Tag Archives: Juga-Naut

Old To The New Q&A – Juga-Naut

UK emcee Juga-Naut is the perfect example of someone with undeniable natural talent. It’s as if he was born to rhyme. Whilst the Nottingham-based wordsmith has undoubtedly worked hard to perfect his craft, the end result sounds so effortless it’s clear the lyricist-slash-producer is tapping into a place of pure creativity every time he puts pen to paper, picks up a microphone or switches on his sampler.

Having spent the best part of the last decade releasing a string of quality projects (some self-produced, some collaborative efforts), Juga-Naut’s work ethic and dedication have been unquestionable. A true student of the game, Jugz respects the history of the culture, drawing upon it at times for inspiration, whilst boldly stepping forward on his own path, delivering music that is unique, vibrant and larger-than-life.

With his latest album “Bem” dropping back in February, Juga-Naut jumped on the phone recently amidst the coronavirus lockdown to discuss his artistic development, family and future goals.

You released your latest album “Bem” to coincide with your 30th birthday – was the album recorded specifically for that purpose or was there already a project in the pipeline?”

“I always had the idea since I was young. For me, back then, turning thirty really meant adulthood. I already had a couple of songs, like the song with Liam Bailey which I did a couple of years ago, and one or two others. But a lot of the tracks on the album were made very close to the time of it coming out. But I’d had the idea of doing it for a long time, man. Like I said, from when I was young. I remember thinking, ‘Okay, if I’m still doing this then I want to do an album when I turn thirty.’ Of course, I’m still doing it so I made the album (laughs). Also, not being corny, but I wanted to give something out to people for my birthday. But yeah, I’d always planned to do it. I mean, I’ve got so many other projects on the go, but with this, I was like, ‘Yeah this has got to happen.’ As far as the name of the album goes, I didn’t actually think of that until quite late. The title of the album “Bem” is also my third name. It’s an African name which means ‘good’ or ‘well’ in Portugese. So when I thought of using that, I felt that it really fit what I was trying to do with the album and made it personal.”

We did our first interview together eight years ago when you’d dropped the “Marvelous Wordsmiths” project with Vandal Savage. Since then you’ve released eleven projects and maintained a consistently high level of quality in your music. How do you feel you’ve developed as an artist over that period and have you learnt any lessons along the way that you apply to your craft today?

“That’s a good question, man. I mean, the most obvious way to answer you is to say that I’ve literally grown-up during that period. When I listen back to some of the music I was putting out at twenty-two, twenty-three-years-old and then listen to the stuff I’m making now, the progression has been great. I was always good at rapping, but my actual sound and confidence in being who I am has really come out during that time. So I think that’s what I’ve really applied to my music, just me fully embracing who I am. We’re in a place now within Hip-Hop where you can create your own world that people really want to be involved with and buy into and that’s what I’ve really applied to what I do. I’ve got a formula in some ways, but I just try to make every project I do a cohesive body of work. When I look back to “Marvelous Wordsmiths”, that was a mixtape in our eyes and it was a bunch of other people’s beats, mixed with some of our own stuff, and we were just having fun. But with something like “Bem”, that’s a fully cohesive album, fully sequenced and thought out. I also understand now that something like the artwork used for an album is all part of the package. Everything together, the artwork, the sound, the sonics, it’s all super important.”

So would it be fair to say that on your early projects you simply viewed yourself as being a rapper, but now you consider yourself a fully-fledged artist?

“One hundred percent, man. I think we talked about it in that first interview we did, about both my parents being artists and me coming up around art and how that influenced me. Art comes in so many different forms and when you’re making an album, aside from the music, there’s the cover art to think about, you’ve got videos and the visual aspect of what you’re doing. I mean, I always wanted to be considered the best rapper, but that only goes so far. You can only be the best rapper to other rappers. And I’ve kind of got to that place, which is amazing. Some of the greats and some of my peers are holding me up there in that place and that’s what I’ve always wanted, but that doesn’t solidify you in history and pay the bills. I mean, it’s not even about just paying the bills, it’s about creating lasting pieces of work. You mentioned I’ve released eleven projects over the last eight years, but in my head I’m never doing enough. I’m in a weird place where I feel like I’m never doing enough but at the same time there’s so much music there that I wish people could go back and really get their teeth into. Of course, I listen back and there’s some stuff I wish I could have done better, but there are some real gems and some of those projects are really special. I had this thing where I really wanted to get as much music out as I could before I was thirty, so then any shine that comes from now on, people will be able to look back at everything I’ve already done and be like, ‘Okay, this guy’s not a new jack.'”

As much as you have clearly developed as an artist over the years, I think all the elements that make your music so good now have definitely been there since the beginning. Perhaps now though, your own increased confidence and self-awareness means that you’ve been able to refine what you do and how you approach your music?

“One hundred percent. It’s like when you’re cooking and you reduce everything down to create your stock. You just keep reducing it down until it becomes perfect. Then once you’ve got it, that becomes your formula and something that can be added to any dish. I mean, back with a lot of those early releases, I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but I knew it was right. I knew it felt right and I knew some of those things I was doing were what you were meant to do if you wanted to be considered an artist. I was just trying to do my best with it back then, so I’m really happy that effort came across even at that young age.”

“Marvelous Wordsmiths” was my introduction to you and I remember  looking at the cover art and thinking it was a somewhat random choice, but then when I listened to the project it did make sense in a way that I still can’t really explain…

“If it feels right and it’s genuine, that’s the key. It sounds cliché but if you’re doing something because it feels right then it just works and people will be able to hear that and see that. ”

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You mentioned your parents earlier. Now, you’ve been working with your dad (aka Stickman) recently on the Cellar Sessions videos which feature his incredible drumming skills and he also delivers a really powerful spoken-word intro on “Bem”. What’s that collaborative experience like for you on both a personal and creative level?

