The Almighty $amhill – “Who’s The Boss?” (@MoeMiller96 / 2018)
The always-impressive Bronx emcee drops a heavy dose of New York straight talk.
The Almighty $amhill – “Who’s The Boss?” (@MoeMiller96 / 2018)
The always-impressive Bronx emcee drops a heavy dose of New York straight talk.
The Almighty $amhill – “Social Media” (@MoeMiller96 / 2018)
The Bronx emcee gives his thoughts on friend requests, DMs and selfies with this Chopz Da Beatz-produced cut off his forthcoming EP “Fort Apache”.
So here we are again. Another year has come to an end. Time to look back over the last twelve months and give my traditional round-up of the beats and rhymes I had in heavy rotation throughout 2017.
It’s never easy putting ‘best-of’ lists together. Regardless of how many releases are included, it’s impossible to compile something like this without always feeling like you’re having to leave something out. But this year has been particularly difficult, given the sheer amount of quality Hip-Hop that has been released over the past 365 days.
In addition to the albums and EPs that actually made it into this five-part overview, there was approximately a further fifty included on my initial short-list, but you have to draw the line somewhere.
So, whilst there will no doubt be projects not featured here that some will feel should have been mentioned, those that made the cut have been selected based purely on being one of the releases I listened to (and enjoyed) the most throughout 2017.
That being said, huge props to every emcee, producer and deejay out there making music that comes from a genuine place of creativity and artistic integrity – your efforts are appreciated by Hip-Hop heads across Planet Rock.
But now, like we always do about this time….
Melanin 9 – “Old Pictures” (Red Snow Records) – A decade after the release of his debut project “High Fidelity”, Triple Darkness member Melanin 9 delivered arguably his best body of solo work to date. A personal, introspective walk through the experiences, struggles and memories of the London-based lyricist, “Old Pictures” found M9 matching his impressive verses with fittingly mellow, laidback soundscapes from producers such as Ohbliv, Wun Two and Anatomy. Timeless beats and rhymes.
O.C. – “Same Moon Same Sun: 1st Phase” (D.I.T.C. Studios) – One of the greatest emcees of all-time, Diggin’ In The Crates legend Omar Credle personified the term ‘grown man business’ on his seventh solo album, offering an assured blend of social commentary, life observations and lyrical bravado, proving that truly talented artists never lose their importance or relevance in the rap game.
Trauma 74 – “The God Given Image” (Evil Twin Records) – The result of a life-long passion for Hip-Hop that began in the early-80s, this debut album from UK emcee Trauma 74 was clearly a labour of love. Grounded in true-school traditions and creative integrity, “The God Given Image” was packed with accomplished wordplay and soulful boom-bap beats, resulting in a project that any fellow Hip-Hop junkie could appreciate and relate to.
Strizzy Strauss – “The Art Of Summarising Life” (IAmStrizzyStrauss.BandCamp.Com) – The upcoming Leicester-based lyricist definitely made his mark on the homegrown scene in 2017 with this impressive EP, full of personal, heartfelt verses delivered with street-savvy sensitivity and a sharp social awareness. Honest, life-affirming and inspirational, “The Art Of…” showcased the voice of an artist clearly keen to inject his music with substance as well as style.
Milano Constantine – “The Way We Were” (Different Worlds Music Group) – A tribute to the New York of yesteryear, Diggin’ In The Crates affiliate Milano utilised the top-notch, drum-heavy production of DJ Skizz and Marco Polo to reminisce about old-school fashion trends, graffiti-covered subway trains and wild nights at the Latin Quarter throughout this release, drawing on both the youthful energy of 80s Hip-Hop and the volatile Rotten Apple environment of the time for inspiration.
Roc Marciano – “Rosebudd’s Revenge” (Marci Enterprises) – The Strong Island representative gave the game yet another back-handed pimp slap in the form of his fourth solo album, a cool-but-deadly collection of cold-blooded, elegantly-delivered rawness, evoking images of 70s Blaxploitation flicks and golden-era NY Hip-Hop in equal measures. Fresh, fly and bold.
Brother Ali – “All The Beauty In This Life” (Rhymesayers Entertainment) – Long-established as one of Hip-Hop’s most inspiring and warm-hearted artists, Minneapolis’s Brother Ali dropped a truly fitting Ant-produced soundtrack to today’s troubled times, drawing inspiration from both personal situations and global issues as he encouraged listeners to find meaning and purpose in their lives, despite the struggles and hardships we each face on a daily basis.
