Tag Archives: West Coast Hip-Hop

New Joint – Ras Kass / Eric Jaye

Ras Kass ft. Eric Jaye – “MLK Day” (@RasKass / 2022)

The West Coast emcee offers some timely social commentary on this Trackz 100-produced track from the forthcoming “Black Steel” compilation.

New Joint – Blu

Blu – “People Call Me Blu(e)” (NatureSoundsMusic.Com / 2022)

Quelle Chris supplies the animation to accompany this Exile-produced track from West Coast emcee Blu’s latest album “The Color Blu(e)”.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Five) – Verb T & Illinformed / Little Simz / Nas etc.

Final part of my 2021 wrap-up – check Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

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.

New Joint – Dregs One & Ill-Sugi

Dregs One & Ill-Sugi – “It’s All Game” (DregsOne.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Veteran Bay Area emcee Dregs One and Japan’s Ill-Sugi have teamed-up once again for a dope new single packed with dusty samples and lyricism full of character.

New Joint – DJ Muggs x Rigz / Mooch

DJ Muggs x Rigz ft. Mooch – “Where Ya Soul At” (SoulAssassins.Com / 2022)

Taken from the album “Gold”.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Four) – John Robinson / Backwood Sweetie / Vandal Savage etc.

Check Part One, Part Two & Part Three.

Jyroscope & Montana Macks – “Happy Medium” (Jyroscope.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s I.B. Fokuz and Collasoul Structure worked their way through the stresses of daily life on this therapeutic release. Job. Family. Relationships. Social injustice. Health. Finances. Anxiety. Frustration. Doubt. The rhyming duo completely opened up over the five tracks on offer here, giving listeners full access to their personal (and extremely relatable) thoughts. The jazzy, easy-going production supplied by Montana Macks gave the EP a soothing, relaxed vibe, ensuring Jyroscope’s verses had plenty of room to breathe. Easy does it, do it easy.

J Littles & Claude Money – “Godbody Tapestry” (KJamm-BFR.BandCamp.Com) – This blend of cool-but-deadly rhymes and soulful rare groove loops from Nottingham duo J Littles and Claude Money was a supreme display of smoothed-out musical arrogance laced with lyrical gems from two individuals who were clearly meant to build together. Best listened to whilst sat comfortably on a butter-soft leather sofa, blowing smoke, wearing a velour robe and a pair of box-fresh Air Max. Exquisite.

John Robinson – “King JR” (JohnRobinson.BandCamp.Com) – Sounding as fresh and enthusiastic in 2021 as he did when debuting as a member of Scienz Of Life back in the mid-90s, NY-raised emcee John Robinson called on the production talents of West Coast favourite Blu for this stimulating collection of thoughtful wordplay and dynamic beats. Music with substance.

Shortie No Mass – “here goes nothing.” (ShortieNoMass.BandCamp.Com) – Having first made a name for herself in the 90s working with the likes of De La Soul and The Roots, Boston-born, Philly-based artist Shortie No Mass made a welcome return to the mic after a long hiatus and sounded like she’d never been away. Her lively, infectious flow and straight-to-the-point rhymes sat comfortably here over production from Da Beatminerz, J-Zone and Shortie’s son Jay Law.

DJ Cosm – “Natural Within” (MakeBelieveHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – DJ Cosm of Canada’s Dragon Fli Empire pulled together a varied selection of underground talent for this follow-up to his 2011 release “Time And Space”, with Brand Nubian’s Sadat X, Brown Bag Money’s Daniel Son and Bankai Fam’s Skanks The Rap Martyr all making stellar appearances.

Al-J & Kane Major – “Blak To The Old School” (KaneMajor.BandCamp.Com) – Boston emcee Al-J (of Blak Madeen) painted vivid lyrical pictures of his experiences growing up in the 80s on this Kane Major-produced album. Covering everything from watching Saturday morning cartoons and first hearing Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five to navigating his way through the crack era, Al-J’s personal memories were further brought to life by the authentic electro-influenced sounds of Major’s production. A sonic blast of back to the future flavour.

