UFO Fev x Finn – “Drug Free” (@UFOFev / @MCDJFinn / 2022)
NY’s UFO Fev details his triumph over the lure of the streets on this latest track to be lifted from the “Blood On The Bills” album which is produced entirely by Canada’s Finn.
UFO Fev x Finn – “Drug Free” (@UFOFev / @MCDJFinn / 2022)
NY’s UFO Fev details his triumph over the lure of the streets on this latest track to be lifted from the “Blood On The Bills” album which is produced entirely by Canada’s Finn.
UFO Fev x Finn – “Wash The Bills” (@UFOFev / 2022)
Lead single off the forthcoming “Blood On The Bills” album from NYC’s UFO Fev and Canadian producer Finn.
Mr Peter Parker Presents Nature, UFO Fev & Twin City Tone – “So What?!” (@MrPeterParker / 2022)
Produced by Minnesota’s Eli Fire and taken from Mr Peter Parker’s forthcoming album “The Hustler’s Emporium”.
UFO Fev x Crisis – “Sunsets in the Ghetto” (@UFOFev / @IAmCrisis / 2022)
Lead single and title track off the East Harlem / Bronx duo’s forthcoming collabo album dropping in July.
UFO Fev x DJ J Hart – “El Sapo” (@UFOFev / 2022)
Taken from the NY emcee’s J Hart-produced album “E Pluribus Unum”.
UFO Fev x DJ J Hart – “Money” (@UFOFev / @IAmJHart / 2022)
UFO Fev & DJ J Hart – “In The Rain” (@UFOFev / @IAmJHart / 2022)
Da YoungFellaz ft. UFO Fev – “GOAT Talk” (@DaYoungFellaz / 2022)
UFO Fev & Vanderslice – “Enigma Of Dali” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com) – One thing that’s become abundantly clear over the last couple of years is that Harlem’s UFO Fev has a great ear for choosing producers to work with that really compliment his style. With Statik Selektah, Termanology and Big Ghost Ltd all having laced the NY emcee with superb beats on full-length efforts during 2020, 2021 found Fev teaming-up with the consistently dope Vanderslice for “Enigma Of Dali”, painting colourful lyrical portraits which captured the essence of life in the Rotten Apple.
Damu The Fudgemunk – “Conversation Peace” (DamuTheFudgemunk.BandCamp.Com) – Having been given full access to the musical vaults of London’s KPM Library for this release, you could almost feel Damu’s glee and excitement bursting out of the grooves here from beats crafted after being blessed with the opportunity to dig through thousands of records. Joined by Raw Poetic, Insight, Blu and Nitty Scott, the Washington DC producer soared above the clouds, nodding to the 90s on the way up without getting stuck in the past or overdosing on nostalgia. “Conversation Peace” was a genuinely invigorating listening experience.
Cesar Comanche & Poe Mack – “A Promise Not To Sting” (CesarComanche.BandCamp.Com) – This collaborative album from North Carolina’s Cesar Comanche (of Justus League fame) and Virginia’s Poe Mack really struck a chord with me. It was the sound of two individuals who’ve lived life and learnt lessons ruminating on the past, present and future in a world undergoing huge change. Production from the likes of 9th Wonder, Khrysis and DJ Flash gave the album a vintage (and at times fittingly melancholy) feel, with Comanche and Mack bouncing purposeful verses back and forth with ease.
Verb T & Illinformed – “Stranded In Foggy Times” (VerbT.BandCamp.Com) – The third and final part of Verb T and Illinformed’s “Foggy” trilogy, this album once again showcased the brilliant writing ability of the UK emcee with the verses here consisting of well-crafted meaningful lyrics, some of which were straight-to-the-point whilst others were open to interpretation. Backed by the quality production of Illinformed, which perfectly complimented Verb’s conversational, laidback rhyme style, T approached this release with all the skill, poise and confidence you’d expect from an artist who has shown nothing but constant elevation throughout his twenty year career.
Kamanchi Sly – “Electrosis 2” (HipHop73.Com) – Pulling on his shelltoes and Nike windbreaker once again, UK legend K-Sly dropped three “Electrosis” albums during 2021, with each one celebrating the sounds and excitement of Hip-Hop in the early-to-mid 1980s with genuine love and authenticity. The Hijack legend sounded as sharp and enthusiastic as ever, clearly reveling in the opportunity to revisit old-school memories of being a young London b-boy four decades ago, whilst still proudly displaying the same competition-crushing attitude that fuelled UK classics such as “Style Wars” and “Hold No Hostage”.
Swank & King Draft – “Long Story Short” (JamlaRecords.Com) – North Carolina’s Swank and King Draft once again proved themselves to be a potent combination on this sophomore album. Slick, witty wordplay glided effortlessly over the smooth, R&B-influenced production from 9th Wonder and Jamla’s Soul Council. At a time when playlists and random shuffle options have contributed to some artists thinking less about an album as a cohesive body of work sequenced to take listeners on a journey, Swank and Draft succeeded in capturing and maintaining a mood throughout “Long Story Short” which gave the album a strong sense of momentum. For that, they get props over here.
