Tag Archives: Skyzoo

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.

New Joint – maticulous / Skyzoo / Justo The MC

maticulous ft. Skyzoo & Justo The MC – “Everything” (maticulous21.BandCamp.Com)

Quality beats and rhymes from the planet of Brooklyn on this track lifted from NY producer maticulous’s 2021 album “no caps”.

New Joint – Monie Love / Skyzoo / Tuff

Monie Love ft. Skyzoo & Tuff – “Divine” (@DaRealMonieLove / 2022)

All three artists deliver personal, heartfelt rhymes on this Baby Paul / Tone Mason-produced track from Monie’s forthcoming “Love Struck” release.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part One) – Juga-Naut & Giallo Point / Genesis Elijah / Eddie Kaine etc.

It’s that time again. Hard to believe that 2021 has ended already. The last twelve months seemed to pass by at a lightning pace and as I approach my late-forties I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

That said, it was another difficult year for most, regardless of how fast the days and weeks may or may not have felt like they were moving. But music remained an essential escape for many of us. Listening to it. Talking about it. Making it. Writing about it. Remembering it. Arguing about it. Loving it.

Rhythm is life, as the great philosopher Warren G once said, and life is rhythm.

As I post the five installments of my 2021 list over the coming week, there will, of course, be releases missing that people may have expected or hoped to see. If an album or EP hasn’t been included, that doesn’t automatically mean I didn’t like it. It could just mean I didn’t like it as much as everything else I have included. In today’s social media-driven world, it can often feel like it’s all or nothing when discussing music (or anything for that matter). If you don’t love an album or think it’s an instant classic, that must mean you hate it or think it’s worthless. The middle-ground in-between where constructive debate occurs appears to be shrinking by the day. But I digress.

As always, this round-up celebrates the Hip-Hop I connected with most over the past twelve months. It contains the Hip-Hop I revisited most throughout the year. It shines a light on the Hip-Hop I enjoyed most in 2021.

So, let’s set if off…

Juga-Naut & Giallo Point – “Smoke Filled Room” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Having already worked together on 2019’s sterling effort “Back To The Grill Again”, expectations were understandably high for the second full-length collaborative project to come from the UK’s Juga-Naut and Giallo Point, with the finished product finding the pair further cementing their reputations as masters of their respective crafts. An exquisite combination of top-tier lyricism and perfectly selected sample-based production, this album brilliantly showcased Juga-Naut’s natural talent for penning intricate verses packed with multiple layers that were a joy to follow, unravel, rewind and listen to again and again.

Skyzoo – “All The Brilliant Things” (MMG-Skyzoo.BandCamp.Com) – Another year passed by and NYC’s Skyzoo added yet another masterpiece to his already stellar catalogue. At this point in his career, Skyzoo’s ability to make his lyrical brilliance appear effortless should never stop us from remembering just how much work no doubt goes into every bar, every line and every verse that he commits to the pages of his rhyme pad. Like many of Skyzoo’s previous releases, this was a concept-driven project which found the talented emcee commenting on the gentrification of his beloved Brooklyn over an impeccable selection of jazz-infused beats from the likes of Kenny Keys, MarcNfinit and Tuamie. Writing with incredible attention to detail as always, Skyzoo pulled listeners into his world, placing us all amongst the sights, sounds and experiences of past, present and future New York.

IAMGAWD & Doc Da Mindbenda – “Hell’s Angels & Heaven’s Demons” (GawdsGift.BandCamp.Com) – Being able to create meaningful art out of the uglier aspects of life is a unique skill and one clearly shared by Chicago partnership IAMGAWD and Doc Da Mindbenda, as demonstrated on this captivating album. A quality example of the greatness that can be achieved when an emcee and producer share undeniable creative chemistry, GAWD’s commanding flow was matched perfectly here with Doc’s robust beats. Touching on a variety of topics, including the vicious cycle of gang life, structural racism and street politics, this album offered a powerful and sobering dose of reality.

Funky DL – “Beautiful Soul” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Paying tribute to the soul music of the 60s and 70s in clever and subtle ways, this 21st (!!!) album from the UK’s Funky DL was an ambitious and expertly executed project. Accompanied by the organic sound of live musicians, DL delivered personal, heartfelt rhymes with sincerity and feeling, resulting in an album that was both inspiring and uplifting. A much needed ray of musical light.

