Westside Gunn – “FLYGOD” (Griselda Records) – Having spent recent years steadily building a reputation as one of the underground Hip-Hop scene’s most promising talents, 2016 saw Buffalo, NY emcee Westside Gunn solidify his position as a go-to-artist for that gritty-yet-understated street ish, packing the heavily-anticipated “FLYGOD” with densely-woven verses of verbal violence delivered in his signature vocal tone.
Jigmastas – “Resurgence” (BBE Records) – Revisiting the creative chemistry that made their string of 90s singles immediate underground classics, Brooklyn duo DJ Spinna and Kriminul effectively showcased their trademartrue-school sound on this solid collection of beats and rhymes.
Enlish – “Slumdog Hundredaire” (Enlish.BandCamp.Com) – Packed with cocky bravado, politically-incorrect punchlines and moments of personal honesty, this thoroughly-entertaining album found UK emcee Enlish stomping all over the competition in his own inimitable fashion.
De La Soul – “and the Anonymous Nobody…” (A.O.I. Records) – Following a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Strong Island legends Plugs One, Two and Three returned with this highly-anticipated album, a project which masterfully balanced the group’s ambitious creativity with their golden-era roots.
DJ Rude One – “ONEderful” (Closed Sessions) – Chicago-raised, NY-based producer Rude One tapped the likes of Conway, Your Old Droog and Roc Marciano to lace his moody, atmospheric lo-fi beats with their respective brands of street-savvy wordplay, resulting in an album that was undeniably raw to the core.
Da Flyy Hooligan – “Ray Winstone” (Gourmet Deluxxx) – Formerly known as Iron Braydz, London’s Da Flyy Hooligan served up a hefty helping of “gourmet rap” in the form of this nine-track release, displaying razor-sharp microphone techniques and a strong sense of individuality over production from Micall Parknsun, Beat Butcha, Ded Tebiase and more.
Jakk Frost – “The Beard Awakens” (BeardGangClikk.Com) – Whilst technically a ‘mixtape’, this project from Philly’s Jakk Frost was so dope it had to be included here. Featuring the Illadelph emcee getting busy over self-produced loops of classic material from the likes of Donald Byrd, Keni Burke and Ronnie Laws, “The Beard Awakens” was a captivating blend of street smarts, raw humour and genuine lyrical skill. The beard is still in the building!
Benny Diction & Blue Buttonz – “Button Up” (BoomBapPro.Com) – Backed by the soulful boom-bap of South African producer Blue Buttonz, Benny Diction one again proved himself to be one of UK Hip-Hop’s most consistent emcees throughout this album, delivering relatable rhymes in his usual down-to-earth style with memorable results.
Agallah – “Bo: The Legend Of The Water Dragon” (Propain Campaign) – The Rotten Apple-raised producer-on-the-mic was joined by the likes of Hus Kingpin, Planet Asia and the late Sean Price on this expertly-executed collection of hardcore jewels.
Classic Material – “Classic Material” (ClassicMat.BandCamp.Com) – Meticulously-crafted, sample-driven true-school flavour from UK producer Ill Treats alongside Soundsci members Oxygen and Audessey (with the project also featuring liner notes from yours truly).
Booda French – “Awesome Is Everyday” (BoodaFrench.BandCamp.Com) – Produced by Brown Bag Allstars member J57, Jimmy Green and Apatight, this EP from UK emcee Booda French was arguably the artist’s best work-to-date, with his unique delivery and likeable, somewhat world-weary personality meshing effortlessly with the quality beats on offer here.
Apathy – “Handshakes With Snakes” (Dirty Version Records) – A strong addition to an already rock-solid discography, the latest long-player from Connecticut’s Apathy found the Demigodz member delivering his usual high-standard of rhymes over polished self-produced beats, with the likes of Ras Kass, O.C. and Spit Gemz offering worthwhile lyrical assistance along the way.
Babylon Warchild – “War Journals” (BabylonWarchild.Com) – Known for their politically-charged, uncompromising Hip-Hop, Canada’s Babylon Warchild crew offered more of the same on their latest effort, crafting a fitting soundtrack for the everyday struggle faced by many in an increasingly volatile world.
MindsOne & DJ Iron – “Phaseology” (IllAdrenaline.Com) – New Jersey’s Ill Adrenaline Records added to the label’s ever-growing catalogue of quality releases with the brilliant “Phaseology”, a sublime, understated blend of intelligent, personal lyricism from Tronic and KON Sci with top-notch production courtesy of Belgium’s DJ Iron.
AG Da Coroner – “Sip The Nectar” (Man Bites Dog Records) – Personifying the term ‘New York straight talk’, Rotten Apple emcee AG Da Coroner’s long-awaited debut album didn’t disappoint, with its gruff rhymes and drama-fuelled beats carrying on tradition and proudly flying the flag for East Coast Hip-Hop.
Kyza Sayso – “Miverione: Vol. 1” (KyzaSayso.BandCamp.Com) – London lyricist and former Terra Firma member Kyza made a welcome return to the mic with a potent mix of vivid street-related rhymes and competition-crushing barbs, proving once again why he’s long been considered one of the nicest emcees to have emerged from the UK Hip-Hop scene.
Airklipz – “Single Speed” (Airklipz.BandCamp.Com) – The UK emcee delivered vivid, captivating verses over a varied selection of soundscapes from producers such as Session 600, Jimmy Screech and Illternal Beats on this project, mixing both traditional and contemporary Hip-Hop flavours throughout.
SmooVth – “SS96J” (Fat Beats) – The Strong Island representative definitely lived up to his name on this impressive release, which found the talented emcee weaving intricate narratives around mellow, melodic production, accompanied by the likes of Hus Kingpin, Milano Constantine and Sage Infinite.
Big Toast & Sofa King – “Save Yourself Kill Them All” (RevorgRecords.BandCamp.Com) – UK flavour from the always-reliable Revorg Records camp, which featured producer Sofa King and emcee Big Toast delivering seven tracks of rough, rugged and raw homegrown Hip-Hop with a socially-aware edge.
Estee Nack & al.divino – “Triple Black Diamonds” (TragicAllies.Com) – Dropping just before the end of the year, Tragic Allies member Estee Nack and fellow Massachusetts microphone fiend al.divino joined forces for this ice-cold collection of winter mood music, with the pair proving to be a formidable partnership as they spat rewind-worthy darts over laidback, and at times melancholy, production.