A month dominated by veterans of the underground vying to keep their space and relevance in a densely populated scene…
Le$ — Texas Rattlesnake (Slfemp Music LLC., SxS)
The latest in a relentless bombardment of high-quality releases from the Houston rapper. Sticking to the formula of laid-back beats, marrying G-Funk with a Southern twist, and weaving his lifestyle raps effortlessly between them he delivers another great addition to his rapidly-expanding catalogue.
Murs — A Strange Journey Into The Unimaginable (Strange Music, Inc.)
West-Coast veteran Murs joins forces with producer Michael “Seven” Summers to create a personal and insightful album. Jazzy, soulful beats dominate but there is some variation to lift the mood and remind fans that his trademark sense of humour has not gone missing despite his personal problems.
PRhyme – PRhyme 2 (PRhyme Records)
Arguably the greatest hip-hop producer of all time, DJ Premier, and Detroit lyricist Royce Da 5’9” have been creating memorable music for close to two decades. This follow-up to 2014’s debut collaboration album sees Premo bring an updated sound to his signature production. There are some terrible misses which will require the skip button but luckily these are few and far between. Overall there are more than enough tracks which should satisfy most boom-bap heads.
Phonte – No News Is Good News (The Foreign Exchange Music)
The Little Brother emcee returns with a follow-up to 2011’s Charity Starts At Home and, aside from one track, leaves the singing to one side to focus on his undeniable rapping abilities. While not as memorable as some of his classic works this is still a welcome release full of soulful production, densely lyrical bars and pure honesty. The hyperactive younger listener may struggle with this kind of album but it’s an excellent slice of grown man hip-hop.
MED & Guilty Simpson – Loyalty EP (Bang Ya Head)
Oxford, California rapper MED and Detroit’s Guilty Simpson are no strangers to each other from their Stones Throw affiliation and join forces for a short EP project. Featuring contributions from Blu, Black Milk, Exile and Mndsgn this serves as an excellent prelude to their upcoming album which will be released later this year.
Chuck Strangers – Consumers Park (Nature Sounds)
The Pro Era rapper serves up an ode to the golden-age on his debut project. Dusty samples and perfectly placed scratches help create 90s nostalgia with an updated sound. The 26-year-old displays a youthful energy but a reflective wisdom on this impressive release.
WestSideGunn & Mr. Green — FLYGOD Is Good All The Time EP (Nature Sounds)
Westside Gunn joins forces with producer Mr. Green on this six-track EP. The formula is straightforward with Green’s beats creating the ideal sound for WSG’s nasally, high-pitched voice which he uses to scatter his simple yet charismatic rhymes.
Polyester The Saint – American Muscle 5.0 (Hellagood Productions)
The Los Angeles-based rapper/producer returns with another impressive album. For fans who crave that laidback West-Coast production and smoothly delivered rhymes and hooks this is well worth a listen.
A.G. & John Robinson – Epiphany EP (Red Apples 45)
With Ray West behind the boards creating sparse, atmospheric, jazz-influenced production the distinctive voice of underrated rapper John Robinson and D.I.T.C. legend A.G. sprinkle thoughtful lyrics on this short but sweet 7” EP.
Koncept Jack$on — The Tale Of The Mutant Root (Self-Released)
The Mutant Academy member takes advantage of his talented in-house production crew who bring lo-fi wavy beats to the table. Koncept’s delivery is grimey and, at times, energetic which creates a distinctive sound that has become synonymous with the Mutant Academy crew.
Crimeapple & Big Ghost Ltd – Aguardiente (Manteca Music)
The New Jersey rapper collaborates with Big Ghost Ltd who complements him perfectly by delivering well-crafted beats that are ideal for his razor-sharp rhymes.
August Greene – August Greene (August Greene LLC)
A three-man group, fronted by legendary rapper Common and producers Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins, release an eleven-track project. It’s is a mature, dignified release that further adds to the diversity of the Chicago veteran’s classic catalogue. It lacks the intense soul of his best work but is well worth a listen for long-time fans that have missed his presence in music over the last year.
Zion I & DJ Fresh – The Tonite Show (Fresh in the Flesh / Mind Over Matter)
The Oakland duo collaborate with DJ Fresh who has a long-standing history of projects with Bay Area artists. Zion I are known for having an assorted range of different styles and this ten-track release fuses mellow, spiritual tracks with contrasting high-energy vibrancy sprinkled in between.
Sean Price & Illa Ghee — Metal Detectors EP (Ruck Down Records / Duck Down Music Inc.)
The untimely passing of Sean Price in 2015 is still raw and although this posthumous release, a collaboration with NY rapper Illa Ghee, is not a patch on the great material that made him an underground legend it’s still nice to once again hear his blunt delivery, humorous bars and famous adlibs.
Al Divino & Estee Nack — Rafaga Facil / Maleficis Artibus (Self-Released)
The Massachusetts duo collaborate on a pair of EPs (there is a third entitled D E S T I N Y if you can afford it) and deliver raw, observant rhymes over dusty boom-bap production.
Czarface & MF DOOM — Czarface Meets Metal Face (Silver Age)
7L & Esoteric and Wu-Tang rapper Inspectah Deck release their latest project under the Czarface pseudonym with a high-profile guest joining the ride. New MF DOOM material is always welcome for any hip-hop fan but this album feels a bit cluttered and lacking in direction to be the huge success that it looked like it could have been on paper. Nevertheless the names involved in this project mean that it’s deserving of being given a listen.
Apathy – The Widow’s Son (Dirty Version LLC)
The Connecticut and Army of the Pharaohs rapper pulls together some high-profile producers and guest emcees on his latest album. The likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Buckwild and Pharoahe Monch all contribute and although Apathy holds his own it is ultimately a project that lacks the inspiration which will gain it repeat spins.