El Michels Affair – “Iron Man” (@El_Michels / 2017)
The NYC-based band pay homage to the Wally Champ with this track off their upcoming “Return To The 37th Chamber” project.
El Michels Affair – “Iron Man” (@El_Michels / 2017)
The NYC-based band pay homage to the Wally Champ with this track off their upcoming “Return To The 37th Chamber” project.
Ghostface Killah – “Mighty Healthy – Giallo Point Remix” (@GialloPoint / 2017)
Talented UK producer Giallo Point puts a fresh twist on a Wally Champ classic.
Ghostface Killah ft. Killah Priest – “Starry Winters” (@GhostfaceKillah / @KillahPriest / 2016)
The two Clan soldiers continue to promote their new Wu Goo business venture with this smoothed-out head-nodder.
LEX – “Break The Pattern” (LEXOfSinistahCircle.BandCamp.Com) – Frantic and fast-paced, this fourteen-track EP (yes, fourteen tracks!) found the Queens, NY emcee delivering short, sharp displays of lyrical dexterity over bursts of dusty breakbeats. Raw, rugged and fuelled by the essence of old-school Rotten Apple park jams, “Break The Pattern” showcased LEX as an artist who is as passionate about respecting the culture of Hip-Hop as he is about knocking out his competition.
Equipto & Otayo Dubb – “Baby Steps” (Solidarity Records) – The West Coast has always had a rich, creative underground scene and this collaborative effort from Bored Stiff’s Equipto and fellow Cali representative Otayo Dubb is a worthy addition to a musical timeline that includes the likes of Freestyle Fellowship, Likwit Crew and Hieroglyphics. Poignant life observations and verbal showmanship were combined here with expert precision, resulting in an album that was as sincere and earnest as it was entertaining.
Thaione Davis – “Donald Mayhem – Skywritters” (ThaioneDavis.Com) – Taking on the character of Donald Mayhem for this captivating self-produced concept album, veteran Chicago lyricist Thaione Davis blended street-savvy bravado with an insightful social conscience as he took listeners on a guided tour through the Windy City.
Life MC & Badhabitz – “Deep In The Trenches” (SplitProphets.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding UK lyricist Life proved once again why he’s considered one of the most consistent emcees to have emerged from British shores with this uncompromising release produced by Split Prophets’ Badhabitz. Accompanied by a sample-driven selection of radio-unfriendly beats, Life flexed his trademark punchline-heavy flow with the type of confidence that only worldly experience can bring, covering topics such as Hip-Hop stereotypes, misguided celebrity worship and institutional racism.
Daniel Son – “Moonshine Chemist” (CrateDivizion.BandCamp) – Toronto’s Daniel Son teamed-up with the Crate Divizion production squad to spit vivid, action-packed rhymes over quality, sample-laced beats from Giallo Point, Vic Grimes and Kurse.
Figub Brazlevic & Teknical Development – “The Everyday Headnod” (Vinyl Digital) – This joint effort from Berlin producer Figub and London lyricist Tek was easily one of the most well-crafted releases of 2015. Combining jazzy, full-bodied boom-bap with intricate, intelligent verses, the two Man Of Booom members delivered an album with real creative depth that was both life-affirming and speaker-rocking.
DJ Pressure Presents The Old Boys Club – “Revival Of The Real” (DJPressure.BandCamp.Com) – Manchester, England’s DJ Pressure pulled together a huge global collective of true-school representatives for this epic compilation project. Featuring appearances from Chuck D, Ruste Juxx, Da Buze Bruvaz’ CleverOne and more, this project truly lived up to its title by delivering a hard-hitting collection of beats and rhymes from individuals totally disinterested in pandering to mainstream trends.
R.A.W. (Problemz & DJ Skizz) – “Right Amount Of Wrong” (Soulspazm) – Having been a fan of Brooklyn’s Problemz since his 90s work with the likes of DJ Honda, Al’ Tariq and Black Attack, it was a real pleasure to hear the NY emcee sounding like he hadn’t missed a beat on this dope EP, lacing the moody production of DJ Skizz with a barrage of gritty BK wordplay that was both hardcore and refined.
Adrian Younge & Ghostface Killah – “12 Reasons To Die II” (Linear Labs) – Although sequels are often known for not living up to the impact of their predecessors, this follow-up to West Coast music man Younge’s 2014 collaboration with the mighty Toney Starks actually improved on the formula of the original “12 Reasons…”. Set in 1970s New York and based around a crime-riddled cinematic plot, “…To Die II” found the Wu warrior once again attacking an impeccable selection of live, analog soundscapes with his detailed story-telling skills.