Dagha – “D-A To The G” (Dagha.BandCamp.Com) – With this being his first release since 2014, it was apparent even before the end of the first track that Boston’s Dagha was intending on making-up for lost time with this album. No distractions. No gimmicks. “D-A To The G” was all about skills. Dagha tore through the beats of collaborator DJ Real with his confident delivery and clever wordplay, keeping it funky throughout with flows for days.

The Good People – “The Greater Good” (TheGoodPeople.BandCamp.Com) – Longstanding NY duo Emskee and Saint came correct with yet another collection of quality true-school beats and rhymes, offering lyrical food for thought and warm, melodic production throughout. Joined by the likes of Lords Of The Underground, Craig G and Shabaam Sahdeeq, “The Greater Good” was the sound of artists really doing it for the culture.

Apollo Brown & Stalley – “Blacklight” (ApolloBrown360.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit producer Apollo Brown has built a career on bringing the best out of the emcees he chooses to collaborate with. From Boog Brown and OC to Skyzoo and Che Noir, Apollo’s brand of soulful boom-bap has inspired some brilliant performances from a variety of lyricists. “Blacklight” continued that trend. Formerly signed to Rick Ross’s Maybach Music label, Ohio’s Stalley sounded totally at home over Brown’s mellow thump, spitting down-to-earth, street-smart verses that stayed with you long after the music stopped.

Wish Master x Illinformed – “Cold Harbour Tales” (WishMaster.BandCamp.Com) – Bristol’s Wish Master has consistently sharpened his skills with each release he’s dropped over the last few years. This full-length collaboration with producer Illinformed saw Wish Master finding an ideal musical partner, with crisp beats and atmospherics samples providing the perfect backdrop for the UK lyricist’s raw wit and life lessons.

Breeze Brewin – “Hindsight” (Juggaknots.BandCamp.Com) – Some people are just born to rhyme. It’s as simple as that. NYC’s Breeze Brewin is one such individual. Twenty-five years after debuting as a member of The Juggaknots with a cult classic release on Bobbito’s Fondle ‘Em label, Breeze proved that his underground legend status is still firmly intact with the release of this brilliant album. Backed by production from the likes of Sebb Bash, Marco Polo and DJ Spinna, the BX emcee covered a lot of lyrical ground here, delivering every verse with charisma, skill and originality.

Planet Asia x Evidence – “Rule Of Thirds” (BiggerPictureRecordings.Com) – West Coast giants Planet Asia and Evidence had worked together before this release earlier in their respective careers. But to hear the pair come together in 2021 having long established themselves as two of the most consistent artists the game has seen was a beautiful thing. Asia’s effortlessly dope flow swaggered over the stripped-down production supplied by Evidence, lyrically blending the fly and the righteous as always, with Domo Genesis, Milano Constantine and Rome Streetz offering verbal support.

Ea$y Money x Nozs – “2090” (STDaSquad.BandCamp.Com) – 2021 was a productive year for Massachusetts-based microphone fiend Ea$y Money, with his name gracing the cover of a handful of projects during the twelve month period. Whilst quality control was high on all of those releases, this six-track EP with New England producer Nozs was the standout for me. Street-smart rhymes were paired here with boom-bap beats that were full of character, resulting in a memorable, concise release. Also, props to Ea$y Money for the respectful nod to the great Grand Puba with the EP’s cover art.

Backwood Sweetie – “Christina Shauntay” (BackwoodSweetie.BandCamp.Com) – As a fan of Hip-Hop there’s nothing better than the moment you hear an artist for the first time whose talent immediately captures your attention and has you sitting with your ear pressed against the speaker hanging off every word being said. In 2021, Maryland’s Backwood Sweetie was one of those artists. Rhyming with passion and purpose over a well-chosen selection of beats from a variety of producers, Sweetie had a lot to say as she touched on a number of topics, including Black pride, white supremacy, police brutality and social injustice. Urgent, thought-provoking Hip-Hop.

