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Janu­ary isn’t everyone’s favour­ite month. Post-hol­i­day blues, cold weath­er and a dis­tinct lack of hip-hop releases being some of the reas­ons. How­ever, look­ing ahead there are plenty of reas­ons to be pos­it­ive in 2018. Here are 20 of them…

Top Ten Anti­cip­ated Albums of 2018

  1. Fred­die Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana (Madlib Invazion)
    Release Date: TBC
    In 2014 the duo col­lab­or­ated to release Piñata which became one of the most well-received releases in recent years. Fred­die Gibbs is undeni­ably one of hip-hop’s very best and Madlib’s pos­i­tion as one of the greatest ever pro­du­cers is undis­put­able. With both artists con­tinu­ing to release high qual­ity music there is no reas­on to sug­gest this album won’t also match the lofty heights of their debut.
  2. Black Milk - Fever (Mass Appeal Records / Com­puter Ugly)
    Release Date: 23/02/18
    Pro­du­cer-rap­per Black Milk has the rare abil­ity to evolve his sound without com­prom­ising the qual­ity of his music. Wheth­er it’s chopped soul samples mixed with pound­ing drums or bold instru­ment­a­tion and off-beat hi-hats fans will be intrigued to see what dir­ec­tion he goes next.
  3. eLZhi & Khrys­is (are Jericho Jack­son) – Title TBC (Jamla Records)
    Release Date: TBC
    eLZhi’s razor-sharp lyr­i­cism, con­cep­tu­al imagery and dynam­ic flow have right­fully earned him the status as one of hip-hop’s finest emcee­ing tal­ents. Khrys­is has earned a sim­il­ar repu­ta­tion in the beat mak­ing world for his soul­ful yet gritty pro­duc­tion. On paper this looks like the per­fect col­lab­or­a­tion.
  4. Payroll Gio­vanni & Cardo - Big Bossin’ Vol. 2 (Def Jam Record­ings)
    Release Date: 26/01/18
    Although Payroll Gio­vanni is from Detroit and pro­du­cer Cardo is cur­rently based in Texas the duo joined forces in 2016 to release Big Bossin’ Vol. 1, an album which gave the illu­sion of com­ing straight out of the West Coast in everything from the pro­duc­tion down to the art­work. Pulling the usu­al drug-deal­ing nar­rat­ives into a palm-tree steeped Cali­for­nia land­scape was an inspired decision. The fol­low-up prom­ises to be more of the same.
  5. Roc Mar­ciano - Rose­bud­d’s Revenge 2: The Bit­ter Dose (Marci Enter­prises LLC.)
    Release Date: Feb­ru­ary
    The Hemp­stead, NY rap­per has carved him­self a highly influ­en­tial but niche sound that has served to make him one of the most pop­u­lar inde­pend­ent rap­pers. Simple soul loops, sparse drums, effort­less flows and dense, almost men­acing lyr­i­cism is what fans can expect once again on the sequel to 2017’s Rosebudd’s Revenge.
  6. Evid­ence – Weath­er Or Not (Rhymesay­ers Enter­tain­ment, LLC.)
    Release Date: 26/01/18
    Evid­ence is a vet­er­an of the game who has an expans­ive cata­logue of impress­ive music both as an emcee and a pro­du­cer. This latest release fea­tures pro­duc­tion from The Alchem­ist, DJ Premi­er, Nottz, and DJ Babu amongst oth­ers and prom­ises to fur­ther solid­i­fy his status as one of the best all-round artists that hip-hop has to offer.
  7. Sky­zoo – In Cel­eb­ra­tion Of Us (First Gen­er­a­tion Rich / EMPIRE)
    Release Date: 02/02/18
    Sky­zoo has some­times unfairly been branded as a gen­er­ic NY rap­per but really it couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth. His cata­logue is extens­ive, far more diverse than he’s giv­en cred­it for and incred­ibly slept-on. An artic­u­late, thought­ful and insight­ful artist who pos­sesses strong tech­nic­al skills this album prom­ises to be anoth­er slice of mature and inspired NY hip-hop.
  8. Prodigy - The Hegel­i­an Dia­lectic (Part 2: The Book Of Heroine) (Infam­ous Records)
    Release Date: TBC
    Prodigy’s untimely passing last sum­mer is still sink­ing in and play­ing Shook Ones and Quiet Storm nowadays seems to take on an even big­ger sig­ni­fic­ance. Prodigy’s 2017 album,
    Hegel­i­an Dia­lectic (The Book Of Rev­el­a­tion), was released just months before he passed away but the good news is that there are record­ings in the vault and he recor­ded the Hegel­i­an Dia­lectic as a tri­logy. Here’s hop­ing this album is released as Prodigy inten­ded and does not receive the treat­ment of oth­er posthum­ous hip-hop releases.
  9. Curren$y – Back At Burn­ies (Jet Life Record­ings)
    Release Date: 16/03/18
    The New Orleans rap­per has been unre­lent­ing in his out­put of music over the last few years. His sub­ject mat­ter is fairly one-dimen­sion­al and his lazy deliv­ery, while unmis­tak­able and unique, rarely changes. How­ever, Spitta always seems to sound fresh and his abil­ity to pick beats that suit him per­fectly is an over­looked trait. There won’t be any real sur­prises on this release but that’s all part of his infec­tious appeal.
  10. Plan­et Asia - The Golden Buddha (Brick Records LLC)
    Release Date: 19/01/18
    Plan­et Asia is anoth­er artist who has retained his prom­in­ence in the crowded West Coast under­ground scene with a shower of impress­ive releases over the years. He starts 2018 as he ended 2017 – with anoth­er album which prom­ises to be densely lyr­ic­al and incis­ive. His status is solid­i­fied but each release brings hope that the full extent of his undeni­able tal­ent will finally be acknow­ledged.


