Es – “You Want A Piece Of Me?” (EsMuzik.BandCamp.Com) – Canadian emcee Es is the type of artist who can can easily feel like a familiar friend the more time you spend listening to his music. With an easy-going-yet-engaging flow, relatable rhymes and a willingness to be open and honest about a variety of topics, Es has a priceless ability to make his listeners feel a little better about the world than perhaps they did before they hit ‘Play’. On this J. Pal-produced album, Es kept it personal as always, delivering an uplifting collection of beats and rhymes that touched on family, childhood memories and creative goals.
Cormega – “The Realness II” (RealCormega.BandCamp.Com) – Hip-Hop sequel albums can be a risky prospect. At their worst such releases can sound like an artist’s hollow attempt to relive past glories, which only succeeds in highlighting the possibility that their best days may actually be behind them. Thankfully, this follow up to 2001’s “The Realness” avoided such pitfalls. Speaking from a place of personal growth, this album evoked images of Mega sitting on a bench outside the infamous Queensbridge housing projects contemplating his past, present and future as a boom-box blasted beats from Large Professor, Havoc and The Alchemist amongst others.
Isatta Sheriff & Koralle – “Eat The Kiwi Skin” (IsattaSheriff.BandCamp.Com) – Some artists follow trends to try and fit in. Then there are those artists who couldn’t hide their uniqueness and individuality even if they tried. Artists like Isatta Sheriff, for example. This EP from the East London emcee packed a lot of substance into the six tracks on offer here, with Isatta detailing her own personal journey, speaking on her experiences as a female rapper and her thoughts on the commercialisation of Black culture. The subtle, jazz-influenced production from Spain’s Koralle provided the perfect musical backdrop to allow Sheriff’s rhymes to really shine here.
Bub Styles – “Outerwear Szn 2” (BubStyles.BandCamp) – One of a handful of releases Bub Styles dropped in 2022, for this EP the gravel-voiced Brooklyn emcee sounded like he laced up his Timberlands, pulled on his hoodie, visited the corner-store, battled a kid stood outside who was talking ish, then went straight to the studio and laid down this brilliant slice of rugged New York rap.
Diamonds In Space – “Diamonds In Space Vol. 1” (DiamondsInSpace.BandCamp.Com) – Lively, animated rhymes and mellow, melodic beats could be found in abundance on this well-crafted album from Kansas City-based duo Aaron Alexander and Lnrd D$troy. A compelling, addictive mix of street-smart observations, moments of introspection and intoxicating production.
Shane Kidd – “Good Mourning” (ShaneKidd.BandCamp.Com) – Emerging from a period of depression and creative frustration, Atlanta-based artist Shane Kidd drew heavily on those personal experiences for his third album, an emotionally-charged selection of tracks that found the Southern emcee reevaluating life with a strong sense of hope and determination. Truly inspirational music.
Paul Wall & Termanology – “Start 2 Finish” (TermanologyST.BandCamp.Com) – On paper, Houston’s Paul Wall and Lawrence, MA’s Termanology may have looked like an unexpected combination, but the end result was a full-length collaboration which showcased a genuine partnership that brought the best out of both artists. Produced largely by Statik Selektah, with contributions from Pete Rock, Dame Grease and J Cardim, the album comfortably occupied the musical middle ground between Southern bass and East Coast boom-bap. Grills optional.
OC From NC – “The List God Sent Us” (OCFromNC.BandCamp.Com) – Representing his North Carolina stomping grounds in no uncertain terms, OC From NC sounded hungry and focused on this album, attacking tracks with the energy of an emcee in a rhyme cypher with something to prove rather than an established artist dropping his eighth release.
Verbz & Mr Slipz – “Where It Started” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – Taking a walk down memory lane, London’s Verbz relived the trials and triumphs of his Croydon youth on this impressive EP, with the sample-free production of Brighton’s Mr Slipz providing a mesmerizing sonic backdrop which perfectly complimented the nostalgic verses heard here.
iLLah – “MiDNigHT SoUP” (iLLah.BandCamp.Com) – Toronto’s iLLah had a lot on his mind in 2022, with this album finding the dynamic emcee darting in all directions lyrically, touching on politics, religion, social unrest and conspiracy theories whilst accompanied by the vintage jazz-infused sound of producer SuNYA.
