Tag Archives: Midwest Hip-Hop

New Joint – Tone Liv & Decay The Llama

Tone Liv & Decay The Llama – “Cloudy Days” (DecayTheLlama.BandCamp.Com / 2023)

The New Jersey / Chicago duo drop a new video for this Tranzformer-produced track off their 2019 album “Gas Station Sushi”.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part Four) – Priest Da Nomad / Nas / Stalley etc.

Check Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Priest Da Nomad – “Receipts” (PriestDaNomad.BandCamp.Com) – A longstanding figure in the DMV Hip-Hop scene with numerous releases to his name, Maryland emcee Priest Da Nomad took the opportunity on his latest album to celebrate, document and evaluate his artistic journey that began in the early-90s. Part nostalgia trip, part reminder of his lyrical prowess and continued dedication to Hip-Hop culture, “Receipts” felt alive, with Priest’s personal recollections and thoughts repeatedly hitting home and stirring emotions.

Big Kahuna OG & Graymatter – “Metal Gear Solid (Catastrophic Inventions 2)” (SchemeTeamAllstars.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia’s charismatic Big Kahuna OG glided across producer Graymatter’s smooth, dusty-fingered beats on this quality release from the talented Mutant Academy / Scheme Team camp. Slick, fluid rhymes detailing Kahuna’s daily hood operations meshed perfectly with Graymatter’s vintage soul samples, as Lord Jah-Monte Ogborn, Fly Anakin and 3WaySlim passed through to offer their assistance.

Libretto & Vitamin D – “Rusty Bladez” (LiquidBeat.BandCamp.Com) – An ambitious, brilliantly executed concept album which found Cali-raised, Portland, Oregon-based emcee Libretto drawing on his time spent in the US prison system and his experiences reintegrating with society, “Rusty Bladez” was far from your typical rap release. Avoiding glorifying or trivializing any of the situations he touched on, Libretto spoke for those caught up in the system, with veteran Seattle producer Vitamin D’s beats adding further weight to the first-hand rhymes heard here.

The Bad Seed – “Four Finger Ring” (TheBadSeed6.BandCamp.Com) – A product of Hip-Hop’s golden-era and an active participant in the mid-to-late 90s indie scene, Brooklyn’s Bad Seed is a master of the punchline, an artistic strength put to good use on this rambunctious album. Full of rewind-worthy ‘What did he just say?’ rhymes, “Four Finger Ring” featured Seed attacking tracks as if he were face-to-face with a lyrical opponent in a street-corner cypher, accompanied by rough, rugged and raw production from Team Demo, CJ Dove, Takenotez and more.

White Girl Wasted – “White Girl Wasted” (Sonnyjim.BandCamp.Com) – The UK’s inimitable Sonnyjim cruised through this entertaining EP as an international man of mic mastery, detailing global tales of debauchery and substance-fuelled antics over exquisite Purist production, with heavy-hitters MF DOOM, Jay Electronica, Madlib and DJ Premier along for the trip.

1773 & E Brown – “KOTODAMA” (1773Live.BandCamp.Com) – 2022 was a busy twelve months for Chicago’s Wisdm Uno and Jay Nagoma, with the duo dropping a handful of releases over the time period. But it was this album produced by Ohio’s E Brown that set the year off for the Windy City duo. A vibrant affair full of contemplative, inspiring rhymes and fresh, clean beats, this was music guaranteed to fill your soul and lift your mood.

Che` Noir – “Food For Thought” (CheNoir.BandCamp.Com) – Buffalo-based artist Che` Noir’s pen game is undeniable and this album was further proof of that claim. Whether detailing the struggles of her past, the triumphs of her present or the aspirations of her future, Noir remained grounded and insightful, telling her story, owning her narrative and continuing to push herself forward using music as a tool of salvation.

Rob Cave & Small Professor – “Respect Wildlife” (RobCaveJr.BandCamp.Com) – If New York is the concrete jungle then think of Brooklyn’s Rob Cave as an urban anthropologist on this album, immersing himself in the Big Apple environment, stomping through the streets wearing Timberlands and a backpack, studying the humanity of those around him and applying those findings to the wider world. Produced by Philly’s Small Professor and narrated by NY legend Dallas Penn, this was a clever, well-executed release which reminded us, in Cave’s own words, that as human beings we’re all just looking for warmth, food and love at the end of the day.

Kenautis Smith x Race Bannon – “Aandete” (Race.BandCamp.Com) – A great example of underground Hip-Hop made with character and ingenuity, this album from Chicago duo Kenautis Smith and Race Bannon struck a casual balance between social commentary, life advice and competion-crushing emcee bravado, all delivered over memorable production.

Nas – “King’s Disease III” (MassAppeal.Com) – The fact that Nasir Jones is even still making music over thirty years since his debut Main Source appearance is an achievement in itself. But when you consider he’s still operating at such a high level of rhyming ability and doesn’t appear to be jaded after what has been one of Hip-Hop’s most scrutinized and debated careers, it’s almost a miracle. How much of an influence producer Hit-Boy has had on Nas’s NY state of mind over the last few years is open to discussion, but on the strength of this album, their creative partnership only seemed to grow stronger in 2022, with the Queensbridge legend appearing to revel in his elder statesman rap role.

Big Shot Manceeni – “Culinary Art” (BigShotManceeni.Com) – As a member of both D.M.P. and The Proz, Virginia’s Big Shot Manceeni is no stranger to raw Hip-Hop. Taking the decision to strike out on his own, this solo album found Manceeni dropping straight-talking street knowledge as well as offering his thoughts on the issues of the day, accompanied by speaker-rattling beats from long-time collaborator Nottz, plus Ilien Rosewell, Logic Marsalis and Crummie Beats.

Your Old Droog – “Yodney Dangerfield” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – As the saying goes, it’s quality not quantity that counts. However, that doesn’t seem to apply to Your Old Droog, who appears to have mastered both elements of that statement, dropping a steady stream of impressive releases over recent years. This EP continued the NY emcee’s consistent run, full of quotable punchlines backed by beats from Wino Willy, Nicholas Craven and Jonwayne.