Beneficence & Confidence – “Stellar Mind” (IllAdrenalineRecords.Com) – A no-nonsense collection of heavyweight head-nodding Hip-Hop, New Jersey’s Beneficence and Boston’s Confidence made a great team here, celebrating the essence of golden-era beats and rhymes whilst injecting their own personalities into the music. A long line of guest artists also complimented the album’s true-school vibe, including El Da Sensei, Craig G and Chubb Rock.

Ka – “A Martyr’s Reward” (BrownsvilleKa.Com) – At this point, highlighting Ka’s incredible lyrical ability just feels like stating the obvious. The Brooklyn emcee is a truly unique artist and for some time his only real competition has been himself, with each of his releases setting the bar even higher for what we can expect to come from his pen. The largely self-produced “A Martyr’s Reward” was another deep dive into Ka’s life experiences, his thoughts, his hopes and his regrets. This was the work of a genuine poet containing pain and peace in equal measures.

Kaimbr & Sean Born – “Nino Green” (NinoGreen7.BandCamp.Com) – A potent mixture of vividly raw rhymes laced with street-smart swagger and intoxicating production full of uncut vintage soul flavour, this “New Jack City”-influenced collaboration from longstanding Maryland artists Kaimbr and Sean Born was as fly as a 1988 Dapper Dan sweatsuit with a matching Kangol. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. I. Am.

Heist Life – “Heist New York” (HeistLife.BandCamp.Com) – Ty Da Dale, Sauce Heist and Baby Maine repped for the Rotten Apple with pride on this short-but-effective EP, evoking images of rattling subway trains, street-corner ciphers and scuffed Timberlands over production from Spanish Ran, Nes and Wavy Da Ghawd.

Vandal Savage & Sonnyjim – “Sauvage” (IAmVandalSavage.BandCamp.Com) – Nottingham’s very own Bic Master Vandal Savage leaned heavily into the luxury loops supplied by Sonnyjim throughout this release, with his conversational delivery overflowing with lyrical jewels, life observations and witty punchlines. With appearances from Da Flyy Hooligan, Juga-Naut and Sonnyjim himself adding further verbal weight to the project. “Sauvage” was a laidback lesson in how to craft understated hardcore Hip-Hop.

N.R.F.S. – “N.R.F.S.” (NRFS.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago’s Neak, Rashid Hadee, F.A.B.L.E. and Since9ine6ix joined forces on this impressive collabo album as “uncrowned kings on the underground sharing thrones”, with all four artists bringing their best to the table, complimenting each other’s styles and putting together a potent showcase of undeniable Windy City talent.

Check Part Five here.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Three) – Evidence / Children Of Zeus / Arrested Development etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Ca$ablanca x The Mali Empire – “Xtreme Xcellence” (Casablanca92fs.BandCamp.Com) – Dallas, Texas-based emcee Ca$ablanca has been dropping gems for a number of years now, but this Mali Empire-produced album may just have been his finest moment yet. Featuring the likes of Ray Vendetta, YNX716 and Nowaah The Flood, “Xtreme Xcellence” was packed with hard-hitting, precise lyricism delivered over a sublime selection of sample-driven tracks.

AZ – “Doe Or Die II” (QuietMoneyDirect.Com) – The idea of the ‘sequel album’ has become something of a cliché amongst golden-era rap artists. Some have seen the light of day. Some have remained unexecuted concepts destined only to be repeatedly mentioned during interviews. Some have succeeded. Some have failed. Thankfully, Brooklyn’s ever-consistent AZ managed to live up to the hype surrounding this follow-up to his 1995 debut, matching his slick, street-savvy verses with an experienced perspective and smoothed-out production from the likes of Bink!, Baby Paul and Pete Rock.

Milano x Showbiz – “Eating But Still Hungry” (MilanoxShowbiz.BandCamp.Com) – Any release coming from the Diggin’ In The Crates camp brings with it a high level of expectation from fans. Understandably, there’s a certain level of quality expected from members of the crew who really did it for the culture and became one of the most dominant forces in East Coast Hip-Hop. Milano and Showbiz rose to that challenge in no uncertain terms on this album packed with swaggering Rotten Apple attitude, skills sharpened in unforgiving street-corner ciphers and dope, dusty-fingered beats.

