Tag Archives: Jazz Spastiks

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part One) – Phife Dawg / Juga-Naut / Count Bass D etc.

Another year goes by. Another almost endless stream of best-of lists get written and posted on websites, blogs and social media platforms. We agree with some lists. We disagree with most lists. We argue over all the lists. We love lists. We hate lists. Some people believe these lists have value. Some people question the point of even attempting to put such lists together. But remember, a best-of list can’t please everyone and should never try to.

For me, compiling a year-end round-up has never been about claiming to have made a definitive list that covers every release that’s been worthy of attention over a particular twelve month period. That would be impossible.

Instead, a year-end list is just a way of me being able to give a nod of gratitude to as many artists as possible whose music I’ve especially enjoyed. It’s really as simple as that.

So, with that being said, who gets props over here?

Phife Dawg – “Forever” (SmokinNeedles.BigCartel.Com) – Handled with obvious love, patience and care, this album from A Tribe Called Quest legend Phife avoided the shortcomings often associated with posthumous releases, sounding fresh, vibrant and organic. Backed by production from the likes of Nottz, DJ Rasta Root and 9th Wonder, the rhymes from the Five-Foot Assassin ranged from witty, humorous punchlines to moments of genuine reflection and vulnerability, the poignancy of which wasn’t lost on listeners fully aware we were hearing the thoughts and feelings of an individual no longer with us. Ultimately a celebration of the life, career and talent of an artist gone far too soon, “Forever” stood as a fitting (if bittersweet) tribute to a Hip-Hop great whose voice many of us grew-up with in our headphones. Rest in peace Phife Dawg.

Juga-Naut – “Time & Place” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Nottingham’s Juga-Naut is one of the most constistent and talented artists of the last decade. Since his debut to the present day, Jugz has walked his own path, inspired by a genuine love of the art and an inner drive to be creative. Ten years in the making, this concept-based album was an epic self-produced journey through the UK artist’s many musical and personal influences, resulting in some of the finest beats and rhymes you were likely to hear in 2022 and beyond. A naturally gifted individual, Juga-Naut has repeatedly reached new levels of excellence with each of his releases, and “Time & Place” pushed the bar even higher. The man appears to have no competition but himself.

A.G. – “Giant In The Mental” (FatBeatsRecords.BandCamp.Com) – A true golden-era great, Diggin’ In The Crates favourite Andre The Giant delivered his well-known brand of hardcore lyrical Bronx science throughout this succinct release, accompanied by choice production from DJ Manipulator, Dark Keys and Showbiz. With no guest appearances to be found, A.G. went for dolo on the mic here, giving listeners ample opportunity to fully appreciate both his timeless flow and dedication to his craft over thirty years since he first dropped on wax.

Apollo Brown & Philmore Greene – “Cost Of Living” (MellowMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – An authoritative voice of experience speaking from inner-city Chicago, Philmore Greene had already dropped a number of notable projects prior to teaming-up with Detroit boom-bap maestro Apollo Brown, but it quickly became apparent that “Cost Of Living” was some of the Windy City representative’s best work. Bolstered by Apollo’s knocking drums, sweeping strings and soulful vocal snippets, Greene painted detailed verbal pictures of Chicago’s West Side, weaving personal memories, life observations and social commentary into his often sobering verses. This album was the sound of two masters at work.

3 The God Way – “Mount Olympus” (HumbleMonarch.BandCamp.Com) – DMV trio Kaimbr, Sean Born and Let The Dirt Say Amen combined their talents on this quality group album which was full of soul-drenched production, sharp rhymes and appearances from notable names like Kenn Starr, yU and Uptown XO. Evoking images of the threesome passing mics in a basement, chopping it up about world events and local news inbetween unearthing dope loops and spitting competition-crushing rhymes with a casual swagger, “Mount Olympus” was a totally immersive listening experience that pulled you deep into the God zone.

SPNDA x Grubby Pawz – “Oil Can” (CityYardMusic.BandCamp) – Reigniting the creative chemistry heard on 2017’s “Steel Sharpens Steel” and 2018’s “Holographic”, Boston duo SPNDA and Grubby Pawz came together once again to deliver a full-length collection of streetwise rhymes from a balanced perspective coupled with smooth, mellow production. A shining example of the musical magic that can be created when one emcee and one producer lock in together on the same target.

Funky DL – “Still Classic” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Twenty five years ago in 1997 prolific UK artist Funky DL dropped his debut album “Classic Was The Day”. In 2022, instead of celebrating the album’s anniversary by simply re-releasing it, the London-raised producer-on-the-mic put together this entertaining concept-based EP full of new music capturing DL’s memories and experiences from those early days in his career.

Farma – “Farma’s £10 Bag Volume 1” (FarmaBeats.BandCamp.Com) – UK Hip-Hop legend Farma of MUD Fam / Task Force fame has kept busy in recent years supplying beats to underground heavyweights such as Mach-Hommy, Rome Streetz, Conway and many more. With this particular compilation release, however, Farma chose to focus on the undeniable amount of talent within the British scene. Homegrown favourites such as Essa, MysDiggi and SonnyJim were on the roll call here, showcasing their skills over stellar sample-driven production.

Jay iLLestrate – “Doctor Jay” (JayiLLestrate.BandCamp.Com) – Cincinnati’s Jay iLLestrate took it to the hoop creatively on this entertaining basketball-influenced album that was packed with accomplished, sometimes quirky lyricism and engaging production from Toonorth, Gatekeeper, Grillo and Prof Logik. A lively mix of personality and talent.

