Tag Archives: Solidarity Records

New Joint – Equipto

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Equipto – “Outta Here” (@Equipto / 2017)

The San Francisco emcee remakes a KRS-One classic with a Bay Area twist off his new mixtape “The Upkeep”.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2015 (Part Five) – Life MC / Ghostface Killah / People Under The Stairs etc.

Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three & Part Four.

LEX – “Break The Pattern” (LEXOfSinistahCircle.BandCamp.Com) – Frantic and fast-paced, this fourteen-track EP (yes, fourteen tracks!) found the Queens, NY emcee delivering short, sharp displays of lyrical dexterity over bursts of dusty breakbeats. Raw, rugged and fuelled by the essence of old-school Rotten Apple park jams, “Break The Pattern” showcased LEX as an artist who is as passionate about respecting the culture of Hip-Hop as he is about  knocking out his competition.

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Equipto & Otayo Dubb – “Baby Steps” (Solidarity Records) – The West Coast has always had a rich, creative underground scene and this collaborative effort from Bored Stiff’s Equipto and fellow Cali representative Otayo Dubb is a worthy addition to a musical timeline that includes the likes of Freestyle Fellowship, Likwit Crew and Hieroglyphics. Poignant life observations and verbal showmanship were combined here with expert precision, resulting in an album that was as sincere and earnest as it was entertaining.

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Thaione Davis – “Donald Mayhem – Skywritters” (ThaioneDavis.Com) – Taking on the character of Donald Mayhem for this captivating self-produced concept album, veteran Chicago lyricist Thaione Davis blended street-savvy bravado with an insightful social conscience as he took listeners on a guided tour through the Windy City.

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Life MC & Badhabitz – “Deep In The Trenches” (SplitProphets.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding UK lyricist Life proved once again why he’s considered one of the most consistent emcees to have emerged from British shores with this uncompromising release produced by Split Prophets’ Badhabitz. Accompanied by a sample-driven selection of radio-unfriendly beats, Life flexed his trademark punchline-heavy flow with the type of confidence that only worldly experience can bring, covering topics such as Hip-Hop stereotypes, misguided celebrity worship and institutional racism.

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Daniel Son – “Moonshine Chemist” (CrateDivizion.BandCamp) – Toronto’s Daniel Son teamed-up with the Crate Divizion production squad to spit vivid, action-packed rhymes over quality, sample-laced beats from Giallo Point, Vic Grimes and Kurse.

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Figub Brazlevic & Teknical Development – “The Everyday Headnod” (Vinyl Digital) – This joint effort from Berlin producer Figub and London lyricist Tek was easily one of the most well-crafted releases of 2015. Combining jazzy, full-bodied boom-bap with intricate, intelligent verses, the two Man Of Booom members delivered an album with real creative depth that was both life-affirming and speaker-rocking.

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DJ Pressure Presents The Old Boys Club – “Revival Of The Real” (DJPressure.BandCamp.Com) – Manchester, England’s DJ Pressure pulled together a huge global collective of true-school representatives for this epic compilation project. Featuring appearances from Chuck D, Ruste Juxx, Da Buze Bruvaz’ CleverOne and more, this project truly lived up to its title by delivering a hard-hitting collection of beats and rhymes from individuals totally disinterested in pandering to mainstream trends.

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R.A.W. (Problemz & DJ Skizz) – “Right Amount Of Wrong” (Soulspazm) – Having been a fan of Brooklyn’s Problemz since his 90s work with the likes of DJ Honda, Al’ Tariq and Black Attack, it was a real pleasure to hear the NY emcee sounding like he hadn’t missed a beat on this dope EP, lacing the moody production of DJ Skizz with a barrage of gritty BK wordplay that was both hardcore and refined.

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Adrian Younge & Ghostface Killah – “12 Reasons To Die II” (Linear Labs) – Although sequels are often known for not living up to the impact of their predecessors, this follow-up to West Coast music man Younge’s 2014 collaboration with the mighty Toney Starks actually improved on the formula of the original “12 Reasons…”. Set in 1970s New York and based around a crime-riddled cinematic plot, “…To Die II” found the Wu warrior once again attacking an impeccable selection of live, analog soundscapes with his detailed story-telling skills.

