A month where beef caught the headlines, veterans surprised us and the variety of releases once again demonstrated how diverse hip-hop has become…
Curren$y & Harry Fraud – The Marina EP (Jet Life Recordings)
The New Orleans native connects with Harry Fraud for a luxurious, soul-sample driven EP in what appears to be a never-ending siege of free releases that he continues to bless his fan base with. The Marina EP arrives in perfect time for the warmer weather.
The Doppelgangaz – Aaaaggghh (Groggy Pack Entertainment LLC)
The duo have built a discography and fan base that have turned them into household names in the US underground scene and their latest album is a throwback to their earlier work. Clever wordplay and gritty production help to cement their status as one of the most consistent groups.
Payroll Giovanni – 4–1P (BYLUG Ent. LLC)
With one top quality album under his belt already in 2018 (Big Bossin’ Vol. 2 was released in January) the Detroit rapper goes 2 for 2 with his follow-up, once again using lively production and a commanding presence to lay down drug tales and street narratives.
Planet Asia – Mansa Musa (X‑Ray Records)
Seemingly getting better with age the West Coast veteran blesses fans with yet another album. Littered with features from notable names from both coasts this is a densely lyrical affair that retains the distinctive traits of the West Coast underground scene for another quality addition to his rapidly expanding catalogue.
Pusha T – DAYTONA (Getting Out Our Dreams, Inc. / Def Jam Recordings)
The most-talked about rapper in May makes his return with a seven-track release fully produced by Kanye West. Although not up to the heights of classic Clipse material this is a concise, well-executed project that’s worthy of the hype and is Pusha’s most impressive solo work to date.
Nolan The Ninja – CRUD / $UD$ (Self-Released)
Detroit’s Nolan The Ninja has been making noise with his impressive skills behind the mic as well as his beat-making abilities. This pair of instrumental releases showcases his dedication for digging deep into the crates and flipping samples into dusty, lo-fi beats, sprinkling verses from renowned emcees over them.
Benny – A Friend Of Ours (Griselda Records)
The Buffalo, NY rapper has been steadily building his reputation with street tales delivered with impeccable clarity. He brings more of the same on this release and his technical rapping ability ensures that, even when the production is lacking, he holds the listeners attention with his sharpness and confidence.
Playboi Carti – Die Lit (AWGE / Interscope Records)
While younger rappers, particularly those leaning into “mumble rap” territory, can incur the wrath of the older generation it’s hard to deny the entertaining, energetic charm of Playboi Carti who pieces together a thoroughly enjoyable album full of adlibs and catchy hooks.
Parliament – Medicaid Fraud Dogg (C Kunspyruhzy Records Inc.)
Hip-hop owes more to George Clinton than can ever be quantified and this surprise return from his group Parliament, fully 38 years since their last release, is a welcome dosage of raunchy funk. Inspired by their disdain of the pharmaceutical industry this release pulls the group into 2018 with its updated sound but without losing the charisma and eccentric brilliance that made them so iconic.
Stalley – Tell The Truth Shame The Devil Vol. 3 (Blue Collar Gang)
The final piece of this trilogy, the underrated Ohio rapper continues to impress since trading mainstream opportunities for creative control. Shifting between introspective and high-energy tracks this will be the overlooked 7‑track release of the month but is deserving of attention.
$ha Hef – Kommunity Service (Black Market Records)
11-tracks of dark, menacing intensity from the Bronx bomber who delivers drug narratives with a cold conviction and adds to his growing reputation as one of the grittiest rappers around.
Black Thought & 9th Wonder – Streams Of Thought Vol. 1 EP (Human Re Sources)
On paper this release should sit at the top of the stack this month, even if it only runs five songs deep. The front man for the world famous The Roots crew finally steps out of his group and into solo territory, opting for 9th Wonder’s legendary soul flips. Although it’s a good release fans will hope this serves as a warm-up to a full album rather than remaining a stand-alone release.
Confidence – Produce What You Feel (Self-Released)
The Boston-based producer has been behind some criminally underrated releases since the turn of the decade and his wonderful soul flips and pounding drums have been among the most impressive 90s-influenced production in recent times. This 21-track instrumental release brings more of the same, although many of the beats are crying out for an emcee to wreak havoc over them.
Artifacts – That’s Them (Lost Files 1989–1992) (Smoke On Records)
When it comes to underrated 90s groups Tame One and El Da Sensei can stake their claim to be among the names most deserving to be acknowledged. Two excellent releases solidified their status as hip-hop legends and now Smoke On Records have released 12 early demo recordings. Although the sound quality suffers at times and these are clearly before they hit their prime on their pair of near-perfect albums this is still a nostalgic listen from two top tier emcees.
Kanye West – Ye (Getting Out Our Dreams II, LLC Distributed By Def Jam)
Whether you love or hate him there is no denying his influence and talent. On this seven-track release Kanye is in reflective mood but perhaps lacking the audacity of his previous works. Those who are waiting for the College Dropout Kanye to return may want to skip this but for others it is worth a listen.
ASAP Rocky — Testing (RCA Records)
At one point ASAP Rocky had the world at his feet but a couple of missteps have left him in need of a big release. TESTING has its moments but ASAP risks being lost amongst the shuffle with an album that, despite its highs, doesn’t separate him from the densely packed, fast-moving mainstream hip-hop scene.
Conway & SonnyJim – Death By Misadventure (Daupe)
Conway’s status in the game has been cemented by a flurry of high-profile, well-received releases over the last few years but his latest release falls a bit short. Connecting with UK rapper SonnyJim this project lacks the focus and direction of his better releases.
DJ Jazzy Jeff – M3 (Playlist Music)
DJ Jazzy Jeff is one of hip-hop’s most iconic faces, a true pioneer and representative of the culture for over 30 years. This album, while being a solid release, maybe doesn’t quite do justice to his truly legendary status but is nevertheless an enjoyable listen.
Royce Da 5′9″ – Book Of Ryan (Heaven Studios, Inc. & Entertainment One U.S., LP)
Royce has always possessed an immense technical ability which is rivalled by only a handful of rappers. However, like many in this category it can prove challenging translating this talent into albums worthy of the ability they possess. The standout tracks are excellent but the overall consistency of this album makes it a frustrating listen.
Rae Sremmurd– SR3MM (Eardruma Records / Interscope Records)
Rae Sremmurd’s third album is three separate projects released under one name. Featuring two solo projects and one collective project this features enough high-energy production and modern flows to satisfy the hyperactive younger listener but may lack the range and depth to encourage repeated listening.
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