Milano Constantine & Big Ghost Ltd – “Pay The Ghost” (BigGhostLimited.BandCamp.Com) – Over twenty years since his debut, Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano is still carrying on tradition and repping for the 80s / 90s New York he grew-up in with all the pride of a Yankees fan on game day. Teaming-up here with ever-impressive producer Big Ghost Ltd, this album featured Constantine’s cinematic verses being matched with tense, atmospheric beats. The end product sounded like a late-night subway ride across the Rotten Apple.

Nejma Nefertiti – “Tongue Fu” (NejmaNefertiti.BandCamp.Com) – A short, potent dose of firebrand lyricism, this four-track EP from Brooklyn’s Nejma Nefertiti found the NY-based artist dropping punchy rhymes full of b-girl attitude over Kool M Da Loop Digga production, with strong guest appearances from Napoleon Da Legend and Zach Lost.

El Jazzy Chavo – “S950 Funk” (Funkypselicave.BandCamp.Com) – Imitated but never duplicated, the crunch and thump of the Akai S950 was fully celebrated by Greece’s El Jazzy Chavo on this instrumental album. The head-nod factor was high throughout, with the dusty-fingered beats stirring-up memories of an era that has long since passed but that remains a time period cherished by all who lived through it.

Dell-P – “The People’s Emcee” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Produced entirely by New Jersey duo Trac-Qaeda, this latest album from Philly’s Dell-P was another worthy addition to his already impeccable catalogue. Grounded in the realities of daily life but laced with optimism and hope as always, the Illadeph artist’s rhymes offered motivation and inspiration in equal measures, backed by well-crafted beats.

Jazz Spastiks – “Intomental” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding purveyors of sublime sample-based music, the UK’s Jazz Spastiks returned once more with a rich collection of laidback flavour for our listening pleasure. Expertly put together and with a genuine feeling of warmth running throughout, this album was the perfect way to ease your mind in today’s stressful times.

Jones Brothers – “Apollo” (FlukeBeatMusic.BandCamp.Com) – The UK’s Joker Starr and Anyway Tha God reunited for a new Jones Brothers project, with the pair delivering incisive, swaggering rhymes laced with social commentary over brilliant production from veteran London-based music man Apollo.

Brainorchestra – “Big Brain” (Brainorchestra.BandCamp.Com) – The rise of producer-on-the-mic Brainorchestra during recent years has been a genuine pleasure to witness. “Big Brain” appeared to draw a metaphorical line in the sand, simultaneously signalling the end of one career phase and the beginning of the next stage of growth and progression for the New Jersey artist. With a keen ear for a great sample and a natural rhyming ability, Brainorchestra could only continue to move in the right direction after the release of this album.

Da Flyy Hooligan – “Ben Kingsley” (GourmetDeluxx.BandCamp.Com) – Smooth, sharp and stylish like butter-soft leather jackets and box-fresh footwear, London’s Da Flyy Hooligan lived up to his name once again on this album, delivering larger-than-life rhymes over top-shelf production from the mighty Micall Parknsun.

360 Physicals – “Style Crown” (NoelPolandRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Skills. That’s what this album was about. Having honed their respective crafts within the UK’s 90s Hip-Hop scene, the 360 Physicals crew reunited in 2022, with Killa Kela, Koaste, Jonny Virgo and Cristo Cannes celebrating the past whilst demonstrating their ability to still reign supreme in the present and beyond. Brilliantly produced by Kong The Artisan, “Style Crown” bristled with energy and passion.

Fatnice – “The Baddest” (IllVibeMedia.BandCamp.Com) – A stalwart of the Philly rap scene, Fatnice blended emcee bravado, social commentary and storytelling skills on this short-but-effective album, proving that sometimes less really is more. With the likes of The Blue Ninja, Mr. Sonny James and Kush Oxford supplying melodic, upbeat production, “The Baddest” blew out of the speakers like a refreshing blast of cool air.

Count Bass D – “All Due Respect” (CountBassD.BandCamp.Com) – The ever-busy Count Bass D returned with another lesson in high-level beat science, crafting an instrumental album that pulsated with the sounds of slick funk and sweet soul. Music to groove to.

Check Part Two here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part One) – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point / Genesis Elijah / Eddie Kaine etc.

It’s that time again. Hard to believe that 2021 has ended already. The last twelve months seemed to pass by at a lightning pace and as I approach my late-forties I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

That said, it was another difficult year for most, regardless of how fast the days and weeks may or may not have felt like they were moving. But music remained an essential escape for many of us. Listening to it. Talking about it. Making it. Writing about it. Remembering it. Arguing about it. Loving it.

Rhythm is life, as the great philosopher Warren G once said, and life is rhythm.

As I post the five installments of my 2021 list over the coming week, there will, of course, be releases missing that people may have expected or hoped to see. If an album or EP hasn’t been included, that doesn’t automatically mean I didn’t like it. It could just mean I didn’t like it as much as everything else I have included. In today’s social media-driven world, it can often feel like it’s all or nothing when discussing music (or anything for that matter). If you don’t love an album or think it’s an instant classic, that must mean you hate it or think it’s worthless. The middle-ground in-between where constructive debate occurs appears to be shrinking by the day. But I digress.

As always, this round-up celebrates the Hip-Hop I connected with most over the past twelve months. It contains the Hip-Hop I revisited most throughout the year. It shines a light on the Hip-Hop I enjoyed most in 2021.