“The intro on “Bem”, that’s a beat I did a couple of years ago. I recorded those drums in my parents’ cellar with one mic. I’ve done quite a lot of drum tracking and then used them on tracks. My dad just goes off. I let him do what he’s doing, he goes off for twenty minutes on the drums and then I just chop up whatever’s been recorded. I mean, it’s all amazing, but I’ll find the super gems and use those in different tracks. Both my parents are amazing artists, but they’re middle-aged now and I had that fear of missing the chance to solidify that talent in history both for myself and for them. I’m at a place now where I’ve got eyes and ears on me, so I can stamp that for them. They’ve both done amazing things in their lives and that doesn’t have to stop because they’ve had kids or whatever. My dad’s an incredible poet, drummer and visual artist, and my mum is an incredible painter and she makes clothes. She did the cover for my album “Bon Vivant”. She sewed the whole thing together, needle and thread, and it looks amazing. I mean, I wouldn’t be who I am without them and also the people we had around us, who were their friends. I grew up around art, so my whole feeling was like, it would be a loss in my life and our family history if we didn’t certify it by having them involved in my music. I hope to do much much more, but in a worse case scenario, if what we’ve worked on together so far was it, I’d be happy. But going back to the “Bem” intro, I asked my dad to come and record something for me, I told him to go straight off the top and he just did that.”

That intro was off the top?

“Yeah, he did that in two takes I think. He will go off! But it was important for me to get him on the album intro with me turning thirty because I wanted to show people that this is where I come from and this is how I was born and raised, man.”

I met your parents when you performed at Nottingham’s Rough Trade a few years back and heard some of their stories, including them seeing Run DMC perform in Manchester back in the 80s. I remember coming away with a better understanding of who you are and where your artistry comes from. I mean, your dad in particular is just magnetic in terms of his personality and passion for music…”

“He is, man, he is. My dad is the ultimate extrovert. I mean, I’m super close with all my family. But with my dad, he’s been through a lot in his life. He’s been through a lot of hardships and faced a lot of racism. His brother, who was also an amazing artist, took his own life in 1988. So he’s been through a lot. But he’s a true artist and a true eccentric. Every moment that he’s in, he’s truly in that moment. He lives for love and people and energy. That’s the key to what he does. My dad went to New York in 95 / 96 and was playing with all the jazz musicians out there, he went to the poetry clubs, he met Crazy Legs from the Rock Steady Crew and was drumming for him, all kinds of crazy stuff. That’s what I want to keep going. Hopefully I’ll be able to tour with him one day and do something on that level.”

So in a way, “Bem” is as much about celebrating your family heritage as it is about you turning thirty-years-old…

“I really wanted the album to be like the household we have and how it was when I was growing up, with different artists coming over and things like that. I also have to say rest in peace to one of our family’s best friends Pablo and also DJ Jazz Spirit who both passed away. I mean, some of my friends’ parents were so important and pivotal in who we are as well, man. The music was always there. I used to get lectured by Pablo for hours and hours, all of us, my brothers and our friends. He’d play a record and then we’d have to sit down to talk about it and explain why we liked this part and why we didn’t like that part. When you’re young you’re kinda like ‘What’s going on?’, but now I understand that was all part of my foundation. I mean, we’d sit there and listen to a whole John Coltrane piece and then Pablo would turn around and put EPMD on (laughs). Then he’d take that off the deck and put Fela Kuti on. Then he’d put a Roni Size record on. He did all that too f**k with our heads at a young age (laughs). Man, I could go off about it for ages, but the childhood I had was very unique and myself along with my brothers and friends are blessed to have had that. We’ve all been through different things, but that structure there that led us to love art the way we do was amazing, man.”

I’ve mentioned this to you before, but I’ve always felt that you sound particularly good over 80s soul and funk loops. Looking back over your catalogue, you’ve included a number of tracks fitting that description on various releases. Have you ever considered doing a full project based on samples from that musical era?

“I have, man. That’s always been part of my formula, to just put one or two tracks like that on each project because I haven’t wanted it to get too samey. But I’ve been thinking that I might grab a few of the best ones that I’ve done before, do a bunch more and make it into a cohesive album. If I do that, then my idea was to try and get one or two of those classic artists from that period involved in some way. That would be amazing, man. Or people that are doing that type of music now, because you’ve got a few artists out there that are on that vibe. But I’ve always just seemed to fit in that pocket; that 95-100 bpm straight soulful s**t. That music has always hit me and I’ve always loved it. That’s my favourite s**t, man. That 80s soul and rare groove sound. That’s my music through and through. But I’m definitely down to do a full project around that. I’ll be in the full three-piece crushed purple velvet suit on the cover (laughs). So if I do it, I’m going to go all the way.”

That 80s soul / funk flavour is the ultimate feel-good music. Even my five-year-old son Daniel loves that stuff. Obviously he’s heard a lot of music being played in the house and in the car since he was born, but before he could even talk I noticed he really responded to those 80s classics. By the time he was talking, Zapp’s “More Bounce To The Ounce” and Luther Vandross’s “Never Too Much” were two songs he used to ask to hear all  the time. But for some reason he couldn’t say Luther Vandross and used to pronounce it as Super Bandross!

“I’m using that as the name of the album – Super Bandross (laughs). Man, that’s amazing. But it’s music that speaks to your heart. This is the thing with that type of stuff, it’s just uplifting music. It’s upbeat. I’ve never been able to listen to sad music. I’ve always struggled to do that because music affects me so much. Music can make me cry at the drop of a hat. Chords in a song can really mess with you, which is why stuff like Roy Ayers and a lot of the jazz fusion artists, they really hit me because those chord patters they use just do something to me. It’s powerful, man. But when I perform live and I do those songs with the 80s samples, people love it. Even if they haven’t heard the original song before. It just hits them in a certain way and that’s what I want.”

You’ve dropped a few releases that feature you working specifically with one producer for the whole project – Micall Parknsun (“Six Bricks”), Sonnyjim (“The Purple Door”), Giallo Point (“Back To The Grill Again”). As a producer yourself, what do you look for in another producer that makes you decide you want to collaborate with them in that way rather that just handle the music yourself?