BodyBagBen & Planet Asia – “Heist The Crown” (BodyBagBen.BandCamp.Com) – Gold Chain Music general Planet Asia dipped into his seemingly bottomless bag of rhymes for this EP produced by fellow West Coast representative BodyBagBen. Backed by dramatic, pounding beats, PA let off a barrage of lyrical darts here laden with vivid imagery, further reinforcing his reputation as one of the rap game’s most skillful wordsmiths.

D-Styles & J Scienide – “The Periodic Tables Of Excellence” (BeatJunkieSound.BandCamp.Com) – A perfectly balanced collaboration, D-Styles of LA’s Beat Junkies crew supplied Washington D.C. lyricist J Scienide with a sublime selection of beats here, over which the DMV emcee deftly delivered a string of impressive verses, joined by underground favourites Blu and DanielSon.

Da Buze Bruvaz Prezent Clever 1 – “Kevlar Ski Jacketz” (GrilchyParty.BandCamp.Com) – Well known for his unapologetic brand of bare-knuckle boom-bap rap, Buze Bruvaz member Clever 1 could be heard stamping through the streets of Philly on this album, engaging in a series of action-packed capers with his usual larger-than-life bravado, backed-up by a posse of producers which included Vic Grimes, Conflikt and Amen.

Rome Streetz – “Kiss The Ring” (RomeStreetz.BandCamp.Com) – NY’s Rome Streetz has been putting in work throughout the underground for a number of years now, so the added attention he received due to the Griselda stamp of approval on this album was well-deserved. A self-assured selection of hard-knock rhymes delivered over an eclectic, unpredictable array of beats and loops from the likes of Camoflauge Monk, Conductor Williams and Daringer, “Kiss The Ring” showcased the talents of an emcee ready to move to the next level of the game.

Yashiyah – “Seed Of The Ghetto” (VibesForTheKinfolk.BandCamp.Com) – Baltimore’s Yashiyah offered food for thought in the understated, heartfelt reality rhymes contained here, with moments of personal reflection highlighting the meaning of the EP’s title, building on the importance of staying in control of mind and actions regardless of the situations and environments an individual may find themselves in.

DJ Nappa – “Capital Beat Tape Vol. 1” (DJNappa.BandCamp.Com) – If, like me, you grew-up in the 80s tuning in to the late, great Mike Allen’s Hip-Hop show on London’s Capital Radio then this instrumental release from esteemed UK producer DJ Nappa will have tugged on your old-school heartstrings. Every Friday and Saturday night used to be a musical journey as Mike played the freshest new sounds and Nappa expertly tapped into that feeling of youthful excitement here, pulling together breaks, beats and samples from the time to create a brilliant back-to-the-future blast of boom-box-friendly nostalgia.

HAQK – “Divine Alchemy” (HAQK.BandCamp.Com) – Familiar names within the UK Hip-Hop scene, Nomadic Poet (The Planets) and Particle 2 (New Flesh) came together to craft an album that felt like a truly unique journey into sound and spirituality. Whilst Nomadic offered commentary on the world we live in, Particle 2 supplied beats that managed to simultaneously evoke memories of the past and thoughts of the future. Full of vibes, soul and heart, this album was a sonic portal that allowed listeners to take a trip to a creative destination that was both familiar and new.

Stalley – “Somebody Up There Loves Me” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – His second album for the Mello Music Group label following 2021’s excellent Apollo Brown-produced “Blacklight”, “Somebody…” found Ohio’s Stalley drawing on his own experiences to encourage and motivate others, delivering his verses with an endearing warmth and a laidback openness that was complimented by smooth, hypnotic production from Black Diamond, MadKeys, Namir Blade and others. A soundtrack to personal elevation.

Check Part Five here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part Three) – Cormega / Kamanchi Sly / Fly Anakin etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Es – “You Want A Piece Of Me?” (EsMuzik.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian emcee Es is the type of artist who can can easily feel like a familiar friend the more time you spend listening to his music. With an easy-going-yet-engaging flow, relatable rhymes and a willingness to be open and honest about a variety of topics, Es has a priceless ability to make his listeners feel a little better about the world than perhaps they did before they hit ‘Play’. On this J. Pal-produced album, Es kept it personal as always, delivering an uplifting collection of beats and rhymes that touched on family, childhood memories and creative goals.

Cormega – “The Realness II” (RealCormega.BandCamp.Com) – Hip-Hop sequel albums can be a risky prospect. At their worst such releases can sound like an artist’s hollow attempt to relive past glories, which only succeeds in highlighting the possibility that their best days may actually be behind them. Thankfully, this follow up to 2001’s “The Realness” avoided such pitfalls. Speaking from a place of personal growth, this album evoked images of Mega sitting on a bench outside the infamous Queensbridge housing projects contemplating his past, present and future as a boom-box blasted beats from Large Professor, Havoc and The Alchemist amongst others.

Isatta Sheriff & Koralle – “Eat The Kiwi Skin” (IsattaSheriff.BandCamp.Com) – Some artists follow trends to try and fit in. Then there are those artists who couldn’t hide their uniqueness and individuality even if they tried. Artists like Isatta Sheriff, for example. This EP from the East London emcee packed a lot of substance into the six tracks on offer here, with Isatta detailing her own personal journey, speaking on her experiences as a female rapper and her thoughts on the commercialisation of Black culture. The subtle, jazz-influenced production from Spain’s Koralle provided the perfect musical backdrop to allow Sheriff’s rhymes to really shine here.

Bub Styles – “Outerwear Szn 2” (BubStyles.BandCamp) – One of a handful of releases Bub Styles dropped in 2022, for this EP the gravel-voiced Brooklyn emcee sounded like he laced up his Timberlands, pulled on his hoodie, visited the corner-store, battled a kid stood outside who was talking ish, then went straight to the studio and laid down this brilliant slice of rugged New York rap.

Diamonds In Space – “Diamonds In Space Vol. 1” (DiamondsInSpace.BandCamp.Com) – Lively, animated rhymes and mellow, melodic beats could be found in abundance on this well-crafted album from Kansas City-based duo Aaron Alexander and Lnrd D$troy. A compelling, addictive mix of street-smart observations, moments of introspection and intoxicating production.