So, let’s set if off…

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – “Smoke Filled Room” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Having already worked together on 2019’s sterling effort “Back To The Grill Again”, expectations were understandably high for the second full-length collaborative project to come from the UK’s Juga-Naut and Giallo Point, with the finished product finding the pair further cementing their reputations as masters of their respective crafts. An exquisite combination of top-tier lyricism and perfectly selected sample-based production, this album brilliantly showcased Juga-Naut’s natural talent for penning intricate verses packed with multiple layers that were a joy to follow, unravel, rewind and listen to again and again.

Skyzoo – “All The Brilliant Things” (MMG-Skyzoo.BandCamp.Com) – Another year passed by and NYC’s Skyzoo added yet another masterpiece to his already stellar catalogue. At this point in his career, Skyzoo’s ability to make his lyrical brilliance appear effortless should never stop us from remembering just how much work no doubt goes into every bar, every line and every verse that he commits to the pages of his rhyme pad. Like many of Skyzoo’s previous releases, this was a concept-driven project which found the talented emcee commenting on the gentrification of his beloved Brooklyn over an impeccable selection of jazz-infused beats from the likes of Kenny Keys, MarcNfinit and Tuamie. Writing with incredible attention to detail as always, Skyzoo pulled listeners into his world, placing us all amongst the sights, sounds and experiences of past, present and future New York.

IAMGAWD & Doc Da Mindbenda – “Hell’s Angels & Heaven’s Demons” (GawdsGift.BandCamp.Com) – Being able to create meaningful art out of the uglier aspects of life is a unique skill and one clearly shared by Chicago partnership IAMGAWD and Doc Da Mindbenda, as demonstrated on this captivating album. A quality example of the greatness that can be achieved when an emcee and producer share undeniable creative chemistry, GAWD’s commanding flow was matched perfectly here with Doc’s robust beats. Touching on a variety of topics, including the vicious cycle of gang life, structural racism and street politics, this album offered a powerful and sobering dose of reality.

Funky DL – “Beautiful Soul” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Paying tribute to the soul music of the 60s and 70s in clever and subtle ways, this 21st (!!!) album from the UK’s Funky DL was an ambitious and expertly executed project. Accompanied by the organic sound of live musicians, DL delivered personal, heartfelt rhymes with sincerity and feeling, resulting in an album that was both inspiring and uplifting. A much needed ray of musical light.

Sons Phonetic – “Nakatomi” (SonsPhonetic.BandCamp.Com) – Having spent the last decade consistently delivering their own unique brand of quality Hip-Hop, Ireland’s mighty Sons Phonetic crew dropped their new long-awaited album “Nakatomi”, a skilful combination of sublime, sample-based production and expertly penned verses full of meaningful depth and striking imagery. A remarkable release.

Genesis Elijah – “A Prophet In His Hometown…” (GenesisElijah.BandCamp.Com) – A lot of artists will talk about keeping it real, but how real are they really keeping it? Are they talking about their struggles, emotions and mistakes? Are they letting you hear their true feelings through music? Are they being genuine? Watford-based emcee Genesis Elijah did all of the above throughout this striking collection of beats and rhymes. We cheered when Genesis spoke on his successes and cared when he touched on his personal battles. Backed by unique production from Pastor Dutchie and Shapes that blurred lines between genres, Elijah stood loud and proud throughout “A Prophet…”, rightfully staking his claim as one of the UK’s finest lyricists.

Codenine – “LVNDR” (TragicAlliesCodenine.BandCamp.Com) – Mood music of the highest quality, this latest album from Tragic Allies member Codenine was a towering creative triumph, blending sharp lyrical darts with smooth, emotive production from the likes of Chronic Tone and Karnate, lending the release a cinematic, soundtrack-like feel. This wasn’t an album you could (or should) just dip in and out of. It was a body of work that deserved to be listened to in its entirety in order to be fully appreciated.

TrueMendous – “Misdiagnosis Of Chyvonne Johnson” (TrueMendous.BandCamp.Com) – Personality. Flow. Ingenuity. Three things you’re guaranteed to hear on any release from Birmingham emcee TrueMendous. Having signed with the High Focus label in 2020 and subsequently dropping the well-received “HUH?” EP, this album release for the imprint found the UK talent in full artistic flight, clearly seeing every moment here as an opportunity to revel in her own individuality as she touched on relationships, self-image and personal history, accompanied by diverse and inventive production.

Tall Black Guy & Ozay Moore – “Of Process And Progression” (TallBlackGuy.BandCamp.Com) – A celebratory album with a message, Tall Black Guy and Ozay Moore combined their individual expertise and crafted something truly special here. Whilst the hype sticker on the front of this album boasted of the duo being here to “revive the pulse of Hip-Hop’s golden-era”, that statement only told half the story. Far from simply being a collection of predictable throwback tracks full of 90s nostalgia, this was a vibrant, inspirational release that respectfully nodded toward its back-in-the-day influences, yet very much remained a soundtrack made for the present day.

Fresh Daily – “The Quiet Life 2” (HighWaterMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Raised in Brooklyn, now residing in Oakland, Fresh Daily came correct on his long-awaited sequel album “The Quiet Life 2”, an absolutely brilliant release which found the talented artist matching his observational rhymes and conversational flow with warm, melodic production from the likes of Chris Keys, Lakim, Suff Daddy and more.

