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.