Little Simz – “Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” (LittleSimz.Com) – The latest long-player from London’s Little Simz was an album of epic proportions. The subject matter. The delivery. The production. The interludes. The cover. The execution. The openness. The honesty. Every element of this album contributed to it being something truly special. Simz confronted a number of issues with a mix of both strength and vulnerability, accompanied by the masterfully diverse musicality of producer Inflo, as listeners were swept along on a wave of emotion that by the end of the album made it feel as if we to had been on our own voyage of self-discovery.
Mach-Hommy – “Pray For Haiti” (Mach-Hommy.Com) – Reunited with Griselda Records’ Westside Gunn and backed by ambitious production from the likes of Camoflauge Monk, Conductor Williams and Nicholas Craven, with “Pray For Haiti” New Jersey’s enigmatic Mach-Hommy delivered a rich tapestry of sound that was packed with elegant arrogance, unabashed individuality and joyful spontaneity. This album felt like the musical equivalent of looking through a kaleidoscope and sounded all the better for it.
Cons – “B.A.D.A.” (Ottoman Elf) – A veteran of the UK Hip-Hop scene, London’s Cons (aka Conspicuous) returned after an eight year hiatus with the hunger and vigour of a new artist, balanced with the benefit of hindsight and a wisdom that can only come from life experience. Reuniting with longstanding collaborators such as Apollo, LG and Evil Ed, Cons dropped street knowledge and elder statesman advice throughout “B.A.D.A.”, proving that if you’re nice on the mic device it really doesn’t matter how much time passes between projects.
Tanya Morgan – “Don and Von” (TanyaMorgan.BandCamp.Com) – Fifteen years since Tanya Morgan’s cult classic debut “Moonlighting” dropped, Von Pea and Donwill added a new release to their already impressive catalogue. Combining everyday life events and social commentary with wit and humour, the duo endeared themselves to listeners as always, coming across as two down-to-earth individuals who it might be cool to spend time kicking it with about music, politics and current events. Production from the likes of Brick Beats, Clint Taylor and Aeon also helped this album standout from the pack.
Fashawn & Sir Veterano – “All Hail The King” (FreshYardRecords.Com) – Fresno’s Fashawn returned to claim his crown with this album skillfully produced by fellow Cali Hip-Hop head Sir Veterano, with features from Elzhi, Aloe Blacc and Planet Asia. Coming in at a concise nine tracks, the West Coast wordsmith didn’t waste a single moment here, tightly packing his verses with fast-paced lyricism which covered hometown pride, building a life with his queen, raising the next generation and, of course, reigning supreme over his kingdom as rap royalty.
Benny Diction – “Facepalm / Brainwave?” (BoomBapPro.Com) – One of the UK’s most consistent artists, any new release from Benny Diction is always a welcome, enjoyable listening experience and this album was no different. Musing on the mundane to the magnificent and everything in-between, the BBP-affiliated emcee’s ability to inject insight and thoughtful observation into his rhymes shone brightly here, with Benny reflecting on the world around him accompanied by top-notch production from the likes of jas0nbeats, Krang and Deltatone.
Joell Ortiz – “Autograph” (JoellOrtiz.BandCamp.Com) – Honesty has been a theme that’s always run throughout the music of Brooklyn’s Joell Ortiz. Good times. Bad times. Successes. Failures. The NY emcee has consistently spoken on both sides of the game, whether discussing street life, personal life or industry life. “Autograph” was another does of up-close-and-uncut reality, with Ortiz recalling his struggle to get put on in the rap game, his life before that time and his life now as he embraces OG status. The detailed, sincere rhymes heard here were complimented by the production of Apollo Brown, The Heatmakerz, Salaam Remi and more.
Ransom & Big Ghost Ltd – “Heavy Is The Head” (Ransom.Com) – Jersey City’s Ransom clearly had one thing on his mind when recording this album and one thing only – lyrical domination. Joined by the likes of Mickey Factz, RJ Payne and Rome Streetz, Ransom fired off barrages of relentlessly aggressive rhymes over Big Ghost’s fittingly raw production. No holds barred. No prisoners taken. This was the sound of an emcee getting medieval on the competition.
Minnesota – “Once Upon A Handshake” (JBS Management) – Producer-slash-emcee Minnesota of the Bronx’s legendary Money Boss crew served up a raw slice of Rotten Apple rap with this solo album. A collection of hardcore beats and rhymes straight from the birthplace of Hip-Hop, this project was full of vivid inner-city imagery, BX swagger and vintage beat science. As KRS-One once said, the Bronx keeps creating it.