Jazz Spastiks – “Camera Of Sound” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com) – Scotland’s Jazz Spastiks never fail to operate at the top of their game whenever it’s time for the gifted production duo to bless us with a new release. This latest album from Coconut Delight and Mr Manyana featured a who’s who of underground heavyweights taking full advantage of the pair’s full-bodied beats. Wee Bee Foolish, Artifacts, Soundsci and more stepped up with their best microphone techniques, ensuring this album had maximum replay value.


Prox Centauri – “Mending What’s Broken: Odes For Stalwart Days & Fearless Nights” (ProxCentauri.BandCamp.Com) – Flint, Michigan’s Prox Centauri showcased his talent for penning sincere, life-affirming rhymes on this thoroughly engaging album release. Containing some of the best lyricism you were likely to have heard in 2021, Centauri floated above the clouds as he explored the meaning of the human experience via thoughts on spirituality, consciousness and community.

Wavy Da Ghawd – “Ghawd’s Eden” (WavyDaGhawd.BandCamp.Com) – Having worked with the likes of Rome Streetz, Bub Rock and Sauce Heist in recent years, Brooklyn-based producer Wavy Da Ghawd entered 2021 already known for delivering quality soundscapes. This album further cemented the NY music man’s reputation for stellar work behind the boards, with underground favourites such as Planet Asia, Eddie Kaine and Ty Farris all eager to spit over one of Wavy’s carefully selected loops. Producer-based albums can sometimes sound disjointed, but the dusty-fingered basement vibe running throughout “Ghawd’s Eden” ensured it stood out as a cohesive collection with plenty of musical character.


Lewis Parker – “Frequency Of Perception” (LewisParker.BandCamp.Com) – A product of an era in Hip-Hop when skills were really all that mattered, it’s easy to imagine UK producer-on-the-mic Lewis Parker stood in a b-boy stance next to his trusty SP1200 whenever you listen to the self-proclaimed Man With The Golden Sound. A true master (you can check his credentials), Parker’s ability to craft timeless, sample-based music has only become more refined over the years, with “Frequency Of Perception” proudly standing as an example of what can be achieved when a veteran artist is still passionate and enthusiastic about their craft.

Rita J – “The High Priestess” (RitaJ.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Rita J made a welcome return to the rap game with this superb album which found the skilled emcee being joined by fellow Windy City representatives Neak (producer) and Rashid Hadee (executive producer), who both also added their lyrical talents to the mix. Full of potent, thoughtful rhymes laced with a strong b-girl attitude and delivered over quality beats, “The High Priestess” stood out as a refreshing listening experience which fully tapped into the potential Hip-Hop has to touch the soul.


Let The Dirt Say Amen – “God Hates Gucci” (LetTheDirtSayAmen.BandCamp.Com) – Washington DC’s Let The Dirt Say Amen (aka Tim Hicks of The Cornel West Theory) delivered one of the most powerful albums of 2021, offering a thought-provoking critique of present-day Hip-Hop that came from a place of genuine love. Inspired by a time when Hip-Hop wasn’t just entertainment, but an artform that also attempted to motivate, inspire and inform its listeners, Let The Dirt Say Amen encouraged us all to do better, to be better and to treat this incredible culture with the respect it deserves.

Charlie K – “Sunshine Philadelphia: The God Hour” (CharlieK1.BandCamp.Com) – Accomplished Philly emcee Charlie K filled his well-crafted verses with spirituality, social commentary and poignant observations on this concise EP, backed by soulful production from the likes of Lim0, Kulture, DviousMindz and more.

Twizzy – “Crabs In A Bucket” (Twizzy.BandCamp.Com) – With a wink and a knowing smile, Bristol’s Twizzy offered his thoughts on the world around us and his place in it throughout this thoroughly enjoyable Chillman-produced album. Highlighting the growth that can come from personal struggle, as well as the importance of not allowing the matrix of daily life to distract you from what really matters, Twizzy focused on silver linings here rather than the dark clouds we all find ourselves under sometimes.

Eddie Kaine – “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” (BigGhostLimited.BandCamp.Com / 2021) – For me, what elevates a good emcee to a standout emcee isn’t just their ability to put words together, but whether an artist can deliver those words in such a way that makes you genuinely feel them as a listener? A rapper can be technically gifted, but if the verses in an artist’s book of rhymes don’t come alive with character and emotion once they’re in front of a microphone, is it really worth it? Whether speaking on personal hardships, painting images of Crooklyn life, or simply stating his lyrical prowess, NYC’s Eddie Kaine made you feel his bars, accompanied by the wailing soul samples of the always impressive Big Ghost Ltd.

Philmore Greene – “Knowledge And Power” (PhilmoreGreene.BandCamp.Com) – On this album, Chicago’s Philmore Greene delivered a soul-stirring collection of honest, contemplative rhymes rooted in the reality of his Windy City life experiences whilst reaching towards a better future. Produced by fellow Chi-town representative Rashid Hadee with features from Natasha Robinson, Skyzoo and Vic Spencer, “Knowledge And Power” lived up to its title with Greene possessing both in abundance.

Check Part Two here.

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks / Phill Most Chill

Jazz Spastiks ft. Phill Most Chill – “Go!” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Funky, upbeat flavour from the UK production duo’s “Camera Of Sound” album with lyrical assistance from Illadelphia’s mighty Phill Most Chill.

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks / Artifacts

Jazz Spastiks ft. Artifacts – “By All Means” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Legendary New Jersey duo Tame One and El Da Sensei drop some Brick City flavour over rolling pianos and uptempo beats on this lead single from the forthcoming Jazz Spastiks album “Camera Of Sound”.

