Check Part One here.
Eternia & Rel McCoy – “FREE” (Eternia.BandCamp.Com) – Over ten years since the release of her last full-length album, Canada’s Eternia returned with this emotionally-charged project produced by the talented Rel McCoy. Having never been afraid to share her thoughts and feelings through her music, this release found Eternia as potent on the mic as ever but drawing on a new set of life experiences for inspiration this time around, including marriage and motherhood. A lot might have changed both globally and personally since her last musical endeavour, but “FREE” demonstrated that Eternia is still more than capable of making music that connects with listeners in a meaningful way.
T.R.A.C. & Maverick Soul – “Sonically Speaking” (AmpleAptitude.BandCamp.Com) – A fruitful collaboration between veteran NY emcee T.R.A.C. and Connecticut producer Maverick Soul, this album found the pair effortlessly blending together the sounds of Hip-Hop and Drum & Bass, with satisfyingly vibrant results. Whether backed by the warm bounce of jazz-influenced beats or the futuristic flavour of fast-paced electronic grooves, the sincere, uplifting rhymes of T.R.A.C. hit their target every time.
Opal-Kenobi – “Synapse Therapy” (GrandChoiceRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Described by Kenobi himself as “an exercise in healing”, this thoroughly engrossing EP from the Massachusetts-based lyricist was packed with expertly crafted verses that required you to pull up a chair, sit down and pay full attention. A maze-like journey through Opal’s mindstate set to a soundtrack of mellow, melodic production from the likes of Jaisu, DJ Manipulator and Brainorchestra, this was music made to accompany contemplation.
Five Steez & SonoTWS – “Quietude” (FiveSteez.BandCamp.Com) – Produced by Brazil’s SonoTWS, this album from Jamaica’s Five Steez was impressive on all levels, with the talented wordsmith delivering engaging rhymes full of personal experience, social commentary and emcee bravado over superb beats. The Kingston emcee has spent the last decade dropping music laced with positive vibes and that approach continued on this release, but the message felt more direct and tangible this time around. Perhaps that was Steez’s intention? Or maybe the music just hit me differently considering the circumstances we’ve all been living under during the past two years? Either way, “Quietude” possessed an overall tone that touched the mind, body and soul.
Vakill – “God’s G.U.N.S.” (PanikOnTheBeat.Com) – Chicago’s Vakill has been carrying out lyrical surgery since the 90s with laser-like precision. His first release for a decade, this seven-track EP was proof that time hasn’t diminished his formidable skills, with the rhymes contained here remaining as sharp as ever. Able to deftly move from vivid descriptions of emcee dominance to stark social observations, Vakill verbally pummeled beats supplied by Memo, Nottz, Panik and SC, reasserting his positon as one of the Windy City’s greats in the process.
Bash Brothers – “Bloodsport Champions” (Mallz.BandCamp.Com) – Partly inspired by the rowdy, larger-than-life antics of 80s / 90s wrestling, the North Carolina trio of Mallz, Precyce Politix and DJ Sharp Cuts launched themselves off the top rope and crash-landed onto their musical opponents throughout this album, pinning them to the mat with a combination of pounding beats and tag-team verses packed with aggressive wordplay and verbal beat-downs. Rap royal rumble vibes in full effect.
Pitch 92 – “Intervals” (HighFocus.Com) – A talented producer with a deft touch behind the boards, a good ear for quality samples and a clear understanding that sometimes less is more, Manchester’s Pitch 92 once again showcased his impressive sonic skills on his second full-length release for the High Focus imprint. Supported by a collective of top-tier emcees, including Jehst, Verb T and Lord Apex, it was Pitch’s individual brand of beat science that remained the focal point here, with the album possessing a spontaneous, organic feel that pushed it far beyond simply being a collection of stand alone tracks.
Dell-P – “We Owe The World” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Philadelphia’s irrepressible Dell-P has been consistently dropping quality material for years now, with this latest album finding the 215 representative delivering his usual brand of intelligent, thought-provoking lyricism over the soul-drenched, true-school production of Donnie Boy.
1773 – “As Above” (1773Live.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago duo Wisdm Uno and Jay Nagoma delivered relatable, down-to-earth rhymes on this standout Joe Tyse-produced album. Whether speaking on life, family or Hip-Hop, Wisdm and Jay maintained a laidback, familiar tone throughout this release, reducing the gap between listener and artist in the process, making it feel like you were being welcomed into a warm but honest conversation between friends.