Shane Kidd – “Good Mourning” (ShaneKidd.BandCamp.Com) – Emerging from a period of depression and creative frustration, Atlanta-based artist Shane Kidd drew heavily on those personal experiences for his third album, an emotionally-charged selection of tracks that found the Southern emcee reevaluating life with a strong sense of hope and determination. Truly inspirational music.

Paul Wall & Termanology – “Start 2 Finish” (TermanologyST.BandCamp.Com) – On paper, Houston’s Paul Wall and Lawrence, MA’s Termanology may have looked like an unexpected combination, but the end result was a full-length collaboration which showcased a genuine partnership that brought the best out of both artists. Produced largely by Statik Selektah, with contributions from Pete Rock, Dame Grease and J Cardim, the album comfortably occupied the musical middle ground between Southern bass and East Coast boom-bap. Grills optional.

OC From NC – “The List God Sent Us” (OCFromNC.BandCamp.Com) – Representing his North Carolina stomping grounds in no uncertain terms, OC From NC sounded hungry and focused on this album, attacking tracks with the energy of an emcee in a rhyme cypher with something to prove rather than an established artist dropping his eighth release.

Verbz & Mr Slipz – “Where It Started” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – Taking a walk down memory lane, London’s Verbz relived the trials and triumphs of his Croydon youth on this impressive EP, with the sample-free production of Brighton’s Mr Slipz providing a mesmerizing sonic backdrop which perfectly complimented the nostalgic verses heard here.

iLLah – “MiDNigHT SoUP” (iLLah.BandCamp.Com) – Toronto’s iLLah had a lot on his mind in 2022, with this album finding the dynamic emcee darting in all directions lyrically, touching on politics, religion, social unrest and conspiracy theories whilst accompanied by the vintage jazz-infused sound of producer SuNYA.

Tokyo Cigar x August Fanon – “Lexus Money” (TokyoCigarMusic.BandCamp) – Epic collaboration album from Maryland’s Tokyo Cigar and Dallas-raised producer August Fanon that was packed with intricate, deep-dive lyricism and expertly selected samples. Music to ponder the science of life to whilst dipped in the freshest Polo gear.

IAMGAWD x The Black Depths – “Murder Castle” (Filthe.BandCamp.Com) – When Chicago’s IAMGAWD said on this album “No, I do not fear a single one of my Hip-Hop peers, I drop bombs, You drop tears..” it was difficult not to believe him on all points. A formidable emcee who clearly rhymes with the intention of every word having maximum impact, GAWD dominated the raw, ominous beats of The Black Depths, spitting venomous darts at the competition with expert accuracy whilst also offering up-close-and-personal commentary on the reality of the Windy City’s cold streets.

Kamanchi Sly – “Master Plan” (HipHop73.Com) – Almost thirty-five years since his vinyl debut with legendary group Hijack and having dropped over ten self-produced solo albums since 2017, this latest K-Sly release was further proof that time definitely hasn’t dampened the London emcee’s passion for Hip-Hop culture and the art of rap. Sounding energetic and enthused, Kamanchi tore through a selection of true-school breaks and beats with all the attitude and confidence we’ve come to expect from one of the UK’s homegrown pioneers.

DK x Ghettosocks – “Listen To The Masters” (DKProducer.BandCamp.Com) – Students of the game, Canada’s DK and Ghettosocks put the lessons learnt from growing-up with the greats in rotation to good use on this collection of sophisticated mood music. Timeless flows could be found throughout this album, with microphone royalty such as Skyzoo, CL Smooth and O.C. joining Ghettosocks to bless DK’s jazz-tinged beats with butter-smooth verses.

Fly Anakin – “Frank” (LexRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia’s Mutant Academy have been one of the most exciting collectives in the rap game for a number of years now, with Fly Anakin playing a large part in building the crew’s reputation for great music. This album went some way to introducing Anakin’s rapid-fire rhymes to a wider audience, with the lush, hypnotic soundscapes provided by the likes of Foisey, Sycho Sid and Jay Versace helping to this full-length masterpiece feel like a seamless sonic high.

DoamPeace x DFACE DXA – “The Goldilocks Zone” (DoamPeace.BandCamp.Com) – NY’s DXA crew have consistently delivered quality music over many years now and this release from two members of the camp was no exception to that rule – solid beats, clever rhymes and creative sampling.

Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Zhigeist” (NatureSounds.BandCamp.Com) – Absolute greatness. That’s the quickest and easiest way to describe this album from Detroit’s Elzhi and LA’s Georgia Anne Muldrow. Both parties involved floated close to another creative dimension on this one, with the Motor City emcee challenging your third-eye to keep-up with his densely packed wordplay, whilst Muldrow’s ethereal grooves simultaneously massaged and soothed those same brain-cells that were being put to work.

Bloo Azul & Spanish Ran – “Once In A Bloo” (BlooAzul.BandCamp.Com) – There are some musical partnerships who bring the best out of each other with such apparent ease it would appear they were destined to work together. Bronx pair Bloo and Spanish Ran definitely deserve a place on that list and this album was another undeniable example of why. Ran’s exquisite, vibe-filled loops seemed tailor-made for Bloo’s observational, everyman lyrics, resulting in a few more of New York’s eight million stories being told in memorable fashion.

J.Rocc – “A Wonderful Letter” (JRocc.BandCamp.Com) – Turntable titan and Beat Junkies member J.Rocc paid homage to his hometown of Los Angeles with this ambitious concept album, deftly covering many styles associated with the City Of Angels, from 80s-style electro and speaker-slapping funk to the underground Hip-Hop of featured artists such as LMNO, Key-Kool and MED. California love, indeed.

Touré Masters – “Kin9” (ToureMasters.BandCamp.Com) – A genuinely skilled wordsmith, Arizona’s Touré Masters dropped one of the most captivating albums of 2022, with his urgent rhyme style driving home the meaning in his verses and really pulling the listener into his world. Navigating the realities of street life whilst looking forward towards positive progression, Masters came across here as a real person with real feelings rather than as a one-dimensional rapper retreading familiar creative ground. He really put his lifetime in-between the paper’s lines.

