Tag Archives: KingUnderground Records

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2015 (Part Three) – Spit Gemz / Pete Rock / Apathy etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Part Four coming soon.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2015 (Part Two) – Skyzoo / Starvin B / Kingpin etc.

Check Part One here.

Estee Nack & Purpose – “14 Forms: The Book Of Estee Nack” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – Massachusetts microphone fiend Estee Nack joined forces with his Tragic Allies comrade Purpose to craft this shining example of quality underground Hip-Hop. Combining rugged intellect with raw street knowledge, the passionate wordsmith guided listeners through his inner-city world whilst keeping his third-eye wide-open, backed by the melancholy-yet-melodic boom-bap of Purpose.

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Iomos Marad – “Liberation – The Voice EP” (IomosMarad.BandCamp.Com) – In a time when so many artists are satisfied with simply filling their music with shallow, one-dimensional rhymes, veteran Chicago emcee Iomos Marad released this veritable feast of sonic soul food; a life-affirming collection of thoughtful Hip-Hop which sought to motivate, educate and illuminate in equal measures.

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Skyzoo – “Music For My Friends” (First Generation Rich) – Whilst the lyrical content may have differed, the tone of Brooklyn emcee Skyzoo’s third full-length solo project reminded me of Jay-Z’s 1996 classic “Reasonable Doubt”. Drawing on his younger years for inspiration and taking the listener deep into his hopes, dreams and concerns, the gifted artist painted verbal pictures rich in the imagery of inner-city New York, making you feel as if you were sat right there on the album cover’s illustrated stoop, listening to Sky choppin’ it up with his close-knit crew.

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Sparrow The Movement – “The Jacob Theology (Book 1)” (Jamdan Records) – NY-bred, Baltimore-based emcee Fla-Fla balanced religious beliefs and life observations with his undeniable passion for Hip-Hop culture on this brilliantly-executed concept album featuring quality production from The Custodian Of Records, Supreme War Clique and Constant Deviants.

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Cappo & Nappa – “Rebel Base” (KingUnderground Records) – With talented UK producer DJ Nappa digging deep into his crates for a sublime selection of sample material both familiar and obscure, this project from the mighty Cappo further solidified the Nottingham artist’s reputation as one of the most complete emcees in the game, as tracks like “Get Live” and “Elite Marine” overflowed with intricate, laser-precise lyricism.

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Starvin B – “The Foreigner” (Stay Suave Music) – The first of an impressive four projects released by the Queens, NY representative in 2015, “The Foreigner” found Starvin B going global and benefiting from the skillful production of Switzerland’s Sauce Jacqson. Recorded in just one week, the album was not only a testament to the Rotten Apple emcee’s undeniable talent, but also his strong work ethic which manages to balance both quantity and quality.

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Res One – “Delph Efficacy” (SplitProphets.BandCamp.Com) – Split Prophets member Res One’s debut solo album showcased the Bristol resident at his creative best. With a thick cloud of weed smoke hanging over every one of the nineteen tracks on offer here, the UK emcee blessed some of the finest production heard in 2015 from the likes of Badhabitz, Simiah and Evil Ed, ensuring “Delph Efficacy” will still stand as a superior example of British Hip-Hop for years to come.

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Raw Poetic & K-Def – “Cool Convos In Quantum Speech” (Redefinition Records) – Nimble, intelligent wordplay, expert sample-based production and soulful, feel-good vibes made up the sonic foundations of this impressive collaborative project from talented Washington emcee Raw Poetic (of Panacea fame) and veteran New Jersey producer K-Def.

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Heresy – “Heresy” (Polar Entertainment) – Led by UK-raised, US-based Hip-Hop vet Monie Love, this all-female crew (including Dominique Larue, Carolina Dirty and MyVerse) kicked back against today’s mainstream notion of female rappers being all about image-over-talent, demonstrating raw rhyme skills without sacrificing their femininity whilst backed by production from J. Rawls and Black Sheep’s Mista Lawnge.

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Kingpin – “Art Of Survival” (KingpinLondon.BandCamp.Com) – Reflecting the realities of life in inner-city London via genuine insight and personal experience, Kingpin’s second solo album was as much about motivating the minds of those living in the circumstances described throughout this project as it was about opening the eyes of those on the outside looking in. Intelligent street music.

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Planet Asia & DirtyDiggs – “Nautica Nagas” (Gold Chain Music) – West Coast wordsmith Asia is one of those blessed emcees who can honestly claim to have gotten sharper throughout his career, having made the journey from being a student of the game when he debuted back in the late-90s  to becoming a present-day master of the artform. Backed by the production of fellow Left Coast resident DirtyDiggs, this EP found PA delivering his usual brand of seemingly effortless lyricism over instrumentals that ranged from stripped-down and bass-heavy to hypnotic and soulful.

