Tag Archives: First Generation Rich

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2015 (Part Two) – Skyzoo / Starvin B / Kingpin etc.

Check Part One here.

Estee Nack & Purpose – “14 Forms: The Book Of Estee Nack” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – Massachusetts microphone fiend Estee Nack joined forces with his Tragic Allies comrade Purpose to craft this shining example of quality underground Hip-Hop. Combining rugged intellect with raw street knowledge, the passionate wordsmith guided listeners through his inner-city world whilst keeping his third-eye wide-open, backed by the melancholy-yet-melodic boom-bap of Purpose.

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Iomos Marad – “Liberation – The Voice EP” (IomosMarad.BandCamp.Com) – In a time when so many artists are satisfied with simply filling their music with shallow, one-dimensional rhymes, veteran Chicago emcee Iomos Marad released this veritable feast of sonic soul food; a life-affirming collection of thoughtful Hip-Hop which sought to motivate, educate and illuminate in equal measures.

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Skyzoo – “Music For My Friends” (First Generation Rich) – Whilst the lyrical content may have differed, the tone of Brooklyn emcee Skyzoo’s third full-length solo project reminded me of Jay-Z’s 1996 classic “Reasonable Doubt”. Drawing on his younger years for inspiration and taking the listener deep into his hopes, dreams and concerns, the gifted artist painted verbal pictures rich in the imagery of inner-city New York, making you feel as if you were sat right there on the album cover’s illustrated stoop, listening to Sky choppin’ it up with his close-knit crew.

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Sparrow The Movement – “The Jacob Theology (Book 1)” (Jamdan Records) – NY-bred, Baltimore-based emcee Fla-Fla balanced religious beliefs and life observations with his undeniable passion for Hip-Hop culture on this brilliantly-executed concept album featuring quality production from The Custodian Of Records, Supreme War Clique and Constant Deviants.

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Cappo & Nappa – “Rebel Base” (KingUnderground Records) – With talented UK producer DJ Nappa digging deep into his crates for a sublime selection of sample material both familiar and obscure, this project from the mighty Cappo further solidified the Nottingham artist’s reputation as one of the most complete emcees in the game, as tracks like “Get Live” and “Elite Marine” overflowed with intricate, laser-precise lyricism.

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Starvin B – “The Foreigner” (Stay Suave Music) – The first of an impressive four projects released by the Queens, NY representative in 2015, “The Foreigner” found Starvin B going global and benefiting from the skillful production of Switzerland’s Sauce Jacqson. Recorded in just one week, the album was not only a testament to the Rotten Apple emcee’s undeniable talent, but also his strong work ethic which manages to balance both quantity and quality.

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Res One – “Delph Efficacy” (SplitProphets.BandCamp.Com) – Split Prophets member Res One’s debut solo album showcased the Bristol resident at his creative best. With a thick cloud of weed smoke hanging over every one of the nineteen tracks on offer here, the UK emcee blessed some of the finest production heard in 2015 from the likes of Badhabitz, Simiah and Evil Ed, ensuring “Delph Efficacy” will still stand as a superior example of British Hip-Hop for years to come.

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Raw Poetic & K-Def – “Cool Convos In Quantum Speech” (Redefinition Records) – Nimble, intelligent wordplay, expert sample-based production and soulful, feel-good vibes made up the sonic foundations of this impressive collaborative project from talented Washington emcee Raw Poetic (of Panacea fame) and veteran New Jersey producer K-Def.

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Heresy – “Heresy” (Polar Entertainment) – Led by UK-raised, US-based Hip-Hop vet Monie Love, this all-female crew (including Dominique Larue, Carolina Dirty and MyVerse) kicked back against today’s mainstream notion of female rappers being all about image-over-talent, demonstrating raw rhyme skills without sacrificing their femininity whilst backed by production from J. Rawls and Black Sheep’s Mista Lawnge.

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Kingpin – “Art Of Survival” (KingpinLondon.BandCamp.Com) – Reflecting the realities of life in inner-city London via genuine insight and personal experience, Kingpin’s second solo album was as much about motivating the minds of those living in the circumstances described throughout this project as it was about opening the eyes of those on the outside looking in. Intelligent street music.

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Planet Asia & DirtyDiggs – “Nautica Nagas” (Gold Chain Music) – West Coast wordsmith Asia is one of those blessed emcees who can honestly claim to have gotten sharper throughout his career, having made the journey from being a student of the game when he debuted back in the late-90s  to becoming a present-day master of the artform. Backed by the production of fellow Left Coast resident DirtyDiggs, this EP found PA delivering his usual brand of seemingly effortless lyricism over instrumentals that ranged from stripped-down and bass-heavy to hypnotic and soulful.