Sons Phonetic – “Nakatomi” (SonsPhonetic.BandCamp.Com) – Having spent the last decade consistently delivering their own unique brand of quality Hip-Hop, Ireland’s mighty Sons Phonetic crew dropped their new long-awaited album “Nakatomi”, a skilful combination of sublime, sample-based production and expertly penned verses full of meaningful depth and striking imagery. A remarkable release.

Genesis Elijah – “A Prophet In His Hometown…” (GenesisElijah.BandCamp.Com) – A lot of artists will talk about keeping it real, but how real are they really keeping it? Are they talking about their struggles, emotions and mistakes? Are they letting you hear their true feelings through music? Are they being genuine? Watford-based emcee Genesis Elijah did all of the above throughout this striking collection of beats and rhymes. We cheered when Genesis spoke on his successes and cared when he touched on his personal battles. Backed by unique production from Pastor Dutchie and Shapes that blurred lines between genres, Elijah stood loud and proud throughout “A Prophet…”, rightfully staking his claim as one of the UK’s finest lyricists.

Codenine – “LVNDR” (TragicAlliesCodenine.BandCamp.Com) – Mood music of the highest quality, this latest album from Tragic Allies member Codenine was a towering creative triumph, blending sharp lyrical darts with smooth, emotive production from the likes of Chronic Tone and Karnate, lending the release a cinematic, soundtrack-like feel. This wasn’t an album you could (or should) just dip in and out of. It was a body of work that deserved to be listened to in its entirety in order to be fully appreciated.

TrueMendous – “Misdiagnosis Of Chyvonne Johnson” (TrueMendous.BandCamp.Com) – Personality. Flow. Ingenuity. Three things you’re guaranteed to hear on any release from Birmingham emcee TrueMendous. Having signed with the High Focus label in 2020 and subsequently dropping the well-received “HUH?” EP, this album release for the imprint found the UK talent in full artistic flight, clearly seeing every moment here as an opportunity to revel in her own individuality as she touched on relationships, self-image and personal history, accompanied by diverse and inventive production.

Tall Black Guy & Ozay Moore – “Of Process And Progression” (TallBlackGuy.BandCamp.Com) – A celebratory album with a message, Tall Black Guy and Ozay Moore combined their individual expertise and crafted something truly special here. Whilst the hype sticker on the front of this album boasted of the duo being here to “revive the pulse of Hip-Hop’s golden-era”, that statement only told half the story. Far from simply being a collection of predictable throwback tracks full of 90s nostalgia, this was a vibrant, inspirational release that respectfully nodded toward its back-in-the-day influences, yet very much remained a soundtrack made for the present day.

Fresh Daily – “The Quiet Life 2” (HighWaterMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Raised in Brooklyn, now residing in Oakland, Fresh Daily came correct on his long-awaited sequel album “The Quiet Life 2”, an absolutely brilliant release which found the talented artist matching his observational rhymes and conversational flow with warm, melodic production from the likes of Chris Keys, Lakim, Suff Daddy and more.

Jazz Spastiks – “Camera Of Sound” (JazzSpastiks.BandCamp.Com) – Scotland’s Jazz Spastiks never fail to operate at the top of their game whenever it’s time for the gifted production duo to bless us with a new release. This latest album from Coconut Delight and Mr Manyana featured a who’s who of underground heavyweights taking full advantage of the pair’s full-bodied beats. Wee Bee Foolish, Artifacts, Soundsci and more stepped up with their best microphone techniques, ensuring this album had maximum replay value.


Prox Centauri – “Mending What’s Broken: Odes For Stalwart Days & Fearless Nights” (ProxCentauri.BandCamp.Com) – Flint, Michigan’s Prox Centauri showcased his talent for penning sincere, life-affirming rhymes on this thoroughly engaging album release. Containing some of the best lyricism you were likely to have heard in 2021, Centauri floated above the clouds as he explored the meaning of the human experience via thoughts on spirituality, consciousness and community.

Wavy Da Ghawd – “Ghawd’s Eden” (WavyDaGhawd.BandCamp.Com) – Having worked with the likes of Rome Streetz, Bub Rock and Sauce Heist in recent years, Brooklyn-based producer Wavy Da Ghawd entered 2021 already known for delivering quality soundscapes. This album further cemented the NY music man’s reputation for stellar work behind the boards, with underground favourites such as Planet Asia, Eddie Kaine and Ty Farris all eager to spit over one of Wavy’s carefully selected loops. Producer-based albums can sometimes sound disjointed, but the dusty-fingered basement vibe running throughout “Ghawd’s Eden” ensured it stood out as a cohesive collection with plenty of musical character.


