Tag Archives: Otis Mensah

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “Black Box” (OtisMensah.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

The UK’s Otis Mensah weaves yet another impressive tapestry of captivating poetic intrigue on this first track to be lifted from his forthcoming self-produced EP “things I should have said a year ago”.

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “40 Years” (@OtisMensah / 2020)

The creative Sheffield-based artist drops the final instalment of his #OtisMensahExists series, another impressive example of imaginative wordplay backed by subtle, jazz-influenced beats from Brelstaff.

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “The Thinks” (@OtisMensah / 2020)

The Sheffield-based artist delivers more philosophical flows on this Brelstaff-produced addition to his #OtisMensahExists series.

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “No Record Store Day” (@OtisMensah / 2020)

The Sheffield-based artist “delves into a feeling of cabin fever; irritability and restlessness” with his usual blend of creative wordplay and thoughtful insight on this latest instalment of his #OtisMensahExists series.

Old To The New Q&A – Otis Mensah

Bringing the artistic worlds of Hip-Hop, spoken-word and poetry together in his music, Sheffield’s Otis Mensah is an individual on a mission, with the 24-year-old determined to blur boundaries, challenge categorisation and cross cultural divides via his unique and imaginative use of language.

Having spent recent years delivering a handful of ambitious EP releases, as well as sharing stages with the likes of Killah Priest, Homeboy Sandman and Brother Ali, this young man’s creativity has continued to grow, with Mensah’s philosophical view of the world providing listeners with the opportunity to see inside the heart and mind of a performer wise beyond his years.

Staying busy with his new #OtisMensahExists single series and the publication of his book “Safe Metamorphosis”, the talented wordsmith recently jumped on the phone to talk about his childhood introduction to Hip-Hop, how he approaches his craft and his admiration for underground rap hero MF Doom.

Obvious first question – how and when did you first discover Hip-Hop?

“I think it must have begun quite early. My dad was a Hip-Hop deejay in the 90s on pirate radio. We had two Technics turntables in the house, and as a child I think I just soaked it in, although I was never consciously interested in Hip-Hop too heavily at that young age. I mean, I liked some of the popular songs like “Stan” and other stuff you could bounce around to, but I don’t think I was showing an obvious interest in Hip-Hop at that point. But then, growing into my early teenage days,  maybe around twelve or thirteen, I started having this sort of craving to find an expressionistic outlet for a sort of new existential angst that I was feeling, being at that age, having a quarrel with identity, and maybe a little social anxiety. So I was looking for an outlet to put those feelings into. Around that time I started listening to grime and me and my friends would write raps and have fun clashes in the school yard (laughs). But at some point, whilst I appreciate grime and everything it means to the UK and everything it has become, I think for me at the time as a teenager, I felt there was a vulnerability lacking in the music. I didn’t consciously verbalise that in my head, I think I had a sub-conscious need for something that was more vulnerable where I didn’t have to pretend to be something that I wasn’t. I mean, as a teenager, you try to assimilate to your peers or to what you think it means to be a man. I felt I needed to portray a certain image and at some point that just got tiresome for me and I started to look for music that didn’t have to be anything. I found Hip-Hop to be an answer to that in many ways. So it was an interesting journey because I returned to what I’d already been exposed to when I was young.”

So the music you’d grown-up hearing in the background and considered to simply be your parents’ music then actually became your main focus?

