Hermit and the Recluse – “Argo” (BrownsvilleKa.Com / 2018)
Elegant rawness from the recently-released Animoss / Ka album “Orpheus Vs. The Sirens”.
Hermit and the Recluse – “Argo” (BrownsvilleKa.Com / 2018)
Elegant rawness from the recently-released Animoss / Ka album “Orpheus Vs. The Sirens”.
Hermit and the Recluse – “Sirens” (BrownsvilleKa.Com / 2018)
Sublime, intricately-woven wordplay from Brooklyn emcee Ka’s sixth album “Orpheus Vs. The Sirens” produced entirely by California’s Animoss.
Cappo – “Dramatic Change Of Fortune” (YNR Productions) – Nottingham’s Cappo really put himself in a zone for his latest self-produced long-player, a relatively short yet intense collection of intricate lyricism and atmospheric, boundary-blurring beats which proved the UK emcee isn’t afraid to think outside of the box when it’s time to make music.
Nolan The Ninja – “He(art)” (Left Of Center) – Whilst accurate, using the word ‘passionate’ to describe Nolan The Ninja’s microphone techniques really doesn’t do justice to the Detroit emcee’s approach to his craft. Attacking every track on “He(art)” with both ferocity and skill, the Motor City representative ensured this album bristled with a tangible sense of energy, showcasing his undeniable love for the culture of Hip-Hop in the process.
Levitical – “Do The Right Thing” (Levitical.BandCamp.Com) – With a respectful nod to Spike Lee’s classic late-80s film of the same name, this EP from Detroit duo Dr. Doowap and Marc Arrow was a short, sharp blast of sonic motivation, mixing humour, wit and social commentary with jazzy, soulful soundscapes.
Apollo Brown & Skyzoo – “The Easy Truth” (Mello Music Group) – Backed by the melodic thump of Detroit producer Apollo Brown, Brooklyn’s Skyzoo offered further proof throughout “The Easy Truth” of why he deserves to be described as one of the nicest wordsmiths to have emerged from his beloved BK borough, painting captivating lyrical pictures of Rotten Apple life with genuine skill, empathy and insight. Respect the aura.
Spida Lee – “Rise Of A King” (SpidaLee.BandCamp.Com) – Mixing conscious vibes and street smarts with the unashamedly 90s-influenced production of Natural Doc, UK emcee Spida Lee’s sophomore album was a real joy to listen to, full of unbridled enthusiasm and a desire to give listeners some food for thought.
A Tribe Called Quest – “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service” (Epic) – Following the sad passing of group member Phife Dawg, the unexpected return of A Tribe Called Quest was bittersweet to say the least. Yet the legendary crew from Queens largely succeeded in turning tragedy into artistic triumph with their sixth album. Capturing the spirit of the classic Tribe sound without simply retreading old creative ground, “We Got It From Here…” was mature, refined Hip-Hop. RIP Phife.
Blakface & Sean Wyze – “The Time Ahead” (Blakface.BandCamp.Com) – West Coast / Midwest trio FunkLogik, $incere and Sean Wyze delivered thought-provoking, down-to-earth lyricism and melodic, sample-driven beats on this well-crafted album, with Guilty Simpson, Illa J and Trek Life on-hand to offer microphone assistance.
Siddeeq Matthew – “King Language” (SiddeeqMatthew.BandCamp.Com) – Mixing true-school values with contemporary styles, this EP from Leicester, England’s Siddeeq Matthew offered street-savvy verses laced with personal reflection, resulting in a unique and thoroughly engaging listening experience.
Ka – “Honor Killed The Samurai” (Iron Works) – Crafted with the precision of a master builder, this impressive self-produced body of work from Brooklyn’s Ka found the NY artist once again showcasing his near-obsessive attention to detail, both lyrically and sonically. Marrying vivid-yet-understated verses full of gritty life observations with his trademark stripped-down soundscapes, “Honor…” had all the makings of a modern-day cult classic.
MarQ Spekt & Blockhead – “Keep Playin'” (HiPNOTT Records) – If you like raw rhyme skills that sound like they were sharpened in golden-era street-corner ciphers coupled with uncompromising, hardcore beats, then this album from Philly wordsmith MarQ Spekt and NY producer Blockhead should have found its way onto your playlist.