Lewis Parker – “Frequency Of Perception” (LewisParker.BandCamp.Com) – A product of an era in Hip-Hop when skills were really all that mattered, it’s easy to imagine UK producer-on-the-mic Lewis Parker stood in a b-boy stance next to his trusty SP1200 whenever you listen to the self-proclaimed Man With The Golden Sound. A true master (you can check his credentials), Parker’s ability to craft timeless, sample-based music has only become more refined over the years, with “Frequency Of Perception” proudly standing as an example of what can be achieved when a veteran artist is still passionate and enthusiastic about their craft.

Rita J – “The High Priestess” (RitaJ.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Rita J made a welcome return to the rap game with this superb album which found the skilled emcee being joined by fellow Windy City representatives Neak (producer) and Rashid Hadee (executive producer), who both also added their lyrical talents to the mix. Full of potent, thoughtful rhymes laced with a strong b-girl attitude and delivered over quality beats, “The High Priestess” stood out as a refreshing listening experience which fully tapped into the potential Hip-Hop has to touch the soul.


Let The Dirt Say Amen – “God Hates Gucci” (LetTheDirtSayAmen.BandCamp.Com) – Washington DC’s Let The Dirt Say Amen (aka Tim Hicks of The Cornel West Theory) delivered one of the most powerful albums of 2021, offering a thought-provoking critique of present-day Hip-Hop that came from a place of genuine love. Inspired by a time when Hip-Hop wasn’t just entertainment, but an artform that also attempted to motivate, inspire and inform its listeners, Let The Dirt Say Amen encouraged us all to do better, to be better and to treat this incredible culture with the respect it deserves.

Charlie K – “Sunshine Philadelphia: The God Hour” (CharlieK1.BandCamp.Com) – Accomplished Philly emcee Charlie K filled his well-crafted verses with spirituality, social commentary and poignant observations on this concise EP, backed by soulful production from the likes of Lim0, Kulture, DviousMindz and more.

Twizzy – “Crabs In A Bucket” (Twizzy.BandCamp.Com) – With a wink and a knowing smile, Bristol’s Twizzy offered his thoughts on the world around us and his place in it throughout this thoroughly enjoyable Chillman-produced album. Highlighting the growth that can come from personal struggle, as well as the importance of not allowing the matrix of daily life to distract you from what really matters, Twizzy focused on silver linings here rather than the dark clouds we all find ourselves under sometimes.

Eddie Kaine – “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” (BigGhostLimited.BandCamp.Com / 2021) – For me, what elevates a good emcee to a standout emcee isn’t just their ability to put words together, but whether an artist can deliver those words in such a way that makes you genuinely feel them as a listener? A rapper can be technically gifted, but if the verses in an artist’s book of rhymes don’t come alive with character and emotion once they’re in front of a microphone, is it really worth it? Whether speaking on personal hardships, painting images of Crooklyn life, or simply stating his lyrical prowess, NYC’s Eddie Kaine made you feel his bars, accompanied by the wailing soul samples of the always impressive Big Ghost Ltd.

Philmore Greene – “Knowledge And Power” (PhilmoreGreene.BandCamp.Com) – On this album, Chicago’s Philmore Greene delivered a soul-stirring collection of honest, contemplative rhymes rooted in the reality of his Windy City life experiences whilst reaching towards a better future. Produced by fellow Chi-town representative Rashid Hadee with features from Natasha Robinson, Skyzoo and Vic Spencer, “Knowledge And Power” lived up to its title with Greene possessing both in abundance.

Check Part Two here.

New Joint – Monie Love / Skyzoo / Tuff

Monie Love ft. Skyzoo & Tuff – “Divine” (@DaRealMonieLove / 2021)

Emotionally-charged beats and rhymes from UK-raised Hip-Hop veteran Monie Love, produced by Baby Paul and featuring her partner Tuff alongside Brooklyn’s mighty Skyzoo.

New Joint – Rahim Samad / Skyzoo

Rahim Samad ft. Skyzoo – “8th Wonder” (RahimSamad.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Tampa’s Rahim Samad teams-up with NY giant Skyzoo for this smoothed-out display of lyrical excellence.