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Denmark Vessey – “Martin Lucid Dream” (Rappers I Know) – Displaying a brilliant artistic mind, Detroit-raised Vessey mixed a gritty, realistic worldview with an eloquent delivery and the thump of soulfully distorted production on this eight-track masterpiece. Featuring appearances from Guilty Simpson, Tanya Morgan and Black Milk, there was a genuinely timeless appeal to this EP which was both inspiring and thought-provoking.

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Aim & QNC – “The Habit Of A Lifetime (And How To Kick It)” (Atic Records) – Veteran UK producer Aim and NY duo Q-Ball & Curt Cazal built on a longstanding sonic chemistry that dates back to the 90s with this long-awaited project. With both Aim and JVC Force member Cazal sharing production duties, Q-Ball had plenty of sample-based flavour to take advantage of, with both a Grand Puba collaboration and a dope Guru tribute ensuring this album’s true-school value was through the roof.

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People Under The Stairs – “The Gettin’ Off Stage, Step 1” (Piecelock70) – At this stage in their career, West Coast natives People Under The Stairs surely deserve to be classed as one of Hip-Hop’s greatest ever duos. Having remained consistent in terms of both quality and quantity since their late-90s debut, Thes One and Double K’s already-extensive discography was further expanded with the release of this quality EP. Packed with more of the feel-good funk the pair have become known for, this project proved that, almost twenty years since they first dropped on wax, the pair still sound as fresh and enthusiastic as ever.

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Public Enemy – “Man Plans God Laughs” (SpitDigital) – After Melle Mel in his 1980s prime, Chuck D ranks as arguably the most authoritative voice in Hip-Hop of all-time. Showing no signs of letting-up their attack on the establishment almost thirty years after Public Enemy’s Def Jam debut, the legendary group returned in 2015 with yet another dose of potent edutainment, proving that Strong Island’s self-proclaimed rhyme animal still isn’t ready to be caged.

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Conway – “Reject 2…” (Griselda Records) – Hailing from the home of late, great funk-rock legend Rick James, Buffalo, NY’s Conway delivered his own collection of street songs on this captivating Daringer-produced project. Joined by WestsideGunn, Roc Marciano and Skyzoo, the East Coast wordsmith wove nimble-yet-grimy verses around moody, hypnotic soundscapes, resulting in a gripping listening experience.

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Illinformed – “The Mould Tape” (Real Life Drama Records) – Whilst this album contained a lengthy list of talented UK emcees, including Leaf Dog, Sonnyjim and Verb T, it was music man Illinformed’s impeccable work behind the boards that really elevated the project above being simply just another producer-based release. Heavy drums, obscure samples and dense b-lines were the order of the day here, ensuring that, regardless of its title, “The Mould Tape” was anything but past its sell by date.

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Hus Kingpin & SmooVth – “Splash Bros” (Splash Bros) – The Hempstead, NY homeboys showcased their undeniable rhyming chemistry on this effortlessly dope EP. Backed by a selection of mellow, melodic soundscapes from the likes of Audible Doctor, J57 and Twiz The Beat Pro, the duo shot straight three-pointers throughout this release, with SmooVth’s sharp barbs and Kingpin’s more ominous flow creating a captivating combination which demonstrated why they’re considered two of the best emcees to have emerged from the East Coast in recent years.

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Dell-P – “A New Beginning” (WhoMag Distribution) – Clearly an emcee with something of substance to say, Philly’s Dell-P packed this lengthy album with plenty of food for thought, touching on a variety of social issues with both maturity and insight. Yet to simply label this Illadelph lyricist as a ‘conscious’ artist would be too easy, with this project proving Peezie to be a truly well-rounded artist, grounded in the traditions of Hip-Hop culture and bringing something genuine to the game.