“Man, nobody’s ever asked me that (laughs). To be honest, all those guys you’ve mentioned, they’re my mates now. Obviously I love the beats they’ve done, otherwise I wouldn’t have used them, but it’s about the energy as well and me getting in touch with them and really getting where they’re coming from. I mean, one of the reasons I started producing when I was fifteen, sixteen-years-old was because I really didn’t like a lot of the stuff people were giving me, so I decided to give it a go as I’d thought it couldn’t be as hard as people made out (laughs).  But with Sonny, he’s got a good ear for straight raw loops and I got where he was coming from. With Micall Parknsun, I loved the drums and I love the way he chopped the beats. Plus, he was one of the first people from the UK who openly really promoted me and he didn’t have to. Before we even worked together, he was telling people about my music. Not too many people do that because there’s so much ego and weirdness out there. But the beats he sent me, he told me that he’d made them specifically for me, and they worked. Same with Giallo Point. A lot of the stuff he does is super grimy, but he told me that he had some stuff for me. He sent me a couple of tracks and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s it!’ So the rest of the beats were almost made to order for me and as they were coming through, almost all of them I was hearing were perfect for what I wanted to do. There’s something about Giallo’s beats though that make me want to write to them as soon as I hear them, which is rare. He’s got a great ear for samples.”

How does working with outside producers influence your writing process, if at all, compared with when you’re using your own beats?

“So the difference between me working on my own tracks and working on other people’s is that ninety percent of the time, whenever you’ve heard me on a beat of my own, I’ve literally made the beat and written to it that same day. If I leave a beat after I’ve made it and I keep listening to it, I just can’t write to it. My brain just switches off and I start thinking ‘You know what? I can hear Nas on this beat or Jadakiss.’ If that happens then I find that I just can’t write to it. It’s a weird, weird thing. So with my own beats, if I don’t write to them straight away I’ll just agonize over it and it’ll just turn to ash, man.”

Are we likely to see another VVV album with yourself, Cappo and Vandal Savage?

“Well, we have got another one in the works, man. We were already supposed to do one but everyone was just too busy. I mean, that first project was just for fun and was just all of us having a laugh. When we all wanted to get together, have a few drinks and record some music, that’s how that first project came together. So our deejay, International Jeff, he’s got a tape with about ten tracks done and it’s all on his beats. So that’s there and is yet to come. So there will be another Triple V album but it won’t be in the same vein of how we did the one before because it’s Jeff producing it, whereas before it was between me, Cappo and Vandal Savage doing all the beats. But everyone’s just doing different things at the moment with their own music and just life in general. So there will be another Triple V album, it’s just a matter of time, man.”

When the first VVV tracks and videos started to surface initially I wasn’t completely sure whether they were meant to be taken seriously or not. What was the inspiration behind you all coming together to form the group in the first place?

“All being at the forefront of what we do and all coming from Nottingham, it was a natural thing for us to come together to work on something. But when we started, it was really about saying let’s just make something and see where it goes. We didn’t just want to do the traditional underground UK Hip-Hop sound and be put into that box. Hip-Hop can be very conservative and there are just so many rules that people apply to it, but with that first Triple V album we just wanted to have fun. We were creating our own world with our own sense of humour, but within that there were some real gems and some really good music. I mean, we got a real cult following just from that album alone and I think it was almost cathartic for all of us just to get that out of our systems. I had so much fun doing the videos the way that we did and making that music. We all went on tour together and that was some of the funniest times I’ve ever had in my life. It was just absolute chaos and pure fun. man.”

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Previously you’ve talked about the politics of the UK Hip-Hop scene and how initially it was difficult for you to gain attention coming from Nottingham. Do you feel that’s changed now or are you still facing the same issues?

“It’s still the case, man. But it’s made me go even more Nottingham with it. I mean, I’ve done shows and worked with people all over the country and all over the world. But there are still people not paying attention. I did a podcast in London last year and one of the guys told me I was one of the only rappers he listens to outside of London. When I asked why he said it was because he couldn’t get with the accents. Now, that’s someone British saying that, so imagine what someone from Sweden or the USA might have to say about the music. But when it comes to people not checking the music out, I’ve often asked myself is it because of the way I look? Is it purely because of the accent? Am I not gangster enough? Am I not backpack enough? I wouldn’t say I’m a square peg in a round hole, but I don’t quite fit anywhere people want me to be. But the people who do know, they’re stone cold fans and that’s the beautiful thing about it. I guess to answer your question, I still don’t really feel embraced, but the whole world is listening to me now.”

You recently dropped a video for the track “Bone Marrow” which gives a massive nod of respect to Wu-Tang  and also uses the same Syl Johnson sample as the crew’s 2000 cut “Hollow Bones”. What made you choose to pay homage to the Clan and what impact have they had on you as an artist?

“It’s almost beyond words how much impact the Wu have had on my life. There’s just something so pure, so raw and grimy and real about their music. But that loop there, I was just listening to the original song and it’s one of those songs that really hits your heart because it’s pure Black pain that you’re listening to. The way RZA used it and flipped it on “Hollow Bones”, I was going to loop the same part, but then I decided to use a different part that didn’t have the vocals on just to have a little difference to it. But in terms of how they’ve influenced me, Wu-Tang is one of the most important groups in Hip-Hop history and they’ve had a massive influence on everything, from lyricism, to beats, to clothing, to slang. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I mean, I wouldn’t be the emcee I am today without Raekwon and Ghostface, and I wouldn’t be the producer I am without RZA.”

“Yellow Glow” is a personal favourite of mine off “Bem” and is a perfect example of the point you were making earlier about particular sounds in music being able to trigger certain emotions and feelings.  The verses from yourself, Taja and Oliver Rees obviously have a nostalgic element to them, but even without the lyrics that track would still you put in that place just off the production alone…

“I’m really glad you said that, man. Like I said earlier about music hitting you in a certain way, with the chords and the progression, that’s what I was aiming for with “Yellow Glow”. There’s both a happiness and a melancholy feel to it as well, which sums up life in general but also comes from looking back on the best memories ever and understanding those times will never happen again. But the two emcees featured on there, I feel that they’re the future. I’m still not at a place where I have enough reach to say ‘These are the next guys!’ and everyone jumps on them, but if I can do anything for those who are truly good people and who have talent, then I will. I’ve got a whole project with Taja, she’s an amazing emcee from Birmingham, and Oliver Rees plays his own instruments and as an emcee he’s amazing as well. But that track came together really well and I’m glad you brought it up because not many people have brought it up in the same way you just have so I’m really happy about that.”