New Joint – Skyzoo

Skyzoo – “Plugs & Connections” / “The Scrimmage” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2021)

It was abundantly clear some years back that NY’s Skyzoo had quietly become one of the rap game’s most consistently impressive artists, with the Brooklyn emcee proving once again why that label is fully justified via some back-to-back STLNDRMS-produced excellence from his recent album “All The Brilliant Things”.

New Joint – 1982 / Skyzoo / Jared Evan

1982 ft. Skyzoo & Jared Evan – “Summer In New York” (TermanologyST.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Soulful, horn-laced flavour from Statik Selektah and Termanology’s seasonal release “The Summer EP”.

New Joint – Oshea Boyd / Skyzoo

Oshea Boyd ft. Skyzoo – “Heaven” (@OsheaBoyd / 2021)

Cali’s Oshea Boyd and NY’s Skyzoo both deliver some lyrical food for thought over the jazz-influenced production of Ckwnce.

New Joint – Skyzoo / Aaria

Skyzoo ft. Aaria – “St. James Liquors” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2021)

With his pen game remaining as sharp and impressive as ever, NY’s Skyzoo vividly recalls the Brooklyn of his youth on this quality Kenny Keys-produced track from the forthcoming album “All The Brilliant Things”.

New Joint – Skyzoo / Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Skyzoo ft. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – “Bed-Stuy Is Burning” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2021)

The ever-impressive Skyzoo weaves vivid Brooklyn imagery around jazz-infused Rashid Hadee production as he tackles gentrification on this track from his heavily-anticipated album “All The Brilliant Things”.

New Joint – Meeco & DJ Access / Skyzoo / Olvido Ruiz

Meeco & DJ Access ft. Skyzoo & Olvido Ruiz – “ME” (MeecoMusic.Com / 2021)

German producers Meeco and DJ Access team-up with Brooklyn’s ever-impressive Skyzoo for this slice of lively boom-bap.

New Joint – Talib Kweli & Diamond D / Skyzoo

Talib Kweli & Diamond D ft. Skyzoo – “Attention Span” (KweliClub.Com / 2021)

Taken from the album “GOTHAM”.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2020 (Part Three) – Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas / Skyzoo / Juga-Naut & Micall Parknsun

Check Part One & Part Two.

Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas – “Vangarde” (FBDistribution.BandCamp.Com) – A sonic response to the “new world adjustments” we were all dealing with throughout 2020, this album from Boston partnership Mr. Lif and Stu Bangas was sharp, urgent and intelligent. Covering topics such as the pandemic, police brutality, politics and social unrest, the duo delivered inspired commentary on the events of the year, providing a soundtrack to the struggles faced by many. Music to strive by.

Es x Pandamonium – “The Connected EP” (EsxPanda.BandCamp.Com) – It doesn’t seem that long ago that the idea of music being made via the internet by individuals on opposite sides of the globe was considered ground-breaking and revolutionary. Nowadays it’s standard practice. But that doesn’t make the results of such collaborations any less impressive. This EP found Canada’s ever-consistent Es building musical bridges with the UK’s DJ Pandamonium, resulting in a vibrant EP full of thoughtful lyricism and accomplished production.

J-Live – “Drawn Up” (RealJLive.BandCamp.Com) – Delivering quality Hip-Hop since 1995, this EP from underground favourite J-Live proved the past twenty-five years have only refined his musical talents, with this self-produced release featuring plenty of the punchy, insightful lyricism and true-school attitude that have become his trademark since those early indie releases.

Mark Ski – “Catch-REC” (FunkByFunk.BandCamp.Com) – UK producer Mark Ski called on a transatlantic team of talented emcees to help put together this debut album, with the likes of Blame One, Booda French and J57 all stepping up and delivering the lyrical goods, complimented by knocking drums, smartly-selected samples and deft cuts.

Skyzoo – “Milestones” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – This brilliant concept-based EP found Brooklyn’s Skyzoo celebrating, analysing and embracing fatherhood, drawing inspiration from both the birth of his son Miles and memories of his own adolescence. The NY emcee’s talent for being able to communicate so much in just a couple of lines came into its own here, as Skyzoo joined the dots between his relationship with his own father and how that helped shape the person he is today. An inspired piece of work.

Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – “Alfredo” (ALCRecords.Com) – Having already got two full-length albums with legendary producer Madlib under his belt, Gary, Indiana’s Hip-Hop champ Freddie Gibbs upped the ante on this latest project, joining forces with another studio giant, The Alchemist. Casually draping his street-orientated verses over the subtle, understated excellence of Al’s work behind-the-boards, Gibbs further secured his spot as one of the rap game’s go-to artists.