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks & People Without Shoes

Jazz Spastiks & People Without Shoes – “One / Two” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com / 2020)

Funky, upbeat flavour from the UK / US collabo album “Green Street”.

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks / People Without Shoes / Bathtubbs

Jazz Spastiks & People Without Shoes ft. Bathtubbs – “Bombs Over Beats” (PeopleWithoutShoes.BandCamp.Com / 2019)

Funky, upbeat flavour from the UK / US collabo album “Green Street”.

New Joint – Godfather Don & Jazz Spastiks

Godfather Don & Jazz Spastiks – “Straight From The Gutter” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com / 2018)

The legendary Rotten Apple rhymer teams-up with talented UK production duo the Jazz Spastiks for this dope, horn-laced head-nodder.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2017 (Part Five) – Ray Vendetta & Giallo Point / Defari / Conway etc.

Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.

Ray Vendetta & Giallo Point – “Sins Of The Son” (PrestigiousRecordings1.BandCamp.Com) – Triple Darkness member Vendetta called on the talents of prolific producer Giallo Point for this epic display of hardcore brilliance, with the London-based lyricist dropping vivid, street-smart rhymes over expertly-crafted loops and beats perfectly suited to the UK emcee’s forthright delivery.

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Showbiz & A.G. – “Take It Back” (DITCEnt.Com) – One of Hip-Hop’s greatest musical partnerships, Bronx duo Show & A.G. dropped this stellar effort some twenty-five years after their first releases appeared on record store shelves. Having lost none of his dusty-fingered touch, Showbiz delivered plenty of that trademark DITC sound here, with Andre The Giant flowing effortlessly throughout.

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Jazz Spastiks & Mellosoulblack – “Midnight Method” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com) – UK production duo the Jazz Spastiks provided Stateside crew Mellosoulblack with a heavy dose of their full-bodied production sound on this quality collaborative album. Thumping beats, random samples and crafty cuts were blended with witty, freestyle-flavoured rhymes here, resulting in an upbeat, feel-good true-school listening experience.

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Rapsody – “Laila’s Wisdom” (Jamla Records / Roc Nation) – 2017 was a big year for North Carolina’s Rapsody, culminating in a Grammy nomination for this deserving body of work. Truth be told, the talented artist didn’t do anything different here than she’s already been doing since debuting her solo material in 2011, incorporating personal experiences, fierce lyricism and a good ear for strong production into one undeniable package. The increased amount of attention Rapsody received this time around, however, was proof that talent and hard-work can get you to where you want to be.

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Kamanchi Sly – “Slycriminality” / “Ultimate BBoy 92” (KamanchiSly.Com) – Hijack legend K Sly dropped two albums in 2017 and, as much as I tried, I really couldn’t decide which was the better of the two, so I’m giving props to both projects here. A pioneer of the 80s UK Hip-Hop scene, the South London lyricist proved throughout both these self-produced releases that his dedication to microphone dominance hasn’t faded over the years at all. Mixing a true love of Hip-Hop culture with a passion for crushing the competition and some wordly wisdom, Kamanchi Sly injected his 2017 output with the energy of a new artist and the experience of a battle-hardened veteran. Stockwell serves again!

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Estee Nack & Friends – “#MiniMansionDust Vol.2” (EsteeNack.BandCamp.Com) – Tragic Allies member Estee Nack dropped science alongside Daniel Son, al.divino and Mr. Rose on this solid collection of fly underground jewels, with the Massachusetts mic fiend’s gritty delivery and righteous street knowledge hitting the target as always.

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Flashius Clayton & Lisaan’dro – “Money Makin Music” (FlashiusClayton.BandCamp.Com) – The end result of a weekly series of free tracks dropped between September and November, this project effectively showcased the sharp rhyme skills of Cali’s Flashius Clayton and NY’s Lisaan’dro, two distinctly different emcees with a shared passion for the craft of lyricism. Featuring production from Farma Beats, The Historian and Spectacular Diagnostics, “Money Makin Music” marked both these talented individuals as ones to watch in 2018 and beyond.

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Blacastan & Stu Bangas – “The Uncanny Adventures Of Watson & Holmes” (BrickRecords.Com) – The sequel to their 2014 Watson & Holmes project, this album was another collection of raw beats and rhymes from the Connecticut emcee and Boston producer that definitely wasn’t for the faint-hearted. Slashing through your speakers with razor-sharp precision, the chemistry shared between the pair was apparent once again here, with all the elements of a true musical partnership on display.

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Jay-Z – “4:44” (RocNation.Com) – Jay-Z has always been a divisive figure in Hip-Hop, sparking passionate debates between those who see him as a calculating commercial rapper and others who consider him one of the greatest artists of all-time. To be fair, both camps have valid points, as Hov’s career has contained moments of sonic brilliance and disappointment. This album, however, was his best release in a decade, with the nearly fifty-year-old artist talking about topics a nearly fifty-year-old artist in Jay’s position should be addressing in their music – family, society, personal failures, successes – displaying a different side to the Brooklyn icon than we’d heard and seen before.

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Ankhlejohn – “The Red Room” (Shaap Records / FxckRxp.Com) – The raspy-voiced Washington D.C. wordsmith dropped this cohesive collection of late-night street-hop mixing East Coast boom-bap sensibilities with a no-holds-barred lyrical approach, resulting in a project that was something of an acquired taste but that offered a unique listening experience for those who embraced “The Red Room” in all of its unhinged glory.