“Exactly. That in itself made it easy when I wanted to discover more about it. Of course, we’ve got the internet, and I would consider myself a child of the internet, and that has made it so easy to find new music and new cultures online. But I could take whatever I found, go to my dad and say ‘Have you ever heard of this guy?’ and of course most of the time he would be like, ‘Yeah, of course I have.’ So I discovered people like The Pharcyde. I gained a new found love for A Tribe Called Quest.  I felt like I was starting to see myself represented, and my feelings represented, in the music that I started to fall in love with. That later developed into finding artists like Kid Cudi, who was so open about his depression and anxiety. Then I started getting into the more experimental stuff like Rhymesayers, Atmosphere, P.O.S., Aesop Rock. Then I really started to feel like I’d found a place where not only could I see myself and how I felt being represented, but I could also experiment with my own artistry. So then I went from just writing raps about anything to making a conscious decision to actually say ‘Hey, I want to be honest, authentic and true to myself in whatever I’m writing.’ Because not only had I found that doing that was going to be therapeutic to me, but in the same way that those artists I’ve mentioned created a sense of community and made me feel less alone as a teenager, perhaps I could do that for somebody else through what I was creating.”

Aside from the artists you’ve just spoken about, I’ve also seen you mention Del The Funky Homosapien as being an emcee who had an impact on you. He’s definitely a personal favourite of mine and a very unique artist. How were you introduced to his music?

“I remember hearing the Gorillaz track “Clint Eastwood” when I was younger and just loving it so much. Then, in school we’d have periods where we didn’t have work, it would be leisure time, and we could go on the computers or whatever. There was this website called Grooveshark where you could listen to music, which was before Spotify (laughs). It would give you recommended albums based on other music you’d listened to or other artists you’d typed in. Through that I discovered the “Deltron 3030″ album and I became obsessed with it. I loved it. I remember going to my dad and saying ‘Have you ever heard of Deltron 3030? It sounds like this guy who was on that Gorillaz song.’ My dad was like, ‘Yeah, that’s because it’s Del The Funky Hompsapien!’ So all these little connections were made for me and as those connections were made and I fell in love with the music of Hip-Hop, I also fell in love with the culture and wanted to understand the history of it all. I wanted to watch all the documentaries and, as I grew up a bit, also understand the socio-political climate the music was birthed from and how meaningful the music became and still is.”

Did you already have an active interest in writing and poetry before the interest in music came along?

“This is going to sound like I was some sort of young savant, but I wasn’t (laughs). These influences that I’m talking about I think were way more sub-conscious and way more implicit. They weren’t necessarily direct. Like, my dad didn’t hand me the mic when I was a kid or anything like that. But my mum had an inclination towards poetry and wrote poetry herself. I was always really inquisitive towards language and always had a bit of a fascination with words. I’m also dyslexic. So I would always mix my words up and put sentences together that didn’t really make sense sometimes. But I had this passion for language, and I think that same dyslexia became some sort of superpower in many ways because I was able to write a poem or write a rap and I didn’t feel the need to follow such a strong convention or structure. I was able to bend language a little bit more.”

Was there a particular moment when you decided you wanted to fuse the worlds of Hip-Hop and poetry together in your artistry or was it something that happened organically?

“I think it all began with Hip-Hop. I think I had a tunnel vision way of thinking and it was all about Hip-Hop, learning about Hip-Hop culture, and it was all about writing to boom-bap beats on YouTube and stuff of that nature. I just fell in love with it. I think being so engaged with it as an artform, and seeing how it had impacted my life and how I all of a sudden felt this surge of unification, in many ways I was able to build my identity around Hip-Hop. Knowing that I found that power from Hip-Hop, it was only when I became maybe a bit more politically savvy or a little more inclined towards philosophical contemplation, I started to see that Hip-Hop and rap as an artform wasn’t being accredited as a viable and intellectual means of art and people weren’t seeing it as a true form of poetry. Like, I would listen to something like The Roots’ “Things Fall Apart” and then I’d go into my English class, and I actually loved English, but I’d wonder why I had to study something like “Of Mice And Men” and why couldn’t we delve into this other incredible literary piece of art that was so meaningful and impactful? It was at that point that I started to see the disaparity between the practical impact that Hip-Hop was having on my life and the impact that these novels I was reading in school were having. I couldn’t see myself represented in those novels, you know. I couldn’t see my feelings being represented fully and I couldn’t see my actual self being represented. So I wanted to stand in opposition against that. I wanted to stand in opposition against people trying to keep Hip-Hop out of the intellectual conversation and say ‘Hey! This is a potent form of poetry.'”

days over damson cover

Your 2016 project “Days Over Damson” came with the statement that “Nostalgia is the inevitable human curse” – what led you to that conclusion?