Check Part Four here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part Two) – Triple Darkness / Chill Rob G / Storm Watkins etc.

Check Part One here.

Napoleon Da Legend & Giallo Point – “Buckets” (NapoleonDaLegend.BandCamp.Com) – There may be an ocean and thousands of miles separating this US / UK partnership, but the latest outing from Napoleon Da Legend and Giallo Point flowed so seamlessly you would have been forgiven for thinking they were sat next to each other in a studio throughout the entire recording process. Confident, street-savvy verses were paired here with tight, polished production.

Triple Darkness – “KURAYAMI” (TripleDarkness.BandCamp) – Coming through like an army of battle-ready Hip-Hop warriors swinging heavy lyrical swords, the UK’s mighty Triple Darkness collective dropped their first group album since 2015, with members such as Solar Black, Ray Vendetta and Cyrus Malachi spitting evocative, powerful rhymes over thunderous beats from Soss, Tony Mahoney and DJ Drinks. This album was proof that TD remain one of the most talented and formidable crew’s in the rap game.

DIE-REK – “Year Of Redemption” (Illect.BandCamp.Com) – Drawing inspiration from both his spiritual beliefs and personal experiences, this second album from Canada’s DIE-REK was an impressive collection of life-affirming rhymes and standout, self-produced tracks. Music designed to invigorate your mind, body and soul.

Tom Caruana – “Strange Planet” (TeaSeaRecords.BandCamp.Com) – UK producer Tom Caruana voyaged back-to-the-future on this sci-fi-influenced concept album, with intergalactic rhyme explorers such as Mr. Lif, Jehst and Prince Po defying gravity as they floated over the unique beats on offer here with their lyrical phasers set to stun. Lift off!

ActProof – “Between Us And The World – Ep 1: Amped Up” (ActProofOfficial.Com) – Ten years after the release of their well-received “Black Boy Radio” album, North Carolina’s Sundown and Enigma made a welcome return from their musical hiatus with a three-part EP series, with this first instalment featuring the pair trading conversational rhymes over drum-heavy, neck-snapping production from long-time collaborator AMP.

Prox Centauri – “Emergence” (ProxCentauri.BandCamp.Com) – Flint, Michigan’s Prox Centauri has quickly become one of my favourite artists of recent times, with this release placing tracks that dropped throughout 2022 (featuring Skyzoo, Planet Asia and KXNG Crooked) alongside a handful of new cuts, all of which effectively showcased the Midwest-based microphone master’s intricate wordplay and self-assured flow.

Backwood Sweetie & Furious Stylez – “Sweetie Got Stylez” (BackwoodSweetie.BandCamp.Com) – Following-up 2021’s brilliant “Christina Shauntay” album, Maryland’s Backwood Sweetie teamed-up with talented Chicago-raised producer Furious Stylez for a seven-track dose of passionate Hip-Hop rooted in empowerment and integrity. Possessing the type of delivery that demands attention, this EP further highlighted Sweetie as being a gifted artist with much to offer the rap world (also, a special mention has to go to featured emcee K!ng jvmes for dropping one of the hardest-hitting verses of the year on “Long Story Short”).

J Rawls – “#jazzhop” (PolarEntLLC.BandCamp.Com) – The Ohio producer exceeded his own high standards with this album, a warm, welcoming collection of expertly-crafted instrumentals which, as the man himself said, were “reminiscent of the J Rawls sound from the late 90s and early 2000s”. A perfect sonic snapshot of the Midwest maestro’s well-rounded musical abilities.

I Self Devine – “That Which Is Hidden” (ImprovisedWeaponry.BandCamp.Com) – The veteran Minneapolis artist pondered questions around religion, spirituality and life on this concept album produced by The Original Copy. As we all find ourselves attempting to navigate the maze of today’s increasingly unsettled times, I Self Devine sought to encourage listeners to walk towards a path of enlightenment that would ultimately allow us to transcend the constraints of the matrix we find ourselves surrounded by.

Westside Gunn – “10” (GriseldaxFR.Com) – Love him or hate him one thing was for certain, Buffalo’s king of curation Westside Gunn wasn’t about to allow anyone to prevent him from continuing to supply the culture with his distinctive brand of art in 2022. Although “10” featured a long list of carefully chosen guests such as Black Star, Busta Rhymes and Ghostface, it was Gunn’s inimitable vocal delivery and vivid street commentary that remained the main attraction here. The FlyGod continued to soar above the clouds.

Agallah Don Bishop – “The Year Of The Tiger” (Agallah.BandCamp.Com) – Brooklyn’s Agallah has had a storied career both behind the mic and behind the boards. Since the 90s the NY-raised artist’s name has continuously rung bells within Hip-Hop circles and deservedly so. But not content with resting on past glories, the Don Bishop’s work rate in recent years has continuously proven his ability to compete in today’s underground scene whilst he’s dropped some of his best work. “The Year Of The Tiger” was a testament to Agallah’s staying power, combining moments of raw honesty and reflection with sheer confidence and boldness.

Sean Boog – “Between Midnights” (SeanBoog.BandCamp.Com) – The talented Sean Boog dropped the third release in his “Midnight” series, which was another brilliant EP from the North Carolina emcee that was full of down-to-earth, contemplative rhymes laced with sharp wit, backed by masterful production from Chris Charles.

T-Nyce & Jorai – “Supreme Talk” (JoraiMusic.BandCamp.Com) – South Carolina-based duo T-Nyce and Jorai delivered personal, heartfelt rhymes on this collaborative album, with production from Sypooda, Juno, Happy Walters and more matching the mood of the pair’s verses. Fully aware of the influence Hip-Hop can have on its audience, this Southern partnership clearly wanted this album to have a positive impact on those who heard it thanks to their honest approach to the music.

Sol Messiah – “GOD CMPLX” (SolMessiah.BandCamp.Com) – Having initially caught the attention of many thanks to his work with the great Sa-Roc (who was featured heavily here), eyes and ears were on Atlanta producer Sol Messiah when this album was announced. Thankfully it lived up to expectations, with the likes of Murs, TriState and Che Noir spitting over SM’s diverse and unpredictable soundscapes.