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Spnda & Grubby Pawz – “Steel Sharpens Steel” (CityYardMusic.BandCamp.Com) – On point like a knife blade, this Boston duo’s album was an effective lesson in how to craft a project that has the ability to really draw the listener in, with Spnda’s liquid swordplay meshing perfectly with producer Pawz’ loop-based mellow madness, resulting in an album that was both atmospheric and captivating with maximum replay value.

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RSXGLD – “RSXGLD” (RSXGLD.BandCamp.Com) – This album found veteran Michigan representatives RoSpit and 14KT successfully pushing their respective creative boundaries on each track, giving “RSXGLD” a sound that was soulful, hardcore and experimental in equal measures. Ambitious, personal, speaker-rattling Hip-Hop.

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Jehst – “Billy Green Is Dead” (YNRProductions.BandCamp.Com) – Named after a socially-aware 1972 Gil-Scott Heron track, UK producer-on-the-mic Jehst’s first album in six years was a deep musical experience to fully immerse yourself in, offering commentary on today’s modern world which, at times, made for unsettling and haunting listening. A truly brilliant work of art.

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Recognize Ali & Giallo Point – “Back 2 Mecca” (RecognizeAli.BandCamp.Com) – The last of three albums to be released in 2017 by Greenfield Music’s talented Recognize Ali, this project paid tribute to the culture of Hip-Hop and was powered by the typically impressive production of the UK’s Giallo Point, with the likes of Estee Nack, Daniel Son and PhybaOptikz also contributing their skills to this raw collection of subterranean gems.

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Life MC & DJ Nappa – “Audio Bliss” (LifeMC.BandCamp.Com) – One of UK Hip-Hop’s most distinctive voices, Life MC touched on a variety of topics throughout this succinct seven-track EP, with fellow Phi-Life Cypher member Nappa pulling out some top-drawer production to match the Luton lyricist’s passionate verses.

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Ash The Author & Krang – “Two Man Band” (BoomBapPro.Com) – Lively, spontaneous vibes from the UK duo, with Ash’s cleverly cocky rhymes sitting nicely over the jazz-influenced production of Krang, a combination which added another worthy release to the Boom Bap Professionals label catalogue.

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Defari – “Rare Poise” (Fat Beats) – Part of the mid-90s West Coast independent scene and a Likwit Crew affiliate, Defari is no stranger to releasing quality music. Calling on the production skills of Evidence to assist in crafting his first album in eleven years, the Cali emcee proved that he hadn’t missed a beat with this self-assured set which also featured appearances from longstanding Left Coast wordsmiths Rakaa Iriscience, Krondon and Phil Tha Agony.

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Verb T & Pitch 92 – “Good Evening” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – Supported by the brilliant production of Mouse Outfit music man Pitch 92, the mighty Verb T dropped an engaging, down-to-earth mix of life observations, dry wit and personal reflection, proving once again why his stature as UK Hip-Hop royalty is so well-deserved.

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Codenine – “IX” (Codenine.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the sublime, minimalist soundscapes of producers Kas and Motif Alumni, Tragic Allies member Codenine made sure that not a moment of his time on the mic was wasted here, packing his verses with vivid imagery and a near-cinematic attention to detail that put him head-and-shoulders above much of his competition.

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Conway – “G.O.A.T.” (WhoIsConway.Com) – Buffalo’s master of murderous mood music returned at the end of the year with a fresh batch of  cold-hearted crime rhymes and dark Daringer production, closing off what had been an eventful twelve months for the Griselda emcee and setting high expectations for what 2018 may bring via Conway’s signing to Eminem’s Shady Records.

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New Joint – Jazz Spastiks & MelloSoulBlack

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Jazz Spastiks & MelloSoulBlack – “Follow The Leader” (@JazzSpastiks / 2017)

Speaking-pounding beats and rhymes off the “Midnight Method” collabo album from UK production duo Jazz Spastiks and Tennessee-based crew MelloSoulBlack.

Midnight Method Album Sampler – Jazz Spastiks & MelloSoulBlack

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UK production duo Jazz Spastiks have teamed-up with Tennessee-based trio MelloSoulBlack to drop “Midnight Method”, an album packed with dope sample-based beats, entertaining wordplay and genuine true-school attitude.

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks

Jazz Spastiks – “Spray Paint (Reflection Of Culture)”  (@JazzSpastiks / 2017)

Instrumental head-nod flavour from the UK production duo’s forthcoming “Scratch & Sniff” album.

Scratch And Sniff Album Trailer – Jazz Spastiks

Talented UK production duo Coconut Delight and Mr. Manyana return with a dope instrumental concept-based project – pre-order here.

 

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks & Mello Soul Black

Jazz Spastiks & Mello Soul Black – “Midnight Mode” (@JazzSpastiks / 2017)

Mellow, head-nodding vibes on this UK / US collabo cut.

New Joint – Pen Pals / The Slipmat Brothers

Pen Pals & The Slipmat Brothers aka Jazz Spastiks – “Oh Yes!” (@PenPalsNYC / @JazzSpastiks / 2016)

Lead single off the forthcoming “Made For The Underground” collabo album from NYC’s Pen Pals and UK production duo The Slipmat Brothers (who’ve already dropped a number of sureshots over the years under their Jazz Spastiks moniker) .

 

 

New Joint – PenPals

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PenPals – “STFU – Jazz Spastiks Remix” (@JazzSpastiks / 2016)

NY’s The Cynic and Rapswell are given the dope remix treatment by the UK’s Jazz Spastiks.