Passport Rav – “Sand In My Carry On” (PassportRav.BandCamp.Com) – Brooklyn’s Passport Rav crafted a laidback, reflective masterpiece for his seventh release to have dropped over the last two years. Mixing dense lyricism with breezy hooks and mellow production from Sebb Bash and Wavy Da Ghawd, Rav’s latest opus was mood music of the highest quality that both soothed and stimulated the mind.
Your Old Droog – “Space Bar” (YourOldDroog.BandCamp.Com) – To be honest, NYC’s Droog has been on a winning streak since his debut in 2014, but with his musical output having noticeably increased since 2019 it would be hard for anyone to question both the work ethic and the talent. An artist who has always seemed simultaneously unimpressed and untouched by whatever else is happening in the Hip-Hop world, Droog continued to create in his own zone with this short-but-effective album. The unshakeable confidence and sly humour heard in YOD’s verses was matched here with production from the likes of 88 Keys, Sadhugold and Elaquent.
Uptown XO – “Culture Over Corporate Vol. III” (OneForceUnited.BandCamp.Com) – The third instalment of the Washington D.C. artist’s COC series, this album saw Uptown XO once again teaming-up with fellow Diamond District member Oddisee to deliver another stellar collection of intelligent, topical rhymes and soulful, neck-snapping beats.
Sean Boog – “It’s Midnight Somewhere: Sector 2” (SeanBoog.BandCamp.Com) – The female voice that guided us through A Tribe Called Quest’s classic third album told us that seven times out of ten, we listen to our music at night. With that in mind, this six-track EP from North Carolina’s Sean Boog appeared tailor-made for nocturnal head-nodding. Dallas-based producer Keelon Donnel’s laidback beats were the perfect match for Boog’s “smooth grown-up s**t” and life-affirming rhymes. This was the ideal soundtrack to throw on when the sun had set to help ease the stresses of the daily grind.
Nas – “Magic” (MassAppeal.Com) – A surprise release on Christmas Eve, as expected the third full-length collaboration from Nas and producer Hit-Boy caused chaos in the social media world over the festive season as heads responded to the album with a variety of opinions. Personally, I really liked it. Nothing on “Magic” sounded forced or overthought. The album had a great natural flow to it from beginning to end. Nas sounded inspired and motivated throughout, with Hit-Boy providing arguably the best production he’s supplied the Queensbridge legend with yet. A memorable way to close what was a great year for new Hip-Hop.
UFO Fev & Vanderslice ft. Flee Lord – “Crack Shifts” (CoalmineRecords.Com / 2021)
Bub Styles ft. UFO Fev – “Hunnid Thou” (@BubStyles / 2021)
UFO Fev – “Magnum Opus” (@UFOFev / 2021)
UFO Fev & Frank The Butcher – “Balance” / “Fever Business” (@UFOFev / 2021)
Back-to-back visuals from NY emcee UFO Fev’s new Frank The Butcher-produced EP “The Thrill”.
REKS – “T.H.I.N.G.S.” (GetOnDown.Com) – Massachusetts-based microphone fiend REKS has been one of the game’s most consistent emcees for the past twenty years. This impressive release contained more powerful poetry from the skilled lyricist, delving deep into both personal experience and commentary on the world around us, with production from the likes of Nottz, Statik Selektah and Apollo Brown adding further weight to the thought-provoking bars.
Him Lo – “SLAPYAGODDAMNFACEOFF” (GrilchyParty.BandCamp.Com) – One-half of Philadelphia’s mighty Buze Bruvaz, lyrical brawler Him Lo dropped yet another fine selection of rugged, politically-incorrect Hip-Hop, packed with rambunctious, head-cracking rhymes and tough beats. A blend of fresh material and older cuts, this project proved that Lo’s style is timeless like a new pair of wheat-coloured Timberlands.
Verb T & Illinformed – “The Land Of The Foggy Skies” (High-Focus.Com) – A worthy follow-up to their 2015 collaboration “The Man With The Foggy Eyes”, UK duo Verb T and Illinformed delivered the goods once again, pairing creative, contemplative rhymes with mesmerizingly melancholy, jazz-influenced beats. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Verb’s multi-layered verses deserve to be studied in schools as they’re pure poetry.
Boom Bap Babies – “We’ll Fly” (BoomBapBabies.BandCamp.Com) – Birmingham, Alabama-based producer / emcee duo RyNea Soul and Shaun Judah mixed uplifting beats with life-affirming rhymes to clear your third-eye vision and vibrate your soul. This was feel-good Hip-Hop with a mission and a message.
Tracey Lee – “Glory” (TraceyLeeMusic.Com) – Veteran Philly emcee Tracey Lee proved that he hadn’t missed a beat since the release of his excellent 1997 debut album, sounding motivated and full of vitality on this Ojizz-produced project, drawing lyrical inspiration from both past experiences and present-day situations. Reflecting on lockdown life during the pandemic, social divisions and daily struggles, Lee injected his rhymes with an energy and spirituality which ultimately gave this album a real sense of hope and optimism.