Daniel Son – “The Bush Doctor” (FXCKRXP.Com) – It’s a real talent to be able to make rhymes that have clearly been crafted with attention and precision sound completely effortless. This is something that Canada’s Daniel Son has been doing since the early days of his musical journey and that he continued to do with charismatic flair throughout this release for Germany’s FXCK RXP label. Cinematic verses detailing capers and escapades created vivid images in the listener’s mind, with sonic contributions from the likes of Futurewave, Finn and Giallo Point adding to the feeling of dramatic tension running throughout the album.

Chill Rob G – “Empires Crumble” (ChillRobG.BandCamp.Com) – As a member of New Jersey’s legendary Flavor Unit, Chill Rob G secured his place in Hip-Hop’s history books with his involvement in a handful of late-80s / early-90s classics. Over three decades later, this C-Doc-helmed album found the veteran emcee proving that ain’t a damn thing changed but the year, coming correct with elder statesman rhymes over lively, energetic beats which nodded respectfully towards the golden-age.

Storm Watkins – “Blue” (StormWatkins.BandCamp.Com) – Dedicated to the memory of his father who sadly passed away in 2022, Baltimore’s Storm Watkins channeled his feelings into this very personal instrumental project with powerful and poignant results. Emotionally-charged beats that made speakers pop at the same time as they tugged on heartstrings.

Sadat X – “Science Of Life” (Soulspazm.BandCamp.Com) – One of the most recognisable voices in rap, Brand Nubian’s Sadat X continued to add-on to his legacy with this aptly-titled album, which found the Now Rule emcee dropping grown man jewels laced with Five Percent lessons accompanied by underground favourites such as Crimeapple, Roc Marciano and Planet Asia.

Stan Ipcus – “Foliage” (StanIpcus.BandCamp) – If you were looking for an emcee with genuine character and personality in 2022, then NY’s Stan Ipcus deserved your attention. Possessing an easygoing, laidback flow and a natural lyrical wit, Big Ip showcased his notable rhyming talents on this seven-track selection of both previously-released and brand new cuts, with production from Jason Griff, Disco Vietnam and Max Bent.

Enrichment – “It’s A New Day” (Enrichment.BandCamp.Com) – Having worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lloyd Banks and Benny The Butcher, New Jersey artist Enrichment offered thoughtful, contemplative rhymes here with smooth-yet-sturdy self-produced beats which perfectly matched his confident, conversational flow.

Check Part Three here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check Part Two here.

New Joint – Stalley

Stalley – “Dilla Bap” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2022)

Ohio’s Stalley details the other side of the rap game over piano-laced KFisha production from his new album “Somebody Up There Loves Me”.

Emergence EP Stream – Prox Centauri

Flint, Michigan’s Prox Centauri has quickly become one of my favourite artists of recent times, with this latest release placing tracks that dropped throughout 2022 featuring Skyzoo, Planet Asia and KXNG Crooked alongside a handful of new cuts, all of which effectively showcase the Midwest-based microphone master’s intricate wordplay and authoritative flow.

New Joint – Vice Souletric / Elzhi

Vice Souletric ft. Elzhi – “One Day” (@Vice_Souletric / 2022)

Ohio’s Vice Souletric delivers potent rhymes alongside Detroit’s Elzhi on this punchy self-produced track for his forthcoming yet-to-be-titled album.

New Joint – 1773 & Awdazcate

1773 & Awdazcate – “Nasty Vinyl” (1773Live.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Chicago-based duo Wisdm Uno and Jay Nagoma take some inspiration from Q-Tip’s “Let’s Ride” both musically and visually for this drum-heavy head-nodder off their Awdazcate-produced EP “What Is Normal”.

New Joint – Rita J. / Cher Jey

Rita J. ft. Cher Jey – “Mami Wata” (RitaJ.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Taken from the Chicago artist’s brilliant Neak-produced 2021 album “The High Priestess”.

New Joint – Vic Spencer & Small Professor

Vic Spencer & Small Professor – “WAVEZ, micro” (VicSpencer.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Taken from the Chicago / Philly duo’s recent collabo album “Mudslide”.

New Joint – Jay Nagoma

Jay Nagoma – “Patience” (1773Live.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

One-half of Chicago’s 1773, emcee Jay Nagoma drops some infectious, thoughtful, head-nodding Hip-Hop from his forthcoming Joe Tyse-produced solo EP “The Makings Of”.

New Joint – Prox Centauri / Skyzoo

Prox Centauri ft. Skyzoo – “Watershed Moments” (ProxCentauri.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Flint, Michigan’s talented Prox Centauri joins forces with NYC’s brilliant Skyzoo for this effective showcase of genuine lyrical skill which drops via the usual outlets on June 24th. The sound of masters at work.

Back In ’84 EP Stream – JustMaine

Cleveland-raised, Atlanta-based producer JustMaine pulls vintage samples from the music of Anita Baker, Luther Vandross and The Stylistics to craft this smoothed-out EP inspired by his parents’ relationship.

New Joint – Vic Spencer x Doc Da Mindbenda

Vic Spencer x Doc Da Mindbenda – “Contemporary Section” (@SupaSoundsLLC / 2022)

Chicago’s mighty Vic Spencer comes through to crush the competition once again with this lead single off the forthcoming album “Still Here” produced by fellow Windy City representative Doc Da Mindbenda.

KOTODAMA Album Stream – 1773 & E Brown

This latest album from Chicago duo Wisdm Uno and Jay Nagoma is a vibrant, engaging affair full of contemplative, inspiring rhymes and fresh, clean, melodic beats from Ohio’s E Brown.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Four) – John Robinson / Backwood Sweetie / Vandal Savage etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Jyroscope & Montana Macks – “Happy Medium” (Jyroscope.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s I.B. Fokuz and Collasoul Structure worked their way through the stresses of daily life on this therapeutic release. Job. Family. Relationships. Social injustice. Health. Finances. Anxiety. Frustration. Doubt. The rhyming duo completely opened up over the five tracks on offer here, giving listeners full access to their personal (and extremely relatable) thoughts. The jazzy, easy-going production supplied by Montana Macks gave the EP a soothing, relaxed vibe, ensuring Jyroscope’s verses had plenty of room to breathe. Easy does it, do it easy.