Kev Brown & J Scienide – “Stray From The Pack” (KevBrown.BandCamp.Com) – Following up their impressive 2019 collaboration “Drum Machine Tape Cassette”, DMV duo Kev Brown and J Scienide offered up another collection of loose, spontaneous sounding beats and rhymes inspired by both a love of the art and the satisfaction of making the competition feel inadequate. B-boy basement flavour.

The Primeridian & Rashid Hadee – “Prime Diesel” (RashidHadee.BandCamp.Com) – A product of Chicago’s rich underground scene, this collaboration between veteran duo The Primeridian and fellow Windy City representative Rashid Hadee was a shining example of top-tier beat science and carefully crafted lyricism. With additional production from Tall Black Guy and featured artists such as Thaione Davis, Pugs Atomz and Philmore Greene, this album captured a lot of talent at their very best.

Flashius Clayton x Jster – “The Dust Diary” (25NoteDope.BandCamp.Com) – A naturally gifted emcee, Cali’s Flashius Clayton was firing on all cylinders here, with his usual high-standard of lyrical expertise accompanied by the dark, hypnotic beats of West Coast producer Jster. An atmospheric dose of rough, rugged and raw Hip-Hop. As Doug E. Fresh once said, play this only at night.

Khrysis – “The Hour Of Khrysis” (JamlaRecords.Com) – Featuring a diverse selection of artists, from golden-era greats De La Soul and Hiero legend Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, to Compton’s Problem and Jamla Records own Reuben Vincent, this long-awaited album from Away Team / Soul Council producer Khrysis was firmly held together by the North Carolina music man’s sonic creativity. Drawing the most out of his list of collaborators thanks to the masterful, carefully constructed soundscapes on offer, Khrysis succeeded in stamping his own personality all over this release, complimenting the variety of emcees and vocalists included here rather than being overshadowed by them.

Vic Spencer – “Legend Laws Of Power” (SupaSounds.BandCamp.Com) – The last few years has been a relentless period of productivity for Chicago’s Vic Spencer, with the talented emcee dropping four albums in 2021 alone. “Legend Laws Of Power” found Spencer teaming-up with Chi-town producer Original Super Legend, delivering his barbed punchlines over strong beats, making it abundantly clear how unimpressed he’s been with the so-called opposition.

Nas – “King’s Disease II” (MassAppeal.Com) – Aside from a few tracks, I wasn’t a big fan of the first “King’s Disease” album. I just didn’t connect with it. This follow-up, however, prompted a totally different reaction. Aside from a couple of misplaced tracks I felt this was an inspired piece of work, with Nas and Hit-Boy really hitting their stride as a creative partnership. The Queensbridge legend sounded relaxed and focused here, embracing his elder statesman status and reminiscing on the experiences that shaped him, whilst still clearly looking towards the future.

L-Biz & Castle Money Beats – “The Cool Table LP” (IStayBizzy.Com) – Backed by the solid, melodic production of California’s Castle Money Beats, Buffalo, NY’s L-Biz encouraged artists and listeners alike not to conform and follow trends in order to have a place at “the cool table”, but instead walk your own path and carve out your own niche as an individual. Head-nodding Hip-Hop that was guaranteed to have a positive impact on your confidence levels and self-esteem.

Arrested Development – “For The FKN Love” (OfficialArrestedDevelopment.BandCamp.Com) – Powerful. Uplifting. Needed. Just a few of the words that could be used to describe this epic album from the longstanding Arrested Development crew. Largely produced by the UK’s Configa, who matched Speech’s motivational verses with some rousing work behind the boards, this was ultimately a positive album with a realistic outlook that was further enhanced by appearances from the likes of Masta Ace, Freddie Foxxx and Big Daddy Kane. Music to feed your Hip-Hop soul in today’s unsettled times.

