Evidence – “Cats & Dogs” (Rhymesayers Entertainment) – With over a decade of credible music already under his belt as both a member of Dilated Peoples and as a solo act, West Coast wordsmith Evidence could easily have churned out a collection of standard underground bangers and still received praise from his cult fanbase. Yet the weather-obsessed emcee attacked his sophomore set like he was introducing himself to the rap world all over again, using the album as an opportunity to dig into some personal issues (not least the loss of his mother) plus go line-for-line with heavyweights such as Raekwon, Ras Kass and Roc Marciano.
Random Axe – “Random Axe” (Duck Down Records) – Obscure cover art aside, this collaboration between Brooklyn rhyme brawler Sean Price, Detroit favourite Guilty Simpson and Motown maestro Black Milk was a no-nonsense exercise in quality hardcore Hip-Hop. Price and Simpon’s chemistry as a duo was undeniable with Milk’s drum-heavy soundscapes providing the perfect sonic stomping ground for the two lyrical bullies.
Action Bronson – “Dr. Lecter” (Fine Fabric Delegates) – Having already set the blog world on fire with his boisterous food-related flows and passion for boom-bap beats, Queens, NY’s Action Bronson began the year by dropping this Tommy Mas-produced collection of raucous rap featuring various members of the Outdoorsmen clique reppin’ the Rotten Apple like ’95 never ended.
Beneficence – “Sidewalk Science” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – With quality production from Diamond D and appearances from Organized Konfusion’s Prince Po, Money Boss’s Lord Tariq and D.I.T.C. affiliates The Legion, this fourth album from long-standing New Jersey lyricist Beneficence appeared on the surface to be a mid-90s musical time capsule. Yet the East Coast emcee’s passion for wordplay and ear for choice beats gave this project an energy that prevented it from merely sounding like a walk down memory lane.
Truth By Design – “Timeless” (TBD Music) – On this extremely impressive EP, Toronto trio Mizery, DJ Lupan and DTKS stuck their flag into the rap landscape and challenged one and all to test their battle-hardened beats and rhymes. Showcasing each members undeniable skills, this release left listeners craving to hear more of the Canadian crew’s correct techniques.
Wu-Tang – “Legendary Weapons” (eOne Entertainment) – Following-up 2009’s impressive “Chamber Music” project, this Wu release once again found various Clan members teaming-up with Brooklyn-based band The Revelations to add another chamber to their legacy with a little help from some well-chosen guests. The likes of Ghostface, Inspectah Deck, Roc Marciano and Action Bronson shot lyrical darts over the dark, atmospheric instrumentation, their choice of subject matter ranging from unforgiving street tales to gritty braggadocio.
Phonte – “Charity Starts At Home” (The Foreign Exchange Music) – As self-assured and savvy as ever, Little Brother’s Phonte effortlessly blended his dual passions for rhyming and singing on this confidently executed project which found the North Carolina emcee reuniting with 9th Wonder on a number of tracks to ponder life, love and relationships.
Jehst – “The Dragon Of An Ordinary Family” (YNR Productions) – Following a brilliant online promo campaign, UK producer-on-the-mic Jehst’s latest album lived up to the hype in no uncertain terms, with the London-based artist approaching obvious subject matter such as racism and the war on terror in unobvious ways. Backed by a tight selection of beats from the likes of LG, Beat Butcha and Mr. Thing, Jehst’s sweeping poetic strokes proved once again why he has long been considered one of the greatest talents to emerge from the UK Hip-Hop scene.
Neek The Exotic & Large Professor – “Still On The Hustle” (Fat Beats) – No surprises, no frills, no gimmicks, this long-awaited full-length collabo between longtime friends Neek and Extra P delivered exactly what fans expected from it – straight-forward ego-trippin’ rhymes over dusty, boom-bap beats with both parties involved wearing their golden-era influences on their sleeves.
Tanya Morgan – “You & What Army” (TanyaMorgan.Net) – Having quietly yet confidently carved out their own niche in the world of underground Hip-Hop with a string of strong releases, this latest EP from TM found the trio cut to a duo with Ilyas leaving Donwill and Von Pea to continue the crew’s legacy. Rising to the challenge, this memorable effort assured fans that a change in line-up didn’t mean a change in quality, with Don and Von rocking entertaining, relatable rhymes over a selection of smooth, funk-fuelled beats.
Timbo King – “From Babylon To Timbuk2” (Nature Sounds) – Nearly twenty years after his debut on 1993’s “Who’s The Man?” soundtrack, Wu affiliate Timbo King finally released a solo album. With assistance from Clan allies The RZA, Killah Priest and Hell Razah, Timbo dropped lyrical science deep in social commentary, political awareness and a genuine love of Hip-Hop culture.
Part Four coming soon.