Psycho Les – “Dank God, Vol. 1” (PitFight Entertainment) – Still as intoxicated and stone crazy as ever, Beatnuts member Psycho Les called on a long list of microphone heavyweights to feature on this compilation-style project, including R.A. The Rugged Man, Inspectah Deck and Tragedy Khadafi. Strictly underground funk, keep the crossover.
Gensu Dean & Denmark Vessey – “Whole Food” (Mello Music Group) – The sonic equivalent of a good home-cooked meal, this collaborative effort from Texas-raised producer Dean and Detroit emcee Vessey offered listeners plenty of musical sustenance, with the pair displaying undeniable creative chemistry throughout the project.
Buddy Leezle – “The Colorful World Of Buddy Benetton” (BuddyLeezle.BandCamp.Com) – Philly’s Buddle Leezle joined forces with producer Mook of Ireland’s Sons Phonetic for this transatlantic collection of fresh, fly and bold flavours inspired by the Illadelph lyricist’s passion for collecting vintage Ralph Lauren and Benetton clothing.
Tab_One & Sinopsis – “Sincerely, Tab” (Tab-One.BandCamp.Com) – Members of North Carolina’s Kooley High crew, emcee Tab_One and producer Sinopsis confidently stepped outside of the group dynamic on this collaborative release, with “Sincerely, Tab” standing as a shining example of organic underground Hip-Hop.
Allstar Stacks – “Rocky Road” (AllstarStacks.BandCamp.Com) – London emcee Allstar Stacks delivered a potent mix of streetwise swagger and sincere introspection on this impressive Session 600-produced project, featuring Ray Vendetta, FlowTecs and K Zorro.
Vandal Savage – “1000th Prestige” (IAmVandalSavage.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s Vandal Savage further cemented his growing reputation as one of the nicest lyricists in the UK Hip-Hop scene with this self-produced EP featuring Juga-Naut, Micall Parknsun and Cappo.
Ray Vendetta & K Zorro – “The Regulator’s Handbook” (RingzOvSaturn.BandCamp.Com) – Triple Darkness member Ray Vendetta and fellow London representative K Zorro brough their alter-egos Daddy Longluv and Jack O’Hartz to the forefront on this quality concept-based project, which featured the UK duo proving there’s no slackin’ in their mackin’ as they put it down for the ladies in a roughneck style and fashion.
Idasa Tariq – “FRAMES” (IdasaTariq.BandCamp.Com) – Sincere, intelligent rhymes from Pittsburgh’s Idasa Tariq which were as thought-provoking as they were personal, with “FRAMES” being a project that was tailor-made for today’s troubled times.
Badly Promoted Geniuses – “Sorry Not Sorry” (BadlyPromotedGeniuses.BandCamp.Com) – Described as being “the result of the overactive imaginations of six miscreants with a penchant for Rap”, the debut album from UK crew Badly Promoted Geniuses was an unpredictable-yet-cohesive collection of beats and rhymes, showcasing the undeniable creativity of Triple Dot Beast, Baron Samedi, Skrabl, Oozhe, Sofa King and DJ Severe.
Ivan Ave – “Helping Hands” (JakartaRecords-Label.BandCamp.Com) – Norway’s Ivan Ave delivered honest, introspective rhymes over producer MNDSGN’s mellow beats on this fine collection of hypnotic mood music.
Fifth and final part coming soon.
Ka – “Just” (@BrownsvilleKa / 2016)
Animated visuals from the talented Brooklyn wordsmith’s new album “Honor Killed The Samurai”.
Ka – “30 Keys” (@BrownsvilleKa / 2016)
The Brooklyn emcee drops elegant street rhymes over Roc Marciano production off his new release “The Superfly Single”.