Funky DL – “Marauding At Midnight” (Washington Classics) – Multi-talented UK artist Funky DL paid tribute to the musical genius of A Tribe Called Quest with this inspired instrumental remake of the Queens crew’s classic 1993 album “Midnight Marauders”. Achieving the difficult balance of staying faithful to ATCQ’s jazzy, low-end aesthetic whilst allowing his own musical personality to shine through, DL proved himself to be both a student and master of the production game throughout this ambitious release.
Saipher Soze – “Godbody” (SaipherSoze.BandCamp.Com) – Rough, rugged and raw flavour from the Toronto emcee packed with razor-sharp rhymes and quality beats, this Finn-produced album found Soze cementing his position as one of the most skilled microphone fiends to have emerged from the Canadian underground in recent times.
Dillon & Diamond – “Black Tie Affair” (FullPlate.BandCamp.Com) – Successful in their promise of crafting “sophisticated rap music”, Atlanta-based emcee Dillon and Diggin’ In The Crates giant Diamond D mixed the rough with the smooth on this five-track EP, resulting in a polished listening experience which still bore the musical marks of dusty fingerprints.
Sons Phonetic – “Deloreans” (SonsPhonetic.BandCamp.Com) – Atmospheric, captivating beats and rhymes from Ireland’s mighty Sons Phonetic crew, with “Deloreans” proving once again why the multi-faceted collective can lay claim to being one of the most consistent groups in the game.
The Almighty $amhill – “The Epilogue” (LowTechRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Bronx native $amhill delivered more of his unapologetically raw street-smart lyricism on this quality EP release, a potent dose of gritty NY flavour direct from the birthplace of Hip-Hop produced largely by the talented Preservation.
Es – “We Are Only Getting Older” (EsMuzik.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian lyricist Es followed up his brilliant 2014 album “Aspire To Inspire” with the equally impressive “We Are Only Getting Older”, a concept-based project dealing with Hip-Hop’s generation gap, featuring production from IV The Polymath, Rel McCoy, Kelpi Nine and more.
Eloh Kush & BudaMunk – “Fly Emperor” (AnglezInc.BandCamp.Com) – Backed by the melodic, drum-heavy production of Japan’s BudaMunk, New Jersey’s Eloh Kush mixed streetwise attitude with vividly creative wordplay on this impressive long-player.
The Cornel West Theory – “The T.A.B.L.E. Too” (TheCornelWestTheory.BandCamp.Com) – Washington D.C.’s Cornel West Theory continued to go against the grain on their fifth album release, a collection of radio-unfriendly soundscapes and challenging, thought-provoking lyrics.
Creestal – “Differences” (MunchieRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Talented French producer Creestal (of CM Jones fame) dug deep in his crates for this sample-driven collection of dusty flavours featuring Roc Marciano, Conway, Torae and more. Blending together raw drums, obscure loops and random film dialogue, “Differences” was a masterclass in sonic creativity.
J Scienide – “The Actual Heat” (JSciende-OfficialCrateMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Washington D.C.-based artist J Scienide delivered his highly-anticipated album “The Actual Heat”, an accomplished collection of sample-based beats and intelligent, witty wordplay, with the likes of Grap Luva, Kev Brown and Nolan The Ninja making notable appearances on what was easily one of 2017’s best releases.
Da Buze Bruvaz – “Adebisi Hat” (Grilchy Party) – Run and DMC. Rae and Ghost. Billy Danze and Lil Fame. The key to a great rap duo is chemistry. Philly’s Him-Lo and Clever One can add themselves to that list. The Lo-Life-affiliated pair have dropped plenty of worthwhile material over the years, but this full-length effort upped the hardcore ante, with the true-school twosome verbally bullying top-drawer production with their trademark brand of boisterous, politically-incorrect punchlines.
MC Eiht – “Which Way Iz West” (Blue Stamp Music / Year Round Records) – Approximately two years after West Coast legend MC Eiht announced his next album would be backed by DJ Premier, the project finally saw a release. Thankfully, “Which Way…” lived up to expectations. With Eiht solidifying his OG status throughout, this long-player deservedly found itself being heralded as a standout dose of Cali attitude. Compton’s still in the house. Geeah!
Children Of Zeus – “The Story So Far…” (First Word Records) – Manchester’s Konny Kon and Tyler Daley have been blessing a cult following with sonic gems for some time now, but 2017 was the year the talented pair’s unique brand of soulful, Hip-Hop-influenced music started to reach a wider audience and receive the acclaim it deserved. This compilation pulled together both previously-released tracks and new material from the UK duo, paving the way for the official Zeus debut album due for release in 2018.
Check Part Two here.
The Almighty $amhill – “The Epilogue” (@MoeMiller96 / 2017)
Title track from the Bronx emcee’s latest EP available here via Lowtech Records.
Bronx native $amhill delivers more of his unapologetically raw street-smart lyricism on his latest EP release, a potent dose of gritty NY flavour direct from the birthplace of Hip-Hop.