So obvious final question, now you’ve hit thirty-years-old and reached that milestone, what’s next for you?

“When I look back at the plans I made when I was younger and the ideas I had of where I wanted to be by the time I reached my late-twenties / early-thirties, I’ve actually surpassed it. Not in terms of monetarily or receiving the recognition I feel I deserve, but when it comes to just releasing music, having a worldwide following, having loyal fans, having legends and people I look up to supporting me, I have all that now which is amazing. So the thing for me now is getting to a place where I’m financially okay to just put my own music out, have a label and put out artists I want to work with. I really want to be free to do what I want to do and not have to rely on anyone else. So the next step is about being at a level where I can tour every summer, put my music out, and have a strong enough following to be able to do this for the foreseeable future. It’s coming, man, it’s coming. I’m gradually picking up steam and behind the scenes my name is being talked about, it’s just about now getting my name to the forefront (laughs). Moving forward I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and hopefully get more of the world to listen to what I do. I want to have longevity. In twenty years time I want people to be talking about my music like, “Do you remember that “Bem” album that Juga-Naut put out? That was a brilliant album, let’s go back and listen to it.” I mean, I’m sending orders for tapes out to Japan which is crazy! When we did our interview eight years ago, I wasn’t thinking that I would end up sending cassettes to Germany, Japan and the US. But it’s definitely a beautiful thing.”

Ryan Proctor

The “Bem” album is available now at JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com.

 

 

New Joint – Juga-Naut

Juga-Naut – “Bone Marrow” (@JugaNaut / 2020)

The talented Nottingham emcee offers a nod of respect to the mighty Wu-Tang Clan with this quality cut lifted from his recent “Bem” album.

New Joint – Juga-Naut

juganaut cover

Juga-Naut – “Woodgrain” (@JugaNaut / 2020)

Talented Nottingham wordsmith Juga-Naut showcases his brand of “upper echelon emceeing” over smooth 80s R&B vibes from his new album “Bem” released today to mark his 30th birthday.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part Four) – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point / Diamond D / Da Flyy Hooligan etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – “Back To The Grill Again” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham emcee Juga-Naut is a force of nature when it comes to this rhyming ish. A genuine talent, the UK wordsmith has been delivering high-end wordplay for years now. The resulting album from his partnership with producer Giallo Point was a match made in Hip-Hop heaven. Creative verses and smooth, sublime beats were on the menu here, with the pair succeeding in satisfying the musical cravings of fans across the globe.

Smoke DZA & Benny The Butcher – “Statue Of Limitations” (CinematicMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – Packed with captivating, street-related rhymes and quality Pete Rock production, this collabo EP from DZA and Griselda’s Benny effectively showcased the pair’s genuine chemistry as they each sought to capture their hard-knock life experiences via the art of rap. B-b-b-b-boom!

DJ Enyoutee Presents Planet Asia & Milano Constantine – “The Planet Asia & Milano Constantine EP” – These two phenomenal emcees joining forces was the sonic equivalent of me getting amped as a kid seeing my favourite super-heroes appearing together in an issue of “Marvel Team-Up”. Asia and Milano exchanged razor-sharp rhymes throughout this release, backed by dope production from BodyBag Ben, Cool FD, DirtyDigs and more.

Nujericans – “PBS – Puertoriqueno Barrio Sound” (Nujericans.BandCamp.Com) – New Jersey’s Joey Dynomite and Sol Zalez returned to burn with a rowdy selection of uncut East Coast flavour, featuring beats from A-$harp, The Custodian Of Records and Stu Bangas.

Von Poe VII – “Diary Of The Se7en III” (VonPoeVII.BandCamp.Com) – Cali’s multi-talented Von Poe VII dropped the final part in his “Diary Of The Se7en” EP series, with this third instalment consisting of the West Coast wordsmith’s usual blend of sharp, intelligent, multi-layered rhymes and equally impressive production.

Kwote – “List Worthy?” (TunnelMovement.BandCamp.Com) – Tunnel Movement member and Chicago representative Kwote has built a strong reputation over the years for being a talented emcee, with this collection of true-school beats and rhymes offering further proof that the Windy City wordsmith possesses a voice that deserves to be heard.

DEMOTAPEZ – “Real Life Situations” (DEMOTAPEZ.BandCamp.Com) – Lithuania-born, London-based producer DEMOTAPEZ worked some musical magic on his trusty Akai samplers here, crafting a quality collection of mellow, full-bodied beats laced with echoing horns, melodic keys and warm basslines.

Him Lo – “Prince Akeem Jewelz” (MarQSpekt.BandCamp.Com) – Following up his solo EP released earlier in the year, Buze Bruvaz member Him Lo dropped this self-produced long-player, packed with boisterous verses and unpolished beats, adding further weight to the perception that the Philly emcee will happily steal your beer, snatch your girl and then blow weed smoke in your face on the way out.

Kamanchi Sly – “The Domination Mentality” (HipHop73.Com) – UK legend and Hijack member K-Sly has been on a creative roll since 2017, with this being his seventh album project to see the light of day during that time (with more having dropped since). Attacking the mic with the same vigour heard on his late-80s / early-90s releases, the London emcee’s passion for Hip-Hop obviously remains strong, with his enthusiasm for his craft clear for all to hear throughout this self-produced effort.

Your Old Droog – “Transportation” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – Having already released one of 2019’s best albums with “It Wasn’t Even Close”, NYC’s Your Old Droog made a swift return with the equally impressive “Transportation”, featuring production from The Purist, Mono En Stereo and Oh No, plus an unexpected but welcome remake of former Bad Boy artist G Dep’s mid-90s favourite “Head Over Wheels”.