Tokyo Cigar x August Fanon – “Lexus Money” (TokyoCigarMusic.BandCamp) – Epic collaboration album from Maryland’s Tokyo Cigar and Dallas-raised producer August Fanon that was packed with intricate, deep-dive lyricism and expertly selected samples. Music to ponder the science of life to whilst dipped in the freshest Polo gear.
IAMGAWD x The Black Depths – “Murder Castle” (Filthe.BandCamp.Com) – When Chicago’s IAMGAWD said on this album “No, I do not fear a single one of my Hip-Hop peers, I drop bombs, You drop tears..” it was difficult not to believe him on all points. A formidable emcee who clearly rhymes with the intention of every word having maximum impact, GAWD dominated the raw, ominous beats of The Black Depths, spitting venomous darts at the competition with expert accuracy whilst also offering up-close-and-personal commentary on the reality of the Windy City’s cold streets.
Kamanchi Sly – “Master Plan” (HipHop73.Com) – Almost thirty-five years since his vinyl debut with legendary group Hijack and having dropped over ten self-produced solo albums since 2017, this latest K-Sly release was further proof that time definitely hasn’t dampened the London emcee’s passion for Hip-Hop culture and the art of rap. Sounding energetic and enthused, Kamanchi tore through a selection of true-school breaks and beats with all the attitude and confidence we’ve come to expect from one of the UK’s homegrown pioneers.
DK x Ghettosocks – “Listen To The Masters” (DKProducer.BandCamp.Com) – Students of the game, Canada’s DK and Ghettosocks put the lessons learnt from growing-up with the greats in rotation to good use on this collection of sophisticated mood music. Timeless flows could be found throughout this album, with microphone royalty such as Skyzoo, CL Smooth and O.C. joining Ghettosocks to bless DK’s jazz-tinged beats with butter-smooth verses.
Fly Anakin – “Frank” (LexRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Virginia’s Mutant Academy have been one of the most exciting collectives in the rap game for a number of years now, with Fly Anakin playing a large part in building the crew’s reputation for great music. This album went some way to introducing Anakin’s rapid-fire rhymes to a wider audience, with the lush, hypnotic soundscapes provided by the likes of Foisey, Sycho Sid and Jay Versace helping to this full-length masterpiece feel like a seamless sonic high.
DoamPeace x DFACE DXA – “The Goldilocks Zone” (DoamPeace.BandCamp.Com) – NY’s DXA crew have consistently delivered quality music over many years now and this release from two members of the camp was no exception to that rule – solid beats, clever rhymes and creative sampling.
Elzhi & Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Zhigeist” (NatureSounds.BandCamp.Com) – Absolute greatness. That’s the quickest and easiest way to describe this album from Detroit’s Elzhi and LA’s Georgia Anne Muldrow. Both parties involved floated close to another creative dimension on this one, with the Motor City emcee challenging your third-eye to keep-up with his densely packed wordplay, whilst Muldrow’s ethereal grooves simultaneously massaged and soothed those same brain-cells that were being put to work.
Bloo Azul & Spanish Ran – “Once In A Bloo” (BlooAzul.BandCamp.Com) – There are some musical partnerships who bring the best out of each other with such apparent ease it would appear they were destined to work together. Bronx pair Bloo and Spanish Ran definitely deserve a place on that list and this album was another undeniable example of why. Ran’s exquisite, vibe-filled loops seemed tailor-made for Bloo’s observational, everyman lyrics, resulting in a few more of New York’s eight million stories being told in memorable fashion.
J.Rocc – “A Wonderful Letter” (JRocc.BandCamp.Com) – Turntable titan and Beat Junkies member J.Rocc paid homage to his hometown of Los Angeles with this ambitious concept album, deftly covering many styles associated with the City Of Angels, from 80s-style electro and speaker-slapping funk to the underground Hip-Hop of featured artists such as LMNO, Key-Kool and MED. California love, indeed.
Touré Masters – “Kin9” (ToureMasters.BandCamp.Com) – A genuinely skilled wordsmith, Arizona’s Touré Masters dropped one of the most captivating albums of 2022, with his urgent rhyme style driving home the meaning in his verses and really pulling the listener into his world. Navigating the realities of street life whilst looking forward towards positive progression, Masters came across here as a real person with real feelings rather than as a one-dimensional rapper retreading familiar creative ground. He really put his lifetime in-between the paper’s lines.
Check Part Four here.