featuring Montage One, Phil The Agony, Born Allah and more blessing beats from DirtyDiggs, DJ Breeze and Default.
Part Four coming soon.
2016. What a year. Political upheaval in the form of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president. The tragic loss of musical icons such as Prince and A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg. Continued economic and social unrest across the globe. Suffice to say, 2016 will no doubt be looked back on in years to come as a definite time of change, with not much of that change necessarily being for the better.
The world of music, however, continued to offer sanctuary from the madness of everyday life, with a string of artists ensuring 2016 will also be remembered for quality beats and rhymes.
As I always say each year when I post my best-of choices, this list of 100 releases doesn’t represent the only albums and EPs worthy of your attention over the last twelve months, but it does feature the artists and titles that remained in regular rotation for me personally.
So, in the words of Slick Rick, heeeerrre we go….
Timeless Truth – “Cold Wave” (Different Worlds Music Group / Chopped Herring) – Queens, NY blood brothers Oprime39 and Superbad Solace added on to their already impeccable catalogue with this full-length collection of Rotten Apple rawness firmly rooted in the Hip-Hop heritage of their city, evoking images of late-night subway rides, street-corner ciphers and overcrowded studio sessions.
Split Prophets – “Delta Bravo Kilo” (SplitProphets.BandCamp.Com) – Following a number of crew member solo efforts, Bristol’s Split Prophets combined creative forces once again for this quality long-player, with the UK collective keeping everything in-house (no outside producers or guest appearances here) to showcase their lively brand of beats and rhymes.
Them That Do – “Them That Do…” (HiPNOTT) – Jazzy, soulful true-school flavour from Phat Hentoff, Chuck Daily and Jasper Brown, which featured the lyrical trio delivering thoughtful, life-affirming wordplay over the well-crafted soundscapes of Philly-based producer Small Professor.
DITC – “DITC Studios” (Slice-Of-Spice) – The influence of the legendary Diggin’ In The Crates crew on a generation of 90s heads can never be underestimated. Classic releases from Lord Finesse, Showbiz & AG, O.C. etc played a huge part in defining the decade viewed by many as being the pinnacle of the rap game’s golden-era. Proving that true skills are timeless, this album found the core DITC members reuniting for an uncompromising lesson in hardcore Hip-Hop.
AUTOMatic – “Marathon” (AUTOMatic.BandCamp.Com) – The fourth full-length album from Milwaukee’s APRIME 3099 and Trellmatic combined smoothed-out soundscapes inspired by old-school R&B with witty, intelligent lyricism, resulting in a project that was as refreshing as it was entertaining. True-school feel-good flavour.
Ded Tebiase – “Seventy Five” (VillageLive.BandCamp.Com) – A masterful blend of both instrumental and vocal tracks featuring UK talent such as Iron Braydz and Mnsr Frites, “Seventy Five” found Bristol beat king Tebiase offering up some of the best production to be heard in 2016, resulting in an album packed with well-crafted 90s-influenced head-nodders.
DJ Quik & Problem – “Rosecrans” (Diamond Lane Music) – Compton OG Quik joined forces with up-and-comer Problem for this succinct shot of warm, smoothed-out West Coast fonk with a gangsta-edge, offering further proof that David Blake is one of the game’s greatest ever producers. Music to drive-by.
Masta Ace – “The Falling Season” (M3 Entertainment) – Taking it back to the old-school literally, NY rhyme legend Masta Ace revisited his Brooklyn childhood on his seventh solo full-length, with this concept-based project focusing on the former Juice Crew member’s time as a pupil at Sheepshead Bay High in the 1980s. Drawing on a variety of emotions and experiences that helped shape Ace into the talented lyricist we’ve grown to know and cherish, this Kic Beats-produced album was yet another worthy addition to the Masta’s impressive discography.
DJ Skizz – “Cruise Control” (Different Worlds / Fat Beats) – Trading the punchy, boom-bap driven sound of his 2013 album “BQE” for a more lo-fi, loop-based flavour, NY producer Skizz called on microphone heavyweights such as O.C., Milano Constantine and Roc Marciano to bless his minimalist mood music with undeniably captivating results.
Dabbla – “Year Of The Monkey” (High Focus) – Showcasing his sharp delivery and raw couldn’t-give-a-f**k wit, this solo project from London Zoo / Problem Child member Dabbla offered a high-octane lyrical rollercoaster ride over eclectic production from the likes of Chemo, Ghosttown, Sumgii and more. Brilliantly boisterous beats and rhymes.