DJ Nappa – “Redress” (DJNappa.BandCamp.Com) – A veteran of the UK Hip-Hop scene, Phi-Life Cypher’s Nappa dropped a stellar instrumental release for the We Stay True label which found the Luton-based producer upping the creative ante and moving in potentially unexpected directions, whilst remaining clear about his artistic vision at all-times. Steering away from typical boom-bap territory, “Redress” encapsulated a variety of styles, whilst capturing Nappa’s genuine passion for the art of making music.

Evidence – “Unlearning Vol. 1” (MisterEvidence.BandCamp.Com) – As a fan, the growth and evolution shown by West Coast emcee-slash-producer Evidence over the years has been a joy to behold (and hear). From his keep-it-underground approach in the 90s as a member of Dilated Peoples, to the more personal content of his solo albums, through to his instrumental work, Evidence has consistently moved forward whilst remaining rooted in his Hip-Hop foundations. “Unlearning Vol. 1” represented yet another important step in the right direction, with Evidence dropping timely lyrical gems over carefully selected production from the likes of The Alchemist, Nottz and Daringer.

Children Of Zeus – “Balance” (ChildrenOfZeus.BandCamp.Com) – To describe this sophomore album from Manchester’s Children Of Zeus as being a masterpiece would definitely be no overstatement. Having already appeared to have perfected their blend of soul and Hip-Hop on previous releases, Konny Kon and Tyler Daley refined their sonic aesthetic even further on “Balance”, reaching higher heights of creative perfection that transcended typical categorization. This was spiritual music that existed in its own unique time and place.

Awon & Phoniks – “Nothing Less” (AwonAndPhoniks.Com) – A partnership whose chemistry clearly points to them being destined to make music together, Virginia / Maine duo Awon & Phoniks came correct once again on their fourth long-player, effortlessly bringing together personal, socially-aware rhymes and strong production packed with sublime soul and jazz samples.

Guilty Simpson & Gensu Dean – “EGO” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit’s Guilty Simpson has built a career on straight-no-chaser verses full of been-there-done-that life observations and cautionary street knowledge. Simpson offered more of the same on this collaboration with esteemed producer Gensu Dean, who provided the Motor City emcee with a raw, stripped-down collection of beats over which to reassert his position in the rap game.

Confucius MC – “Somewhere” (YNRProductions.BandCamp.Com) – London’s Confucius MC really took listeners on a lyrical journey throughout this album. Where was the destination? Well, that was largely down to your interpretation of the cerebral rhymes on offer here, which contained splashes of nostalgia, present day commentary and depictions of an uncertain future. The jazz-influenced production of France’s Keor Meteor fully complimented the UK emcee’s musings, with appearances from the likes of Jehst, Sonnyjim and Verbz adding to the overall feel of the album.

El Da Sensei & Jake Palumbo – “Solving Cases” (SpaceLABRecordings.BandCamp.Com) – Buoyed by a real sense of momentum and energy, this collaboration between Artifacts legend El Da Sensei and NY’s Jake Palumbo was full of upbeat joints powered by punchy, drum-heavy production and true-school lyricism. With appearances from Sadat X, John Robinson and Shabaam Sahdeeq, this album had the feel of a lively cipher session at times, with everyone involved clearly on a mission to celebrate Hip-Hop.

Ambassador Rick – “The Tape Nobody Made” (TheOpioidEra.BandCamp.Com) – One-third of Virginia’s Opioid Era crew, Ambassador Rick continued the group’s tradition of crafting uncompromising, emotionally-charged street music on this solo release. Bridging the gap between raw and righteous, Rick combined verbal grit with moments of genuine reflection, all delivered over vintage soul samples and smooth loops.

Snaggapuss & Ramzee – “Bronx Dundee” (RapRecordsAU.BandCamp.Com) – Veteran NY emcee Snaggapuss joined forces with Australian producer Ramzee for this hardcore-yet-entertaining album, with the former member of Doo Wop’s Bounce Squad utilising his inimitable flow to deliver punchline-heavy rhymes laced with humour over satisfyingly sparse, stripped-down beats.

Part Four coming soon.

New Joint – Mark 4ord

Mark 4ord – “Oxnard Made” (Mark4ordTraps.Com / 2022)

Prduced by MWP.