Roc Marciano – “Mt. Marci” (Fat Beats) – A decade after the release of his game-changing solo album “Marcberg”, Strong Island’s Roc Marciano demonstrated that this underground king’s crown was showing no signs of slipping, with this latest collection of cool-but-deadly cuts boasting plenty of the influential artist’s vivid, larger-than-life wordplay and unique production.
DRS x Redeyes – “Coloured” (MCDRS.BandCamp.Com) – Inspired by the senseless murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, Manchester’s DRS joined forces with French producer Redeyes to record seven tracks over seven days, dropping this powerful EP in July. Poignant and moving, this release was a world-weary work of art that questioned how racism and prejudice can still exist in a so-called ‘civilised’ society. Truly memorable music.
Rasheed Chappell & Buckwild – “Sinners and Saints” (GetOnDown.Com) – A brilliantly-matched partnership, this collabo album from New Jersey’s Rasheed Chappell and Diggin’ In The Crates legend Buckwild sounded like the work of an established duo. Observational, street-savvy rhymes met well-crafted, sample-based beats here, with the pair complimenting each other’s strengths and making some great music in the process.
Neak – “INNENSTADT” (Neak.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Neak offered an engaging, emotionally-charged look at the realities of inner-city living on this largely self-produced release. With assistance from the likes of Philmore Greene, Rashid Hadee and Slot-A, the talented artist painted poignant portraits of the Windy City with a lyrical style that was both subtle and striking.
Arrested Development – “Don’t Fight Your Demons” (OfficialArrestedDevelopment.BandCamp.Com) – Atlanta’s Grammy award-winning collective returned with a timely dose of edutainment, featuring Speech offering soul-stirring opinions on a number of topics, including racism, mental health and mainstream Hip-Hop. With input from UK producer Configa, this album was rooted in the original essence of the Arrested Development sound but with some well-placed contemporary twists.
UFO Fev & Big Ghost Ltd – “The Ghost Of Albizu” (GourmetDeluxxx.BandCamp.Com) – For his third release of the year, NY’s UFO Fev called on the formidable production skills of the mighty Big Ghost Ltd, with the pair crafting a vibrant example of underground brilliance. 2020 should definitely go down as the year Fev truly stamped his mark on the game, with the previous years of hard-work paying off and translating into a trio of projects that really hit the target.
Ka – “Descendants Of Cain” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – Brooklyn’s Ka is like a Hip-Hop monk who every now and then comes down from his mountaintop monastery to bestow wisdom and greatness upon his followers, before once again retreating to an existence of meditation and solitude. This latest effort was a haunting collection of intricately-crafted verses packed with streetwise rhymes laced with tragedy, struggle and triumph. The time and hardwork Ka puts into his music is obvious, yet the end results appear effortless.
Benny The Butcher – “Burden Of Proof” (BennyTheButcherStore.Com) – When Griselda’s Butcher said on this album that 2019 was about branding but 2020 was about expanding, he wasn’t joking. The Buffalo trio of Westside Gunn, Conway and Benny had an incredible year, with the Hit Boy-produced “Burden Of Proof” arguably standing as the crew’s strongest release during that period. Benny’s swaggering, voice-of-experience rhymes highlighted both sides of the street game with sincerity, whilst Hit Boy’s production exceeded all expectations. The Butcher coming!
Breis – “Arise & Shine” (MrBreis.Com) – This EP from veteran London-based lyricist Breis was all about positive, uplifting vibes whilst still acknowledging real-life issues and personal struggles. Utilising a diverse selection of production styles from the likes of Keith Lawrence and Artcha, the lively emcee delivered the messages in his music with flair and originality.
Bub Styles x Ace Fayce – “Very Sucio, Muy Picante” (BubStylesBK.BandCamp.Com) – This album from NYC’s Bub Styles sounded like a late-night walk through the streets of Brooklyn to buy blunts from that store that’s always open and always has a crew of Polo-wearing hard-rocks posted up outside. Rough, rugged and raw, the gravel-voiced Styles pummelled Fayce’s moody production here, with the likes of Estee Nack, UFO Fev and Rome Streetz offering lyrical assistance.
Supreme Cerebral x D.Mar – “Soul Trained” (BugzyNino17.BandCamp.Com) – West Coast wordsmith Supreme Cerebral took aim at fellow Cali representative D.Mar’s vintage soul loops and unleashed a barrage of lyrical darts on this well-crafted album. Lush strings, emotionally-charged vocal samples and mellow vibes provided the perfect accompaniment to Cerebral’s razor-sharp delivery.