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks / Sleep Sinatra

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Jazz Spastiks ft. Sleep Sinatra – “I Get” (@JazzSpastiks / 2016)

The UK production duo team-up with Nebraska-based emcee Sinatra for this funky, boom-bap-flavoured track off their forthcoming album “Portals” dropping next month on Mixkings Records.

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks

Jazz Spastiks – “Jazzspormers” (@JazzSpastiks / 2015)

Organic, feel-good flavour from UK production duo Coconut Delight and Mr. Manyana off the forthcoming compilation “BamaLoveSoul Presents On Deck 3”.

Unkut Fresh Album Sampler – Jazz Spastiks & Rebels To The Grain

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Melodic samples and infectious, head-nodding beats are the order of the day on the forthcoming “Unkut Fresh” collabo project from UK production duo Jazz Spastiks and Los Angeles-based lyricists Rebels To The Grain.

New Joint – Jazz Spastiks / Rebels To The Grain

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Jazz Spastiks & Rebels To The Grain – “Tapes” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com / 2015)

If you ever experienced that sinking feeling back in the day hearing your cassette recording of a favourite radio show or album getting chewed inside your walkman or boom-box, then this UK / US collabo is dedicated to you.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2014 (Part Three) – Blueprint / Essa / Timeless Truth etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Blueprint – “Respect The Architect” (Weightless Recordings) – Responsible for releasing a steady stream of quality music over the last decade-plus, Ohio producer-on-the-mic Blueprint channeled his life experiences, both good and bad, into this emotionally-charged body of work. Capturing a variety of moods and thoughts, Blueprint moved seamlessly throughout this album, from moments of powerful reflection to striking artistic defiance. Genuine soul music.

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Skanks – “The Shinigami Flowfessional” (Shinigamie Records) – Spreading love may well be the Brooklyn way as Biggie once said, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be delivered with a heavy dose of rawness, as evidenced by NY emcee Skanks’ impressive solo project. Backed by the rugged, thunder-clap production of France’s Kyo Itachi, the Bankai Fam member repped for both the streets of his Crooklyn stomping grounds and the culture of Hip-Hop with equal parts passion, aggression and determination. How about some hardcore?

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Wu-Tang Clan – “A Better Tomorrow” (Warner Brothers) – At one point it looked like “A Better Tomorrow” wasn’t likely to see the light of day, with there being discord within the Clan regarding RZA’s creative direction for the project. Yet, the brothers from the slums of Shaolin managed to find some musical middle ground. For the most part, this 20th anniversary album effectively balanced the Abbot’s grand ideas with traditional Wu-Tang slang, showcasing the still-impressive verbal skills of each member and also including some poignant rhymes for our troubled times.

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Dilated Peoples – “Directors Of Photography” (Rhymesayers Entertainment) – Viewing the world through a camera lens on their first group project since 2006, West Coast trio Evidence, Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu added more worthy sonic snapshots to their extensive musical photo album, which now spans almost two decades. With “Directors Of Photography”, the crew showcased their creative growth whilst remaining faithful to their underground Hip-Hop roots set in the 90s indie scene.

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Giallo Point & SmooVth – “Portrait Of A Pimp” (Crate Divizion) – SmooVth by name, smooth by nature, the Strong Island lyricist plundered UK producer Giallo Point’s beat stash for this sublime, low-key lesson in minimalist magic. Weaving subtle-yet-vivid rhymes around exquisite beats that ranged from cool-breeze loops to 70s soundtrack-style drama, SmooVth used his calm-but-deadly delivery to draw the listener into a cinematic world of fine women, fast living and slick street tales.

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Eff Yoo & Godilla – “They Came On Horseback” (Eff Yoo & Godilla) – Riding into town from the high plains of NYC and Pennsylvania respectively, mic-slingers Eff Yoo and Godilla stood as outlaws against Hip-Hop’s diluted mainstream, crafting an album for those who still appreciate genuine lyricism. Joined on their musical travels by the likes of Spit Gemz, Shabaam Sahdeeq and UG of the Cella Dwellas, this rough-and-ready posse made their way through the badlands of rap, inviting like-minded heads to ride alongside them. Saddle up!

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Lord Finesse – “The SP1200 Project” (Slice-Of-Spice) – The Diggin’ In The Crates legend unleashed a mammoth selection of masterful, sample-based beats on this brilliant instrumental project. Capturing the timeless essence of classic golden-era Hip-Hop, Finesse demonstrated why his reputation as one of the game’s illest producers remains firmly intact to this day.

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Essa – “The Misadventures Of A Middle Man” (First Word Records) – London’s Essa (formerly known as Yungun) is the perfect example of an emcee who has really kept it real over the years in the truest sense of the term. Having displayed consistent artistic growth, integrity and honesty since debuting in the early-2000s, this long-awaited album found Essa delivering expertly-written verses over a varied selection of musical flavours, from futuristic soul and afro-beat to traditional, drum-heavy Hip-Hop. Capturing Essa’s thoughts on topics such as his mixed-race heritage, religion and family, “The Misadventures…” offered insight into the world of an artist with a sharp mind and an equally sharp lyrical ability.

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Diamond District – “March On Washington” (Mello Music Group) – Successfully achieving the delicate balancing act of pushing creative boundaries whilst still satisfying original fans, DMV trio Oddisee, yU and Uptown XO’s follow-up to their 2009 album “In The Ruff” demonstrated both musical growth and a deeper lyrical approach. Spring-boarding off of Oddisee’s ever-expanding production palette, the group crafted a now-school album with influences that could be traced back to 70s soul and 90s Hip-Hop.