100 Favourite Albums & EPs Of 2021 (Part Two) – Eternia & Rel McCoy / Lloyd Luther / Edo.G & Insight Innovates etc.

Check Part One here.

Eternia & Rel McCoy – “FREE” (Eternia.BandCamp.Com) – Over ten years since the release of her last full-length album, Canada’s Eternia returned with this emotionally-charged project produced by the talented Rel McCoy. Having never been afraid to share her thoughts and feelings through her music, this release found Eternia as potent on the mic as ever but drawing on a new set of life experiences for inspiration this time around, including marriage and motherhood. A lot might have changed both globally and personally since her last musical endeavour, but “FREE” demonstrated that Eternia is still more than capable of making music that connects with listeners in a meaningful way.

T.R.A.C. & Maverick Soul – “Sonically Speaking” (AmpleAptitude.BandCamp.Com) – A fruitful collaboration between veteran NY emcee T.R.A.C. and Connecticut producer Maverick Soul, this album found the pair effortlessly blending together the sounds of Hip-Hop and Drum & Bass, with satisfyingly vibrant results. Whether backed by the warm bounce of jazz-influenced beats or the futuristic flavour of fast-paced electronic grooves, the sincere, uplifting rhymes of T.R.A.C. hit their target every time.

Opal-Kenobi – “Synapse Therapy” (GrandChoiceRecords.BandCamp.Com) – Described by Kenobi himself as “an exercise in healing”, this thoroughly engrossing EP from the Massachusetts-based lyricist was packed with expertly crafted verses that required you to pull up a chair, sit down and pay full attention. A maze-like journey through Opal’s mindstate set to a soundtrack of mellow, melodic production from the likes of Jaisu, DJ Manipulator and Brainorchestra, this was music made to accompany contemplation.

Five Steez & SonoTWS – “Quietude” (FiveSteez.BandCamp.Com) – Produced by Brazil’s SonoTWS, this album from Jamaica’s Five Steez was impressive on all levels, with the talented wordsmith delivering engaging rhymes full of personal experience, social commentary and emcee bravado over superb beats. The Kingston emcee has spent the last decade dropping music laced with positive vibes and that approach continued on this release, but the message felt more direct and tangible this time around. Perhaps that was Steez’s intention? Or maybe the music just hit me differently considering the circumstances we’ve all been living under during the past two years? Either way, “Quietude” possessed an overall tone that touched the mind, body and soul.

Vakill – “God’s G.U.N.S.” (PanikOnTheBeat.Com) – Chicago’s Vakill has been carrying out lyrical surgery since the 90s with laser-like precision. His first release for a decade, this seven-track EP was proof that time hasn’t diminished his formidable skills, with the rhymes contained here remaining as sharp as ever. Able to deftly move from vivid descriptions of emcee dominance to stark social observations, Vakill verbally pummeled beats supplied by Memo, Nottz, Panik and SC, reasserting his positon as one of the Windy City’s greats in the process.

Bash Brothers – “Bloodsport Champions” (Mallz.BandCamp.Com) – Partly inspired by the rowdy, larger-than-life antics of 80s / 90s wrestling, the North Carolina trio of Mallz, Precyce Politix and DJ Sharp Cuts launched themselves off the top rope and crash-landed onto their musical opponents throughout this album, pinning them to the mat with a combination of pounding beats and tag-team verses packed with aggressive wordplay and verbal beat-downs. Rap royal rumble vibes in full effect.

Pitch 92 – “Intervals” (HighFocus.Com) – A talented producer with a deft touch behind the boards, a good ear for quality samples and a clear understanding that sometimes less is more, Manchester’s Pitch 92 once again showcased his impressive sonic skills on his second full-length release for the High Focus imprint. Supported by a collective of top-tier emcees, including Jehst, Verb T and Lord Apex, it was Pitch’s individual brand of beat science that remained the focal point here, with the album possessing a spontaneous, organic feel that pushed it far beyond simply being a collection of stand alone tracks.