Untouchable$ – “Untouchable$” (NowaahTheFlood7.BandCamp.Com) – A potent collaboration between underground heavyweights Nowaah The Flood, Ca$ablanca, Kincee and Jay Holly, this Untouchable$ project was the sound of four skilled emcees building off the energy of one another and elevating their skills to even greater heights in the process. Featuring production from the likes of B-Sun, Kurse and Karnate, this project was a sonic monument to the art of lyricism.
LEX & Buck – “Let Go!” (LEXNYRE.BandCamp.Com) – A true student of the game, Queens, NY’s LEX returned with yet another quality project, this time produced by Cali-raised, New York-based music man Buck. LEX’s combination of relatable rhymes and streetwise bravado always makes you feel like you’re listening to one of your boys who’s passed through to kick it for a few, and the tone of this release was no different.
Revenge Of The Truence & Jack Diggs – “Midnight Run” (JackDiggs.BandCamp.Com) – Known for his crate-digging expertise, the UK’s Jack Diggs blessed NYC’s Revenge Of The Truence with an impeccable selection of atmospheric, late-night loops and head-nodding drums on this brilliant release. 2020 was a busy year for MuGGz and Tay Dayne, with the Harlem duo dropping a number of projects. But this gem definitely stood-out as one of their best.
eMCee Killa & Think – “Foreign Ties” (eMCeeKillaHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – No stranger to topical, hard-hitting lyricism, both in his work as a member of UK crew Caxton Press and his solo material, this album from London’s eMCee Killa provided more of the same, with Canadian producer Think supplying some uncompromisingly hardcore beats to bolster the fiery rhymes found here.
Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas – “Vangarde” (FBDistribution.BandCamp.Com) – A sonic response to the “new world adjustments” we were all dealing with throughout 2020, this album from Boston partnership Mr. Lif and Stu Bangas was sharp, urgent and intelligent. Covering topics such as the pandemic, police brutality, politics and social unrest, the duo delivered inspired commentary on the events of the year, providing a soundtrack to the struggles faced by many. Music to strive by.
Es x Pandamonium – “The Connected EP” (EsxPanda.BandCamp.Com) – It doesn’t seem that long ago that the idea of music being made via the internet by individuals on opposite sides of the globe was considered ground-breaking and revolutionary. Nowadays it’s standard practice. But that doesn’t make the results of such collaborations any less impressive. This EP found Canada’s ever-consistent Es building musical bridges with the UK’s DJ Pandamonium, resulting in a vibrant EP full of thoughtful lyricism and accomplished production.
J-Live – “Drawn Up” (RealJLive.BandCamp.Com) – Delivering quality Hip-Hop since 1995, this EP from underground favourite J-Live proved the past twenty-five years have only refined his musical talents, with this self-produced release featuring plenty of the punchy, insightful lyricism and true-school attitude that have become his trademark since those early indie releases.
Mark Ski – “Catch-REC” (FunkByFunk.BandCamp.Com) – UK producer Mark Ski called on a transatlantic team of talented emcees to help put together this debut album, with the likes of Blame One, Booda French and J57 all stepping up and delivering the lyrical goods, complimented by knocking drums, smartly-selected samples and deft cuts.
Skyzoo – “Milestones” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – This brilliant concept-based EP found Brooklyn’s Skyzoo celebrating, analysing and embracing fatherhood, drawing inspiration from both the birth of his son Miles and memories of his own adolescence. The NY emcee’s talent for being able to communicate so much in just a couple of lines came into its own here, as Skyzoo joined the dots between his relationship with his own father and how that helped shape the person he is today. An inspired piece of work.
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – “Alfredo” (ALCRecords.Com) – Having already got two full-length albums with legendary producer Madlib under his belt, Gary, Indiana’s Hip-Hop champ Freddie Gibbs upped the ante on this latest project, joining forces with another studio giant, The Alchemist. Casually draping his street-orientated verses over the subtle, understated excellence of Al’s work behind-the-boards, Gibbs further secured his spot as one of the rap game’s go-to artists.
Aye Wun – “Gutta Wit Da Smoov” (AyeWun1.BandCamp.Com) – This project from Queens, NY’s Aye Wun definitely livesd up to its title, with the Rotten Apple rhymer blending raw wordplay with largely laidback, melodic production from the likes of Matt Kuartz, Milano Constantine and The Kurse.
Westside Gunn – “Pray For Paris” (WestsideGunn.Com) – 2020 was a big year for the Griselda camp, with multiple releases from the Buffalo-based crew landing with maximum impact. Of the three full-length efforts from WSG, “Pray For Paris” was the one that worked best for me as a cohesive body of work, with production from the likes of DJ Muggs, Daringer and Camouflage Monk setting a sonic tone for the project that fully complimented Gunn’s distinctive voice and unique delivery.