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Figub Brazlevic – “EXPEDITion Vol. 1: From Ghettos To Galaxies” (FigubBrazlevic.BandCamp.Com) – Man Of Booom member Brazlevic provided a truly engrossing listening experience in the form of this flawlessly crafted instrumental album. Soaked in the influences of dusty-fingered 90s East Coast boom-bap, the tracks heard here also found the German producer living up to the project’s title, bringing a jazzy, spaced-out vibe to the proceedings which landed on the right side of experimentation.

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The Mouse Outfit – “Step Steadier” (TheMouseOutfit.BandCamp.Com) – Having carved out their own creative space within the UK Hip-Hop scene with 2013’s “Escape Music” album, Manchester, England’s Mouse Outfit further solidified their reputation for delivering unique homegrown flavour with this follow-up. Once again incorporating a variety of musical influences outside of Hip-Hop, including jazz, soul and reggae, the live band collective enlisted the lyrical talents of emcees such as Sparkz, Verb T and Dr. Syntax to ride the rhythms of their bubbling, organic soundscapes.

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C-Rayz Walz – “ALMIGHTY: The 12 Jewels” (Sun Cycle Industries) – Described by Bronx-raised emcee Walz himself as being “the rhythmic scroll to decode your soul when your third eye zones”, this ambitious Five Percent-influenced project featured a lengthy list of guest emcees, including Oxilla Born, Spit Gemz and Agallah, spitting a relentless barrage of gritty street righteousness over sample-heavy, straight-out-the-basement production. Postive energy activates constant elevation.

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CZARFACE – “Every Hero Needs A Villain” (Brick Records) –  Once again combining their shared passion for Hip-Hop and comic books, Boston’s 7L & Esoteric and Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck donned their sonic super-hero costumes a second time for this follow-up to their self-titled 2013 project. With allies such as Large Professor, JuJu of The Beatnuts and Meyhem Lauren bringing their own special powers along to battle any rap villainy that stood in their way, the elements of “Every Hero…” came together just like cereal and Saturday morning cartoons.

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Skuff – “Level” (Audio Danger Records) – Delegates Of Culture member Skuff dropped arguably the best project of his career in the form of this succinct eleven-track package of true-school beats and rhymes. Backed by stellar production from DJ Nappa, Leaf Dog and Chairman Maf, the Cambridge-based emcee achieved a good balance between personal reflection and lyrical showmanship here, proving that his love of the mic definitely hasn’t diminished over the years.

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The Deity Complex featuring Unseen – “Supreme Architecture” (The Deity Complex) – Chicago-based producers Supreme Scientist 7, Golden Luohan and Chief Abbot Haderach Wu Mei blessed NY emcee Unseen with a dope selection of unique, jazzy soul-laced beats on this well-executed release. With the Rotten Apple rhymer’s “gold sceptre rap” conjuring up images of subways and street-c0rner ciphers, this EP delivered further proof that there’s always quality Hip-Hop being made in the underground for those who’re prepared to take the time to search for it.

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Arablak – “Fresh Heir – Chapters 1-3” (Arablak.BandCamp.Com) – Released as three separate EPs but intended to be listened to as a complete project, Atlanta-based Arablak’s “Fresh Heir” series found the self-proclaimed “cross between KRS, Common Sense and Fresh Prince” utilising his authoritative flow and drawing on personal experience to deliver a striking collection of intelligent, introspective blue-collar Hip-Hop.

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Cazal Organism – “On My Grown S**t” (Ultra Slump! Records) – With this young LA resident having already gained a cult following for his production, Cazal decided to up the ante by also handling microphone duties on this debut vocal project, dropping charismatic rhymes over an eclectic selection of beats that ranged from space-age boom-bap to dusty-fingered soul loops.

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The BoothBoxers – “The Enigma Code” (BoothBoxers.BandCamp.Com) – Burnley, England trio Seekz, Morgz and DJ Trauma created an uncompromising masterpiece in the form of their “Enigma Code” project. Carrying on tradition by blending vintage Britcore attitude and 90s boom-bap flavour with a now-school perspective, the crew succeeded in crafting an album which simultaneously paid homage to the heritage of UK Hip-Hop whilst still bringing something unique to the table.

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Part Three coming soon.

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.