Bloo & Spanish Ran – “Nowhere Bloo” (SpanishRan1.BandCamp.Com) – Further solidifying their reputation as one of the tightest emcee / producer pairings to have emerged in recent times, this latest collaborative release from Bronx duo Bloo and Spanish Ran was another strong example of their undeniable chemistry. Swaggering, punchline-packed rhymes from Bloo flowed effortlessly over the inspired sample choices of Ran, resulting in memorable music which demanded (and deserved) to be revisited.
Fatt Father – “Soccer Dad” (FattFather.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit’s Fatt Father proved with this album that he’ll crush the ego of your favourite rapper, hit the studio to record some thunderous bangers, handle any pressing street politics, and still get his son to sports practice on time. Produced by fellow Motor City Hip-Hop head Foul Mouth, “Soccer Dad” was a potent combination of speaker-crunching beats and supremely confident rhymes.
Blak Madeen – “Let The Good Get Even” (BlakMadeen.BandCamp.Com) – The raw-but-righteous rhymes of Boston duo Al-J and Yusuf were bolstered here by the adrenaline-rush production of Public Enemy affiliate C-Doc, resulting in an album that made your head nod as much as it sparked your third-eye. With guest features from the likes of Freeway, Tragedy and Chuck D, this was an energetic and captivating explosion of Hip-Hop excellence.
Planet Asia – “Block Shaman” (TuffKongRecords.Com) – One of a handful of projects Planet Asia dropped during 2021, the West Coast master craftsman teamed-up with talented production duo DirtyDiggs for this relentless barrage of verbal science, trading rhymes with the likes of Rome Streetz, Flashius Clayton and Defari, further cementing his reputation as one of the rap game’s most consistent emcees in the process.
Isatta Sheriff – “A Kind Of Biography” (IsattaSheriff.BandCamp.Com) – An ambitious self-produced project merging Hip-Hop and grime influences with live instrumentation, this four-track release from East London’s Isatta Sheriff covered a lot of creative ground. A sonic nod to the area of the UK’s capital that Isatta calls home, the emcee’s lively verses switched quickly and effortlessly here from insightful social commentary to introspective nostalgia, all brilliantly matched with standout musicianship and uplifting vibes.
Blaq Herman – “The Return Of Blaq Herman” (BlaqHerman.BandCamp.Com) – South Carolina’s Kimani Robinson took on the character of a resurrected 1940s magician named Blaq Herman (inspired by the real life Black Herman) for this short-but-entertaining concept-based EP, swapping his wand for the microphone in an attempt to carve out a new modern-day career for himself. Purposely random and playfully intriguing, this release made no sense and absolute sense all at the same time.
Lloyd Luther – “Re Pro Gram” (LloydLuther.BandCamp.Com) – An emcee on a mission to offer some balance in the world of rap, Leicester’s Lloyd Luther rhymed with the drive and focus of an artist with a point to prove throughout this release. Offering his thoughts on what it means to be Black in Britain, Luther touched on a variety of topics here, including structural racism, politics and a short-sighted music industry. Powerful material that was talking loud and saying something.
Tarik Robinson – “Rotations” (MakeBelieveHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – Canada’s Tarik Robinson (aka Teekay of Dragon Fli Empire) delivered a life-affirming selection of soulful, self-produced cuts on this superb solo album. Honest and compelling, Robinson succeeded in providing an almost spiritual experience which couldn’t help but motivate those of us listening as we all continued with our attempts to find a way through the labyrinth of everyday living.
Ty Farris x Machacha – “Dark Nights & D Fitteds” (CPHCrates.Com) – Hard-knock rhymes delivered with insight and compassion, Detroit’s Ty Farris spoke with a voice of experience and offered street narratives from a well-rounded perspective throughout this album, showing all sides of the game over beats provided by Denmark’s Machacha.
Edo.G & Insight Innovates – “Edo.G & Insight Innovates” (BrickRecords.Com) – Boston greats Edo.G and Insight joined forces on this memorable album, offering a nod of respect to the 80s / 90s golden-era they came up in, whilst very much remaining in the present day in terms of their lyrical content and subject matter. Forward-thinking, head-nodding Hip-Hop from two true masters of the culture.
Wize King – “Affirmations” (WizeKing.BandCamp.Com) – Seattle’s Wize King sought to navigate the everyday struggle by keeping his third-eye wide open and hoped to move listeners to do the same with this quality EP, offering meditative rhymes, stimulating energy and smooth, laidback production throughout.
Check Part Three here.