UFO Fev & Termanology – “From El Barrio, With Love” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com) – The second of three brilliant 2020 releases from East Harlem’s UFO Fev, this seven-track EP found the NY artist calling on the production talents of Termanology, who came through with a quality batch of captivating musical gems. Rhyming with the attitude of an emcee fully aware of his own greatness who wasn’t prepared to wait for the rest of the world to catch up, Fev further proved himself to be an essential figure in the Rotten Apple underground.
Big Kahuna OG & Monday Night – “Thug Tear” (SchemeTeamAllStars.BandCamp.Com) – With production on this album split between Unlucky Bastards and Graymatter, Richmond rhymers Big Kahuna OG and Monday Night utilised the soulfully mellow tracks on offer here to wax lyrical about their daily operations in a pre-pandemic Virginia.
Juga-Naut & Micall Parknsun – “Twelve Bricks” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Using their 2017 “Six Bricks” EP as the sturdy foundations for this full-length collaboration, Nottingham’s Juga-Naut and London’s Micall Parknsun once again proved themselves to be master builders of quality Hip-Hop. A brilliantly matched partnership, this album really felt like a genuine joint effort, with the end result ensuring there would definitely be an appetite from fans to hear the pair working together again in the future.
Sa-Roc – “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” (Sa-Roc.Com) – A lyrical force of nature, Washington DC-born, Atlanta-based artist Sa-Roc delivered arguably the best album of her career so far with this largely Sol Messiah-produced release. Packed full of verses that demanded to be listened to, studied, processed, then rewound and listened to again, “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” was a masterclass in emceeing. When Sa-Roc says on “Hand Of God”, “I’m tryna leave a Hip-Hop classic”, that was clearly a mission statement and not just an empty promise.
Blimes and Gab – “Talk About It” (BlimesAndGab.Com) – This thoroughly entertaining debut from San Francisco / Seattle duo Blimes Brixton and Gifted Gab was the sound of two experienced artists completely in control of their creativity coming together to make a bold statement through music. Drawing on an eclectic selection of sonic influences, the pair’s larger-than-life personalities ultimately held this album together, with their infectious blend of lyrical expertise, sassy wit and humour endearing them to listeners and making the pair feel like old friends.
The Cornel West Theory – “By The Time I Get To Minnesota” (TheCornelWestTheory.BandCamp.Com) – No strangers to making thought-provoking, outspoken Hip-Hop, Washington DC’s The Cornel West Theory responded to the events of 2020 with urgency on this release, confronting white supremacy, police brutality and political corruption throughout the EP in no uncertain terms.
Black Thought – “Streams Of Thought Vol. 3: Cane & Abel” (RepublicRecords.Com) – At this stage, Black Thought’s position as one of the greatest emcees of all-time should really be unquestionable. This was the opinion of many long before the infamous Funkmaster Flex freestyle, but that breath-taking performance definitely opened more eyes and ears to the Philly legend’s incredible talent, which has also coincided with an increase in Thought’s musical output. This third (largely Sean C-produced) volume of the “Streams Of Thought” series was another lyrical tour de force from one of Illadelph’s finest, bombarding listeners brain-cells with a barrage of powerful verses.
Agallah & Sadat X – “The Gods Have Arrived” (Agallah.BandCamp.Com) – Celebrating a friendship that began in the early-90s as well as a time in Hip-Hop when skills and reputation meant everything, Rotten Apple veterans Agallah and Sadat X decided it was time to build and put together this collaborative release, delivering Five Percent-inspired knowledge whilst handing out lyrical speed-knots to non-believers. New York straight talk in full effect.
Shaolin Drunk – “Raw Feeling” (HeavyDrums.BandCamp.Com) – Echoing horns, melodic vibes and dusty beats could be found in abundance on this release from Brazil-based producer Shaolin Drunk. Sounding like a lost collection of instrumentals off the best 90s underground singles you’ve never heard, Drunk not only captured the style of that period but also injected his music with feeling and soul, two qualities that can sometimes be missing when present day producers attempt to pay homage to the generation of golden-era music makers that influenced them.
Knowledge The Pirate – “Family Jewels” (TuffKongRecords.BandCamp.Com) – The illustrious Pirate set sail on his third full-length collection of street-related stories, all delivered in his trademark been-there-done-that-you-don’t-impress-me tone and matched with the subtle sonic drama of producers E.L.E.M.N.T and Cuns. A master of creating mood in his music, Knowledge’s latest was full of vivid, cinematic crime-side rhymes that turned your third-eye towards a shadowy world of risk and suspense.
Wish Master – “The BULL (The Best Underrated Living Legend” (WishMaster.BandCamp.Com) – The Bristol-based emcee approached his third release with “more than hunger” as he blessed beats from Ral Duke, Chimera and Van Dam with autobiographical, word-weary rhymes laced with life lessons. A captivating, accomplished collection of beats and rhymes.