Aye Wun – “Gutta Wit Da Smoov” (AyeWun1.BandCamp.Com) – This project from Queens, NY’s Aye Wun definitely livesd up to its title, with the Rotten Apple rhymer blending raw wordplay with largely laidback, melodic production from the likes of Matt Kuartz, Milano Constantine and The Kurse.

Westside Gunn – “Pray For Paris” (WestsideGunn.Com) – 2020 was a big year for the Griselda camp, with multiple releases from the Buffalo-based crew landing with maximum impact. Of the three full-length efforts from WSG, “Pray For Paris” was the one that worked best for me as a cohesive body of work, with production from the likes of DJ Muggs, Daringer and Camouflage Monk setting a sonic tone for the project that fully complimented Gunn’s distinctive voice and unique delivery.

UFO Fev & Termanology – “From El Barrio, With Love” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com) – The second of three brilliant 2020 releases from East Harlem’s UFO Fev, this seven-track EP found the NY artist calling on the production talents of Termanology, who came through with a quality batch of captivating musical gems. Rhyming with the attitude of an emcee fully aware of his own greatness who wasn’t prepared to wait for the rest of the world to catch up, Fev further proved himself to be an essential figure in the Rotten Apple underground.

Big Kahuna OG & Monday Night – “Thug Tear” (SchemeTeamAllStars.BandCamp.Com) – With production on this album split between Unlucky Bastards and Graymatter, Richmond rhymers Big Kahuna OG and Monday Night utilised the soulfully mellow tracks on offer here to wax lyrical about their daily operations in a pre-pandemic Virginia.

Juga-Naut & Micall Parknsun – “Twelve Bricks” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Using their 2017 “Six Bricks” EP as the sturdy foundations for this full-length collaboration, Nottingham’s Juga-Naut and London’s Micall Parknsun once again proved themselves to be master builders of quality Hip-Hop. A brilliantly matched partnership, this album really felt like a genuine joint effort, with the end result ensuring there would definitely be an appetite from fans to hear the pair working together again in the future.

Sa-Roc – “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” (Sa-Roc.Com) – A lyrical force of nature, Washington DC-born, Atlanta-based artist Sa-Roc delivered arguably the best album of her career so far with this largely Sol Messiah-produced release. Packed full of verses that demanded to be listened to, studied, processed, then rewound and listened to again, “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” was a masterclass in emceeing. When Sa-Roc says on “Hand Of God”, “I’m tryna leave a Hip-Hop classic”, that was clearly a mission statement and not just an empty promise.

Blimes and Gab – “Talk About It” (BlimesAndGab.Com) – This thoroughly entertaining debut from San Francisco / Seattle duo Blimes Brixton and Gifted Gab was the sound of two experienced artists completely in control of their creativity coming together to make a bold statement through music. Drawing on an eclectic selection of sonic influences, the pair’s larger-than-life personalities ultimately held this album together, with their infectious blend of lyrical expertise, sassy wit and humour endearing them to listeners and making the pair feel like old friends.

The Cornel West Theory – “By The Time I Get To Minnesota” (TheCornelWestTheory.BandCamp.Com) – No strangers to making thought-provoking, outspoken Hip-Hop, Washington DC’s The Cornel West Theory responded to the events of 2020 with urgency on this release, confronting white supremacy, police brutality and political corruption throughout the EP in no uncertain terms.

Black Thought – “Streams Of Thought Vol. 3: Cane & Abel” (RepublicRecords.Com) – At this stage, Black Thought’s position as one of the greatest emcees of all-time should really be unquestionable. This was the opinion of many long before the infamous Funkmaster Flex freestyle, but that breath-taking performance definitely opened more eyes and ears to the Philly legend’s incredible talent, which has also coincided with an increase in Thought’s musical output. This third (largely Sean C-produced) volume of the “Streams Of Thought” series was another lyrical tour de force from one of Illadelph’s finest, bombarding listeners brain-cells with a barrage of powerful verses.

Agallah & Sadat X – “The Gods Have Arrived” (Agallah.BandCamp.Com) – Celebrating a friendship that began in the early-90s as well as a time in Hip-Hop when skills and reputation meant everything, Rotten Apple veterans Agallah and Sadat X decided it was time to build and put together this collaborative release, delivering Five Percent-inspired knowledge whilst handing out lyrical speed-knots to non-believers. New York straight talk in full effect.