J Littles & Claude Money – “Godbody Tapestry” (KJamm-BFR.BandCamp.Com) – This blend of cool-but-deadly rhymes and soulful rare groove loops from Nottingham duo J Littles and Claude Money was a supreme display of smoothed-out musical arrogance laced with lyrical gems from two individuals who were clearly meant to build together. Best listened to whilst sat comfortably on a butter-soft leather sofa, blowing smoke, wearing a velour robe and a pair of box-fresh Air Max. Exquisite.

John Robinson – “King JR” (JohnRobinson.BandCamp.Com) – Sounding as fresh and enthusiastic in 2021 as he did when debuting as a member of Scienz Of Life back in the mid-90s, NY-raised emcee John Robinson called on the production talents of West Coast favourite Blu for this stimulating collection of thoughtful wordplay and dynamic beats. Music with substance.

Shortie No Mass – “here goes nothing.” (ShortieNoMass.BandCamp.Com) – Having first made a name for herself in the 90s working with the likes of De La Soul and The Roots, Boston-born, Philly-based artist Shortie No Mass made a welcome return to the mic after a long hiatus and sounded like she’d never been away. Her lively, infectious flow and straight-to-the-point rhymes sat comfortably here over production from Da Beatminerz, J-Zone and Shortie’s son Jay Law.

DJ Cosm – “Natural Within” (MakeBelieveHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – DJ Cosm of Canada’s Dragon Fli Empire pulled together a varied selection of underground talent for this follow-up to his 2011 release “Time And Space”, with Brand Nubian’s Sadat X, Brown Bag Money’s Daniel Son and Bankai Fam’s Skanks The Rap Martyr all making stellar appearances.

Al-J & Kane Major – “Blak To The Old School” (KaneMajor.BandCamp.Com) – Boston emcee Al-J (of Blak Madeen) painted vivid lyrical pictures of his experiences growing up in the 80s on this Kane Major-produced album. Covering everything from watching Saturday morning cartoons and first hearing Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five to navigating his way through the crack era, Al-J’s personal memories were further brought to life by the authentic electro-influenced sounds of Major’s production. A sonic blast of back to the future flavour.

Dagha – “D-A To The G” (Dagha.BandCamp.Com) – With this being his first release since 2014, it was apparent even before the end of the first track that Boston’s Dagha was intending on making-up for lost time with this album. No distractions. No gimmicks. “D-A To The G” was all about skills. Dagha tore through the beats of collaborator DJ Real with his confident delivery and clever wordplay, keeping it funky throughout with flows for days.

The Good People – “The Greater Good” (TheGoodPeople.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding NY duo Emskee and Saint came correct with yet another collection of quality true-school beats and rhymes, offering lyrical food for thought and warm, melodic production throughout. Joined by the likes of Lords Of The Underground, Craig G and Shabaam Sahdeeq, “The Greater Good” was the sound of artists really doing it for the culture.

Apollo Brown & Stalley – “Blacklight” (ApolloBrown360.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit producer Apollo Brown has built a career on bringing the best out of the emcees he chooses to collaborate with. From Boog Brown and OC to Skyzoo and Che Noir, Apollo’s brand of soulful boom-bap has inspired some brilliant performances from a variety of lyricists. “Blacklight” continued that trend. Formerly signed to Rick Ross’s Maybach Music label, Ohio’s Stalley sounded totally at home over Brown’s mellow thump, spitting down-to-earth, street-smart verses that stayed with you long after the music stopped.

Wish Master x Illinformed – “Cold Harbour Tales” (WishMaster.BandCamp.Com) – Bristol’s Wish Master has consistently sharpened his skills with each release he’s dropped over the last few years. This full-length collaboration with producer Illinformed saw Wish Master finding an ideal musical partner, with crisp beats and atmospherics samples providing the perfect backdrop for the UK lyricist’s raw wit and life lessons.

Breeze Brewin – “Hindsight” (Juggaknots.BandCamp.Com) – Some people are just born to rhyme. It’s as simple as that. NYC’s Breeze Brewin is one such individual. Twenty-five years after debuting as a member of The Juggaknots with a cult classic release on Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em label, Breeze proved that his underground legend status is still firmly intact with the release of this brilliant album. Backed by production from the likes of Sebb Bash, Marco Polo and DJ Spinna, the BX emcee covered a lot of lyrical ground here, delivering every verse with charisma, skill and originality.

Planet Asia x Evidence – “Rule Of Thirds” (BiggerPictureRecordings.Com) – West Coast giants Planet Asia and Evidence had worked together before this release earlier in their respective careers. But to hear the pair come together in 2021 having long established themselves as two of the most consistent artists the game has seen was a beautiful thing. Asia’s effortlessly dope flow swaggered over the stripped-down production supplied by Evidence, lyrically blending the fly and the righteous as always, with Domo Genesis, Milano Constantine and Rome Streetz offering verbal support.

Ea$y Money x Nozs – “2090” (STDaSquad.BandCamp.Com) – 2021 was a productive year for Massachusetts-based microphone fiend Ea$y Money, with his name gracing the cover of a handful of projects during the twelve month period. Whilst quality control was high on all of those releases, this six-track EP with New England producer Nozs was the standout for me. Street-smart rhymes were paired here with boom-bap beats that were full of character, resulting in a memorable, concise release. Also, props to Ea$y Money for the respectful nod to the great Grand Puba with the EP’s cover art.

Backwood Sweetie – “Christina Shauntay” (BackwoodSweetie.BandCamp.Com) – As a fan of Hip-Hop there’s nothing better than the moment you hear an artist for the first time whose talent immediately captures your attention and has you sitting with your ear pressed against the speaker hanging off every word being said. In 2021, Maryland’s Backwood Sweetie was one of those artists. Rhyming with passion and purpose over a well-chosen selection of beats from a variety of producers, Sweetie had a lot to say as she touched on a number of topics, including Black pride, white supremacy, police brutality and social injustice. Urgent, thought-provoking Hip-Hop.