Diamond D – “The Diam Piece 2” (DymondMineRecords.Com) – Legendary producer-on-the-mic Diamond D delivered a sterling sequel to his 2014 “Diam Piece” release, putting a contemporary twist on his traditional Diggin’ In The Crates sound, with an eclectic lists of artists on-hand to offer their creative input, including Pharoahe Monch, David Banner and Xzibit.

Ras Kass – “Soul On Ice 2” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – One of the game’s finest lyricists, West Coast wordsmith Ras Kass’s follow-up to his 1996 debut demanded repeated listens in order to be fully appreciated. Dense verses packed with verbal expertise were the order of the day here, further cementing Ras Kass’s place in the Hip-Hop hall of fame.

Jack Jones – “The Fix” (MrJackJones.BandCamp.Com) – This long-awaited solo album from Mass Influence / Soundsci member Audessey featured the Atlanta wordsmith delivering accomplished rhymes over stellar production from the UK’s Jonny Cuba and Ollie Teeba, with microphone assistance from Prince Po, Supastition, Oxygen and more.

Anyway Tha God & Ocelot – “Allow Me To Interject…” (AnywayThaGod.BandCamp.Com) – UK emcee AnyWay Tha God sought to spark some positive change amidst today’s troubled times with this Ocelot-produced collection of inspirational beats and rhymes. Relax your mind and let your conscience be free.

XL Middleton – “2 Minutes Till Midnight” (MoFunkRecords.Com) – A long-time purveyor of “the new sound of LA funk”, California’s XL Middleton served up a new batch of smoothed-out grooves which evoked images of warm West Coast nights, packed house-parties and bouncing low-riders, with sonic influences such as The Bar-Kays, Zapp and DJ Quik all being mixed in to the Pasadena-based artist’s skin-tight brand of backyard boogie.

Da Flyy Hooligan – “FYLPM II” (GourmetDeluxx.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by quality production from the likes of Micall Parknsun, Ded Tebiase and DJ Flash, London’s Flyy Hooligan swaggered with stylish arrogance throughout this brilliant album. Packed with character and personality, this project was yet another worthy addition to the UK emcee’s catalogue.

DJ Muggs & Mach Hommy – “Tuez-Les Tous” (SoulAssassins.Com) – Production legend Muggs continued his run of working with today’s new generation of talented underground emcees throughout 2019, uniting with the rhyming enigma Mach Hommy for this particular project which found the pair complimenting each other stylistically and crafting a sparse, atmospheric collection of beats and verses.

Rapsody – “Eve” (JamlaRecords.Com) An honest, insightful and ultimately powerful celebration of Black womanhood, this well-received project from North Carolina’s Rapsody found the Jamla-affiliated emcee continuing her own decade-long tradition of taking large artistic steps forward with each release. A mixture of social observation, cultural analysis and B-girl confidence, Rapsody demanded the listener’s attention throughout this album, commanding a refined and varied production selection supplied largely by 9th Wonder and Eric G.

Ghostface Killah – “Ghostface Killahs” (GhostfaceMusic.Com) – Larger-than-life and as lyrically entertaining as always, the Wally Champ dipped into crime-rhyme mode for the majority of this project, accompanied by his Wu brothers Cappadonna, Method Man, Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa.

Datkid & Leaf Dog – “Confessions Of A Crud Lord” (High-Focus.Com) – A rambunctiously raw offering, this album from Split Prophets member Datkid found the Bristolian emcee dropping attitude-fuelled verses laced with politically-incorrect punchlines over the gleefully radio-unfriendly production of The Four Owls’ Leaf Dog. Heavyweight guest appearances from Roc Marciano, Conway and Westside Gunn only added to the project’s hardcore appeal.

Fifth and final part of this 2019 best-of list coming soon.

 

New Joint – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – “Rock Paper Scissors” (@JugaNaut / @GialloPoint / 2019)

Cinematic greatness from the UK duo’s recent album “Back To The Grill Again”.

New Joint – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – “Concept Song” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com / 2019)

Creative Theorist-animated visuals from the Nottingham emcee’s brilliant Giallo Point-produced album “Back To The Grill Again”.

New Joint – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point / Milano Constantine

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Juga-Naut & Giallo Point ft. Milano Constantine – “Connect The Dots” (@JugaNaut / 2019)

Notts talent Juga-Naut trades rhymes with Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano on one of the many standout cuts from his impressive Giallo Point-produced album “Back To The Grill Again” which dropped today.

New Joint – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – “The Passion” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com / 2019)

Having spent the best part of the last decade building a well-deserved reputation as one of the game’s most talented emcees, Nottingham’s Juga-Naut delivers the quality lead single off his forthcoming Giallo Point-produced album “Back To The Grill Again”, with “The Passion” highlighting the UK artist’s consistent work ethic and dedication to his craft.

Cellar Sessions 3 – Stickman

Give the drummer some! Stickman, the father of talented Nottingham emcee Juga-Naut, delivers some funky, live breaks action.

Cellar Sessions 2 – Juga-Naut & Stickman

Nottingham emcee Juga-Naut drops the second clip in his “Cellar Sessions” series, featuring the talented wordsmith dropping lively bars over the on-point drum work of his father Stickman.

Cellar Sessions 1 – Juga-Naut & Stickman

Nottingham emcee Juga-Naut teams-up with his funky drummer father Stickman for this short-but-effective display of their undeniable skills.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part Five) – Evidence / Juga-Naut / Chuck D etc.

Final part of Old To The New’s  2018 round-up – Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.

DJ Muggs & Roc Marciano – “KAOS” (SoulAssassins.Com) – Following the 2018 release of both “RR2” and “Behold A Dark Horse”, Roc Marci teamed-up with Cypress Hill’s Muggs to put together what resulted in being arguably the best of the three projects. Whilst Muggs’ dark trademark production style may not have seemed the first choice to fit with the Strong Island emcee’s laidback, conversational flow, the pair brought the best out of each other here, with the West Coast music man largely supplying Roc with a string of 70s soundtrack-style samples to lay his lyrical pimp-hand down on.