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OC From NC – “Higher Learning” (OCFromNC.BandCamp.Com) – Bringing his own brand of street knowledge to the forefront on this soulful-yet-rugged album, North Carolina’s OC rhymed like a man with real purpose here, grabbing the listener’s attention with a mix of authority, intelligence and wit. Personal and passionate, “Higher Learning” was quality down-to-earth Hip-Hop that hit you in both the head and the heart.

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Severed Tongue – “Gentle Katharsis” (Inner Peace Records) – A collaborative effort from UK emcees Elliot Fresh and Tang The Pilgrim, “Gentle Katharsis” was a melancholy, meditative listening experience, with the two lyricists delivering poignant self-reflection and absorbing wordplay over solid, and at times moody production from the likes of EarthOne, Said Zu and King Boyden.

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Sean Price – “Songs In The Key Of Price” (Ruck Down Records) – Although this release was neither an official album or EP, as a nod of respect to the late, great Brooklyn emcee, it’s only right that the final mention in Old To The New’s best-of-2015 list goes to Sean P’s  “Songs In The Key Of Price”. Thirty-tracks deep and drenched in grimy New York attitude, this mixtape showcased everything that was brilliant about the Heltah Skeltah member’s unapologetically hardcore approach to his craft. RIP Sean Price!

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100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2015 (Part One) – Triple Darkness / Sadat X / J-Live etc.

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It’s hard to believe, but even with the amount of quality releases that dropped throughout 2015, there are still people claiming that there isn’t any worthwhile or memorable Hip-Hop being made today.

I’ve always found that way of thinking frustrating, as there has never been a time when there wasn’t good music to be found, but in recent years that argument has become increasingly redundant due to the ever-growing number of talented emcees, deejays and producers out there who’re consistently delivering the goods.

Of course, in today’s digital age, there will always be a huge amount of sub-par material being regularly pumped out via popular platforms such as BandCamp and YouTube, and the mainstream, for the most part, continues to promote the same shallow, one-dimensional rap that it always has done.

But that being said, if you genuinely feel there isn’t anything out there for you as a fan of Hip-Hop, the problem isn’t necessarily with the music, the issue is with those same fans not listening and looking hard enough when it comes to new material.

As I always say when I put these year-end pieces together, the albums and EPs included here aren’t the only releases that were worthy of attention, but this list does reflect what stayed in heavy rotation for me personally.

So, in no particular order, here are the artists and projects that made my speakers thump throughout 2015…

Triple Darkness – “Darker Than Black” (KingUnderground / Suspect Packages) – Cementing their reputation as one of the most talented crews in Hip-Hop, this album from London’s Triple Darkness was a brilliantly-crafted hardcore masterpiece. With group members such as Melanin 9, Cyrus Malachi and Ray Vendetta spitting sharp lyrical darts over gloriously uncompromising production from the likes of Ringz Ov Saturn and 7th Dan, “Darker Than Black” was a shining example of intelligent, underground Hip-Hop at its very best.

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Lord Hakim – “Born With A Determined Idea” (LordHakim.BandCamp.Com) – Following in the footsteps of Rakim, Lakim Shabazz and Brand Nubian, Columbus, Ohio wordsmith Lord Hakim proudly repped for the Five Percent Nation throughout this self-produced album, dropping science on the everyday struggle with both passion and insight. Peace to the Gods!

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The Cornel West Theory – “Coming From The Bottom” (TheCornelWestTheory.BandCamp.Com) – Hailing from Washington DC, The Cornel West Theory delivered an instense, no-holds-barred listening experience with this lengthy album. Showcasing the group’s thoughts on politics, race and Hip-Hop in 2015 America, “Coming From The Bottom” channeled the spirit of late-80s Public Enemy and BDP, whilst clearly standing strong as a product of the present day.

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Big Toast – “The Wedding Fund LP” (Revorg Records) – So you’ve proposed to your significant other, your pockets are flat not fat, and now you have a wedding to plan for. What do you do?  In the case of UK emcee Big Toast, you hit the studio and release a dope album to raise cash for your big event. Combining the London lyricist’s blunt, working-class worldview and dry humour with quality production from Sam Zircon, Strange Neighbour and Ill Move Sporadic, “The Wedding Fund LP” was guaranteed to hit the spot both in sickness and in health.