“I guess what I was talking about when I wrote that was my own personal relationship with nostalgia. I guess I was referring to this feeling of what I would call crippling nostalgia and a rose-tinted reminiscence. I think I tend to walk through life romantacizing certain moments that have happened. Like, for example, if I just played a performance last week and it was a great performance, I’m then always hindered by that experience in terms of thinking ‘How can I top that?’ and how does anything else then live up to that experience. So if you’re living your life like that, then in the grand scheme of things, it can really start to hinder your experiences when everything you do is comparable to the past. It can distort your present. But when I actually put that mixtape together, it was when I’d just left the college of music that I’d been going to when I’d left home to go and study. My experience of being away from home had included me having a strong social circle for the first time, being around like-minded people, being able to connect to artists. So feeling like I’d been stripped away from that when I came back home was sort of this debilitating experience which meant at that point I was only able to look back at what had come before and I wasn’t able to see into the future.”

You also dropped the concept-based EP “Computers Outside” in 2016. What was the inspiration behind that particular release?

“I think it was again based around this feeling of being isolated from the outside world, being isolated from a social group, and just spending time with my thoughts bouncing around the walls and me looking into a computer screen almost 24/7. It was around the time when the “Mr. Robot” television series had come out and I’d binged watched it and had this feeling of being detached from society after engaging in so much entertainment. I’d sort of lost touch with myself. Which sparked a thought around that feeling and the idea that perhaps we’re moving into a society that encourages that feeling moreso than something that’s more interpersonal or emotional.”

As you’ve continued on your journey combining Hip-Hop and poetry, do you feel you’re constantly having to deal with people’s perceptions, and misconceptions, of what to expect from you as you move between those two creative spaces?

“That’s a great question and I think about it a lot. What I’ve found is that I’m always trying to push my creativity first in the sense that I’m always trying to share a piece of art before giving people the chance to label it. So if I’m at a particular performance perhaps I’ll try and avoid someone announcing me using a certain label. I’ll go on, share my art and then describe to the audience what I consider to be the multi-faceted nature of my work. So I can say that I’m a poet who was born from Hip-Hop. Then there’s a dialogue that’s created and I can say, ‘Hey, what if we didn’t have this conditioning that exists, this white-washed, elitism conditioning that exists in literature and other ‘traditional’ art forms such as classical music and jazz?’ I’m trying to combat the conditioning that people have around that and say actually that Hip-Hop is poetry. So you’re right in asking am I juggling different labels and things like that because I think I am. But once I share the art I hope that it breaks down some of those barriers and perceptions, y’know. Sorry, that was a bit of a waffly answer (laughs).”

Not at all. It’s probably quite a difficult question to answer definitively because every experience you have is no doubt different in some way. But I think what you’ve said in terms of how you want your art to be consumed first before people get into the labelling process makes absolute sense. Now, the follow on question is that I’ve seen the ‘alternative’ label being used in connection with you and your music on a number of occasions. Is that a label you’re comfortable with or do you reject it?