Denmark Vessey – “Martin Lucid Dream” (Rappers I Know) – Displaying a brilliant artistic mind, Detroit-raised Vessey mixed a gritty, realistic worldview with an eloquent delivery and the thump of soulfully distorted production on this eight-track masterpiece. Featuring appearances from Guilty Simpson, Tanya Morgan and Black Milk, there was a genuinely timeless appeal to this EP which was both inspiring and thought-provoking.
Aim & QNC – “The Habit Of A Lifetime (And How To Kick It)” (Atic Records) – Veteran UK producer Aim and NY duo Q-Ball & Curt Cazal built on a longstanding sonic chemistry that dates back to the 90s with this long-awaited project. With both Aim and JVC Force member Cazal sharing production duties, Q-Ball had plenty of sample-based flavour to take advantage of, with both a Grand Puba collaboration and a dope Guru tribute ensuring this album’s true-school value was through the roof.
People Under The Stairs – “The Gettin’ Off Stage, Step 1” (Piecelock70) – At this stage in their career, West Coast natives People Under The Stairs surely deserve to be classed as one of Hip-Hop’s greatest ever duos. Having remained consistent in terms of both quality and quantity since their late-90s debut, Thes One and Double K’s already-extensive discography was further expanded with the release of this quality EP. Packed with more of the feel-good funk the pair have become known for, this project proved that, almost twenty years since they first dropped on wax, the pair still sound as fresh and enthusiastic as ever.
Public Enemy – “Man Plans God Laughs” (SpitDigital) – After Melle Mel in his 1980s prime, Chuck D ranks as arguably the most authoritative voice in Hip-Hop of all-time. Showing no signs of letting-up their attack on the establishment almost thirty years after Public Enemy’s Def Jam debut, the legendary group returned in 2015 with yet another dose of potent edutainment, proving that Strong Island’s self-proclaimed rhyme animal still isn’t ready to be caged.
Conway – “Reject 2…” (Griselda Records) – Hailing from the home of late, great funk-rock legend Rick James, Buffalo, NY’s Conway delivered his own collection of street songs on this captivating Daringer-produced project. Joined by WestsideGunn, Roc Marciano and Skyzoo, the East Coast wordsmith wove nimble-yet-grimy verses around moody, hypnotic soundscapes, resulting in a gripping listening experience.
Illinformed – “The Mould Tape” (Real Life Drama Records) – Whilst this album contained a lengthy list of talented UK emcees, including Leaf Dog, Sonnyjim and Verb T, it was music man Illinformed’s impeccable work behind the boards that really elevated the project above being simply just another producer-based release. Heavy drums, obscure samples and dense b-lines were the order of the day here, ensuring that, regardless of its title, “The Mould Tape” was anything but past its sell by date.
Hus Kingpin & SmooVth – “Splash Bros” (Splash Bros) – The Hempstead, NY homeboys showcased their undeniable rhyming chemistry on this effortlessly dope EP. Backed by a selection of mellow, melodic soundscapes from the likes of Audible Doctor, J57 and Twiz The Beat Pro, the duo shot straight three-pointers throughout this release, with SmooVth’s sharp barbs and Kingpin’s more ominous flow creating a captivating combination which demonstrated why they’re considered two of the best emcees to have emerged from the East Coast in recent years.
Dell-P – “A New Beginning” (WhoMag Distribution) – Clearly an emcee with something of substance to say, Philly’s Dell-P packed this lengthy album with plenty of food for thought, touching on a variety of social issues with both maturity and insight. Yet to simply label this Illadelph lyricist as a ‘conscious’ artist would be too easy, with this project proving Peezie to be a truly well-rounded artist, grounded in the traditions of Hip-Hop culture and bringing something genuine to the game.
OC From NC – “Higher Learning” (OCFromNC.BandCamp.Com) – Bringing his own brand of street knowledge to the forefront on this soulful-yet-rugged album, North Carolina’s OC rhymed like a man with real purpose here, grabbing the listener’s attention with a mix of authority, intelligence and wit. Personal and passionate, “Higher Learning” was quality down-to-earth Hip-Hop that hit you in both the head and the heart.
Severed Tongue – “Gentle Katharsis” (Inner Peace Records) – A collaborative effort from UK emcees Elliot Fresh and Tang The Pilgrim, “Gentle Katharsis” was a melancholy, meditative listening experience, with the two lyricists delivering poignant self-reflection and absorbing wordplay over solid, and at times moody production from the likes of EarthOne, Said Zu and King Boyden.