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K-9 – “The Re-Education Of King 9” (Rotton Products) – This self-produced album from London emcee K-9 is what KRS-One would no doubt describe as ‘edutainment’. Proudly displaying a strong reggae influence rooted in old-school sound-system culture, K-9 also drew heavily on his West Indian ancestry as he linked the social plight faced by many inner-city British Black Black youth to the experiences of older generations arriving in England in the late-40s and after. Tackling racism, injustice and colonialism, “The Re-Education Of…” is as much a history lesson as it is a snapshot of present-day Britain. Intelligent, entertaining and engaging. Overstand!

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Golden Brown Sound – “The Great Man Theory” (GBS) – Claiming to be bringing ’88 back, “not the place and time, but the state of mind”, Boston duo NoDoz and DJ On & On succeeded in crafting an album that, like so many golden-era favourites of yesteryear, was recorded with the intention of being valued and embraced by the Hip-Hop Nation first and foremost. NoDoz’s passionate social commentary and life observations sat tightly over On & On’s pounding production, resulting  in “The Great Man Theory” being a combustible mix of mental stimulation, energy and true skills.

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Various Artists – “Jamla Is The Squad” (Jamla Records) – With Statik Selektah on the ones-and-twos, this mixtape-style compilation of Jamla artists and allies showcased just how much talent is affiliated with the 9th Wonder-helmed label. Featuring the likes of Big Remo, Rapsody and GQ delivering expert wordplay over the soul-drenched boom-bap of Khrysis, Eric G and 9th himself, this album proved, as Busta Rhymes mighty say,  that Jamla really is the squid-aud!

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Keith Science – “Hypothalamus” (Central Wax Records) – Following up 2012’s impressive “Vessels Of Thought Volume II”, New Jersey producer Keith Science unlocked his lab to present this collection of atmospheric instrumentals. Ranging from mesmerising, late-night-flavoured beats, to sparse, neck-snapping rhyme-ready tracks, with “Hypothalamus” Science proved himself to be a true master of the sampling arts.

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Ray Vendetta & Greater Good – “Effortless” (GreaterGoodBeats.BandCamp.Com) – A member of talented UK collective Triple Darkness, London emcee Ray Vendetta stepped outside of crew ranks to drop this dope solo project. Combining life memories, positive sentiments and raw imagery with the hazy, head-nodding production of Greater Good,  “Effortless” was a hypnotic, and at times haunting listening experience, which stayed with you long after the last track faded away.

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Sonnyjim & Leaf Dog – “How To Tame Lions” (EatGood Records) –  Collaborations between particular emcees and producers may look good on paper, but don’t always translate well once both parties are in the studio. When done right, however, the final results can be a match made in Hip-Hop heaven, like this EP from Birmingham emcee Sonnyjim and High Focus Records production wizard Leaf Dog. Meshing colourful wordplay and rewind-worthy punchlines with sublime beats, the pair displayed a natural chemistry throughout “How To Tame Lions” which, hopefully, will be heard again on future releases.

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Von Poe VII – “Only Godz Relate” (Organized Threat) – An ambitious project of epic proportions, this thirty-track double-album from West Coast emcee Von Poe found the skilled artist unleashing intricate verses laced with socially conscious sentiments, street knowledge and a strong sense of cultural pride. Linking with equally talented wordsmiths such as Planet Asia and the UK’s Melanin 9, Poe also demonstrated a sharp ear for quality production, with “Only Godz Relate” possessing a strong sonic identity thanks to the ominous, piano-laced soundscapes of Saheed Sha, Endure and Faces. Peace to the Godz!

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Creestal – “Difference” (Munchie Records) – French producer Creestal’s instrumental project “Difference” (a dedication to the “dark and rugged” aspects of America) offered listeners a captivating sonic journey which conjured up images of New York City project buildings, late-night street-corner drama and lost record collections rediscovered in dusty basements. Meticulously pieced together from a variety of random sample material, “Difference” was as unpredictable as it was enjoyable.

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Timeless Truth – “Dominican Diner” (TimelessTruthNYC.Com) – Building on the strong foundations of their previous releases and continuing to carry on tradition, blood-related “Queens giants” Oprime39 and Superbad Solace repped proudly for their NY borough throughout “Dominican Diner”, accompanied by atmospheric production from the talented Fafu. Staying true to the golden-era codes and ethics of Rotten Apple Hip-Hop, Oprime and Solace respectfully paid homage to the NYC sound that raised them whilst making their own worthwhile contribution to the city’s rap legacy.

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Supastition – “Honest Living” (Reform School Music) – Written during a period in when North Carolina-raised, ATL-based lyricist Supastition found himself unemployed and looking for a j-o-b in an unsteady US economy, “Honest Living” was working-class Hip-Hop capable of resonating with anyone struggling to make-ends-meet and provide for their family. Backed by the melodic boom-bap of German producer Croup, Supa provided the perfect soundtrack for everyone out there counting down to payday every month.

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Jazz Spastiks – “The Product” (JazzPlastik) – UK production duo Coconut Delight and Mr. Manayana delivered a flawless album with “The Product”, a thoroughly-satisfying, head-nodding extravaganza which found the pair supplying the likes of Yesh, Apani B. Fly and Count Bass D with their classic brand of jazz-infused beats. Smooth horn samples, huge basslines and dreamy keys were the order of the day here, resulting in a warm, timeless listening experience.

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Part Four coming soon.