“So I’ve been thinking about the nuance of this because, as I’ve said before, I would much rather the art be heard and someone make their own mind up about the music rather than be influenced by a pre-conceived label before they’ve even heard what I do. At the same time, I feel like every other musical genre is allowed to exist within its sub-genres, so you have psych-rock, you have prog rock, you have metal, death metal, indie rock. But then there’s a tendency for people to just slap Hip-Hop all under the same roof and usually it’s so misinformed. You’ll go into a CD shop and the labelling of the music is always so confused. You’ll see Migos next to Rakim and then you’ll see Rakim next to Sean Kingston. I find myself thinking ‘What are the preconceived ideas that are informing your decision to bunch all these artists together?’ I’m not opposed to labels entirely. I’m only opposed to them when they start to impact how people see the quality of my music, y’know. Like the way the ‘lo-fi’ label can lead people to question the actual quality of the music rather than using the term to describe the style or sound of the music. However, with the alternative label, I think it’s perfect because let’s say you’ve got Migos, J Cole and Kendrick Lamar. We can happily all say that they all contribute to the artform of rap. Perhaps they’re not all existing under the umbrella of Hip-Hop, but we can say that they’re all rapping. Now I’m happy to try and explain to a friend who possibly isn’t into Hip-Hop that artists like CunninLynguists, Murs, Atmosphere, I would argue they are alternative Hip-Hop. Though you never really use those labels when you’re in love with the music or invested in the music yourself, sometimes it’s just easier to help people understand because they may have a very limited idea of what it means to be a Hip-Hop artist.”

So you’re happy with the label if it’s used to describe you as being an alternative to the mainstream image of Hip-Hop that people outside of the culture may have, but not if it’s being used to describe a particular sound people might then expect to hear from you?

“Exactly. When the label becomes limiting, that’s when it becomes problematic. But at the same time, a label can be used for good to sort of steer people and educate them. If I say to someone that there’s this whole world of Hip-Hop that exists that they haven’t invested in, sometimes to ease them in you’ve got to give them a label because as humans we have this need to slap a label on everything to try and understand it. But then further down the line, those labels start to fade away and you start to see the music as Hip-Hop in its true context, y’know.

Labels aside, you also carry the title of being Sheffield’s first Poet Laureate. How did that happen?

“It happened in 2018. I was trying to put out as much music as I could. With that, certain opportunities arose like being able to play Glastonbury on the BBC Introducing stage, which of course was such an honour at the time. A video circulated from the Glastonbury performance and Sheffield’s then-to-be Lord Mayor discovered it and I think he did a bit of research into my work. He reached out to me about this role of poet laurate that he wanted to create as a means of championing what people were doing in Sheffield under this idea that there’s always this huge focus on London and the South and sometimes what’s going on artistically in the North doesn’t always get the national look. So it was a means to celebrate Sheffield and also I think break down the barriers of tradition that had been put in place. I think our former Lord Mayor Magid has always been about connecting with people on a human level and connecting with community. Even if that meant defacing traditions that might have stopped him from being able to do that. So in many ways it was a political choice, but also I think he saw that I was doing something different in the city artisitically, y’know.”

In the information you sent me about your new series of #OtisMensahExists single releases it refers to you as being “outside the London echo-chamber” as an artist. Is being accepted within the London scene something you see as a challenge or a goal?

“I had quarrels with myself and my partner about whether to even put that in the press release (laughs). I guess it’s polarising and you’re either going to want to hear more or you’re going to run in the opposite direction. I think that line about the echo chamber, it’s never representative of the people and the artists in London, I think it’s moreso a description in many ways of a long history of politics, national politics, the North-South divide and when money is injected into the country, what places are often left deprived. So it’s more a question of institions who always feel the lazy need to focus on one specific thing, one specific identity and one specific place. But in regards to the London scene, I think it’s incredible, especially everything that’s happening in terms of the resurgence of jazz. To me it’s so inspiring. So yeah, I don’t just want to continue doing what I want in Sheffield and then create my own echo chamber, y’know. I want to encourage collaboration. I also want to break down the barriers and perceptions that have been created by institutions to market specific sounds and attach them to specific places. So the echo chamber is more about how companies market people. I feel that’s the echo chamber. I feel in a lot of ways, the  heads of radio playlists, the heads of blogs,, magazines and newspapers, perhaps it’s more a burden of truth for them to face rather than the actual people and the artists in London.”