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Evidence – “Weather Or Not” (Rhymesayers.Com) – The third solo album from Dilated Peoples member Evidence, this project found the West Coast emcee capturing an almost melancholy vibe, an observation which isn’t meant to sound negative at all. As down-to-earth as always, Evidence delivered his usual high-standard of blue-collar beats and rhymes, expertly mixing personal reflection with claims of lyrical dominance over production from the likes of The Alchemist, Nottz and DJ Premier. Let it rain!

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Shay D – “Human Writes” (ShayDMusic.Com) – London-based emcee Shay D’s growth as an artist over recent years has been inspiring to witness, culminating in this project which is arguably her finest body-of-work to date, effectively blending spoken-word and rap, at times blurring the lines between Hip-Hop and grime with bold confidence. Painfully personal, proudly feminist and undeniably street-savvy, “Human Writes” stood as an artistic triumph which refused to be squeezed into the usual boxes female artists often find themselves confined to. Ladies first!

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Knowledge The Pirate – “Flintlock” (Treasure Chest Entertainment / FXCKRXP.BandCamp.Com) – The Roc Marciano-affiliated Pirate has been moving behind-the-scenes within the music industry for years now, with the brilliant “Flintlock” finally giving the East Coast emcee the opportunity to captain his own sonic ship. Detailed hustler tales were delivered here with an understated suggestion of menace, matched perfectly by the soulful, drama-laced production of Elemnt, Roc Marc, Mushroom Jesus and Knowledge himself. Vivid, cinematic crime rhymes. Ahoy!

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Juga-Naut – “Bon Vivant” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s Juga-Naut is a craftsman with words. Next level talent. This impressive album showcased the UK emcee in all his larger-than-life lyrical glory, masterfully weaving confidently delivered verses with style and finesse around high-grade production from the likes of Cappo, Joe Buhdha and Jugz himself. There are some individuals who were just born to rhyme and “Bon Vivant” proved that Juga-Naut definitely falls into that category.

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Ty Farris – “No Cosign Just Cocaine 2” (TyFarris.BandCamp.Com) – Street-wise swagger and lyrical dexterity collided on this project with memorable results, as Detroit’s Ty Farris navigated his way through beats from Trox, Stu Bangas and Foulmouth (to name just a few) with focus, purpose and a razor-sharp tongue.

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Coops – “Life In The Flesh” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – A thoroughly captivating and engrossing listening experience, this concept-based project from UK emcee Coops was a weighty mix of both style and substance. Produced entirely by the talented Talos, the album documented the London resident’s unique perspective on the struggles and challenges of modern-day life in Britain, showcasing the voice of an artist who is as spiritually-aware as he is socially-aware.

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Benny The Butcher – “Tana Talk 3” (GriseldaxFR.Com) – Griselda’s Benny upped the ante on this epic project, following in the footsteps of artists such as Jay-Z and Scarface as he gave listeners the full spectrum of the street life experience, including the losses, betrayals and regrets. Backed by fittingly sombre production from Daringer and The Alchemist, Benny delivered a true masterpiece here.

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Recognize Ali – “The Outlawed” (Greenfield Music / GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – Possessing a tireless work ethic, Ali has blazed his own trail through the underground in recent times with a string of consistently strong releases. This album found the Greenfield emcee once again demonstrating his formidable rhymes skills over production from the likes of Farma Beats, Big Ghost Ltd and Frank Grimes.

Daniel Son & Futurewave – “Pressure Cooker” (BrownBagMoney.BandCamp.Com) – Two of Canada’s finest Hip-Hop talents joined forces to craft this raw-yet-creative example of hardcore Hip-Hop, with the pair sharing an undeniable chemistry which ensured this album remained engaging throughout, as Daniel Son used the drum-heavy production of Futurewave for lyrical dart target-practice.

The Diceman – “The Power Of Now” (KingOfTheBeats.Com) – As a member of veteran Bronx crew The Legion, Dice’s Hip-Hop credentials are unquestionable. On this dope solo album, the Rotten Apple rhymer delivered rugged, witty rhymes over speaker-shaking boom-bap beats, resulting in an album that was grounded in golden-era traditions without sounding stuck in the past. The Bronx keeps creating it.

DJ Jazzy Jeff – “M3” (DJJazzyJeff215.BandCamp.Com) – Presenting the third and final instalment of his “Magnificent” album trilogy, Philly legend Jazzy Jeff gave listeners his usual high-quality trademark blend of Hip-Hop, soul and jazz on a project which was life-affirming, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining. With The Trinity (Rhymefest, Dayne Jordan and Uhmeer) bridging the generation gap on mic duties, “M3” offered sonic sustenance in today’s troubled times.

Black Thought – “Streams Of Thought Vol. 2” (Passyunk Productions / Human Re Sources) – Illadelph icon Black Thought is one of the greatest of all-time. That shouldn’t even be up for debate at this stage in his career. Showcasing his always on-point blend of street knowledge, social observations, life lessons and emcee bravado over loose, funky Salaam Remi-orchestrated soundscapes, Thought continued to set the standard for anyone claiming to be a lyricist.

Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz – “Mona Lisa” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp) – Detroit producer Apollo Brown has made a career out of working with already impressive artists and being able to bring just that little bit more out of them (Skyzoo, Ras Kass, O.C. etc).  Capturing Brooklyn’s Joell Ortiz at a potential crossroads following the Slaughterhouse split, “Mona Lisa” was the sound of an emcee taking stock of both his career and his life, world-weary but not bitter, experienced but not jaded, realistic but looking for a better tomorrow.

Nowaah The Flood & The Architect – “Trill Life Mathematiks” (NowaahTheFlood7.BandCamp.Com) – Texas-based wordsmith Nowaah was one of a crop of upcoming emcees who put their stamp on 2018 via a strong work ethic, quality music and genuine rhyme skills. Produced by the Bay Area’s Architect (of Homeliss Derilex fame), “Trill Life…” found Flood dropping street-based science and righteous rawness over a strong selection of impeccable beats.

