Check Part One here.
Cormega – “Mega Philosophy” (The Slimstyle Recording Corporation) – A true veteran of the pitfalls of both the inner-city streets and the music industry, Queensbridge icon ‘Mega joined forces with the legendary Large Professor for this pure and honest dose of East Coast Hip-Hop. Backed by both Extra P’s impeccable beats and appearances from the likes of Raekwon, Nature and Black Rob, the NY lyricist ensured this album lived up to its title as he dropped jewels and life lessons throughout.
Pawz One – “Face The Facts” (Below System Records) – Grounded in the streets of LA but looking much further than the end of his block for inspiration, West Coast emcee Pawz One packed his debut album with insightful, heartfelt commentary on everything from self-empowerment and police brutality to back-in-the day memories and his love for Hip-Hop. Standing out from the crowd with a strong sense of individuality and a good ear for quality production, the Cali microphone fiend ensured he separated the fact from the fiction on his first official full-length project.
Supa Dave West – “Beat Boxing” (Redefinition Records) – Having supplied the likes of De La Soul, Common and Ghostface with some sonic flavour over the years, Queens, NY-raised Dave West demonstrated his versatility behind-the-boards with this speaker-busting instrumental effort, sculpting tracks that ranged in style from futuristic boom-bap and synth-heavy vibes to feel-good funk and old-school block-party beats.
Jack Jetson – “Adventures Of Johnny Strange” (RLD Records) – Promising to “hijack your plane of existence”, UK emcee Jack Jetson dropped one of the most lyrically entertaining releases of the year with “Adventures Of…”, a non-stop barrage of verbal mischief and mayhem. Think Dennis The Menace meets Canibus and you’re halfway there. With colourful, psychedelic wordplay exploding over brilliant beats from the multi-talented Leaf Dog, Jetson proved himself to be a genuinely gifted emcee with a lively imagination.
MindsOne & Kev Brown – “Pillars” (Ill Adrenaline Records) – This expertly-executed EP delivered the goods on each of its eight tracks, resulting in a relatively short but intense listening experience. Combining Maryland producer-on-the-mic Kev Brown’s trademark basslines, basement-style beats and direct lyricism with the sharp rhymes of MindsOne, the elegantly rugged “Pillars” quickly became yet another worthy addition to the steadily expanding Ill Adrenaline catalogue.
Rocdwell – “Daily Chronicles” (Rocdwell.BandCamp.Com) – With a passionate, captivating rhyme style falling somewhere between Freeway and Sugar Ray of 90s favourites Double XX Posse, Detroit artist Rocdwell’s album of “adult contemporary Hip-Hop” found the lyricist dropping down-t0-earth rhymes over hard-hitting, soul-tinged production, with “Daily Chronicles” designed to act as a motivational soundtrack to assist us all as we battled with the trials, tribulations and everyday struggles of life.
People Under The Stairs – “12 Step Program” (Piecelock 70 Records) – Combining their shared passion for fun-fuelled b-boy antics, funky breaks and beer, West Coast duo Thes One and Double K filled their eleventh (!!!) album with their usual upbeat, feel-good flavour, proving yet again why PUTS have remained one of Hip-Hop’s most consistent and reliable acts since debuting back in the late-90s.
Edo.G – “After All These Years” (5th & Union) – Proving the old saying that there’s strength in numbers, Boston’s Edo.G successfully enlisted the help of fans in 2014 for this Kickstarter-funded album. Featuring production from Pete Rock and 9th Wonder, plus appearances by King Magnetic, Camp Lo and Chuck D, “After All These Years” achieved a healthy balance between golden-era throwback vibes and present-day relevance, with Edo embracing his elder statesman status as he attempted to school the masses.
Meyhem Lauren & Buckwild – “Silk Pyramids” (Thrice Great Records) – Combining gritty Rotten Apple attitude, a passion for fly apparel, and an unwavering pride in his home borough of Queens, Outdoorsmen member Meyhem Lauren’s heavily-anticipated collaboration with D.I.T.C.’s Buckwild lived up to expecations, delivering a hefty, slang-laden slice of traditional New York straight talk.
Habitat & DJ Severe – “Empire Building” (Boom Bap Professionals) – Having already left a dent on the UK Hip-Hop scene as part of Lincolnshire’s Heavy Links crew, emcee Habitat struck out on a solo mission to claim new musical territory, armed with sharp lyrical darts, the battle-hardened boom-bap of producer DJ Severe, and the support of lyrical allies such as Oliver Sudden, Chrome and Luca Brazi. No tricks in 2014, it was time to build.