Ka & Preservation – “Days With Dr. Yen Lo” (Mon Dieu Music) – Partly inspired by the classic 1962 film “The Manchurian Candidate”, Brooklyn’s Ka once again teamed-up with producer Preservation to craft this understated masterpiece. Combining minimalist, atmospheric soundscapes with Ka’s vivid-yet-subtle lyrical craftmanship, this project was the sonic equivalent of driving through inner-city New York in slow-motion, looking out the window and watching some of the Rotten Apple’s eight million stories unfolding right in front of your eyes.
Union Blak – “Street English” (Effiscienz) – UK / US duo Sir Williams and Kimba followed-up their 2014 debut for France’s Effiscienz imprint with another quality selection of melodic, uplifting boom-bap and inspirational rhymes, with the pair’s shared love of Hip-Hop and passion for their respective crafts shining through on every track.
Jise – “The Passion Of Jise” (Creative Juices Music) – Part conceptual, part semi-autobiographical, this intense solo project from Arsonists member Jise One was a dramatic, well-executed sonic roller-coaster which found the Brooklyn emcee pushing the creative envelope as he told emotionally-charged stories from various character perspectives over well-chosen production from the likes of Q-Unique, DJ Insite and Dras79.
Spit Gemz – “Godly Features” (Broken Home) – As one of the illest emcees to have emerged from NYC in recent years, it came as no surprise to hear Queens resident Spit Gemz holding his own against veteran wordsmiths such as Tragedy Khadafi, Kool G Rap and Shabaam Sahdeeq on this potent release. A tour-de-force of verbal skill, “Godly Features” showcased Gemz delivering a standard of lyricism that many artists today could only hope to aspire to.
BOOM – “From PG, With Love” (DTMD.BandCamp.Com) – Maryland microphone master BOOM delivered slick, self-assured rhymes over soulful beats on this debut project produced entirely by Dunc of DTMD fame. Representing for his Prince George’s County stomping grounds, the talented artist exuded a quiet confidence throughout this nine-track release which couldn’t fail to endear him to listeners.
The Kingdom – “Kingdom Come” (TheKingdomMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Following up last year’s impressive “No Rest In The Kingdom” project, North Carolina-based duo King Draft and Jerm Scorcese returned with the boundary-pushing “Kingdom Come”, an album that successfully blended future-shock soul vibes, dusty samples and accomplished, intelligent wordplay into one cohesive, rewarding listening experience.
Pete Rock – “Petestrumentals 2” (Mello Music Group) – Mount Vernon’s legendary Chocolate Boy Wonder emerged from his basement once again with a new collection of instrumental flavours for 2015, expanding on his trademark production style which influenced a generation of beat-makers. Capturing a variety of sonic tones and textures, Pete did his legacy justice here, effortlessly retaining his title of Hip-Hop’s Soul Brother #1.
Cold Fusion – “The Elixir” (RingzOVSaturn.BandCamp.Com) – Prior to the 2015 release of the Triple Darkness album “Darker Than Black” (previously mentioned in Part One of this list), group members Ray Vendetta and Cyrus Malachi set the year off with this hardcore jewel, meshing their heavy mental wordplay with the gritty, atmospheric boom-bap of HellzEcho production partnership Ringz Ov Saturn and 7th Dan. “The Elixir” stood as proof that there will always be those whose motivation for picking up a microphone runs deeper than simply chasing overnight success, fame and fortune.
Starvin B & Fel Sweetenberg – “Soul Museum” (Effiscienz) – Backed by the knocking production of New Jersey’s Fel Sweetenberg, the always-impressive Starvin B added another worthy project to his ever-expanding catalogue with this succinct, straight-to-the-point release for France’s Effiscienz label.
Chrome & Illinspired – “The All C N I” (B-Line Recordings) – A throwback to the late-80s when the BPMs of hardcore Hip-Hop inspired immediate dancefloor activity, this release from UK duo Chrome & Illinspired was packed with frantic drums, lively loops, fast-paced cuts and high-velocity verbals. If you could listen to this album without breaking into The Running Man at least once, you really needed to get your pulse checked.
Apathy – “Weekend At The Cape” (Dirty Version Records) – Released as a companion EP to 2014’s “Connecticut Casual” album, “Weekend…” found the acid-tongued Demigodz member once again drawing inspiration from his New England surroundings, delivering typically thorny barbs over largely self-produced beats which ranged from the funky to the melancholy.