Shaolin Drunk – “Raw Feeling” (HeavyDrums.BandCamp.Com) – Echoing horns, melodic vibes and dusty beats could be found in abundance on this release from Brazil-based producer Shaolin Drunk. Sounding like a lost collection of instrumentals off the best 90s underground singles you’ve never heard, Drunk not only captured the style of that period but also injected his music with feeling and soul, two qualities that can sometimes be missing when present day producers attempt to pay homage to the generation of golden-era music makers that influenced them.

Knowledge The Pirate – “Family Jewels” (TuffKongRecords.BandCamp.Com) – The illustrious Pirate set sail on his third full-length collection of street-related stories, all delivered in his trademark been-there-done-that-you-don’t-impress-me tone and matched with the subtle sonic drama of producers E.L.E.M.N.T and Cuns. A master of creating mood in his music, Knowledge’s latest was full of vivid, cinematic crime-side rhymes that turned your third-eye towards a shadowy world of risk and suspense.

Wish Master – “The BULL (The Best Underrated Living Legend” (WishMaster.BandCamp.Com) – The Bristol-based emcee approached his third release with “more than hunger” as he blessed beats from Ral Duke, Chimera and Van Dam with autobiographical, word-weary rhymes laced with life lessons. A captivating, accomplished collection of beats and rhymes.

Kadeem – “Passing Exchange” (ItsKadeem.BandCamp.Com) – Heavy-mental wordplay from the Boston lyricist could be found here, accompanied by smooth, understated production from No.Pulp, USeeIt, Jeff Alan Gore and more. This five-track EP may have been short in length, but Kadeem definitely put the time to good use, skilfully finding seats for listeners on his train of thought, piquing our interest and ensuring heads would be waiting to join him on his next musical journey.

Part Four coming soon.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2020 (Part One) – Busta Rhymes / Juga-Naut / Lyric Jones etc.

What’s left to say about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? Not much. It’s been an unforgettable twelve months that will have affected everyone in different ways. But during a year of change, worry, loss and uncertainty, music has remained an important and consistent sanctuary for many of us  – word to Gary Bartz!

The pace of releases throughout 2020 has been relentless and the level of quality extremely high, which meant that when I sat down before Christmas to start compiling this annual Old To The New ‘best-of’, I was initially looking at a list of approximately three-hundred-and-fifty notable projects which had caught my attention throughout the year.

As always, the criteria used to reduce the size of that list was simple – which albums and EPs had I enjoyed the most?

So, with all that being said, huge thanks to everyone who dropped good music during 2020 and played a part in helping to ease the day-to-day pressures of so many – as Digital Underground once said, you get those heartbeat props.

Now, in no particular order, it’s about that time…

Busta Rhymes – “Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath Of God” (ELE2.BustaRhymesUniverse.Com) – As suggested by its title, this long-awaited project from the mighty Busta Rhymes truly was one of the year’s ‘event’ albums, largely receiving a collective nod of approval from Hip-Hop heads across social media in the days following its release. Effectively providing what you’d expect to hear from a veteran emcee on a greatest hits collection, but via new material instead, “ELE 2” showcased all facets of the former Leaders Of The New School member’s artistry, personality and character. Rowdy, Dungeon Dragon Busta. Playful, party-starting Busta. Timberland-wearing, East-Coast stompin’ Busta. Radio-friendly Busta. Socially-aware, Five Percent / Nation Of Islam-influenced Busta. All of the above and more could be found here, on an album which not only further cemented Busta’s legacy as a genuine Hip-Hop great, but also delivered music that captured and reflected the energy of 2020.

Juga-Naut – “Bem” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Released to coincide with his 30th birthday, this largely self-produced triumph from Nottingham’s Juga-Naut added further weight to the opinion that this multi-talented artist is one of the best of his generation. Steeped in true-school tradition whilst avoiding banal nostalgia, “Bem” effortlessly achieved the balancing act of sounding (and feeling) both familiar and fresh. This was upper-echelon emceeing, as stated by the man himself.

Uptown XO – “Culture Over Corporate” (OneForceUnited.BandCamp.Com) – The Washington DC-based lyricist (of Diamond District fame) started 2020 off the right way with this incredibly dope solo album, which featured XO delivering thought-provoking rhymes over soulful, speaker-rattling production from Drew Dave, touching on issues that would become major talking points as the year unfolded.