When you recorded last year’s “Rap Poetics” EP did you feel you had a point to prove from a Hip-Hop perspective? I ask that, not because it was radically different to your previous releases, but there was an overall feel and tone running throughout it which seemed to be you saying ‘I’m here and you need to take me seriously as an emcee.’…

“You’ve hit the nail on the head. I was exactly feeling that. My whole goal in the first place was to prove that Hip-Hop was poetry and not split the two things in people’s minds. So on “Rap Poetics” I wanted to get back to the roots of how I started writing in the first place and spend more time writing in a way that was fun for me. I think at some point I drifted away from writing because it was fun. It became about productivity and writing the next song. A lot of that was very introspective and in many ways it became quite suffocating. So with “Rap Poetics” I wanted to take it back to its roots, put myself forward as an emcee and play with language. I think it was also a build up and boiling point to a lot of frustration I had with the elitism in the art world and poetry world, the snobbery and the racism. So “Rap Poetics” was about taking all that frustration and putting it out. I don’t often look outwards when I’m working on material, often I’m looking inwards to see how I feel about society. “Rap Poetics” was about taking the artform that I love, looking outwards and projecting it back out. I felt hungry again, y’know.”

rap poetics cover

With the #OtisMensahExists series, you’re dropping a series of individual tracks over a period of time rather than releasing one full project. What prompted you to consider releasing your music like that this time around given that you’ve become known for cohesive, concept-driven EPs?

“I think people’s attention spans have changed and I’m definitely not judging when I say that because I also look at how my own attention span has changed. Often I find myself wondering if I have an attention deficit disorder, y’know (laughs). I have this love for bodies of work and full conceptual pieces of art. I see albums like books and I sit and listen to them like you’d appreciate a full novel. So I always want to keep that in mind when I’m working on my own music, but I thought perhaps injecting an episodic nature into the way I release music could help with the attention span situation. I wanted to use the term #OtisMensahExists as a means to say that amongst the noise of everything that’s going on, I hope you remember that I exist and if you didn’t know then now you do know that I exist. That was the beginning of a shift in the way that I saw art. I’d always viewed art as a means of catharsis and therapy and community. It was helpful to me on an individual level because I was getting my problems out, and then it’s helpful to the outside world because we’re unified by the sharing. But a lot of my art is about documenting my existence and especially in today’s fear-induced times there is an uncertainty about life and I’m often plagued by how mortal we are and how fleeting this life can be. With that comes this need I have to leave the Otis Mensah stamp on the world. So that’s where the statement Otis Mensah Exists comes from. Also, I created these songs as a pre-cursor to my debut album which I’ve already finished with The Intern.”

There’s a line on “Blowaway Dream” from the “Rap Poetics” EP where you say “I just want MF Doom to know I rap” – do you think he knows yet?

“He definitely does not know that I exist (laughs). So hopefully through the #OtisMensahExists campaign he will find out. He represents a mystery and an allure in Hip-Hop and I would love to be able to attain that kind of mystery behind my creativity. He’s steered himself away from that capitalist need to market yourself and has created an anti-image in many ways. His ethos and what he represents is extremely interesting to me.”

So when are you looking to release the full-length album?

“After the #OtisMensahExists series has played its due course. So sometime in 2021. So the first single from #OtisMensahExists is out on May 26th (note: this interview was conducted on May 21st) and a new track will be released every three weeks from then over fifteen weeks. I’m definitely excited to see what people think.”

Ryan Proctor

Otis Mensah’s numerous releases can be found here on BandCamp.

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “Internet Café” (@OtisMensah / 2020)

The Sheffield-based artist drops the latest instalment of his #OtisMensahExists series, a mellow Elijah Bane-produced look at online addiction inspired by the 2013 documentary “Web Junkie”.

New Joint – Otis Mensah / Hemlock Ernst

Otis Mensah ft. Hemlock Ernst – “Breath Of Life” (@OtisMensah / 2020)

Poet-slash-emcee Otis Mensah ponders the subject of mortality through creative wordplay and intriguing imagery on this mellow, jazz-infused cut produced by Brelstaff – this is the first release in the #OtisMensahExists series which will see the Sheffield-based artist dropping a new track every three weeks.

