Maffew Ragazino – “Rhyme Pays” (Cash In Cash Out Records) – Brownsville, Brooklyn representative Ragazino stormed the underground Hip-Hop scene with a brilliantly orchestrated online promo campaign and then dropped this polished set that bristles with thoroughbred NY attitude. Backed by production from the likes of DJ Clark Kent, Vinyl Frontiers and Sha Banga, Maffew took his first step towards his name being added to the long list of BK rap greats.
Prose – “The Dark Side Of The Boom” (BBP) – Following up last year’s excellent “Force Of Habit” album, UK duo Steady Rock and Efeks delivered another accomplished set of quality homegrown Hip-Hop that put a slightly moodier twist on their trademark boom-bap sound.
General Monks – “Each Step Becomes Elevated” (Wandering Worx Entertainment) – Teaming up with Gold Chain Music artist TriState for this release, West Coast emcee Planet Asia further solidified his reputation as a lyrical giant amongst midgets, with the duo launching verbal missiles over hardcore production alongside the likes of Ras Kass, Krondon and Montage One.
Muneshine & Vinyl Frontiers – “Larger Than Life” (Vinyl Frontiers) – Canada’s Muneshine definitely shone on this EP of upbeat bangers which found the Toronto wordsmith dropping both reflective rhymes and sarcasm-laced lines over the Vinyl Frontiers’ soulful production.
Praverb The Wyse – “Professional Hobbyist” (Praverb Dot Net) – An honest account of both the triumphs and frustrations facing underground artists who are forced to fit their musical aspirations around the day-to-day grind, this album from Virginia’s Praverb was a breath of fresh air from an emcee unafraid to really let listeners into his world.
MCM – “The Gospel : The Missing Gems Of MCM (1994 – 2011)” (I-Innovate) – As frontman of 90s UK Hip-Hop favourites Caveman, MCM’s place in British rap history is secure. With sporadic periods of solo activity since the group’s break-up, this epic collection of over thirty tracks mixed new MCM material with unreleased treats from the last two decades. Featuring production from the likes of DJ Devastate, Si Spex and DJ Nappa, “The Gospel” brilliantly showcased MCM’s positive lyrical message.
Raekwon – “Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang” (EMI) – Aside from a few sonic mis-steps, The Chef’s most recent solo opus continued the momentum gained from 2009’s “Cuban Linx” sequel. Dropping his usual blend of coded crime rhymes and street-related wisdom over mostly solid production from the likes of Kenny Dope, The Alchemist and Bronze Nazareth, Raekwon once again proved himself to be a true master of his craft.
Common – “The Dreamer / The Believer” (Warner Bros) – This particular Windy City wordsmith may no longer be the posterchild for underground rap that he was during the 90s following the release of his classic “I Used To Love H.E.R.”, but Common can still tap into that same pure Hip-Hop spirit when he chooses to. After 2008’s limp “Universal Mind Control” the Chicago native had a lot to prove, so he teamed-up with longtime collaborator No I.D. to record an album that balances commercial sensibilities and progressive lyrical messages with moments of raw rap attitude.
yU – “The Earn” (Mello Music Group) – Capturing a variety of moods reflecting the struggles, dreams and aspirations of a young man attempting to find his place in the world, this sophomore solo effort from the Diamond District emcee is as inspirational as it is entertaining. A modern-day masterpiece.
Soul Khan – “Acknowledgement” (Brown Bag Allstars) – The first in a four-EP series the Brooklyn-based emcee began early in 2011, this DJ Element-produced project found the former battle champ exploring the idea of self-worth in rousing fashion, delivering confident verses brimming with personality over a selection of drum-heavy, sample-driven soundscapes.
Quelle Chris – “Shotgun & Sleek Rifle” (Synergy Works) – Stalwart of the underground Detroit scene Quelle Chris has something of an eclectic musical background that covers Hip-Hop, rock and electronica. With this project, the Wasted Youth member embarked on a beautifully blunted musical voyage, blending the grimy feel of a basement tape with the soulful shimmer of interplanetary cosmic funk. A truly unique listening experience.