Maffew Ragazino – “VII Million Stories” (WPG) – A potent dose of traditional Rotten Apple rap, Brooklyn’s Ragazino undoubtedly made his borough proud with this street-savvy combination of hard-knock sentiments, motivational jewels and life lessons.
Mellow Man Ace – “The Lost Decade” (Ultra Slump! Records) – Perhaps one of the most unexpected releases of 2015 came in the form of this album from California veteran Mellow Man Ace. Dropping his own brand of Latin lingo over funky, soulful soundscapes, with the likes of Dinco D (Leaders Of The New School), Jarobi (ATCQ) and Ultra Slump! label-mate Cazal Organism on-hand to offer lyrical assistance, the West Coast emcee delivered a project that was as refreshing as it was nostalgic.
BRTSound – “Boombap Therapy” (DirtyBeauty) – After checking the title of this release from Russian producer BRTSound, it would have been easy to be misled into thinking you were going to be hearing the work of an unaccomplished beat-head simply attempting to emulate their favourite DJ Premier tracks. However, “Boombap Therapy” was an impressive eight-track effort which found the Moscow music man drawing on both his love of heavy drums and mellow jazz grooves, resulting in what was one of the best instrumental projects heard in 2015.
AUTOmatic – “ARISING” (AUTOmatic.BandCamp.Com) – Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s A.P.R.I.M.E., Trellmatic and JDL Rockwell combined organic, infectious feel-good vibes with down-to-earth rhymes and soulful, organic beats on this polished five-track EP.
Nolan The Ninja – “f_ck the hype” (NolanTheNinja.BandCamp.Com) – This highly-anticipated project from Detroit’s Nolan The Ninja showcased the 23-year-old artist’s ferocious flow and gritty delivery to great effect, with the passionate producer-on-the-mic being joined by Phat Kat, Finale and Hassaan Mackey as he verbally attacked a selection of raw, basement-style beats.
UGeorge – “The Many Faces Of UGeorge” (WorldExpo Records) – The Atlanta-based Soundsci member unleashed his brilliant solo project “The Many Faces Of…” towards the end of the year, featuring UGeorge defining the term ‘grown-man rap’ as he invited listeners into the world of the proud “40-year-old rapper”, tackling a number of topics with a true-school attitude over impeccable production from Ollie Teeba, Jonny Cuba, SilentSomeone and more.
Lewis Parker & Eastkoast – “MK Ultra” (KingUnderground Records) – Talented UK producer Lewis Parker (aka The Man With The Golden Sound) laced NY-raised emcee Eastkoast with a typically high-standard of beats on this captivating collaborative effort featuring Shabaam Sahdeeq, $amhill and El Da Sensei.
Grand Daddy I.U. – “P.I.M.P.” (Steady Flow Records) – The tone of this album from veteran Strong Island emcee Grand Daddy I.U. was summed up succinctly by just one lyric – “I don’t make trap music, I ain’t from down South, I make New York Hip-Hop, ‘Cos that’s what I’m about.” Combining the same blend of slick street talk and cocky bravado heard on his 1990 debut “Smooth Assassin”, the Rotten Apple wordsmith embraced his OG status in no uncertain terms on this release, proving that with age comes wisdom, experience and the right to slap a young buck in the domepiece.
Constant Deviants – “Avant Garde” (Six2Six Records) – Two decades after their debut, the Baltimore / NY duo of DJ Cutt and M.I. proved they were still capable of delivering quality beats and rhymes, with their music remaining rooted in the group’s golden-era origins without sounding stuck in the past. Displaying a creative chemistry that deserved to be compared to that once shared by the likes of Gang Starr or Pete Rock & CL Smooth in their prime, this fourth full-length Constant Deviants project found Cutt and M.I confirming a definite mastery of their distinctive brand of authentic East Coast flavour.
Part Four coming soon.
Dr. Yen Lo ft. Roc Marciano – “Day 81” (@BrownsvilleKa / 2015)
Laser-precise rhyming and lo-fi sonic brilliance from the Ka / Preservation collabo album “Days With Dr. Yen Lo”.