Dell-P – “We Owe The World” (Dell-P.BandCamp.Com) – Philadelphia’s irrepressible Dell-P has been consistently dropping quality material for years now, with this latest album finding the 215 representative delivering his usual brand of intelligent, thought-provoking lyricism over the soul-drenched, true-school production of Donnie Boy.

1773 – “As Above” (1773Live.BandCamp.Com) – Chicago duo Wisdm Uno and Jay Nagoma delivered relatable, down-to-earth rhymes on this standout Joe Tyse-produced album. Whether speaking on life, family or Hip-Hop, Wisdm and Jay maintained a laidback, familiar tone throughout this release, reducing the gap between listener and artist in the process, making it feel like you were being welcomed into a warm but honest conversation between friends.

Bloo & Spanish Ran – “Nowhere Bloo” (SpanishRan1.BandCamp.Com) – Further solidifying their reputation as one of the tightest emcee / producer pairings to have emerged in recent times, this latest collaborative release from Bronx duo Bloo and Spanish Ran was another strong example of their undeniable chemistry. Swaggering, punchline-packed rhymes from Bloo flowed effortlessly over the inspired sample choices of Ran, resulting in memorable music which demanded (and deserved) to be revisited.

Fatt Father – “Soccer Dad” (FattFather.BandCamp.Com) – Detroit’s Fatt Father proved with this album that he’ll crush the ego of your favourite rapper, hit the studio to record some thunderous bangers, handle any pressing street politics, and still get his son to sports practice on time. Produced by fellow Motor City Hip-Hop head Foul Mouth, “Soccer Dad” was a potent combination of speaker-crunching beats and supremely confident rhymes.

Blak Madeen – “Let The Good Get Even” (BlakMadeen.BandCamp.Com) – The raw-but-righteous rhymes of Boston duo Al-J and Yusuf were bolstered here by the adrenaline-rush production of Public Enemy affiliate C-Doc, resulting in an album that made your head nod as much as it sparked your third-eye. With guest features from the likes of Freeway, Tragedy and Chuck D, this was an energetic and captivating explosion of Hip-Hop excellence.

Planet Asia – “Block Shaman” (TuffKongRecords.Com) – One of a handful of projects Planet Asia dropped during 2021, the West Coast master craftsman teamed-up with talented production duo DirtyDiggs for this relentless barrage of verbal science, trading rhymes with the likes of Rome Streetz, Flashius Clayton and Defari, further cementing his reputation as one of the rap game’s most consistent emcees in the process.

Isatta Sheriff – “A Kind Of Biography” (IsattaSheriff.BandCamp.Com) – An ambitious self-produced project merging Hip-Hop and grime influences with live instrumentation, this four-track release from East London’s Isatta Sheriff covered a lot of creative ground. A sonic nod to the area of the UK’s capital that Isatta calls home, the emcee’s lively verses switched quickly and effortlessly here from insightful social commentary to introspective nostalgia, all brilliantly matched with standout musicianship and uplifting vibes.

Blaq Herman – “The Return Of Blaq Herman” (BlaqHerman.BandCamp.Com) – South Carolina’s Kimani Robinson took on the character of a resurrected 1940s magician named Blaq Herman (inspired by the real life Black Herman) for this short-but-entertaining concept-based EP, swapping his wand for the microphone in an attempt to carve out a new modern-day career for himself. Purposely random and playfully intriguing, this release made no sense and absolute sense all at the same time.

Lloyd Luther – “Re Pro Gram” (LloydLuther.BandCamp.Com) – An emcee on a mission to offer some balance in the world of rap, Leicester’s Lloyd Luther rhymed with the drive and focus of an artist with a point to prove throughout this release. Offering his thoughts on what it means to be Black in Britain, Luther touched on a variety of topics here, including structural racism, politics and a short-sighted music industry. Powerful material that was talking loud and saying something.

