Meyhem Lauren – “Piatto D’Oro” (Fools Gold Records) – Backed by production from beat kings such as Large Professor, DJ Muggs and The Alchemist, Queens, NY resident Meyhem Lauren continued to play his part in 2016 to ensure traditional rough, rugged and raw Rotten Apple rap stayed alive, with “Piatoo D’Oro” providing the perfect theme music for Timberland-and-Polo fiends across the globe.
Si Phili – “The 11th Hour” (Phoenix Recordings) – Having already made an indelible mark on the UK Hip-Hop scene as a member of Phi Life Cypher, Luton lyricist Si Phili approached his debut solo album with both the experience of a seasoned mic vet and the hunger of a new artist with a point to prove. Featuring talented producers such as Pete Cannon, Leaf Dog and Richy Spitz, “The 11th Hour” found Phili unleashing a relentless barrage of intense wordplay, covering a variety of topics in the process.
The Game – “1992” (Blood Money Entertainment) – Strip away the rap beefs, personal dramas and industry politics that have surrounded The Game’s career over the years and one thing remains undeniable – Jayceon Terrell Taylor can definitely rhyme. This concept-based project found the former Aftermath emcee revisiting early-90s Los Angeles via personal, descriptive verses with respectful nods to West Coast icons such as Ice-T, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre. Compton is still in the house!
J-Zone – “Fish-N-Grits” (J-Zone.BandCamp.Com) – Never afraid to tell-it-how-it-is, NYC’s multi-talented J-Zone once again offered listeners the opportunity to see the world through his own unique perspective on his latest full-length release, combining sharp observational humour with funky beats and Rotten Apple attitude. Dealing with topics such as rap’s generational debate, hipsters and gentrification, “Fish-N-Grits” was the perfect sonic antidote for the non-stop b.s. pushed daily from both the underground and mainstream Hip-Hop scenes. As Zone himself says, there’s only two types of music, good and bad.
Royce 5’9 – “Layers” (Bad Half Entertainment) – Lead by the autobiographical brilliance of the S1-produced “Tabernacle”, Detroit veteran Royce’s sixth solo album was arguably his best body of work to date. Filled with unflinching honesty, sly wit and well-honed rhyme skills, “Layers” was a fitting title for a project which gave the listener further insight into the life of the man behind the mic.
Akil The MC – “Sound Check” (AkilTheMC.BandCamp.Com) – Jurassic 5 member Akil filled this solo album with hard-hitting motivational music delivered in his traditional true-school style, effectively balancing his back-in-the-day roots with a present-day passion for the microphone.
Mikey D’Struction – “Day Of D’Struction” (Elements Of Hip-Hop) – Largely produced by Russia’s Ligalize, this album from Queens legend Mikey D found the veteran emcee avoiding the temptation of trying to fit in with current rap trends in order to appeal to a wider audience, choosing instead to stick to his sonic guns, delivering sharp, battle-ready rhymes over hardcore, speaker-rattling beats.
Black Josh – “Ape Tape” (BlahRecords,BandCamp.Com) – After first listening to Josh’s “Ape Tape” EP, one word came to mind – vibes! Boasting an organic, impromptu feel, this thoroughly entertaining release featured the UK artist lacing varied production with his sharp Manchester wit, politically-incorrect sense of humour and honest inner-city observations.
Torae – “Entitled” (Internal Affairs Entertainment) – Backed by a successful Kickstarter campaign, this album from Brooklyn emcee Torae satisfied loyal fans by delivering the consistently high-standard of lyricism we’ve come to expect from the NY representative with quality production from heavy-hitters such as Pete Rock, DJ Premier and Nottz.
Elzhi – “Lead Poison” (Glow 365) – After a five year hiatus and release date delays, Detroit’s Elzhi finally returned with an album that played like a sonic therapy session for the former Slum Village member, who had been battling with depression during the recording of the project. Clever, introspective and creative, “Lead Poison” showcased the results of a naturally gifted artist dealing with life’s problems through his pad and pen.
Ruste Juxx & Kyo Itachi – “Meteorite” (Shinigamie Records) – Bolstered by the impeccable production of France’s Kyo Itachi, former Sean Price protégé Ruste Juxx went intergalactic like a Timberland-wearing Silver Surfer on this rugged gem of an album, transmitting direct from the planet of Brooklyn accompanied by Illa Noyz, Bankai Fam’s Skanks and Rock of Heltah Skeltah.
Ghost – “Shards Of Memories” (Ghost.BandCamp.Com) – Ambitiously bridging the gap between the UK-raised, Australia-based producer’s underground Hip-Hop roots and his desire to craft something that reached beyond the traditional sound of dusty drums and head-nodding loops, “Shards Of Memories” was an impressive effort which was both polished and well-executed whilst also managing to retain a spontaneous, unpredictable edge.
Trace Motivate – “Bored, Lonely And Possibly Intoxicated” (TraceMotivate.BandCamp.Com) – Stepping beyond the aggressive, competition-crushing rhymes heard on releases from his group Grindhouse Project, Canada’a Trace Motivate offered personal reflection and honest life observations on this six-track concept-based release.
Tribe Of Judah – “Organically Grown” (Gravity Academy Records) – Maryland’s Tribe Of Judah mixed political commentary and social observation with street-savvy Hip-Hop bravado on their impressive Tokyo Cigar-produced debut album.
Rapsody – “Crown” (Jamla / Roc Nation) – Inspiring and passionate, North Carolina’s first lady of the mic Rapsody was on a mission to motivate her listeners with “Crown”, encouraging the younger generation in particular to reach for their goals via forthright rhymes delivered over soulful production from 9th Wonder, Nottz and Khrysis.
PhybaOptikz – “Shades Of Alejandro” (PhybaOptikz.BandCamp.Com) – London’s PhybaOptikz delivered a smooth, atmospheric concept album under the guise of his alter-ego Alejandro, showcasing the UK producer-on-the-mic getting busy over an ill selection of hypnotic loops with assistance from Crate Divizion comrades Giallo Point and Vic Grimes.
Arkatek & KelpiNINE – “Master Builder” (ArkatekMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Atlanta-based wordsmith Arkatek encouraged listeners to bring their third-eye vision into focus via well-crafted verses over drum-heavy production from KelpiNINE on this US / Ukraine collabo project.
K Zorro & Bad Company – “Deferred Gratification” (NewGuardzOnline.BandCamp.Com) – Talented London emcee K Zorro dropped intelligent, captivating verses over atmospheric production from musical ally Bad Company on this collaborative project which was both streetwise and socially-aware.
Sebastian Hochstein – “Name Dropping” (Illect.BandCamp.Com) – German producer Sebastian Hochstein called on the likes of Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na, Sadat X and Scribbling Idiots to provide lyrical support on this impressive EP, a release which was rooted in a dusty, sample-based sound.
Tha God Fahim & Giallo Point – “Eyes Of War” (Crate Divizion) – Atlanta’s Fahim spat righteous rawness over the brilliant, gripping production of UK music man Giallo Point on this quality Crate Divizion release.
Part Four coming soon.