Sean Price – “Songs In The Key Of Price” (Ruck Down Records) – Although this release was neither an official album or EP, as a nod of respect to the late, great Brooklyn emcee, it’s only right that the final mention in Old To The New’s best-of-2015 list goes to Sean P’s “Songs In The Key Of Price”. Thirty-tracks deep and drenched in grimy New York attitude, this mixtape showcased everything that was brilliant about the Heltah Skeltah member’s unapologetically hardcore approach to his craft. RIP Sean Price!
Ghostface Killah & Killah Priest – “Wu Goo” (@GhostfaceKillah / @KillahPriest / 2016)
Amusing infomercial visuals from the two Wu warriors to support the latest Clan-related business venture.
Oddisee – “The Good Fight” (Mello Music Group) – As much an insight into the struggles and emotional conflicts of an independent musician as it was a study of the human experience, this brilliant album from producer-on-the-mic Oddisee found the Maryland music man crafting a project that was grand in its intentions without being pretentious or self-absorbed. Full of real heart and soul, “The Good Fight” was both honest and life-affirming. A true artistic triumph.
Ockz – “The Stuyvesant Chronicles” (Ockz.BandCamp.Com) – It could be argued that this project from Brooklyn’s Ockz was more a mixtape than a finished album considering it featured the emcee rhyming straight over untouched classics from the likes of Bob James, 24 Carat Black and David Axelrod. But “The Stuyvesant Chronicles” was so well executed, that to simply label it as a mixtape may give the impression that it was a disposable, here-today-gone-tomorrow release. When in fact, this was essential listening for fans of raw New York straight talk.
MNSR Frites – “The River Wandle” (MNSRFrites.BandCamp.Com) – Granville Sessions member Frites went for dolo on this impressive release, with the London lyricist dropping verses filled with dry humour and wit over chunky, largely jazz-infused production from Sam Zircon, Krang, Mr. Slipz and more.
Vursatyl – “Crooked Straights” (BBE Music) – A concept album of sorts aiming to balance the two sides of Vursatyl’s personality, the Polo-wearing, ego-driven rapper and the more thoughtful husband and father, “Crooked Straights” proved that, whichever aspect of his character the Portland, Oregon wordsmith chose to display, his prowess on the microphone remained consistently impressive. Backed by a quality selection of full- bodied beats ranging from melodic Dilla-influenced soundscapes to raw, dusty-fingered boom-bap, the Blackalicious affiliate managed to carry on golden-era
tradition whilst remaining free enough to still push creative boundaries.
Your Old Droog – “Kinison” (Droog Recordings) – A loosely rock-themed effort from the Brooklyn representative, “Kinison” found Droog following-up his 2014 success with another dose of pure, unadulterated wordplay, lacing production from DJ Skizz, El RTNC and Marco Polo with seemingly effortless displays of creative lyricism, packed with vivid imagery and deadpan wit.
Flame Griller – “II” (Flamegriller.BandCamp.Com) – Talented, down-to-earth and ultimately likeable, this West Yorkshire trio crafted a sample-driven rough diamond of an album for their sophomore effort. Covering both amusing and poignant subject matter in a way that made the listener feel as if they were involved in a conversation between close friends, this British crew occupied their own creative space within the UK scene by remaining honest and true to themselves at all times.
LostPoet & Kincee – “Golden Calf – Special Edition” (IronBlade Music Group) – Originally dropping on New Year’s Eve 2014, this impressive collaborative effort from Cali wordsmith LostPoet and Louisiana-raised rhymer Kincee was given the re-release treatment late-2015 with bonus cuts. Featuring heavy-mental lyricism delivered over atmospheric boom-bap from the likes of Giallo Point, PhybaOptikz and Vic Grimes, “Golden Calf” stood as a strong example of intelligent, creative street music.
BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – “Sour Soul” (Lex Records) – Wu-Tang icon Ghostface’s collabo with Canadian band BADBADNOTGOOD was a musically rich, lyrically vivid collection of suspenseful tracks that felt like the Wally Champ had stumbled across the soundtrack to an unreleased James Bond-influenced 70s blaxploitation flick. Further proof (if it was needed) that Ghost remains one of the game’s most consistent emcees, “Sour Soul” added another chamber to the Shaolin representative’s already bulletproof discography.
Scor-zay-zee – “Aeon: Peace To The Puzzle” (Scorzilla.Com) – To describe this project from veteran Nottingham emcee Scor-zay-zee as being ‘long-awaited’ or ‘heavily-anticipated’ was, in this instance, no overstatement. Since his 90s debut as a member of OutDaVille, Scorz has stood as one of the UK’s most talented lyricists. Clocking in at a mammoth 28-tracks, this double-album more than lived up to expectations, with the Notts artist delivering intricately-crafted, multi-layered verses over impeccable production from the likes of The P Brothers, Juga-Naut and DJ Fever.
