Tag Archives: SonnyJim

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2022 (Part Four) – Priest Da Nomad / Nas / Stalley etc.

Check Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

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.

New Joint – White Girl Wasted / MF DOOM / Jay Electronica

White Girl Wasted ft. MF DOOM & Jay Electronica – “Barz Simpson” (Daupe.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Surreal visuals accompany this heavyweight collabo cut off the “White Girl Wasted” release from the UK’s inimitable Sonnyjim and producer The Purist.

New Joint – Da$H & Sonnyjim

Da$H & Sonnyjim – “Diego’s DeatH” (LooseSkrew.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Taken from the US / UK duo’s “Between The Lines” album released earlier this year.

New Joint – Blaktrix / Sonnyjim

Blaktrix ft. Sonnyjim – “Shoey” (VillageLive.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Quality UK Hip-Hop collaboration vibes via Village Live Records’ Live & Direct single series.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Four) – John Robinson / Backwood Sweetie / Vandal Savage etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Jyroscope & Montana Macks – “Happy Medium” (Jyroscope.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s I.B. Fokuz and Collasoul Structure worked their way through the stresses of daily life on this therapeutic release. Job. Family. Relationships. Social injustice. Health. Finances. Anxiety. Frustration. Doubt. The rhyming duo completely opened up over the five tracks on offer here, giving listeners full access to their personal (and extremely relatable) thoughts. The jazzy, easy-going production supplied by Montana Macks gave the EP a soothing, relaxed vibe, ensuring Jyroscope’s verses had plenty of room to breathe. Easy does it, do it easy.

J Littles & Claude Money – “Godbody Tapestry” (KJamm-BFR.BandCamp.Com) – This blend of cool-but-deadly rhymes and soulful rare groove loops from Nottingham duo J Littles and Claude Money was a supreme display of smoothed-out musical arrogance laced with lyrical gems from two individuals who were clearly meant to build together. Best listened to whilst sat comfortably on a butter-soft leather sofa, blowing smoke, wearing a velour robe and a pair of box-fresh Air Max. Exquisite.

John Robinson – “King JR” (JohnRobinson.BandCamp.Com) – Sounding as fresh and enthusiastic in 2021 as he did when debuting as a member of Scienz Of Life back in the mid-90s, NY-raised emcee John Robinson called on the production talents of West Coast favourite Blu for this stimulating collection of thoughtful wordplay and dynamic beats. Music with substance.

Shortie No Mass – “here goes nothing.” (ShortieNoMass.BandCamp.Com) – Having first made a name for herself in the 90s working with the likes of De La Soul and The Roots, Boston-born, Philly-based artist Shortie No Mass made a welcome return to the mic after a long hiatus and sounded like she’d never been away. Her lively, infectious flow and straight-to-the-point rhymes sat comfortably here over production from Da Beatminerz, J-Zone and Shortie’s son Jay Law.

DJ Cosm – “Natural Within” (MakeBelieveHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – DJ Cosm of Canada’s Dragon Fli Empire pulled together a varied selection of underground talent for this follow-up to his 2011 release “Time And Space”, with Brand Nubian’s Sadat X, Brown Bag Money’s Daniel Son and Bankai Fam’s Skanks The Rap Martyr all making stellar appearances.

Al-J & Kane Major – “Blak To The Old School” (KaneMajor.BandCamp.Com) – Boston emcee Al-J (of Blak Madeen) painted vivid lyrical pictures of his experiences growing up in the 80s on this Kane Major-produced album. Covering everything from watching Saturday morning cartoons and first hearing Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five to navigating his way through the crack era, Al-J’s personal memories were further brought to life by the authentic electro-influenced sounds of Major’s production. A sonic blast of back to the future flavour.

Dagha – “D-A To The G” (Dagha.BandCamp.Com) – With this being his first release since 2014, it was apparent even before the end of the first track that Boston’s Dagha was intending on making-up for lost time with this album. No distractions. No gimmicks. “D-A To The G” was all about skills. Dagha tore through the beats of collaborator DJ Real with his confident delivery and clever wordplay, keeping it funky throughout with flows for days.

The Good People – “The Greater Good” (TheGoodPeople.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding NY duo Emskee and Saint came correct with yet another collection of quality true-school beats and rhymes, offering lyrical food for thought and warm, melodic production throughout. Joined by the likes of Lords Of The Underground, Craig G and Shabaam Sahdeeq, “The Greater Good” was the sound of artists really doing it for the culture.