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Figub Brazlevic – “EXPEDITion Vol. 1: From Ghettos To Galaxies” (FigubBrazlevic.BandCamp.Com) – Man Of Booom member Brazlevic provided a truly engrossing listening experience in the form of this flawlessly crafted instrumental album. Soaked in the influences of dusty-fingered 90s East Coast boom-bap, the tracks heard here also found the German producer living up to the project’s title, bringing a jazzy, spaced-out vibe to the proceedings which landed on the right side of experimentation.

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The Mouse Outfit – “Step Steadier” (TheMouseOutfit.BandCamp.Com) – Having carved out their own creative space within the UK Hip-Hop scene with 2013’s “Escape Music” album, Manchester, England’s Mouse Outfit further solidified their reputation for delivering unique homegrown flavour with this follow-up. Once again incorporating a variety of musical influences outside of Hip-Hop, including jazz, soul and reggae, the live band collective enlisted the lyrical talents of emcees such as Sparkz, Verb T and Dr. Syntax to ride the rhythms of their bubbling, organic soundscapes.

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C-Rayz Walz – “ALMIGHTY: The 12 Jewels” (Sun Cycle Industries) – Described by Bronx-raised emcee Walz himself as being “the rhythmic scroll to decode your soul when your third eye zones”, this ambitious Five Percent-influenced project featured a lengthy list of guest emcees, including Oxilla Born, Spit Gemz and Agallah, spitting a relentless barrage of gritty street righteousness over sample-heavy, straight-out-the-basement production. Postive energy activates constant elevation.

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CZARFACE – “Every Hero Needs A Villain” (Brick Records) –  Once again combining their shared passion for Hip-Hop and comic books, Boston’s 7L & Esoteric and Wu-Tang member Inspectah Deck donned their sonic super-hero costumes a second time for this follow-up to their self-titled 2013 project. With allies such as Large Professor, JuJu of The Beatnuts and Meyhem Lauren bringing their own special powers along to battle any rap villainy that stood in their way, the elements of “Every Hero…” came together just like cereal and Saturday morning cartoons.

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Skuff – “Level” (Audio Danger Records) – Delegates Of Culture member Skuff dropped arguably the best project of his career in the form of this succinct eleven-track package of true-school beats and rhymes. Backed by stellar production from DJ Nappa, Leaf Dog and Chairman Maf, the Cambridge-based emcee achieved a good balance between personal reflection and lyrical showmanship here, proving that his love of the mic definitely hasn’t diminished over the years.

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The Deity Complex featuring Unseen – “Supreme Architecture” (The Deity Complex) – Chicago-based producers Supreme Scientist 7, Golden Luohan and Chief Abbot Haderach Wu Mei blessed NY emcee Unseen with a dope selection of unique, jazzy soul-laced beats on this well-executed release. With the Rotten Apple rhymer’s “gold sceptre rap” conjuring up images of subways and street-c0rner ciphers, this EP delivered further proof that there’s always quality Hip-Hop being made in the underground for those who’re prepared to take the time to search for it.

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Arablak – “Fresh Heir – Chapters 1-3” (Arablak.BandCamp.Com) – Released as three separate EPs but intended to be listened to as a complete project, Atlanta-based Arablak’s “Fresh Heir” series found the self-proclaimed “cross between KRS, Common Sense and Fresh Prince” utilising his authoritative flow and drawing on personal experience to deliver a striking collection of intelligent, introspective blue-collar Hip-Hop.

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Cazal Organism – “On My Grown S**t” (Ultra Slump! Records) – With this young LA resident having already gained a cult following for his production, Cazal decided to up the ante by also handling microphone duties on this debut vocal project, dropping charismatic rhymes over an eclectic selection of beats that ranged from space-age boom-bap to dusty-fingered soul loops.

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The BoothBoxers – “The Enigma Code” (BoothBoxers.BandCamp.Com) – Burnley, England trio Seekz, Morgz and DJ Trauma created an uncompromising masterpiece in the form of their “Enigma Code” project. Carrying on tradition by blending vintage Britcore attitude and 90s boom-bap flavour with a now-school perspective, the crew succeeded in crafting an album which simultaneously paid homage to the heritage of UK Hip-Hop whilst still bringing something unique to the table.

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Part Three coming soon.

MK Ultra (Operation Hypnosis) Album Stream – Lewis Parker & Eastkoast

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Talented UK producer Lewis Parker (aka The Man With The Golden Sound) laces NY-raised emcee Eastkoast with a typically high-standard of beats on this captivating collaborative effort featuring Shabaam Sahdeeq, $amhill, El Da Sensei and more.