Chuck D As Mistachuck – “Celebration Of Ignorance” (ChuckDAsMistachuck.BandCamp.Com) – Public Enemy’s Rhyme Animal returned to burn on this C-Doc-produced project with assistance from P.E. 2.0’s Jahi. Speaking his mind as always, Chuck D took the opportunity to address numerous political and social issues impacting Trump’s Amerikkka and beyond, proving that after thirty-plus years since his debut on wax, the Strong Island legend still doesn’t rhyme for the sake of riddling.

Hermit & The Recluse (Animoss & Ka) – “Orpheus vs. The Sirens” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – Brooklyn’s master craftsman Ka took listeners on another lyrical odyssey with this  concept-based project. Packed with rich imagery, Ka’s verses here were delivered with incredible skill, woven together by life experience and creative genius, complimented by the dramatic, emotionally-charged work of Cali producer Animoss.

Habitat – “617 Black Label” (HeavyLinks.BandCamp.Com) – Heavy Links member Habitat came correct on his second solo album, pulling together a number of talented producers (including Giallo Point, DJ Severe and CrabbMan) to deliver the boom-bap backbone he was looking for. Full of forthright rhymes and true-school attitude, this was another strong outing for the UK emcee.

Codenine & Grubby Pawz – “Auerbach’s Garden” (CityYardMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by some of the smoothest production to be heard in 2018 courtesy of Grubby Pawz, Massachusetts-based microphone fiend Codenine cut through the mellow mood music on offer here with consistently impressive displays of sharp, intricately-woven wordplay.

Stanza Divan – “Poetry In Motion” (StanzaDivan.BandCamp.Com) – Although it was billed as a mixtape rather than an official album or EP release, this impressive offering from Leicester-based artist Stanza Divan needed to be included here, as the lyrical skill, content and conviction contained within “Poetry In Motion” doesn’t come along every day. Definitely an artist to watch in 2019.

 

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2018 (Part Three) – Concept Of Thought / Roc Marciano / Kev Brown etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Concept Of Thought – “Misty Blue” (Yogocop.BandCamp.Com) – A truly life-affirming listening experience, emcees Awfew and Illiterate shone some light into the darkness on this beautifully crafted EP. Blessing the jazzy elegance of producer Joe Corfield with a steady flow of positive vibes, the pair delivered verses inspired by both their Brighton stomping grounds and the memory of a friend lost during their youth. Soothing, dream-like mood music.

Ankhlejohn & Big Ghost Ltd – “Van Ghost” (ShaapRecords.BandCamp.Com) – An undeniably good combination, the raspy rhymes of Washington’s Ankhlejohn sat perfectly atop the uncompromisingly raw production of Big Ghost throughout this satisfyingly sinister release. Eerie pianos, unsettling samples and solid drums provided a fittingly atmospheric backdrop for Ankhlejohn’s unique brand of verbal violence.

Fliptrix – “INEXHALE” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) –  There was something therapeutic about listening to Fliptrix’ seventh solo album.. The project resonated with a feeling, an energy, a vibration that did more than simply make your head-nod or inspire you to pick-out a few favourite quotables. Possessing a tone, flow and delivery which was as effective puncturing holes in the egos of his competition as it was delivering commentary on aspects of the human experience, all facets of Fliptrix’s artistry were brought together brilliantly on “INEXHALE”, with the project giving a sincere nod of respect to UK Hip-Hop’s past whilst boldly striding forward into its future.

Roc Marciano – “RR 2 – The Bitter Dose” (RocMarci.Com) – Largely self-produced, this sequel to last year’s “Rosebudd’s Revenge” album set off what was an extremely productive year for the Strong Island emcee. Roc’s trademark brand of slick New York pimp talk glided over smooth, old-school soul loops, resulting in an album that sounded like it could be the soundtrack to a yet-to-be-completed “Willie Dynamite” film remake.

Klaus Layer & Figub Brazlevic – “Slice Of Paradise” (FigubBrazlevic.Bandcamp.Com)Featuring an international line-up of collaborators from countries such as the UK, Russia and France, talented German producers Klaus Layer and Figub Brazlevic showcased their shared passion for dusty drums and soulful samples on this impressive long-player.

Skyzoo – “In Celebration Of Us” (First Generation Rich Inc) – Skyzoo’s catalogue is impeccable. Since 2005 the Brooklyn emcee has released project after project which have each seen his writing abilities reach new heights. It could be argued that “In Celebration…” stands as Skyzoo’s greatest piece of work to date. Boasting multi-layered rhymes which reveal new meaning with each listen, plus top-notch production from the likes of Apollo Brown, !llmind and Tuamie, this album found the gifted emcee capturing his life experiences growing-up in inner-city NY with an engrossing blend of subtle inflection and vivid descriptions.

Vinnie Paz – “The Pain Collector” (Enemy Soil / JMTHipHop.Com) – The Jedi Mind Tricks frontman delivered another heavy dose of his trademark righteous rawness on his fourth solo album, balancing punch-you-in-the-face aggression with moments of poignant reflection. This project definitely wasn’t made for the faint-hearted, but if you were expecting the Philly legend to drop anything other than uncompromising, hardcore Hip-Hop then you obviously haven’t been paying attention over the last twenty-plus years since JMT’s debut.

Bumpy Knuckles & Nottz – “Pop Duke Volume One” (BumpyKnuckles.BandCamp.Com) – Bumpy Knuckles (aka Freddie Foxxx) has made a career out of lyrically slapping wack emcees with absolutely no regrets. The man’s place in Hip-Hop’s history books is unshakeable. This collaborative project with producer Nottz found Bumpy fully embracing his OG status, showing the game some tough love in his usual gruff manner, dropping jewels in the process.

WateRR & DirtyDiggs – “Wizard Of The Crystal” (WateRR.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago emcee WateRR delivered slick, swaggering wordplay over the dusty loops of West Coast production outfit DirtyDiggs on this concise EP. Featuring the likes of Supreme Cerebral, Recognize Ali and Nowaah The Flood, this release was all about lyricism and genuine rhyme skills. Show and prove.