Apollo Brown & Stalley – “Blacklight” (ApolloBrown360.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit producer Apollo Brown has built a career on bringing the best out of the emcees he chooses to collaborate with. From Boog Brown and OC to Skyzoo and Che Noir, Apollo’s brand of soulful boom-bap has inspired some brilliant performances from a variety of lyricists. “Blacklight” continued that trend. Formerly signed to Rick Ross’s Maybach Music label, Ohio’s Stalley sounded totally at home over Brown’s mellow thump, spitting down-to-earth, street-smart verses that stayed with you long after the music stopped.

Wish Master x Illinformed – “Cold Harbour Tales” (WishMaster.BandCamp.Com) – Bristol’s Wish Master has consistently sharpened his skills with each release he’s dropped over the last few years. This full-length collaboration with producer Illinformed saw Wish Master finding an ideal musical partner, with crisp beats and atmospherics samples providing the perfect backdrop for the UK lyricist’s raw wit and life lessons.

Breeze Brewin – “Hindsight” (Juggaknots.BandCamp.Com) – Some people are just born to rhyme. It’s as simple as that. NYC’s Breeze Brewin is one such individual. Twenty-five years after debuting as a member of The Juggaknots with a cult classic release on Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em label, Breeze proved that his underground legend status is still firmly intact with the release of this brilliant album. Backed by production from the likes of Sebb Bash, Marco Polo and DJ Spinna, the BX emcee covered a lot of lyrical ground here, delivering every verse with charisma, skill and originality.

Planet Asia x Evidence – “Rule Of Thirds” (BiggerPictureRecordings.Com) – West Coast giants Planet Asia and Evidence had worked together before this release earlier in their respective careers. But to hear the pair come together in 2021 having long established themselves as two of the most consistent artists the game has seen was a beautiful thing. Asia’s effortlessly dope flow swaggered over the stripped-down production supplied by Evidence, lyrically blending the fly and the righteous as always, with Domo Genesis, Milano Constantine and Rome Streetz offering verbal support.

Ea$y Money x Nozs – “2090” (STDaSquad.BandCamp.Com) – 2021 was a productive year for Massachusetts-based microphone fiend Ea$y Money, with his name gracing the cover of a handful of projects during the twelve month period. Whilst quality control was high on all of those releases, this six-track EP with New England producer Nozs was the standout for me. Street-smart rhymes were paired here with boom-bap beats that were full of character, resulting in a memorable, concise release. Also, props to Ea$y Money for the respectful nod to the great Grand Puba with the EP’s cover art.

Backwood Sweetie – “Christina Shauntay” (BackwoodSweetie.BandCamp.Com) – As a fan of Hip-Hop there’s nothing better than the moment you hear an artist for the first time whose talent immediately captures your attention and has you sitting with your ear pressed against the speaker hanging off every word being said. In 2021, Maryland’s Backwood Sweetie was one of those artists. Rhyming with passion and purpose over a well-chosen selection of beats from a variety of producers, Sweetie had a lot to say as she touched on a number of topics, including Black pride, white supremacy, police brutality and social injustice. Urgent, thought-provoking Hip-Hop.

Beneficence & Confidence – “Stellar Mind” (IllAdrenalineRecords.Com) – A no-nonsense collection of heavyweight head-nodding Hip-Hop, New Jersey’s Beneficence and Boston’s Confidence made a great team here, celebrating the essence of golden-era beats and rhymes whilst injecting their own personalities into the music. A long line of guest artists also complimented the album’s true-school vibe, including El Da Sensei, Craig G and Chubb Rock.

Ka – “A Martyr’s Reward” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – At this point, highlighting Ka’s incredible lyrical ability just feels like stating the obvious. The Brooklyn emcee is a truly unique artist and for some time his only real competition has been himself, with each of his releases setting the bar even higher for what we can expect to come from his pen. The largely self-produced “A Martyr’s Reward” was another deep dive into Ka’s life experiences, his thoughts, his hopes and his regrets. This was the work of a genuine poet containing pain and peace in equal measures.

Kaimbr & Sean Born – “Nino Green” (NinoGreen7.BandCamp.Com) – A potent mixture of vividly raw rhymes laced with street-smart swagger and intoxicating production full of uncut vintage soul flavour, this “New Jack City”-influenced collaboration from longstanding Maryland artists Kaimbr and Sean Born was as fly as a 1988 Dapper Dan sweatsuit with a matching Kangol. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. I. Am.

Heist Life – “Heist New York” (HeistLife.BandCamp.Com) – Ty Da Dale, Sauce Heist and Baby Maine repped for the Rotten Apple with pride on this short-but-effective EP, evoking images of rattling subway trains, street-corner ciphers and scuffed Timberlands over production from Spanish Ran, Nes and Wavy Da Ghawd.