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Sadat X – “Never Left” (Loyalty Digital Corp) – The Brand Nubian member proved yet again why he’s considered one of the game’s most timeless artists on his eighth full-length solo project. Steeped in NY pride and featuring appearances from Cormega, Craig G and Black Sheep’s Dres, “Never Left” found the Wild Cowboy drawing on both industry and personal experiences to craft an album that resonated with traditional Rotten Apple flavour.

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Paul Nice & Phill Most Chill – “The Fabreeze Brothers” (AE Productions) – If you came-up listening to Hip-Hop in the 80s, still insist on matching your sneakers with your outfit, and regularly use slang like ‘fresh’ and ‘fly’, then this collabo album from NY’s Paul Nice and Illadelphia’s Phill Most Chill was made with you in mind. Capturing the excitement and purity of old-school Hip-Hop with an infectious passion, the pair succeeded in their mission to pay tribute to the foundations of the culture whilst still bringing something unique to the table. Warning – this album should only be listened to whilst standing in a b-boy stance.

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Oliver Sudden – “Phenomenaler Steaz” (BoomBapPro.Com) – Straight outta Croydon, South London (aka The Cronx), the talented Sudden utilised his understated, deadpan delivery to great effect on this aptly-titled project, spitting true-school sentiments over top-drawer production from the likes of Giallo Point, Sam Zircon and Downstroke.

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Flip – “Reflections” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – With a sound rooted in golden-era boom-bap and mixed with soulful sensibilities, veteran Austrian producer Flip called on heavyweight emcees such as DITC’s AG, Detroit’s Phat Kat and Wu-Tang affiliate Killah Priest to bless his well-crafted soundscapes on this cohesive package of underground flavour.

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The Four Owls – “Natural Order” (High Focus Records) – Showing off their impressive lyrical wingspans once again, Verb T, Fliptrix, Leaf Dog and BVA collectively swooped down on the UK Hip-Hop scene for a second time with their sophomore crew album, gaining production support from none other than Gang Starr legend DJ Premier and reducing the so-called competition to mere bird seed in the process.

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Large Professor – “Re:Living” (Fat Beats) – Whilst the term ‘legend’ perhaps gets thrown around a little too easily nowadays, self-proclaimed live-guy-with-glasses Extra P is an individual truly deserving of the title. Having had an impact on 90s Hip-Hop that is still being felt today, the Queens, NY resident came correct in 2015, proving ain’t a damn thing changed but the year. With an approach to his craft that remains untainted and uninfluenced by rap’s mainstream circus, Large Pro’s “Re:Living” showcased the sound of an artist who really keeps it real…to himself.

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Supastition – “Gold Standard” (Reform School Music) – One of the most consistent emcees of the new millennium, the career of North Carolina-raised lyricist Supastition has undoubtedly contained its fair share of ups-and-downs. Yet throughout, Supa has maintained his honesty and integrity, making music that resonates with fans who are looking for Hip-Hop they can relate to. “Gold Standard” most definitely continued that tradition. Featuring beats from Praise, MoSS and Jonny Cuba, this album found the newest Soundsci member once again dealing with everyday issues, whilst also taking the opportunity to indulge in some good ol’-fashioned braggin’ and boastin’.

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DJ Soko – “Domino Effect” (Left Of Center) – Pulling together an impressive array of talent which included Guilty Simpson, Apollo Brown and Rasheed Chappell, Michigan native Soko’s debut project was a robust, speaker-rattling collection of thunderground excellence which avoided the hit-and-miss pitfalls of similar compilation-style releases.

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Definite Mass – “Soul Caliber” (Manifest Recordings) – Living up to its title both musically and lyrically, this gem of an album found West Coast wordsmith Definite Mass delivering personal and sincere verses over melodic boom-bap beats, with the likes of Blu and Supreme Cerebral passing by to offer microphone assistance.