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “Under The Bed” (OtisMensah.BandCamp.Com / 2020)

More inspired artistry from the UK wordsmith – produced by Jackie Moonbather and taken from the 2019 EP “Rap Poetics”.

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “Blowaway Dream” (@OtisMensah / 2020)

Personal, charismatic rhymes from the UK artist’s recent “Rap Poetics” EP.

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “1 Euro Jazz” (@OtisMensah / 2020)

The UK’s Otis Mensah continues “pushing against apathy with art” via this Intern-produced gem off his impressive “Rap Poetics” EP.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2019 (Part One) – Roc Marciano / Nems / Jeff Smith etc.

Every year this ‘best-of’ list becomes increasingly harder to put together, with 2019 possibly having been the most challenging round-up to compile yet. Not because there haven’t been enough worthy projects released over the past twelve months, but because there has potentially been too many!

I initially sat down with a list of approximately three hundred albums and EPs that had dropped this year which I felt deserved to be considered. Three hundred??!! After plenty of deliberation and arguments with myself, I finally managed to get that list down to the one hundred releases you’ll find featured in this five-part 2019 overview.

Of course, there are going to be artists not included who some heads will feel should have been. That’s the beauty of music – everyone has their own opinion. But if a particular album or EP hasn’t been mentioned, that shouldn’t lead anyone to automatically assume I didn’t rate that project at all. As previously stated, I started with three hundred releases. When scaling that list down I had to really just consider which albums and EPs I’d enjoyed the most. It was as simple as that. No politics. No favours. Just the thoughts of a lifelong fan of beats and rhymes.

As always, huge props to all the talented artists out there (whether included in this list or not) who put their time, effort and creative energy into making music that adds something of value to this incredible culture called Hip-Hop.

Now, like we always do about this time….

Roc Marciano – “Marcielago” (RocMarci.Com) – As one of the most influential artists of the last decade it’s fitting that ten years after the release of “Marcberg”, an album that made an indelible impact on the sound of underground Hip-Hop, Strong Island’s Roc Marci would book-end his incredible run of releases with a project that further solidified his position in the game. Once again proving himself to be a master of his craft (both lyrically and musically),  the NY favourite fused vivid, larger-than-life rhymes with smooth, atmospheric (largely self-produced) beats and loops. Cinematic mood music best heard late at night in a haze of weed smoke.

 

roc cover

Nems – “Gorilla Monsoon” (Lyfer Gang) – Brooklyn emcee Nems is no newcomer, having released a string of projects over the past fifteen years. But on this album, the Mayor Of Coney Island appeared to capture Hip-Hop lightning in a bottle, elevating his skills to new heights in the process. Backed by the masterful production of fellow BK resident Jazzsoon, whose beats thumped harder than a heavyweight boxer working a punch-bag, Nems paid homage to the traditional Rotten Apple sound without getting caught up in nostalgia, delivering rhymes that ranged from aggressive, competition-crushing bars to brutally personal and honest life stories. Powerful music.

nems cover

Joker Starr – “G.A.W.D.” (FlukeBeatMusic.BandCamp.Com) – The irrepressible UK artist made a welcome return at the beginning of the year with another quality collection of unrestrained lyricism to add to his catalogue, at times sounding about ready to burst out of the speakers like a Hip-Hop Hulk. Largely produced by Micall Parknsun (with input from Anyway Tha God and OphQi), the UK wordsmith mixed social commentary and Black pride with larger-than-life emcee bravado throughout this entertaining showcase of raw hardcore talent.

joker starr cover

Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim – “Spencer For Higher 2” (Daupe Media) – Chicago’s Vic Spencer delivered slick wit and smooth arrogance over sublime production from the UK’s Sonnyjim on this sequel to the pair’s original 2018 “Spencer For Higher” project. A naturally gifted emcee, Spencer dominated the beats and loops on offer here with seemingly effortless skill, sharing a creative chemistry with Sonnyjim that lent the project a satisfyingly seamless and organic feel.