Vandal Savage & Sonnyjim – “Sauvage” (IAmVandalSavage.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s very own Bic Master Vandal Savage leaned heavily into the luxury loops supplied by Sonnyjim throughout this release, with his conversational delivery overflowing with lyrical jewels, life observations and witty punchlines. With appearances from Da Flyy Hooligan, Juga-Naut and Sonnyjim himself adding further verbal weight to the project. “Sauvage” was a laidback lesson in how to craft understated hardcore Hip-Hop.

N.R.F.S. – “N.R.F.S.” (NRFS.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Neak, Rashid Hadee, F.A.B.L.E. and Since9ine6ix joined forces on this impressive collabo album as “uncrowned kings on the underground sharing thrones”, with all four artists bringing their best to the table, complimenting each other’s styles and putting together a potent showcase of undeniable Windy City talent.

Check Part Five here.

New Joint – Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim / Rim

Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim ft. Rim – “Opp Anthem” (@VicSpencer / @Sonnyjim01 / 2021)

Smooth-and-deadly flavour from the fourth instalment of the US / UK duo’s “Spencer For Higher” album series dropping later this week.

New Joint – Sonnyjim & Buckwild / Lord Apex

Sonnyjim & Buckwild ft. Lord Apex – “The Process” (Sonnyjim.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Laidback mellow madness from Sonnyjim’s “Coke Le Roc” collabo album with Diggin’ In The Crates production legend Buckwild.

New Joint – Sonnyjim

Sonnyjim – “Mr Singh” (Sonnyjim.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Hazy vibes from the inimitable Sonnyjim’s new Billy Bushkiller-produced album “The Real Bobby Dazzler”.

New Joint – Kev Brown & Sonnyjim

Kev Brown & Sonnyjim – “Bubblegoose x Raf Simmons” (Sonnyjim.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

The UK’s Sonnyjim flexes his inimitable flow over melodic, head-nodding production from the legendary Kev Brown on this latest track to be lifted from the pair’s collabo album “A Joint Venture”.

New Joint – Confucius MC / Sonnyjim / Verbz / Jehst

Confucius MC ft. Sonnyjim, Verbz & Jehst – “Lanterns” (YNRProductions.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

France’s Keor Meteor supplies a handful of the UK’s finest emcees with some sublime production on this brilliant posse cut out of the YNR camp.

New Joint – PAV4N

PAV4N – “BREATHE” (PAV4N.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Sharp, rapid-fire rhymes from the Foreign Beggars emcee over smooth-yet-funky production courtesy of My Cousin Vinnie and Sonnyjim.

New Joint – Mosik Rhymes / Verbz

Mosik Rhymes ft. Verbz – “Worthy Opp” (Mosik.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Taken from the UK artist’s Sonnyjim-produced EP “Royal Flush”.

New Joint – Chris Crack

Chris Crack – “False Evidence Appearing Real” (@ChrisCrackNDC / 2021)

Chicago’s Chris Crack delivers his usual brand of witty, engaging wordplay over a raw-but-delicate Sonnyjim loop from his forthcoming album “Might Delete Later”.

New Joint – Iron Wigs / Roc Marciano

iron wigs cover

Iron Wigs ft. Roc Marciano – “Bally Animals & Rugbys” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com / 2020)

Second drop off the forthcoming “Your Birthday’s Cancelled” collabo album from Chicago emcees Vic Spencer and Verbal Kent produced entirely by the UK’s Sonnyjim.

 

The Chemistry Must Be Respected Album Stream – Sonnyjim & Illinformed

sonny cover

Birmingham’s Sonnyjim teams-up with talented producer Illinformed for this quality collection of larger-than-life, bravado-fuelled rhymes and dusty-fingered beats.

No Means Of Vi$ible Income Album Stream – Sonnyjim & Giallo Point

sonny cover

Inimitable UK emcee Sonnyjim delivers larger-than-life rhymes over smooth production from the ever-consistent Giallo Point, with Estee Nack, Crimeapple and Vic Spencer on-hand to offer lyrical assistance.

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.

New Joint – Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim

Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim – “Record Row” / “General Consensus” (@VicSpencer / @Sonnyjim01 / 2019)

Chicago’s Vic Spencer scratches the smooth sheen of Sonnyjim’s mellow loops with sharp barbs on back-to-back tracks from the US / UK duo’s “Spencer For Higher 2” album.

New Joint – Booda French

Booda French – “Vintage Berbatov” (@BoodaFrench / 2019)

Smoothed-out arrogance from the UK emcee via Eat Good Records produced by Sonnyjim.

Spencer For Higher 2 Album Stream – Vic Spencer & Sonnyjim

spencer cover

Chicago’s Vic Spencer delivers 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.