Beneficence & Confidence – “Stellar Mind” (IllAdrenalineRecords.Com) – A no-nonsense collection of heavyweight head-nodding Hip-Hop, New Jersey’s Beneficence and Boston’s Confidence made a great team here, celebrating the essence of golden-era beats and rhymes whilst injecting their own personalities into the music. A long line of guest artists also complimented the album’s true-school vibe, including El Da Sensei, Craig G and Chubb Rock.

Ka – “A Martyr’s Reward” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – At this point, highlighting Ka’s incredible lyrical ability just feels like stating the obvious. The Brooklyn emcee is a truly unique artist and for some time his only real competition has been himself, with each of his releases setting the bar even higher for what we can expect to come from his pen. The largely self-produced “A Martyr’s Reward” was another deep dive into Ka’s life experiences, his thoughts, his hopes and his regrets. This was the work of a genuine poet containing pain and peace in equal measures.

Kaimbr & Sean Born – “Nino Green” (NinoGreen7.BandCamp.Com) – A potent mixture of vividly raw rhymes laced with street-smart swagger and intoxicating production full of uncut vintage soul flavour, this “New Jack City”-influenced collaboration from longstanding Maryland artists Kaimbr and Sean Born was as fly as a 1988 Dapper Dan sweatsuit with a matching Kangol. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. I. Am.

Heist Life – “Heist New York” (HeistLife.BandCamp.Com) – Ty Da Dale, Sauce Heist and Baby Maine repped for the Rotten Apple with pride on this short-but-effective EP, evoking images of rattling subway trains, street-corner ciphers and scuffed Timberlands over production from Spanish Ran, Nes and Wavy Da Ghawd.

Vandal Savage & Sonnyjim – “Sauvage” (IAmVandalSavage.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s very own Bic Master Vandal Savage leaned heavily into the luxury loops supplied by Sonnyjim throughout this release, with his conversational delivery overflowing with lyrical jewels, life observations and witty punchlines. With appearances from Da Flyy Hooligan, Juga-Naut and Sonnyjim himself adding further verbal weight to the project. “Sauvage” was a laidback lesson in how to craft understated hardcore Hip-Hop.

N.R.F.S. – “N.R.F.S.” (NRFS.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Neak, Rashid Hadee, F.A.B.L.E. and Since9ine6ix joined forces on this impressive collabo album as “uncrowned kings on the underground sharing thrones”, with all four artists bringing their best to the table, complimenting each other’s styles and putting together a potent showcase of undeniable Windy City talent.

Check Part Five here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Three) – Evidence / Children Of Zeus / Arrested Development etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Ca$ablanca x The Mali Empire – “Xtreme Xcellence” (Casablanca92fs.BandCamp.Com) – Dallas, Texas-based emcee Ca$ablanca has been dropping gems for a number of years now, but this Mali Empire-produced album may just have been his finest moment yet. Featuring the likes of Ray Vendetta, YNX716 and Nowaah The Flood, “Xtreme Xcellence” was packed with hard-hitting, precise lyricism delivered over a sublime selection of sample-driven tracks.

AZ – “Doe Or Die II” (QuietMoneyDirect.Com) – The idea of the ‘sequel album’ has become something of a cliché amongst golden-era rap artists. Some have seen the light of day. Some have remained unexecuted concepts destined only to be repeatedly mentioned during interviews. Some have succeeded. Some have failed. Thankfully, Brooklyn’s ever-consistent AZ managed to live up to the hype surrounding this follow-up to his 1995 debut, matching his slick, street-savvy verses with an experienced perspective and smoothed-out production from the likes of Bink!, Baby Paul and Pete Rock.

Milano x Showbiz – “Eating But Still Hungry” (MilanoxShowbiz.BandCamp.Com) – Any release coming from the Diggin’ In The Crates camp brings with it a high level of expectation from fans. Understandably, there’s a certain level of quality expected from members of the crew who really did it for the culture and became one of the most dominant forces in East Coast Hip-Hop. Milano and Showbiz rose to that challenge in no uncertain terms on this album packed with swaggering Rotten Apple attitude, skills sharpened in unforgiving street-corner ciphers and dope, dusty-fingered beats.

Kev Brown & J Scienide – “Stray From The Pack” (KevBrown.BandCamp.Com) – Following up their impressive 2019 collaboration “Drum Machine Tape Cassette”, DMV duo Kev Brown and J Scienide offered up another collection of loose, spontaneous sounding beats and rhymes inspired by both a love of the art and the satisfaction of making the competition feel inadequate. B-boy basement flavour.

The Primeridian & Rashid Hadee – “Prime Diesel” (RashidHadee.BandCamp.Com) – A product of Chicago’s rich underground scene, this collaboration between veteran duo The Primeridian and fellow Windy City representative Rashid Hadee was a shining example of top-tier beat science and carefully crafted lyricism. With additional production from Tall Black Guy and featured artists such as Thaione Davis, Pugs Atomz and Philmore Greene, this album captured a lot of talent at their very best.

Flashius Clayton x Jster – “The Dust Diary” (25NoteDope.BandCamp.Com) – A naturally gifted emcee, Cali’s Flashius Clayton was firing on all cylinders here, with his usual high-standard of lyrical expertise accompanied by the dark, hypnotic beats of West Coast producer Jster. An atmospheric dose of rough, rugged and raw Hip-Hop. As Doug E. Fresh once said, play this only at night.

Khrysis – “The Hour Of Khrysis” (JamlaRecords.Com) – Featuring a diverse selection of artists, from golden-era greats De La Soul and Hiero legend Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, to Compton’s Problem and Jamla Records own Reuben Vincent, this long-awaited album from Away Team / Soul Council producer Khrysis was firmly held together by the North Carolina music man’s sonic creativity. Drawing the most out of his list of collaborators thanks to the masterful, carefully constructed soundscapes on offer, Khrysis succeeded in stamping his own personality all over this release, complimenting the variety of emcees and vocalists included here rather than being overshadowed by them.

Vic Spencer – “Legend Laws Of Power” (SupaSounds.BandCamp.Com) – The last few years has been a relentless period of productivity for Chicago’s Vic Spencer, with the talented emcee dropping four albums in 2021 alone. “Legend Laws Of Power” found Spencer teaming-up with Chi-town producer Original Super Legend, delivering his barbed punchlines over strong beats, making it abundantly clear how unimpressed he’s been with the so-called opposition.