Lyric Jones – “Closer Than They Appear” (LyricJones.BandCamp.Com) – Boston-raised, LA-based Lyric Jones showcased both her influences and musical range on this exceptional album, weaving together a rich tapestry of sound that was simultaneously diverse and cohesive. Drawing on both struggles and triumphs as inspiration, the gifted artist packed a lot of herself into this project, resulting in an album that was as personal as it was entertaining. This was music that stuck to your soul.

Brainorchestra -“Marmalade” (Brainorchestra.BandCamp.Com) – A quality collection of rugged-but-smooth mood music, this album found New Jersey’s Brainorchestra utilising his sharp delivery to slice through mellow, loop-based production from the likes of Ohbliv, Foisey and Big Daddy Chop with slick, bravado-fuelled verses that were rich in rewind-worthy lines.

Kamanchi Sly – “Electrosis” (KamanchiSly.Com) – Tugging on the heartstrings of ageing b-boys everywhere, UK legend Kamanchi Sly pulled out his fat laces, name-plate belt buckle and Nike windbreaker to take a moonwalk down memory lane with this brilliantly executed tribute to the electro sounds of the early-80s. Capturing the urgent creativity and futuristic flavour of that particular time period, the Hijack emcee’s lively, spontaneous rhymes sat perfectly atop the pulsating, self-produced soundscapes found here. Don’t stop the rock!

Strizzy Strauss – “Trust The Process” (IAmStrizzyStrauss.BandCamp.Com) – Grounded in the realities of life’s everyday drama but buoyed by a genuine sense of hope and optimism, this full-length debut from Leicester’s Strizzy Strauss built on the promise of the down-to-earth emcee’s previous material, showcasing his natural ability to deliver relatable rhymes that resonate with honesty and integrity.

Casual – “Big Head Science” (Casual1.BandCamp.Com) – Hieroglyphics legend Casual (aka Smash Rockwell) made a welcome return with his latest long-player which featured the West Coast wordsmith delivering an onslaught of lyrical destruction alongside the likes of Planet Asia, Killah Priest and Ras Kass, demonstrating the same swaggering skills that ensured his 1994 debut “Fear Itself” left an indelible mark on the rap game.

Heist Life – “Get Money Teach Babies” (SauceHeist.BandCamp.Com) – In 2020, the Bronx kept creating it! Rotten Apple rhymers $auce Heist and Ty Da Dale matched street-smart, Five Percent-influenced verses with drum-heavy production from Spanish Ran throughout this eight-track dose of uncut New York Hip-Hop, which also featured Flee Lord, Rome Streetz and Tree Mason.

Spittzwell x Boog Brown – “Summer Daze Vol. 1” (Spittzwell1.BandCamp.Com) – Refreshing like a cool breeze, Detroit-raised, Atlanta-based emcee Boog Brown glided over the sublime, jazz-influenced production of fellow ATL resident Spittzwell on this quality addition to her already impressive catalogue – sincere and inspiring.

Rocdwell – “SIMPLICITY (The Life That Makes The Songs)” (Rocdwell.BandCamp.Com) – Dropping very early in the year, this full-length release from Detroit’s Rocdwell offered plenty of lyrical food for thought, encouraging listeners to step back from the Matrix of our daily existence, focus on what’s really important in a world full of distractions, and grab life with a renewed sense of purpose. A message which carried further weight as 2020 progressed.

Dell-P – “MEGA (Make Emceeing Great Again)” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Philadelphia’s Dell-P made good on his promise to make emceeing great again throughout this 16-track opus, delivering well-crafted verses full of substance and character over a varied selection of beats. No throwaway tracks or filler to be found here, “MEGA” was the sound of an artist determined to uplift and inform his audience whilst further building on his reputation as a highly-skilled lyricist.

Skyzoo & Dumbo Station – “The Bluest Note” (TuffKongRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the organic jazz grooves of Italy’s Dumbo Station band, Brooklyn’s Skyzoo added yet another release to his already impeccable discography in the form of this six-track EP. A genuine master of his craft, the New York emcee has been at the top of his game for so long now it would be easy to take his brand of top-tier lyricism for granted. We shouldn’t. Skyzoo is one of the best in the rap game with a catalogue of work that should be celebrated at every given opportunity.

Fly Anakin – “at the end of the day.” (MutantAcademyRVA.BandCamp.Com) – Richmond, Virginia’s Mutant Academy crew continued to prove themselves to be one of the most talented collectives currently dropping music with a string of releases throughout 2020, starting in January with this quality project from core member Fly Anakin. Flexing his energetic, engaging flow over perfectly chosen production from Graymatter, All Ceven, Ohbliv and more, Anakin took listeners deep into his VA state of mind.