Funky DL – “Life After Dennison” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Following on from 2018’s “Dennison Point” project, which captured Funky DL’s memories and experiences between 1992 and 2005 as a resident of Stratford, East London, “Life After Dennison” found the multi-talented UK artist bringing listeners up-to-date with his personal journey in his inimitable warm and witty style, accompanied by his jazzy and soulful trademark production sound.

Pitch 92 – “3rd Culture” (HighFocus.Com) – An album of epic proportions, this project from Pitch 92 fully showcased the Manchester music man’s range as a producer, incorporating Hip-Hop, jazz and soul influences into one smooth and cohesive listening experience, featuring a long list of top-tier UK talent including Jehst, MysDiggi and DRS. An ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable release.

Jeff Smith – “Fear Of A Black Messiah” (GiftedJeffSmithStore.BandCamp.Com) – In today’s divided and troubled times, music from artists such as Virginia’s Jeff Smith is needed more than ever. Following in the footsteps of acts such as Public Enemy, Paris and Kam, the outspoken emcee delivered an uncompromising look at what it means to be Black in Amerikkka today from his own perspective. Dealing with racial, social and political issues head-on, Smith proved that edutainment is still alive and well in Hip-Hop.

The Legion – “Three The Bronx Way” (FBDistribution.BandCamp.Com) – Grounded in memories of 80s Bronx block parties, street-corner ciphers and nights at the Latin Quarter, NY trio Molecules, Chucky Smash and Dice Man (aka Cee-Low) jingle jangled their way through this uncompromising dose of traditional Rotten Apple rap. The BX keeps creating it.

Damani Nkosi and ill Camille – “HARRIETT” (DamCam.BandCamp.Com) – West Coast duo Damani Nkosi and ill Camille combined their talents on this full-length project, determined to satisfy your soul and stimulate your third-eye via an organic blend of smooth, melodic production and uplifting lyrical content which was influenced by the past, grounded in the present and looking towards the future.

Infinite Thoughts – “Instrumentals” (1990SomethingLLC.BandCamp.Com) – Washington’s DJ NOZs and E Boogie delivered a stunning selection of uplifting, soulful beats on this brilliantly crafted project, showcasing not only their passion for boom-bap but also their shared ear for quality musicianship, blending dusty, basement-style drums with melodic keys and horns.

Showbiz x Milano – “Boulevard Author” (DITCEnt.Com) – A shining example of quality now-school Rotten Apple rap, this concise collection of dusty-fingered beats and well-executed, laser-precise rhymes found the Diggin’ In The Crates duo each residing at the top of their game. Milano has been a lyrical force to be reckoned with since his debut in the late-90s and Show’s ear for an ill loop definitely hasn’t faded over time, with this album carrying on DITC tradition and proudly supporting the classic sound of NYC.

Lisaan’dro – “M.A.D.E. (My Allies Died Early)” (Lisaandro.BandCamp.Com) – Gang Starr’s Guru once said it’s mostly the voice of an emcee that sets him or her apart from the competition. If Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal were still here today he would no doubt hold NY’s Lisaan’dro up to prove his point. The Long Island lyricist’s immediately recognizable raspy flow does indeed give his music a unique quality, but aside from that, as showcased on this album, Lisaan’dro also has a real talent for penning verses filled with pimpish slick talk and street-wise observations, which were backed up here by production from the likes of The Custodian Of Records, Leaf Dog, Flashius Clayton and more.

Es – “Social Meteor Vol. 1:Inspired By My Timeline” (EsMusik.BandCamp.Com) – If you were already familiar with Canadian emcee Es before 2019 via previous albums such as “Aspire To Inspire” (2014) and “We Are Only Getting Older” (2017), then you would have already been well aware that this talented wordsmith offers plenty of food for thought in his music. This latest project continued that tradition, with Es tackling the pros and cons of social media and our obsession with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram etc, accompanied by production from Pro-Logic, DJ QVP and Rel McCoy.