Nas – “King’s Disease II” (MassAppeal.Com) – Aside from a few tracks, I wasn’t a big fan of the first “King’s Disease” album. I just didn’t connect with it. This follow-up, however, prompted a totally different reaction. Aside from a couple of misplaced tracks I felt this was an inspired piece of work, with Nas and Hit-Boy really hitting their stride as a creative partnership. The Queensbridge legend sounded relaxed and focused here, embracing his elder statesman status and reminiscing on the experiences that shaped him, whilst still clearly looking towards the future.

L-Biz & Castle Money Beats – “The Cool Table LP” (IStayBizzy.Com) – Backed by the solid, melodic production of California’s Castle Money Beats, Buffalo, NY’s L-Biz encouraged artists and listeners alike not to conform and follow trends in order to have a place at “the cool table”, but instead walk your own path and carve out your own niche as an individual. Head-nodding Hip-Hop that was guaranteed to have a positive impact on your confidence levels and self-esteem.

Arrested Development – “For The FKN Love” (OfficialArrestedDevelopment.BandCamp.Com) – Powerful. Uplifting. Needed. Just a few of the words that could be used to describe this epic album from the longstanding Arrested Development crew. Largely produced by the UK’s Configa, who matched Speech’s motivational verses with some rousing work behind the boards, this was ultimately a positive album with a realistic outlook that was further enhanced by appearances from the likes of Masta Ace, Freddie Foxxx and Big Daddy Kane. Music to feed your Hip-Hop soul in today’s unsettled times.

DJ Nappa – “Redress” (DJNappa.BandCamp.Com) – A veteran of the UK Hip-Hop scene, Phi-Life Cypher’s Nappa dropped a stellar instrumental release for the We Stay True label which found the Luton-based producer upping the creative ante and moving in potentially unexpected directions, whilst remaining clear about his artistic vision at all-times. Steering away from typical boom-bap territory, “Redress” encapsulated a variety of styles, whilst capturing Nappa’s genuine passion for the art of making music.

Evidence – “Unlearning Vol. 1” (MisterEvidence.BandCamp.Com) – As a fan, the growth and evolution shown by West Coast emcee-slash-producer Evidence over the years has been a joy to behold (and hear). From his keep-it-underground approach in the 90s as a member of Dilated Peoples, to the more personal content of his solo albums, through to his instrumental work, Evidence has consistently moved forward whilst remaining rooted in his Hip-Hop foundations. “Unlearning Vol. 1” represented yet another important step in the right direction, with Evidence dropping timely lyrical gems over carefully selected production from the likes of The Alchemist, Nottz and Daringer.

Children Of Zeus – “Balance” (ChildrenOfZeus.BandCamp.Com) – To describe this sophomore album from Manchester’s Children Of Zeus as being a masterpiece would definitely be no overstatement. Having already appeared to have perfected their blend of soul and Hip-Hop on previous releases, Konny Kon and Tyler Daley refined their sonic aesthetic even further on “Balance”, reaching higher heights of creative perfection that transcended typical categorization. This was spiritual music that existed in its own unique time and place.

Awon & Phoniks – “Nothing Less” (AwonAndPhoniks.Com) – A partnership whose chemistry clearly points to them being destined to make music together, Virginia / Maine duo Awon & Phoniks came correct once again on their fourth long-player, effortlessly bringing together personal, socially-aware rhymes and strong production packed with sublime soul and jazz samples.

Guilty Simpson & Gensu Dean – “EGO” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit’s Guilty Simpson has built a career on straight-no-chaser verses full of been-there-done-that life observations and cautionary street knowledge. Simpson offered more of the same on this collaboration with esteemed producer Gensu Dean, who provided the Motor City emcee with a raw, stripped-down collection of beats over which to reassert his position in the rap game.

Confucius MC – “Somewhere” (YNRProductions.BandCamp.Com) – London’s Confucius MC really took listeners on a lyrical journey throughout this album. Where was the destination? Well, that was largely down to your interpretation of the cerebral rhymes on offer here, which contained splashes of nostalgia, present day commentary and depictions of an uncertain future. The jazz-influenced production of France’s Keor Meteor fully complimented the UK emcee’s musings, with appearances from the likes of Jehst, Sonnyjim and Verbz adding to the overall feel of the album.

El Da Sensei & Jake Palumbo – “Solving Cases” (SpaceLABRecordings.BandCamp.Com) – Buoyed by a real sense of momentum and energy, this collaboration between Artifacts legend El Da Sensei and NY’s Jake Palumbo was full of upbeat joints powered by punchy, drum-heavy production and true-school lyricism. With appearances from Sadat X, John Robinson and Shabaam Sahdeeq, this album had the feel of a lively cipher session at times, with everyone involved clearly on a mission to celebrate Hip-Hop.

Ambassador Rick – “The Tape Nobody Made” (TheOpioidEra.BandCamp.Com) – One-third of Virginia’s Opioid Era crew, Ambassador Rick continued the group’s tradition of crafting uncompromising, emotionally-charged street music on this solo release. Bridging the gap between raw and righteous, Rick combined verbal grit with moments of genuine reflection, all delivered over vintage soul samples and smooth loops.

Snaggapuss & Ramzee – “Bronx Dundee” (RapRecordsAU.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran NY emcee Snaggapuss joined forces with Australian producer Ramzee for this hardcore-yet-entertaining album, with the former member of Doo Wop’s Bounce Squad utilising his inimitable flow to deliver punchline-heavy rhymes laced with humour over satisfyingly sparse, stripped-down beats.

Part Four coming soon.

Dynamite Grooves Beat Tape Stream – Dynamite Willie


Smooth, laidback beats from the Chicago-based producer.

New Joint – Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim / Rim

Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim ft. Rim – “Opp Anthem” (@VicSpencer / @Sonnyjim01 / 2021)

Smooth-and-deadly flavour from the fourth instalment of the US / UK duo’s “Spencer For Higher” album series dropping later this week.