The Almighty $amhill – “Ali” (@MoeMiller96 / 2016)
Produced by Chop Da Beatz and taken from the Bronx emcee’s forthcoming “Fort Apache” EP.
DJ Lord Ron & Wildelux – “The Sinister Theory” (String Note Recordings) – West Coast producer Lord Ron joined forces with Bronx-born emcee Wildelux for this raw, concise lesson in quality boom-bap-driven Hip-Hop. The quality, sample-heavy beats supplied by Ron provided the perfect musical backdrop for ‘Lux’s take-no-prisoners lyrical approach, with the skilled wordsmith displaying a relentless verbal vigour as he offered his thoughts on a variety of topics. Salute!
MKV & Concept – “Dreams & Reality” (Essenchill Records) – Chicago-born, Pittsburgh-based emcee MKV took full advantage of New Zealand producer Concept’s soulful, drum-heavy musical style on this mellow-yet-captivating EP. Sharing his hopes, regrets and personal memories throughout this release, MKV exorcised some personal demons whilst encouraging listeners to make the most out of life. Motivational true-school beats and rhymes.
John Robinson & PVD – “Modern Vintage” (Brick Records) – A potent combination of present-day technology and old-school musical equipment, this joint effort from veteran NY emcee John Robinson and composer / producer Pat Van Dyke lived up to its title with plenty of style and creativity. Celebrating the potential music has to be timeless, organic and powerful, the pair drew inspiration from old-school Hip-Hop, jazz and soul to deliver an uplifting collection of positive vibes.
Men Of Many Crowns – “Men Of Many Crowns” (MenOfManyCrowns.Com) – San Diego duo MoodSwingKing and W. Steele mixed razor-sharp lyricism and soul-drenched production with West Coast sensibilities on this confidently-delivered project, further proving that the artists currently ruling the mainstream don’t always deserve to wear the crown.
The Kingdom – “No Rest In The Kingdom” (TheKingdomMusic.BandCamp.Com) – Based in North Carolina but originally from New Jersey and Pennsylvania respectively, emcee King Draft and producer Jerm Scorcese dropped one of the most accomplished debuts of the year with “No Rest In The Kingdom”. Lyrical food-for-thought and melodic soundscapes meshed together perfectly, taking the listener on a unique and intoxicating sonic journey. Plus, anyone who samples Art Of Noise’s 80s classic “Moments In Love” always gets props over here.
PRhyme – “PRhyme” (PRhyme Records) – Based around samples from the catalogue of LA music man Adrian Younge, this collabo album from the mighty DJ Premier and Detroit mic vet Royce Da 5’9 could only have resulted in quality music. Packing each track with endless punchlines and clever references, Royce provided numerous rewind-worthy verses throughout the project, whilst Primo worked magic behind the boards and gave his traditional boom-bap sound an interesting twist.
Verb T – “Medicated Dreams” (High Focus Records) – Since his debut on wax back in the early 2000s, UK emcee Verb T has consistently stood out from the crowd with his distinctive delivery, dry wit and unique worldview. On this sonic prescription, the Four Owls member administered multi-layered verses packed with self-reflection over down-tempo, self-produced beats. A musical remedy to the stresses of everyday life.
Your Old Droog – “Your Old Droog” (Droog Recordings) – Once the dust had settled and (almost) everyone had gotten over the Nas / mistaken identity episode, one thing remained crystal clear – this upcoming NY emcee could really rap. This compilation-style project pulled together previously-heard material and unreleased gems, with Droog effortlessly rhyming circles around the competition. Proving himself to be a genuine talent in his own right, Your Old Droog definitely wasn’t about to spend a second longer standing in someone else’s shadow. Even if that someone was the dude who recorded “Illmatic”.
Planet Asia & TzariZM – “Via Satellite” (Doxside Music Group / Gold Chain Music) – Broadcasting live and direct from Planet Rock, Florida-based producer TzariZM blessed underground West Coast icon Planet Asia with a heavy-duty selection of speaker-rattling beats for this collaborative effort. A weighty combination of skillful lyricism and uncompromising production, “Via Satellite” was received loud and clear by Hip-Hop heads wherever they resided. Do not attempt to adjust your dial.
Rozewood – “The Beautiful Type” (Working Class Music) – Like a Hip-Hop soundtrack to the best blaxploitation flick never made, “The Beautiful Type” found NY-raised lyricist Rozewood delivering a barrage of cool-but-deadly street knowledge wrapped up in intricate wordplay, all cushioned by the plush soundscapes of Atlanta producer Illastrate. With regular collaborators Hus Kingpin and SmooVth on-hand to offer support, Rozewood lived up to the promise displayed on prior releases such as “The Ghost Of Radio Raheem” and singled himself out as a talent to watch in 2015.