Kadeem – “Passing Exchange” (ItsKadeem.BandCamp.Com) – Heavy-mental wordplay from the Boston lyricist could be found here, accompanied by smooth, understated production from No.Pulp, USeeIt, Jeff Alan Gore and more. This five-track EP may have been short in length, but Kadeem definitely put the time to good use, skilfully finding seats for listeners on his train of thought, piquing our interest and ensuring heads would be waiting to join him on his next musical journey.
Part Four coming soon.
Check Part One here.
The Professionals – “The Professionals” (RappCats.Com) – Keeping it in the family, brothers Madlib and Oh No played to their strengths on this quality collaborative album, combining bravado-filled rhymes with soul / funk samples and random dialogue snippets to create an unpredictable listening experience. Benefiting from sounding like a spontaneous, basement-style jam session, this album fully demonstrated why the West Coast pair have long been considered cult figures within underground Hip-Hop circles.
GodBody Science – “The Dwayne Wayne Story” (GodBodyScience.BandCamp.Com) – Atlanta-based producer-on-the-mic GodBody Science ensured he stood out from the crowd with this five-track EP, mixing a slick, nimble flow with personality-fuelled rhymes, catchy hooks and captivating soundscapes.
Rome Streetz – “Noise Kandy 4” (RomeStreetz.BandCamp.Com) – One of the most engaging voices to have emerged from the New York rap scene in recent years, Rome Streetz’ confident, sidewalk-savvy rhymes possess an arrogant charm and enthusiastic energy that lifts him above many of his contemporaries. Plus, he has a great ear for quality production, as evidenced here by his musical choices from Chronic Tone, Sebb Bash, DJ Skizz etc.
Trauma 74 – “Acceptable Citizens” (EvilTwinRecords.BandCamp.Com) – UK emcee Trauma 74 followed-up his 2017 debut “The God Given Image” with this largely self-produced collection of personal, direct lyricism covering a variety of topics. Offering thoughtful observations on the world around us, whilst avoiding coming across as preachy or self-righteous, Trauma once again proved himself to be a necessary voice in the British rap game.
Jorun Bombay & Phill Most Chill – “Jorun PMC” (PhillMostChill.BandCamp.Com) – Skilfully paying homage to the sounds, styles and flavours of 80s Hip-Hop, the creative chemistry captured here between Canadian producer Jorun Bombay and veteran Philly emcee Phill Most Chill was a joy to listen to. The pair’s shared passion for the culture of Hip-Hop could clearly be felt and heard throughout this album, with the end result evoking strong feelings of nostalgia whilst still sounding current and vibrant.
Buckwild – “Music Is My Religion” (DITCBuckwild.BandCamp.Com) – Having produced numerous classics over the years for the likes of O.C., Big L and Organized Konfusion, Buckwild’s place in the Hip-Hop history books is set in stone. Yet obviously not wanting to simply rest on his laurels, the legendary producer had a busy 2020, delivering instrumental projects, compilation albums and full-length collaborations. This particular release featured some of Buckwild’s finest work of the year, with artists such as Ransom, Milano and Smif-N-Wessun all benefitting from the Bronx representative’s dusty-fingered production skills.
UFO Fev & Statik Selektah – “Fresh Air” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com) – 2020 was definitely a strong year for UFO Fev, with the talented East Harlem emcee dropping three notable releases, the first being this stellar collaboration with the mighty Statik Selektah. Fev’s streetwise verses were expertly complimented by Statik’s smooth production, resulting in an album that was full of character and, most importantly, good music.
TrueMendous – “HUH?” (HighFocus.BandCamp.Com) – You could hear the glee in the voice of Birmingham’s TrueMendous as she played with words and flows throughout this EP for the UK’s High Focus label. A naturally gifted artist who has worked hard in recent years to build a loyal fanbase, this release was an opportunity for TrueMendous to introduce her unique brand of lyricism to new supporters. Backed by a diverse selection of beats from the likes of Chemo, Pitch 92 and Winchester, TrueMendous put her stamp on every single track in no uncertain terms, fully demonstrating her power as an emcee.
Roving Jewel – “The 38th Expansion” (RovingJewel.BandCamp.Com) – Cali producer Roving Jewel’s expertly crafted instrumentals were blessed here by the likes of Smif-N-Wessun’s Tek, Casual and Killah Priest, resulting in an album that moved between straight-forward head-nodders and subtly-layered cuts, avoiding the tried-and-tested boom-bap-by-numbers approach that pulls some producer-based projects into mediocre territory.
Blu & Exile – “Miles” (TheDirtyScience.Com) – In the spirit of great duos such as Pete Rock & CL Smooth and Gang Starr, Blu and Exile have always simply sounded like they were meant to make music together. The pair’s 2007 album “Below The Heavens” quite rightly became a cult classic, with this latest ambitious, twenty-track release proving the duo’s musical partnership remains as finely-tuned as ever. Exile’s meticulous, jazz-influenced production perfectly matched Blu’s philosophical, life-affirming rhymes here, making for an expansive body of work with both depth and purpose.