Kev Brown – “Homework” (KevBrown.BandCamp.Com) – Clocking in at an ambitious twenty-nine tracks, this welcome return from Maryland-based producer-on-the-mic Kev Brown captured the sound of a master at work. Blending  gritty sample chops with understated wordplay, the talented music man delivered an effective sonic lecture demonstrating how a student can become the teacher.

Parallax – “Auditory Vision” (ParallaxOfficialStore.BandCamp.Com) – Delivering on the potential displayed throughout his impressive 2014 EP “Depth Perception”, London lyricist Parallax dropped his official debut album “Auditory Vision”, an accomplished, well-executed project featuring personal, thought-provoking rhymes and quality production from the likes of Ded Tebiase, DJ Nappa and Wickstarr.

OC From NC – “It’s Not You, It’s Me” (OCFromNC.BandCamp.Com) – Having spent recent years proving himself to be an exceptionally consistent artist thanks to a string of quality projects, North Carolina’s OC added another release to his already impressive catalogue, with “It’s Not You, It’s Me” featuring the talented lyricist’s usual mix of boisterous bravado and thoughtful life observations.

Chairman Maf – “Ginger” (ChairmanMaf.BandCamp.Com) – This sixth instrumental album from UK producer Chairman Maf showcased the Sheffield music man’s ever-sharp ear for a soulful sample. Ranging from upbeat quirkiness and sophisticated smoothness to raw boom-bap, Maf proved himself to be a genuine chairman of the board with this masterful collection of dusty-fingered dopeness.

Funky DL – “Dennison Point” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Having already dropped the impressive “Blackcurrent Jazz 3” earlier in the year (included in Part One of this list), multi-talented UK artist Funky DL looked back to his youth for the inspiration behind this brilliantly crafted concept album, with the longstanding Hip-Hop vet reminiscing on his time growing-up in East London over his trademark jazzy, true-school production.

Tragedy Khadafi & BP – “Immortal Titans” (FBDistribution.BandCamp) – Having influenced various Queensbridge legends such as Nas, Mobb Deep and Killa Sha, the Intelligent Hoodlum joined forces with producer BP to deliver his timeless brand of project poetry and pyramid wisdom over concrete-cracking beats. Aura check!

Summers Sons – “Undertones” (SummersSons2.BandCamp.Com) – London-raised, Bristol-based blood brothers Turt and Slim showcased their organic, jazz-influenced stylings on this quality collection of mellow head-nodders. The perfect soundtrack to warm, hazy July evenings, “Undertones” was a satisfyingly soothing listening experience. You gots to chill.

Nujericans – “A La Mala” (Nujericans.BandCamp.Com) – New Jersey representatives Sol Zalez and Joey Dynomite dropped their debut collection of raw-yet-funky beats and rhymes, with the pair offering a nod of respect to the 90s East Coast underground whilst maintaining their own flavour and sonic personality.

Shuko – “1996” (Shuko.BandCamp.Com) – German producer Shuko paid homage to the mid-90s with this brilliantly crafted collection of drum-heavy, sample-based instrumentals, respectfully offering a sonic nod to the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest in the process.

Joe Corfield – “Patterns” (RadioJuicy.BandCamp.Com) – Having already blessed two of 2018’s finest releases with his trademark production sound (Fliptrix’s “Inexhale” and Concept Of Thought’s “Misty Blue”), UK music man Joe Corfield kept the momentum going with this sublime selection of hypnotic, jazz-influenced instrumentals via Germany’s Radio Juicy imprint.

Juga-Naut & Sonnyjim – “The Purple Door” (EatGoodRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Two of the UK’s finest joined forces for this brilliant collection of well-crafted verses and ill beats, with Nottingham’s Juga-Naut proving yet again why he deserves to be mentioned in any conversation regarding the dopest emcees currently gripping microphones, whilst Sonnyjim flexed his production muscle like a true master, flipping some quality samples throughout..

Part Four coming soon.

New Joint – Juga-Naut

Juga-Naut – “M1 North” (@JugaNaut / 2018)

Talented UK emcee Juga-Naut delivers an energetic live performance of an upbeat cut from his new album “Bon Vivant” for The Moonshine Sessions.

Bon Vivant Album Stream – Juga-Naut

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The Nottingham emcee adds another release to his increasingly impressive catalogue with this well-executed album, which features the talented Juga-Naut delivering his trademark brand of densely-packed lyricism over production from Micall Parknsun, Cappo, Joe Buhdha and more.

New Joint – Juga-Naut / Scorzayzee / Vandal Savage

juga-naut

Juga-Naut ft. Scorzayzee & Vandal Savage – “Silk Portraits” (@JugaNaut / 2018)

The always impressive Juga-Naut joins forces with two fellow Nottingham rhyme giants for this string-laden dose of flyness off his forthcoming album “Bon Vivant”, featuring production from Micall Parknsun, Joe Buhdha and Cappo.

New Joint – Redeyes / Juga-Naut

Redeyes ft. Juga-Naut – “Digital Diamonds” (Redeyes.BandCamp.Com / 2018)

The brilliant Juga-Naut reps Nottingham style on this mellow head-nodder off the recent “Broken Soul” album from French producer Redeyes.

New Joint – Juga-Naut & Sonnyjim / Vandal Savage

Juga-Naut & Sonnyjim  ft. Vandal Savage – “Neutral Leathers” (@EatGoodRecords / 2018)

Effortless flyness from the UK pair’s brilliant collabo project “The Purple Door”.

The Purple Door Album Stream – Juga-Naut & Sonnyjim

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Two of the UK’s finest join forces for this sublime collection of well-crafted verses and ill beats, with Nottingham’s Juga-Naut proving yet again why he deserves to be mentioned in any conversation regarding the dopest emcees currently gripping microphones, whilst Sonnyjim flexes his production muscle like a true master, flipping some quality samples in the process.

New Joint – Scran Cartel / Juga-Naut

Scran Cartel ft. Juga-Naut – “Bon Appetit” (@BennyDiction_UK / MnsrFrites / 2018)

Juga-Naut produced cut off the forthcoming collabo album from talented UK artists Benny Diction and Mnsr Frites.