Ghostface Killah – “Apollo Kids” (Def Jam) – After the mixed reception to 2009’s R&B-driven “Ghostdini” project, Toney Starks, still Wu-Tang’s most consistent member, returned in full Iron Man mode on his ninth solo album. Featuring Ghost flipping his usual unique stylings over dusty, break-beat-fuelled production, “Apollo Kids” revisited the classic Clan formula without sounding tired or recycled.
The Left – “Gas Mask” (Mello Music Group) – Adding a further dimension to the traditional Detroit rap sound we’ve all come to know and love, producer Apollo Brown teamed up with lyricist Journalist 103 and DJ Soko for this well-executed lesson in intelligent, hardcore Hip-Hop. With the likes of Kool G. Rap and Guilty Simpson along for the ride, the Motown trio crafted an album that went one-step beyond the standard “rap sucks today” rhetoric and actually made you feel their passion for the music and its culture.
Nottz – “You Need This Music” (Raw Koncept) – Rooted in a love of Hip-Hop’s drum-heavy boom-bap sound but displaying a variety of musical styles, this album found Grammy-award winning producer Nottz flexing his production talent with supreme confidence, supplying soundscapes for a diverse line-up of artists (Joell Ortiz, Snoop, Bilal) that might’ve looked strange on paper but worked brilliantly on CD.
Blacastan – “Blac Sabbath” (Brick) – Raw is the only word that can be used to sum up the music of Connecticut’s Blacastan. On his official debut album, the gritty lyricist showed himself to be a true student of Hip-Hop’s golden-age without resorting to old-school cliches or predictable throwback imagery. Mixing savage battle rhymes with imaginative concepts, Blac proved that rap’s backpack underground definitely still has some sharp teeth when required.
DJ Muggs Vs Ill Bill – “Kill Devil Hills” (Fat Beats) – Following the underground success of his one-producer / one-emcee projects with Wu-Tang’s GZA and West Coast favourite Planet Asia, Cypress Hill’s Muggs teamed-up with Rotten Apple resident Ill Bill for this dark, moody and, at times, claustrophobic gem of an album. Packed with brooding beats and conspiracy-fuelled lyricism, “Kill Devil Hills” also boasted hard-hitting appearances from the likes of Sean Price and Vinnie Paz and added further weight to the argument that Muggs should be mentioned amongst Hip-Hop’s beat-making greats.