Gee Bag x Illinformed – “Respect Ya Elders!” (RevorgRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Packed full of personality, this release from UK emcee Gee Bag found the witty wordsmith joining forces with talented producer Illinformed to craft a well-rounded collection of tracks fully showcasing his lyrical potential, mixing moments of humour, personal reflection and social commentary with quality beats.
Skunkz – “Skunkz FT Skunkz” (Skunkz.BandCamp.Com) – Boston’s Skunkz fired sharp lyrical darts across a well-chosen selection of self-produced loops on this straight-to-the-point EP, rhyming with the confidence and attitude of an emcee who had just shoulder-barged his way into a street-corner cipher with no intention of showing the competition any respect whatsoever.
Universal Seedz – “Rise Up” (UniversalSeedz.BandCamp.Com) – Combining elements of jazz, soul, spoken word and Hip-Hop, this EP from Austin, Texas collective Universal Seedz offered a bright, organic explosion of good grooves and uplifting positivity.
Mecca:83 – “NinetyFour” (SolarSoundSystem.BandCamp.Com) – Manchester-based producer Mecca:83 paid homage to the classic 90s boom-bap sound with this masterful collection of head-nodding drums, echoing horns and melodic flavour.
Funky DL – “Twenty” (FunkyDL.BandCamp.Com) – Twenty-three years after the release of his 1997 debut album “Classic Was The Day”, UK producer-on-the-mic Funky DL celebrated his prolific career by delivering his twentieth full-length project, a polished mix of sample-based beats and live instrumentation grounded in the East London artist’s trademark jazz-influenced sound, with a few well-executed musical twists thrown in for good measure.
Estee Nack & Superior – “Baladas” (BelowSystem.Com) – Tragic Allies emcee Estee Nack teamed-up with German producer Superior for this sublime slice of underground excellence, the latest in a steady stream of releases which have seen the Massachusetts-based lyricist’s rep grow ever bigger, thanks to his consistent work ethic and top-tier pen game.
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh – “Trust The Chain” (AirVinyls.BandCamp.Com) – Enlisting the production talents of Rochester, NY’s 38 Spesh for this particular release, veteran West Coast wordsmith Planet Asia provided further proof of why he deserves to be mentioned in GOAT conversations, lacing Spesh’s accomplished studio work with his inimitable brand of street science and Five Percent-influenced rhymes.
Cyrus Malachi – “The Blind Watchmaker” (RevorgRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Over the years, London’s Cyrus Malachi has made a name for himself as a purveyor of descriptive, heavy-mental wordplay. From his work as a founding member of Triple Darkness to his solo endeavours, the gruff-voiced emcee has consistently delivered intricate rhymes which take your mind in multiple directions, from ancient pyramids to inner-city pavements. This DJ Drinks / Evil Ed-produced album was no different, as Cyrus weaved gripping lyricism around stripped-down beats with an authority that demanded the listener’s attention.
Big Ghost LTD – “Carpe Noctem” (BigGhostLimited.BandCamp.Com) – Assembling on some Hip-Hop Avengers ish, producer Big Ghost LTD pulled together a formidable crew of dope emcees to lace his supreme beats for this impressive collection of raw posse cuts. Underground favourites such as Recognize Ali, Crimeapple and Asun Eastwood all proved that steel sharpens steel, with no artist featured here wanting to be outdone and everyone bringing their best to the table.
Bloo & Spanish Ran – “MF BLOO” (SpanishRan1.BandCamp.Com) – To anyone confused by this album’s title and cover art, “MF BLOO” most definitely was NOT the work of an overenthusiastic soundalike or a second-rate mixtape-style project. Whilst obviously meant as a nod of respect to enigmatic (and sadly recently deceased) rap figure MF DOOM, Bronx emcee / producer duo Bloo and Spanish Ran weren’t hiding behind anyone else’s mask on this release, saving the day with quality music in their own super-rhyme adventures.
Check Part Three here.
Dom Dirtee ft. Nems, Termanology & UFO Fev – “No Celebs” (@DuckDownMusic / 2020)
Rowdy posse cut from the Brooklyn-based producer’s aptly-titled album “The Hardcore Composer”.
UFO Fev & Big Ghost Ltd ft. Red Inf – “DXNGXR” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com / 2020)
Taken from the album “The Ghost Of Albizu”.
UFO Fev & Big Ghost LTD ft. Nems – “Boxcutter Jiu Jitsu” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com / 2020)
Rotten Apple razor rap from Fev’s forthcoming Big Ghost LTD-produced album “The Ghost Of Albizu”.
UFO Fev & Termanology – “Diamantes” (@UFOFev / @TermanologyST / 2020)
Top-tier lyricism off the NY emcee’s Termanology-produced project “From El Barrio, With Love”.