Chairman Maf – “Paint” (ChairmanMaf.BandCamp.Com) – Following up 2013’s brilliant “1976” project, UK producer Chairman Maf crafted another stimulating collection of instrumental flavours for this latest sonic endeavor. Combining his ear for both melody and quality samples with a clear passion for dusty drums, the Sheffield sound man splashed a variety of sonic moods over his canvas throughout “Paint”, allowing the listener to conjure up a number of pictures in their minds-eye as the album unfolded.
Omniscence – “The God Hour” (Gentleman’s Relief Records) – With his shelved 1996 debut “The Raw Factor” finally being given a welcome release in 2014, North Carolina punchline-king Omniscence proved he still deserved the title of the Funky One-Liner by coming back like he forgot something with this EP of new material. Produced entirely by Australia’s Debonair P, “The God Hour” featured the talented lyricist shooting the gift over quality, head-nodding beats. True indeed!
Kev Brown & Hassaan Mackey – “That Grit” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – 2014 was definitely a busy year for Kev Brown, with the DMV producer-on-the-mic dropping a second project on the Ill Adrenaline imprint, this time offering Rochester, NY lyricist Hassaan Mackey his trademark brand of boom-bap. With the likes of yU, Kenn Starr and Grap Luva all delivering noteworthy appearances on the mic device, “That Grit” had the organic feel of a back-in-the-day freestyle tape, with both Mackey’s witty wordplay and Brown’s sublime beats remaining on-point at all times.
A.Y.E. – “90 Now” (Makebelieve Records) – The idea of a young twenty-something artist paying homage to a decade that had ended before he’d hit his teens may not sit particularly well with some 90s purists. But when that idea is executed as well as it was on this release from Canadian emcee A.Y.E., it’s hard to deny the flavour. Effectively capturing the traditional mid-90s East Coast sound, complete with heavy drums, echoing horns and hypnotic keys, this self-produced project also found A.Y.E. coming correct with the rhymes, whether referencing golden-era artists or commenting on the world around him. Old-school, new-school, no school rules.
Bronze Nazareth – “Thought For Food Vol. 3” (Black Day In July Productions) – Detroit-based Wu-Tang affiliate Nazareth offered listeners his usual mix of the raw and the righteous with this latest hardcore onslaught. Blending grimy beats and classic soul samples, the Motor City producer-on-the-mic created music that sounded like sun-rays shining through inner-city alleyways.
SilentSomeone – “I Have Company” (Peasant Podium Music) – Bronx producer SilentSomeone demonstrated his talent behind the boards to great effect on this quality collection of underground jewels. Featuring the likes of Sadat X, John Robinson and Tame One, “I Have Company” ranged from boisterous big-beat brilliance to the hypnotically haunting, with SilentSomeone putting his own sonic stamp on each track, lifting the album head-and-shoulders above similar producer-based projects.
Swamp Thing – “Outer Limits” (URBNET) – Canadian rap astronauts Timbuktu, Chokeules and Savilion attempted to travel at magnificent speeds around the universe on “Outer Limits”, joined by Ghettosocks, D-Sisive and Wordburglar. A rocket-fuelled blast of sci-fi-inspired beats and rhymes, this long-player fully engaged the imagination thanks to the crew’s intriguing, out-of-this-world rhymes. Space is the place!
The 1978ers – “People Of Today” (Mello Music Group) – In a modern-day world of social detachment, rampant consumerism and media manipulation, the eclectic music found on this album from DMV duo yU and Slimkat encouraged listeners to retain a positive sense of self, overcome obstacles and reach for their goals. Laced with positive sentiments grounded in personal experience and intelligent thinking rather than simple self-righteousness, “People Of Today” uplifted your spirit at the same time as it made your head nod.
Gee Bag – “Show And Tell” (Starch Records) – Combining a strong personality with his tell-it-like-it-is lyrical approach and undeniable passion for Hip-Hop, UK artist Gee Bag demonstrated real character on the microphone throughout “Show And Tell”, blessing producer Downstroke’s selection of beats with humorous punchlines, infectious hooks and everyday observations. Show and tell? With this release the South London lyricist showed and proved.
The Almighty $amhill – “The $amhill Story” (Aaron Michael Entertainment) – Bursting through the back door just as 2014 was coming to an end, NY emcee $amhill dropped this up-close-and-personal autobiographical masterpiece full of raw, honest rhymes and quality production from the likes of Minnesota, RTNC and Molecules. Proving that the Bronx still keeps creating it, “The $amhill Story” was a timeless body of work rooted in the tradition of golden-era Rotten Apple rap.