April saw several high-profile releases from some of hip-hop’s biggest names, with some up-and-comers cementing their spots among the crowd as well…
Nas - Illmatic: Live From The Kennedy Center (Mass Appeal Records)
Arguably hip-hop’s finest work was performed in full in a landmark performance at the Kennedy Center in February. This symphonic rendition has now received a release so that fans can enjoy it from the comfort of their phones and record players and it sounds every bit as epic as you’d expect.
Curren$y — Parking Lot Music / Air Freshna EP (Jet Life Recordings)
Curren$y releases a pair of EPs which provide the perfect soundtrack to the warm Spring weather. Delivered in his trademark composed nonchalance and with excellent beat-selection as always, Spitta continues to satisfy his fans.
Saba – Care For Me (Saba Pivot, LLC)
The underrated Chicago-based artist requested to fans that they take their first listen to this album when they are alone. It’s an unfair exchange but through Saba’s pain and inner turmoil he has produced an innovative, potentially career-defining release loaded with energy and heartfelt emotion.
Conway – Blakk Tape (Griselda Records)
The Griselda rapper hits fans with another free release as his stock continues to grow in anticipation of his debut album. The NY sound is alive and well as Conway delivers hard-hitting rhymes over Daringer and V Don production.
Jay Worthy, Mitchy Slick & DJ Fresh – The Tonite Show (Fresh In The Flesh)
An impressive 7‑track release from West Coast rappers Mitchy Slick and Jay Worthy this EP traces the classic West Coast sound with carefree synths and smooth rhymes.
DJ Esco & Future – Kolorblind (Epic Records)
DJ Esco and Future release a high-energy 11-track album densely packed full of intense trap production, futuristic flows and even a rare appearance from Nas to keep the purists on-side.
Meyhem Lauren – Glass EP (SRFSCHL, LLC)
At the turn of the decade Meyhem Lauren was hailed as one of the few rappers who hauled the legendary NY, boom bap sound into the modern era. He returns with a 9‑track EP fully-produced by Harry Fraud and the opulent production, coupled with his street tales and signature slang ensure this is a welcome addition that brings diversity to his catalogue.
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien & Amp Live – Gate 13 (Gate13)
Legendary West Coast veteran Del Tha Funkee Homosapien collaborates with Zion I producer Amp Live who creates upbeat, funky production which is ideal for the charismatic, animated emcee. The album is more accessible than a lot of work both artists have been involved in and provides an interesting alternative for listeners in need of something a bit different.
Smoke DZA – Ringside 6 (Self-Released) / Not For Sale (Babygrande Records, Inc.)
Harlem-based rapper Smoke DZA released Ringside 6 EP as a prelude to his Not For Sale album and the pair of releases are sure to please his loyal fan base. Rather than experimenting with new sounds DZA sticks to the formula that has brought him success, selecting luxurious, trap-inspired beats for his street narratives, but the album does show signs of evolution that should ensure his relevance extends in the ever-changing hip-hop landscape.
The Alchemist – Lunch Meat EP (ALC Records)
The prolific producer drops a short but sweet EP with an all-star line-up of East Coast emcees who unleash their raw rhymes over his ever-reliable production.
Slum Village — The Lost Scrolls Vol. 2 (Né’Astra Music)
The legendary Slum Village have changed line-up more times than Destiny’s Child and recent releases have been mixed. This release is a selection of demos and unreleased songs they’ve kept stashed in their vault and sound as if they’ve been left on the cutting room floor from the Fantastic era.
Fly Anakin & Ohbliv — Backyard Boogie (Self-Released)
Mutant Academy rapper Fly Anakin connects with producer Ohbliv for an album full of distorted, jazz-tinged, funk-inspired beats and no-gimmicks rhyming. Another feather in the MA cap.
Cole – K.O.D. (Dreamville, Inc.)
A fifth commercial release for one of hip-hop’s biggest names this is an album which demonstrates both J. Cole’s strengths and weaknesses. His technical ability has never been in question and his positive message is always welcome but the lack of variety means that the career-defining classic continues to elude him.
Young Thug — Hear No Evil EP (300 Entertainment / Atlantic Recording Corporation)
The eccentric Atlanta, Georgia native drops a bouncy 3‑track EP with his quirky, melodic and unique flow in full effect. Although not as impressive as previous releases this should hold his fans over while he works on his next album.
Flatbush Zombies – Vacation In Hell (Glorious Dead Recordings)
The Flatbush, NY trio lean heavily on trap-inspired production on their sophomore album but their charismatic delivery and carefully-selected high-profile guests such as Jadakiss and Joey Bada$$ bring some much-needed variation and they succeed in crafting a solid release.
Dr. Octagon — Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation (Bulk Recordings)
The sequel project to the classic Dr. Octagonecologyst sees the trio of Kool Keith, Dan the Automator and DJ Q‑Bert attempt to channel their talents into the necessary craziness fans expect. They somewhat achieve this with futuristic and innovate production and rhymes but at times the intensity of the jumpy beats and pounding basslines feels excessive and spread over just 11 tracks it lacks the pace or variety of its predecessor.
Jean Grae & Quelle Chris – Everything’s Fine (Mello Music Group)
The recently-engaged duo pull their unique styles together to show that their chemistry matches up behind the mic as well as in their relationship. Although Jean was an ambassador for femcees in the 2000s with her confident swagger and conscious rhymes this is very different from her previous releases. Quelle Chris has an unorthodox style and the distorted production means that this is a challenging listen, but if you’re prepared for this then everything will sound fine.
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