Discourse – “Megalomaniac” (Crate Cartel) – Australian producer Discourse supplied the likes of Tragedy Khadafi, A.G. and Starvin B with a serious selection of moody and atmospheric soundscapes on this expertly-crafted project, with “Megalomaniac” featuring an impressive array of lyrical talent from Australia, the US and the UK who all did justice to the high-quality beats heard here.
Kelpi NINE – “Forecast.” (KelpiNINE.BandCamp.Com) – Producer-based action coming straight outta the Ukraine, Kelpi NINE demonstrated his talent for blending together subtle. melodic samples and hard, unrelenting drums on this succinct nine-track release.
Broken Poetz – “Soul Searching” (BrokenPoetz2.BandCamp.Com) – An entertaining mix of personal reflection, worldly observations and quality, sample-driven production, this full-length effort from rhyming duo D.Know and Mystero was UK Hip-Hop made with undeniable passion.
Dell-P – “To The Moon And Beyond” (WHOMAG Distribution) – Backed by the soulful production of Samad Dawson, talented Philly wordsmith Dell-P addressed a number of society’s ills and the struggles of Black America throughout this potent project, injecting his music with sincere, heartfelt messages that only became even more relevant in the months following the January release of this album.
Planet Asia & DJ Concept – “Seventy Nine” (Coalmine Records) – Since his 90s debut, West Coast wordsmith Planet Asia has firmly established himself as one of the game’s most consistent emcees. This collaboration with Strong Island-based DJ Concept further solidified that reputation, with PA spitting intricate verses over production with a soulful thump.
Blaq Poet – “The Most Dangerous” (Shinigamie Records) – Queensbridge legend Blaq Poet lyrically stomped all over the rugged production of France’s Kyo Itachi and Venom on this uncompromisingly hardcore album, with appearances from Ruste Juxx, Tragedy Khadafi and Bankai Fam only adding to the overall rawness of the project.
Grindhouse Project – “To Kill A Critic” (GrindhouseProject.BandCamp.Com) – The long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s “GHP Is Like…” EP, “To Kill A Critic” found emcees Trace Motivate and 360 once again joining forces with producers Astro Mega and Futurewave to drop a potent dose of hard, uncut Canadian Hip-Hop.
Sonnyjim – “Mud In My Malbec” (Eat Good / Daupe!) – The UK’s Sonnyjim delivered his exquisite long-awaited album “Mud In My Malbec” in June of 2016, with the project’s mix of understated lyrical arrogance and 70s-flavoured loops conjuring up images of a mink-wearing Willie Dynamite driving through the streets of Birmingham, England, blasting this long-player from the comfort of a customised Cadillac.
Daniel Son & Giallo Point – “The Gunners Tape” (GialloPoint.BandCamp.Com) – Canada’s Daniel Son enlisted the talents of UK producer Giallo Point for this thoroughly impressive twelve-track project, featuring the Toronto emcee pummelling GP’s quality 90s-influenced beats with consistently sharp, vivid and engaging verses.
Daddy Grace aka Born Allah – “No Hip Hop For Grown Men” (Church Of Hip Hop) – As generational debates continued to rage within Hip-Hop, West Coast wordsmith Daddy Grace (aka Born Allah) proudly proclaimed his unshakeable OG status and personified the term ‘grown-man rap’ throughout this impressive debut solo project. Laced with Five Percent Nation influences and LA street swagger, “No Hip Hop For Grown Men” was both righteous and ruthless.
Part Two coming soon.
Wun Two – “Noite” (@FatBeats / 2016)
Understated late-night flavour from the German producer’s “Baker’s Dozen” project via Fat Beats.
Ohbliv – “GiveMeh” (@Ohbliv / 2016)
A slice of fractured soul from the Virginia producer’s forthcoming “Baker’s Dozen” release via Fat Beats.
Frank Nitt – “Classic” (@FrankNitt / 2015)
Funky DJ Rhettmatic-produced boom-bap from the Detroit-raised emcee’s “Frankie Rothstein” project.
DMC, PMD, MC Serch, Chuck D, Terminator X & DJ Eclipse – “Hellraisers” (FatBeats.Com / 2015)
Producer Big K.O. resurrects the title track of Run-DMC’s classic 1986 album for this golden-era posse cut.
NY’s DJ Eclipse discusses his early introduction to collecting vinyl for Fuse.TV’s “Crate Diggers” series.
Public Enemy – “Most Of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear On No Stamp” (Slam Jamz) – Twenty five years after their Def Jam debut “Yo! Bum Rush The Show”, arguably the greatest group in Hip-Hop history returned with a robust collection of typically rebelutionary beats and rhymes, with Chuck D joined by allies such as Brother Ali, DMC and Bumpy Knuckles to fire lyrical shots at political figures, mass media corporations and rap culture vultures.