Tarik Robinson – “Rotations” (MakeBelieveHipHop.BandCamp.Com) – Canada’s Tarik Robinson (aka Teekay of Dragon Fli Empire) delivered a life-affirming selection of soulful, self-produced cuts on this superb solo album. Honest and compelling, Robinson succeeded in providing an almost spiritual experience which couldn’t help but motivate those of us listening as we all continued with our attempts to find a way through the labyrinth of everyday living.

Ty Farris x Machacha – “Dark Nights & D Fitteds” (CPHCrates.Com) – Hard-knock rhymes delivered with insight and compassion, Detroit’s Ty Farris spoke with a voice of experience and offered street narratives from a well-rounded perspective throughout this album, showing all sides of the game over beats provided by Denmark’s Machacha.

Edo.G & Insight Innovates – “Edo.G & Insight Innovates” (BrickRecords.Com) – Boston greats Edo.G and Insight joined forces on this memorable album, offering a nod of respect to the 80s / 90s golden-era they came up in, whilst very much remaining in the present day in terms of their lyrical content and subject matter. Forward-thinking, head-nodding Hip-Hop from two true masters of the culture.

Wize King – “Affirmations” (WizeKing.BandCamp.Com) – Seattle’s Wize King sought to navigate the everyday struggle by keeping his third-eye wide open and hoped to move listeners to do the same with this quality EP, offering meditative rhymes, stimulating energy and smooth, laidback production throughout.

Check Part Three here.

New Joint – Khali Ahktane

Khali Ahktane – “Startin Frum Scratch” / “Left Brain Distortion” (Khali-Ahktane.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Back-to-back visuals from the West Coast emcee’s Kenry Kool McKool-produced project “Left Brain Distortion”.

New Joint – Gold Chain Music

Gold Chain Music ft. Planet Asia, K.Burns & Lenox Hughes – “Off The Books” (@GoldChainMusic / 2021)

Producer Piff James utilizes a familiar Willie Hutch sample on this laidback second single to be lifted from the Planet Asia-led collective’s forthcoming album.

New Joint – Clypto / Supreme Cerebral / Substance810 / Alphabetic

Clypto ft. Supreme Cerebral, Substance810 & Alphabetic – “3 Wise Men” (@ClyptoBeatz / 2021)

Cali-based producer Clypto supplies a string-laden track fr this quality posse cut.

New Joint – Born Allah / Planet Asia / Erule

Born Allah ft. Planet Asia & Erule – “Sun Of Man” (Jizzm.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

The trio of West Coast rap royalty deliver Five Percent-influenced rhymes over Jizzm High Definition beats.

New Joint – Mellow Man Ace / Young Quicks

Mellow Man Ace ft. Young Quicks – “Walk Talk” (@Mellow_Man_Ace / 2021)

Produced by Cazal Organism.

New Joint – RhymeStyleTroop

RhymeStyleTroop – “Master Manifestor” (@RhymeStyleTroop / 2021)

Produced by Nez and taken from the San Diego emcee’s album “The Legend Of RhymeStyleTroop”.

New Joint – Funk Logik & TheHomieBishop

Funk Logik & TheHomieBishop – “Dirty Laundry” (BlakFaceRaps.Com / 2021)

The West Coast duo will be dropping “Couch Sessions Vol. 3” soon.

New Joint – HeiR / Planet Asia

HeiR ft. Planet Asia – “House Of Pain” (HeiR1.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Cali’s HeiR exchanges cool-but-deadly rhymes with West Coast giant Planet Asia on this smooth cut from his new album “Urban Birthmark”.

New Joint – Evidence

Evidence – “Start The Day With A Beat” (MisterEvidence.BandCamp.Com / 2021)

Taken from the album “Unlearning Vol. 1”.

Clayton Cove Mixtape Stream – Flashius Clayton

As he puts the finishing touches to his forthcoming “El Padrone” album for the legendary Schott Free’s new label South Bay Records, West Coast emcee Flashius Clayton showcases his formidable rhyme skills on this ill collection of recent freestyles over beats from the likes of Alchemist, DJ Premier and Dilla.

New Joint – Borvoe McMidnite

Borvoe McMidnite – “The Master” (@BorvoeMcMidnite / 2021)

Produced by ΔMofNRP.