Army Of The Pharoahs – “Heavy Lies The Crown” (Enemy Soil Records) – The second of two albums released by the East Coast collective in 2014, “Heavy Lies The Crown” found the AOTP emcees at their creative best, with the likes of Vinnie Paz, Celph Titled and Esoteric dropping vivid, larger-than-life imagery and bone-crushing punchlines over dramatic production from C-Lance, Stu Bangas, DJ 7L and more. Rough, rugged and raw.
Apollo Brown & Ras Kass – “Blasphemy” (Mello Music Group) – Taking on a variety of subjects, including religion, racism, financial recession and the rules of the rap game, West Coast verbal heavyweight Ras Kass and Detroit producer Apollo Brown crafted an album perfectly suited to today’s confusing times. Further proving the Cali lyricist’s well-deserved reputation as one of Hip-Hop’s most formidable wordsmiths, and adding yet another chamber to Brown’s already impressive discography, “Blasphemy” provided a robust mix of thought-provoking rhymes, microphone bravado and pounding, sample-heavy beats.
Es-K – “Serenity” (Cold Busted) – A concept album dedicated to the memory of a close friend, the aptly-titled “Serenity” found Holland-born producer Es-K inviting the likes of D.I.T.C.’s Andre The Giant, C-Rayz Walz and Boston’s M-Dot to wax lyrical about the pain of loss, the beauty of cherished memories and the fragility of life, with poignant results. Providing a warm, hypnotic soundbed for the sincere and heartfelt verses of the album’s featured artists, Es-K excelled himself musically, delivering soulfully soothing beats which gave the project a moving, ethereal feel.
Diamond D – “The Diam Piece” (Dymond Mine Records) – Succeeding in blending old-school production values with a contemporary feel, the Diggin In The Crates’ producer-on-the-mic pulled together a generation-spanning group of emcees to bless “The Diam Piece”. The likes of Skyzoo, Rapsody, Freddie Foxxx and Grand Daddy I.U. all stepped-up to the mic-stand with solid performances whilst Diamond worked his dusty-fingered magic on the beats.
Shabaam Sahdeeq – “Keepers Of The Lost Art” (Below System Records) – Approaching his first proper album in almost ten years with both the wisdom of experience and an ever-youthful passion for his craft, NYC’s Sahdeeq sounded like he hadn’t missed a beat since his debut during the mid-90s independent boom, lacing quality production from the likes of the UK’s Lewis Parker, Harry Fraud and DJ Skizz with his thoughts on life and Hip-Hop.
Pharoahe Monch – “PTSD” (W.A.R. Media) – In less-skilled hands, a part-autobiographical, part-conceptual album covering topics such as substance abuse, mental health and emotional stress could very easily have been a creative disaster. Yet, with “PTSD”, Organized Konfusion’s Monch succeeded in effectively dealing with such potentially sensitive subject matter whilst still taking the opportunity to indulge in some good ol’-fashioned verbal showmanship, recording an album which balanced soul-stirring moments with competition-crushing verses of sheer lyrical excellence.
Tunnel Movement – “Overlooked” – Following in the musical footsteps of other Windy City talents such as All Natural and Common, Chicago duo KwoteOne and N.O.A.H. crafted an impressive sophomore album full of life-affirming rhymes and solid, soul-laced beats, which, in this instance, hopefully didn’t live up to its title.
Raf Almighty – “G.T.F.O.M.Y.” (Effiscienz Records) – A product of his 90s-era Baltimore environment, Dirt Platoon member Raf Almighty brought a fiery combination of life experience and lyrical grit to the table on this uncompromising solo project, finding his ideal musical backdrop in the concrete-cracking production of France’s DJ Brans.
Sunblaze – “Dirty Rican LP” (SunblazeHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – Representing BK to the fullest, Rotten Apple resident Sunblaze evoked images of shadowy project hallways, street corner ciphers and scuffed Timberland boots with this rugged project firmly rooted in the tradition of East Coast boom-bap. With Timbo King, Pumpkinhead and Tragedy Khadafi providing lyrical assistance, Sunblaze utilised his street-related, razor-sharp rhymes to add on to the legacy of the City Of Gods. Boriquas on da set!
Apathy – “Connecticut Casual” (Dirty Version Records) – Drawing on his New England stomping grounds for inspiration, Demigodz member Apathy took listeners on a twisting journey through the underbelly of Connecticut for his fourth solo album, combining personal memories, local folklore and political intrigue with masterful penmanship on this largely self-produced and thoroughly captivating release.
Part Three coming soon.