Apollo Brown & Che’ Noir – “As God Intended” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – The creative chemistry between Detroit’s Apollo Brown and Buffalo’s Che’ Noir resulted in an album that sounded like the pair had been working together closely for years. Che’s descriptive and at times painfully personal rhymes gave this project a real emotional depth, whilst the subtle tweaks Brown made to his signature style to compliment  and enhance the talented emcee’s flow further demonstrated his skill as a producer.

Superbad Solace – “Sol Controller 2” (SuperbadSolace.BandCamp.Com) – Timeless Truth member Superbad Solace returned with a worthy sequel to his 2018 solo release, once again teaming up with producer Mono En Stereo (formerly known as El RTNC) to capture the essence of Rotten Apple rap, blending New York straight talk and a natural flyness with an exquisite selection of beats and loops.

Kinetik & Micall Parknsun – “Spin Cycle” (IAmKinetik.BandCamp.Com) – Calling on production supremo Micall Parknsun to provide beats for this impressive EP, London-based emcee (and Breaking Atoms podcast host) Kinetik covered a lot of lyrical ground here, using his conversational flow to deftly switch from humorous recollections and witty punchlines to social commentary and poignant observations.

Milano Constantine – “Winston Wolf” (MilanoConstantine.BandCamp.Com) – Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano has spent the last two decades dropping consistently strong material, with his skills appearing to reach new levels of Ginsu-like sharpness on each release. This short five-track offering was another potent showcase of the NY emcee’s infinite talent, with Constantine still clearly influenced by the Rotten Apple of his youth yet managing to avoid sounding tied to any particular time period thanks to his effortless flow.

Helsinki Booze Merchants – “Film Poster Whips” (BrokeRecords.BandCamp.Com) – With alter-egos in full effect, UK wordsmiths Luca Brazi (Lasagna Baghdad), Benny Diction (Paolo Pumpernickel) and MNSR Frites (Bald Daniels) offered up a dope concept-based project which aimed to deliver “an introspective take on getting older in rap and an appreciation for the finer things” in the trio’s own unique style. They succeeded. Packed with punchline-heavy verses, laced with humour, sarcasm and, at times, self-deprecation, this was a thoroughly entertaining release on all levels.

Godfather Don & Parental – “Osmosis” (DJParental.BandCamp.Com) – NYC’s Godfather Don became a cult figure within underground Hip-Hop circles back in the 90s and rightly so. The Brooklyn rhymer’s brain-busting wordplay ensured tracks like “Properties Of Steel” and “Piece Of The Action” were widely-received as classics during the decade’s independent era. For this new project, Don joined forces with French producer Parental, whose well-established brand of polished beats provided a solid backdrop for the Godfather’s forthright, competition-crushing verses.

Check Part Two here.

New Joint – Skyzoo

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Skyzoo – “A Song For Fathers” (MMG-Skyzoo.BandCamp.Com / 2020)

The Brooklyn emcee celebrates fatherhood by dropping some personal recollections over !llmind production on this track from his concept-based EP “Milestones”.

New Joint – Skyzoo & Dumbo Station

Skyzoo & Dumbo Station – “There It Goes” (@TuffKongRecords / 2020)

Taken from the always-impressive Brooklyn emcee’s new EP “The Bluest Note” with Italian band Dumbo Station.

The Bluest Note EP Stream – Skyzoo & Dumbo Station

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Skyzoo’s dense, layered rhymes sound right at home over the jazz-flavoured grooves of Italy’s Dumbo Station on this well-executed EP, with the Brooklyn emcee adding yet another quality release to his already impeccable discography.

New Joint – Skyzoo & Dumbo Station

Skyzoo & Dumbo Station – “We (Used To) Live In Brooklyn, Baby” (@TuffKongRecords / 2020)

NYC’s Skyzoo takes inspiration from a Roy Ayers classic for this second single to be lifted from his forthcoming project “The Bluest Note” – a full-length collaboration with Italy’s Dumbo Station jazz band.

New Joint – Skyzoo & Dumbo Station

Skyzoo & Dumbo Station – “Good Enough Reasons” (@Skyzoo / 2020)

Lead single off the forthcoming album “The Bluest Note” from NY emcee Skyzoo and Italian jazz band Dumbo Station.