With 2013 reaching its inevitable end, it’s about that time to take a look back over the last twelve months and give some well-deserved props to those artists who ensured we all had some quality music to listen to throughout the last year.
Whilst many continue to argue that Hip-Hop doesn’t have anything left to offer fans creatively, 2013 once again proved there are emcees, producers and deejays all over Planet Rock who are still crafting beats and rhymes with both passion and integrity as their main motivation.
As always, the releases listed in this year’s round-up don’t represent the only albums and EPs that were worth checking out, but they are the projects that spent the most time blasting from my headphones and speakers.
So, once again it’s on…
Spit Gemz – “End The TV” (SpitGemz.BandCamp.Com) – Emerging from the galaxy of Queens with a razor-sharp delivery and a good ear for rugged beats, NYC’s Spit Gemz continued to carve out his own niche in the rap world with this latest full-length project. Backed by production from One-Take, Don Producci and Stu Bangas, the Outdoorsmen affiliate wove intricate verses throughout this album that encompassed everything from street knowledge and conspiracy theories to religious beliefs and old-school nostalgia. With the likes of Timeless Truth, Shabaam Sahdeeq and Ill Bill also sharing mic duties, “End The TV” stood as one of the year’s most potent doses of true-school Rotten Apple rap
Efeks – “Contemporary Classic” (Revorg Record) – Having spent the last decade as the lyrical half of respected UK duo Prose, talented wordsmith Efeks stepped out of his creative comfort zone on his first official solo album with memorable results. Digging deep into his life experiences to give listeners a further insight into his personal world, the South London emcee utilised soulful, boom-bap-driven soundscapes from Jack Diggs, Keith Lawrence and Steady Rock to drop gems on a number of topics including fatherhood, technology and the struggles of an underground artist.
Roc Marciano – “Marci Beaucoup” (Man Bites Dog Records) – Living proof of the old adage that sometimes less is more, Strong Island’s Roc has turned crafting lo-fi beats and brilliantly understated rhymes into an artform. If last year’s “Reloaded” took a sidestep around the heavy drums of its predecessor “Marcberg”, “Marci…” stripped the production down even further, with the UN emcee and allies such as Ka, Knowledge The Pirate and AG rhyming over minimalist, pimped-out loops that hung in the air like fresh blunt smoke. The result was a unique, atmospheric album that sounded like the Hip-Hop soundtrack to a never-before-seen 70s blaxploitation flick.
Kid Tsu – “The Chase” (Headbop Music) – Teaming-up with NYC’s Headbop team, Australian-based producer Kid Tsunami was finally able to release his long-awaited compilation project in 2013 featuring an impressive list of golden-era greats such as OC, Percee P and Kool G. Rap. Clearly determined not to be outshone by his own guests, Tsunami ensured his production remained consistently dope throughout, balancing melodic samples and classic breaks with a natural, organic energy that kept everything cohesive.
Lewis Parker – “The Puzzle Episode Two: The Glass Ceiling” (King Underground Records) – The veteran UK producer-on-the-mic returned with another sonic Hip-Hop espionage thriller of epic proportions packed with flawless, dusty-fingered production, cinematic concepts and appearances from the likes of $amhill, Mista Spyce and John Robinson. Masterfully executed, “The Glass Ceiling” further cemented Parker’s reputation as one of the nicest producers in the game.
Gore Elohim – “Electric Lucifer” (Supercoven Records) – The former Non-Phixion member proved that he definitely hadn’t mellowed with age on this gritty follow-up to 2004’s cult favourite “The Art Of Dying”. Sounding like it had been recorded in a secret underground bunker somewhere in Brooklyn, “Electric Lucifer” found Goretex immersing himself in a shadowy world of government corruption, alien abductions and Illuminati conspiracies. As the man himself said, it’s that sinister s**t.
Boldy James – “My 1st Chemistry Set” (Decon Records) – Detroit’s James has been bubbling on the underground for a few years now, with 3rd Bass’s MC Serch being one of many early supporter of Boldy’s brand of raw, unapologetic street-hop during his time on Motor City airwaves. But whilst the low-key rapper’s previous material was definitely noteworthy, pairing James with the brooding, hypnotic production of Alchemist for this album was a match made in a dark, D-Town back-alley.
CZARFACE (7L & Esoteric / Inspectah Deck) – “CZARFACE” (Brick Records) – With its brilliant Marvel-inspired cover art and WWF vocal samples, this full-length collabo from Boston’s 7L & Esoteric and the Wu’s Rebel INS tapped straight into the memory banks of anyone who grew-up as a kid in the 80s discovering Hip-Hop, collecting comics and watching Saturday morning wrestling. The fact that the beats and rhymes contained here were equally as dope as the album’s artwork was almost just a bonus.
Supastition – “The Blackboard EP” (Reform School Music) – Returning off a self-imposed hiatus from the music business that began in 2010, North Carolina’s Supastition gave fans everything they were hoping for and more on this hard-hitting release. Getting back to making music purely on his own terms, “The Blackboard EP” bristled with passion and energy as Supa demolished beats from the likes of Marco Polo and M-Phazes whilst exorcising personal demons, re-evaluating his place in the game and re-igniting his love for making quality Hip-Hop. Welcome back!
Klaus Layer – “The Adventures Of Captain Crook” (Redefinition Records) – German-based producer Klaus Layer definitely did a thorough job of showcasing his seemingly effortless mastery of the MPC on this largely instrumental release. Bursting with full-bodied beats drenched in echoing horns and soulful samples, “The Adventures Of…” took the listener on a sonic voyage that was as therapeutic and relaxing as it was entertaining.
Check Part Two here.