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Kaimbr – “Bronze Horse” (Kaimbr.BandCamp.Com) – Maryland resident Kaimbr paid homage to Staten Island’s mighty Wu-Tang on this brilliantly-executed concept album, with the Low Budget crew member transforming into his alter-ego Wu Kaim to practice his well-honed microphone martial arts over dusty, Shaolin soul samples.

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White Mic – “Do It How You Wanna Do It” (Solidarity Records) – A distinctly personal collection of beats and rhymes, Bored Stiff member White Mic’s “Do It…” found the Cali-based emcee celebrating Hip-Hop’s potential to inspire and motivate, pouring his own life experiences into his music with memorable and emotionally-charged results.

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AKD & Deepstar – “Universal Language” (Monad Records) – Seeking to demonstrate the power Hip-Hop has to speak to people from all walks of life, UK emcee Arise King David and Australian producer Deepstar called on the likes of Rapsody, DJ Rob Swift and Phoenix Da Icefire to help make their point, resulting in an overall uplifting listening experience grounded in golden-era sonic values.

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J-Live – “His Own Self” (Mortier Music) – Since his mid-90s debut as part of the NY indie scene, the now Atlanta-based J-Live has consistently released intelligent, creative Hip-Hop, with the veteran wordsmith never afraid to show both artistic and personal growth in his music. “His Own Self”, the first of Live’s two full-length 2015 releases, continued to follow that pattern. Entirely self-produced and with no guest appearances, this album found the talented artist covering a variety of topics, ranging from personal finances (“Old S**t”) and teenage memories (“Red & The Kid”) to America’s racial climate (“I Am A Man”).

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DJ Wally Pish Posh & T.R.A.C. – “Operation: Revibe” (DJWallyPishPosh.BandCamp.Com) – With a grand plan to “set Hip-Hop back on its path to greatness”, NY duo Pish Posh and T.R.A.C. definitely went some way to achieving their goal with this pure, organic demonstration of the pair’s shared love and appreciation of Hip-Hop culture. Determined to provide listeners with a healthy musical alternative to the shallow waters of the mainstream, this producer / emcee combo definitely brought the best out of each other throughout this release.

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Blak Twang & Blackmale Beats – “The Pantheon EP” – Embracing his elder statesman status within the UK Hip-Hop scene, homegrown legend Tony Rotten teamed-up with London production outfit Blackmale Beats for this stirring six-track release. Whether dealing with social issues (“Elevation”),  recounting personal dramas (“Highs & Lows”) or reliving Hip-Hop memories (“Classiq Moments”), Twang’s authoritative verses were given even greater impact thanks to Blackmale’s ability to match the lyrical content on offer here with just the right musical tone and mood. Rottonous, indeed.

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80’s Babies – “Searching For Happy” (DeeJackson80sBabies.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit-raised producer Tall Black Guy joined forces with Chicago emcee Dee Jackson to deliver music for your mind, body and soul throughout “Searching For Happy”, an album that found the duo respectfully drawing on the passion and creative integrity of golden-era Hip-Hop, whilst proudly carving out their own unique sonic niche in today’s rap game.

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Part Two coming soon.

New Joint – White Mic / Eddie K

White Mic ft. Eddie K – “Keep It Solid” (@BoredStiff415 / 2015)

The San Francisco emcee looks to the past, present and future on this Tahaj The First-produced track off his quality album “Do It How You Wanna Do It”.

Baby Steps Album Stream – Equipto & Otayo Dubb

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Beatrock Music and Solidarity Records join forces for this potent slice of underground West Coast Hip-Hop featuring appearances from White Mic, L’Roneous, Souls Of Mischief’s Pep Love and more.

New Joint – Nim One

Nim One – “Little Man” (@Nym0ne / 2014)

The West Coast emcee offers some words of advice to the next generation on this J-Def-produced track from his album “The 13th Disciple”.

 

Sound Wave Sanctuary Album Download – Architect / J Def / Dregs One etc.

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Instrumental compilation from San Francisco’s Solidarity Records featuring the work of Architect, J Def, Dregs One and more – download here.