Joey Bada$$ – “B4.Da.$$ (Cinematic Music Group) – Backed by production from the likes of DJ Premier, Freddie Joachim and J Dilla, Brooklyn young gun Joey Bada$$ went some way to bridging Hip-Hop’s generation gap with his official debut album, drawing on sonic 90s influences for inspiration whilst ensuring his lyrical content reflected the present day by incorporating sincere sentiments and personal observations into the music. BK all day.
Starvin B – “7 Train Lungs” (Top Shelf Muzik) – Capturing the raw, authentic essence of Rotten Apple Hip-Hop without having to continuously talk about ‘bringing New York back’, for the third of his four 2015 releases Starvin B teamed-up with talented producer Seasra23, with the fellow Queens resident pairing the lyrical NY attitude on offer here with a quality selection of unique, memorable beats.
Dirt Platoon – “Bare Face Robbery” (Effiscienz) – Baltimore’s Raf Almighty and Snook Da Crook delivered the sonic equivalent of a heavy-handed right-hook to the domepiece with this rugged blast of gritty East Coast black-hoodie rap. Combining thunderous beats with their gruff lyrical styles, the duo personified the term ‘hardcore’ throughout this project. Music to scuff your Timberlands to.
Jeepz & Kay Flow – “Future Nostalgia” (KayFlow.BandCamp.Com) – West Coast emcee Kay Flow joined forces with Canadian producer Jeepz to deliver a solid combination of intelligent lyricism and quality beats , with “Future Nostalgia” living up to its title by effectively drawing inspiration from Hip-Hop’s golden-era whilst capturing what the music and culture still have to offer.
Stig Of The Dump – “Kubrick” (Lewis Recordings) – Self-proclaimed “international man of leisure” Stig Of The Dump veered between larger-than-life arrogance and access-all-areas self-deprecation on his latest effort, with “Kubrick” possessing an emotional edge that made the listener feel as if the UK emcee had really taken you on a sonic journey by the time the album’s final track faded away.
William Cooper – “God’s Will” (Gemstarr Regime) – New Jersey-based Black Market Militia member Cooper called on lyrical allies such as Pace Won, Planet Asia and the late Sean Price to help wake-up those still sleep-walking through the Matrix on this BP-produced album. Razor-sharp rhymes met rugged soundscapes throughout this project, ensuring “God’s Will” stood-out as one of 2015’s most intense listening experiences.
J-Live – “How Much Is Water?” (Mortier Music) – The second full-length project from the NY-raised, Atlanta-based emcee to drop in 2015, “How Much Is Water?” found J-Live once again dropping clever, thought-provoking verses over an eclectic selection of self-produced tracks.
Apollo Brown – “Grandeur” (Mello Music Group) – Featuring a varied line-up of guest emcees, including M.O.P., Ras Kass and Eternia, “Grandeur” effectively showcased the musical prowess of Detroit’s Apollo Brown, with the Motor City native pulling together the many voices heard here with his trademark brand of drum-heavy, soul-laced production, resulting in a cohesive, head-nodding package.
Verb T & Illinformed – “The Man With The Foggy Eyes” (High Focus Records) – Long considered one of the UK’s most talented emcees, this Illinformed-produced project from Verb T further reinforced that status amongst his fans. Perceptive, self-aware, honest, humourous and more, the Four Owls member covered plenty of creative ground on this sterling effort.
Jack Diggs – “Blue Rain” (Revorg Records) – Having already become something of a cult figure within UK Hip-Hop circles thanks to both his solo work (2013’s impressive “Dirty Finger Nails” album) and contributions to the output of South London’s TPS Fam, Diggs’ latest long-player was a sublime slice of homegrown excellence. More than just a collection of quality tracks, “Blue Rain” was a cohesive, well-crafted body of work that offered listeners a striking, down-to-earth musical snapshot of life for many in today’s modern Britain.
Venomous2000 – “Will To Power” (Venomous2000.BandCamp.Com) – Positive energy activates constant elevation. That appeared to be the overall message behind New Jersey emcee Venomous2000’s ninth full-length solo album. Thoughtful, intelligent and sincere, “Will To Power” succeeded in its aim to enrich the lives of those who heard it, with Venomous2000 presenting himself as an artist who firmly believes in the power Hip-Hop has to have a lasting, beneficial impact on its audience.
Part Five coming soon.
French producer Skillz Beats reworks a selection of Ghostface favourites with the help of some classic breakbeats.