O The Great – “This Art Is Real” (OTheGreat,BandCamp.Com) – NY’s O The Great swung a heavy lyrical sword throughout this project, which bristled with a true passion for the art and culture of Hip-Hop. Mixing contemplative rhymes and observational jewels with raw bravado, the skilled emcee (who also produced the majority of this release) held the listener’s attention with ease via his sharp delivery and down-to-earth attitude. The album also featured worthwhile appearances from the likes of  Supreme Cerebral, BanishHabitual and Supreme Magnetic.

Benny Diction & Able8 – “Oak Dreams” (MillenniumJazz.BandCamp.Com) – Recapturing the creative chemistry heard on their brilliant 2013 collabo album “Life Moves”, UK emcee Benny Diction and Australian producer Able8 joined forces once again for this EP on the Millennium Jazz label. A concise collection of honest, thoughtful lyricism and forward-thinking soundscapes, “Oak Dreams” was yet another worthy addition to Benny’s already impressive catalogue.

WateRR & The Standouts – “The Honorable” (WateRR.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago emcee WateRR appeared to have found the perfect sonic backdrop for his swaggering, forthright rhymes in the form of Texas production duo The Standouts, who supplied the Windy City wordsmith with a strong selection of attention-grabbing loops and samples on this impressive long-player.

Finale – “62” (FinaleDet313.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding supporters of Detroit’s Finale will already know he is an emcee determined to fill his verses with substance, honesty and integrity. This latest album from the Motor City wordsmith continued in that tradition, with Finale offering personal rhymes about family, relationships and fatherhood over a well-chosen selection of soulful production.

Otis Mensah – “Rap Poetics” (OtisMensah.BandCamp.Com) – Unique, refreshing and possessing an undeniable mastery of words, flow and language, UK rapper-slash-poet Otis Mensah packed this six-track EP with a seemingly effortless stream of vivid imagery, stimulating lyricism and magnetic energy, all delivered over a nice selection of crisp, jazzy beats.

Super Duty Tough Work – “Studies In Grey” (SuperDutyToughWork.BandCamp.Com) – The idea of a live band making Hip-Hop is nothing new, but it is a concept that takes real skill to execute effectively. At the top end of the scale, groups like The Roots and the UK’s Mouse Outfit have consistently released incredible music based around the live band format. But when done badly, the end product can sound limp and bland, lacking the thump and grit many Hip-Hop fans demand. Based on this EP, it would appear that Canadian band Super Duty Tough Work are definitely masters of their craft, balancing head-nodding beats and nimble rhymes with smooth instrumentation, incorporating vibrant keys, lively bass and punctuating horns.

Asun Eastwood & Onaje Jordan – “Danger My Ally” (AsunEastwood.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian artist Asun Eastwood has steadily built himself a reputation over the last couple of years as one of the nicest emcees making noise in the underground. This latest release (produced by Chicago’s Onaje Jordan) offered more of the raw, uncut wordplay that supporters have grown accustomed to, reflecting the darker side of Toronto’s streets.

Part Two coming soon.

Rap Poetics EP Stream – Otis Mensah

rap poetics cover

Unique, refreshing and possessing an undeniable mastery of words, flow and language, UK rapper-slash-poet Otis Mensah packs this six-track EP with a seemingly effortless stream of vivid imagery, stimulating lyricism and magnetic energy, all delivered over a well-chosen selection of organic, jazzy beats.

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “Grand Finale Funeral Show” (@OtisMensah / 2019)

The UK artist offers his thoughts on today’s materialistic society via a quality combination of creative wordplay and mellow production from his new EP “Rap Poetics”.

 

New Joint – Otis Mensah

Otis Mensah – “Solar Eclipse” (@OtisMensah / 2018)

Lively, punchline-heavy flavour from the UK artist’s new EP “Mum’s House, Philosopher”.