Muneshine – “There Is Only Today” (Droppin’ Science Productions) – Backed by top-notch production from the likes of DJ Spinna, Buckwild and Jeff Spec, Canadian rap renaissance man Muneshine delivered both inspirational and introspective rhymes on this latest addition to his already impressive musical catalogue.
Masta Ace – “MA_DOOM: Son Of Yvonne” (Fat Beats) – Considering how many times MF Doom’s “Special Herbs” beats have been used for freestyles, YouTube videos etc, it would take a talented emcee to make them sound like you were hearing some of them for the first time all over again. But that’s exactly what former Juice Crew member Masta Ace did with this autobiographical project, recalling memories of his Brooklyn childhood and early rap career with his typical attention to detail and story-telling skill.
Purpose & Confidence – “The Purpose Of Confidence” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – Having produced one of 2011’s best albums in the form of his “The Element Of Surprise” collaboration with NY’s Rashad, Boston beat-master Confidence hit the target again in 2012, teaming-up with Tragic Allies emcee Purpose for another accomplished project. Displaying a slightly harder, grittier side to his production this time around to match Purpose’s street-orientated verses, Confidence one again proved his ear for both quality beats and lyrical talent.
Kingdom Of Fear – “Kingdom Of Fear” (YNR Productions) – Inspired by the work of legendary American gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, UK favourites Kashmere and Jehst adopted off-the-wall alter-egos for this larger-than-life concept album, with the pair careering through bright lights and big cities in a haze of weed smoke and Hip-Hop technicolour. Inspired, creative and entertaining.
Oddisee – “People Hear What They See” (Mello Music Group) – Drawing inspiration from a wide-range of real-life experiences and conversations, Washington DC producer-on-the-mic Oddisee’s latest album showcased the sound of a maturing artist, an individual determined to push the boundaries of his own creativity whilst remaining grounded in the underground sound that he built his name on.
Dialect & Despair – “Self Evident” (UKNOWHO Records) – Proving the sentiment behind Rakim’s famous lyric that it ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at, this Australian duo crafted an impressive collection of true-school bangers on the follow-up to their 2010 debut “The Vortex”, featuring an inspired line-up of featured talent including the UK’s Melanin 9, X-Ecutioners member Total Eclipse and D.I.T.C. affiliates Majestic Gage and D Flow.
Sean Price – “Mic Tyson” (Duck Down Records) – Brooklyn’s favourite microphone bully Sean P finally got around to releasing his long-awaited “Mic Tyson” project in 2012, pummeling a concrete-tough selection of beats from the likes of 9th Wonder, Evidence and the UK’s Beat Butcha with his trademark brand of deadpan threats of violence and amusing Hulk-sized boasts.
Verb T – “Morning Process” (High Focus Records) – UK emcee Verb T has always been more interested in letting his talent do the talking rather than trying to shout louder than everyone else. With this latest project, Verbs put the complexities of his own personality under the microscope, describing the thoughts of an emcee entering his thirties who is just as happy shutting himself away from the world for extended periods of time as he is ripping mics onstage for enthusiastic fans. Understated brilliance.
Aarophat – “Invictus” (Ill Sevenz Music Group) – Raised in Ohio but currently based on the West Coast, veteran subterranean wordsmith Aarophat’s seventh full-length project mixed motivational sentiments, down-to-earth life observations and mystical imagery together into one satisfying listening experience, with the authoritative lyricist proving himself to be a true master of his craft by tackling a variey of subject matter with both character and insight.
Constant Deviants – “Diamond” (Six2Six Records) – Gaining notoriety in the 90s with indie favourites such as “Competition Catch Speed Knots”, NY / Baltimore duo M.I. and DJ Cutt returned to the rap game without having missed a beat on this quality album. Blending golden-age flavour with current inspiration, the pair effectively bridged the gap between the past and the present with an undeniable rugged charm. A real diamond in the rough.
Large Professor – “Barber Shop Chop” (Fat Beats / 2012)
Extra P drops some visuals to accompany this instrumental head-nodder from his album “Professor @ Large”.
Brown Bag Allstars – “406 (Fat Beats Tribute)” (BrownBagAllstars.Com / 2012)
The BBA crew deliver a heartfelt tribute to NYC’s now sadly-closed Fat Beats store with this track from their forthcoming EP “Brown Label Pt. 2”.
Union ft. Elzhi – “Wings” (Fat Beats / 2012)
Intergalactic synth-heavy Hip-Hop funk from the French production duo’s album “Analogtronics”.
Pseudo Slang – “Rhymes4DaysAnd” (Baby Steps Again / 2012)
Produced by Rawhead.