Top Ten Slept-On Artists Worth Check­ing in 2018

  1. Benny
    Although he’s been releas­ing mix­tapes for the best part of a dec­ade Benny’s stock has ris­en sig­ni­fic­antly since his standout verse on West­side Gunn’s Fly­god album in 2016. His lyr­ic­al assault con­tin­ued in 2017 with numer­ous guest appear­ances and the impress­ive Butcher On Ster­oids mix­tape. Spit­ting with an insight­ful clar­ity that will evoke nos­tal­gia of mid-2000’s Lloyd Banks or Jadakiss, Benny’s steady ascen­sion to hip-hop’s sum­mit looks set to con­tin­ue in 2018.
  2. Nolan The Ninja
    The Detroit emcee/producer has been a con­stant pres­ence in the US inde­pend­ent scene over recent years, stead­ily build­ing a repu­ta­tion for cre­at­ing raw boom bap hip-hop. Although the inde­pend­ent scene is littered with artists try­ing to cap­ture a sim­il­ar sound unfor­tu­nately most lack the cha­risma or innov­a­tion that allows them to standout. How­ever, Nolan doesn’t have these issues to con­tend with — his fero­cious bars and dusty lo-fi beats are var­ied and enga­ging. By stay­ing busy dig­ging deep into the crates he is a dual threat who is able to cre­ate music which is remin­is­cent of the clas­sic mid-90s sound we all know and love but appeals to a young­er audi­ence as well.
  3. Estee Nack
    As one-third of Tra­gic Allies, who have been act­ively releas­ing music for over a dec­ade, Estee Nack’s recent haul of impress­ive releases has elev­ated his status in the under­ground scene. The Mas­sachu­setts nat­ive brings an obser­v­ant, socially con­scious approach to his work. Ener­get­ic but thought­ful com­bined with a strong work eth­ic he is doing a great job of keep­ing that organ­ic boom bap sound as a prom­in­ent fea­ture of mod­ern hip-hop.
  4. Al Divino
    Al Divino’s gruff voice and dusty pro­duc­tion are the per­fect blend and his two releases in 2017, Dump Gawd: Divino Edi­tion and Dump Gawd: Divino Edi­tion 2, were a great fol­low-up from his col­lab­or­at­ive pro­ject with Estee Nack. The sim­pli­city and sparse­ness of his music cre­ates a raw, almost sin­is­ter atmo­sphere that lends itself per­fectly to that cold, win­ter­time East Coast rap.
  5. Mutant Academy
    Based in Rich­mond, Vir­gin­ia the Mutant Academy are a self-con­tained col­lect­ive of artists who increased their fol­low­ing in 2017 with a few not­able releases. Emcees Fly Ana­kin and Koncept Jack$on have been lead­ing the line and the in-house pro­du­cers paint the per­fect back­drop with sample-driv­en beats. With elev­en artists lis­ted as offi­cial mem­bers we can expect to see plenty more of these guys in 2018.
  6. Ankh­le­john
    This Wash­ing­ton D.C. nat­ive shot to prom­in­ence last year with the release of his debut album, The Red Room, and a flurry of EPs. His men­acing deliv­ery and abil­ity to switch between slow-paced and high energy beats mean that his pro­jects are an appeal­ing listen and he man­ages to retain a raw grit­ti­ness through­out.
  7. Crime­apple
    Although New Jersey’s Crime­apple may not score too highly on his choice of name he shines where it really counts. His music is com­prised of a hand­ful of EPs, a few loose tracks and guest appear­ances but what is evid­ent is that he pos­sesses a sharp deliv­ery com­bined with vivid imagery and the abil­ity to con­vert this into good music. An appear­ance on Statik Selektah’s album, 8, released at the very end of 2017 is a sign of how far he’s come already.
  8. Code Nine
    Anoth­er mem­ber of the afore­men­tioned Tra­gic Allies group, Code Nine has also branched out with solo pro­jects releas­ing two in the last two years. His 2017 album, IX, fea­tured excel­lent jazzy boom bap beats and raps that are delivered with a poignant punch. Any­thing Tra­gic Allies-related is worth keep­ing an eye on this year.
  9. Mach-Hommy
    Mach-Hommy is a mys­tic­al sort of rap­per who pos­sesses almost MF DOOM-like qual­it­ies in terms of his cryptic raps and with­drawn pub­lic image. His raps are delivered in a slow, patient and almost coded fash­ion and he prefers simple and sparse over cluttered, high intens­ity pro­duc­tion. He released sev­er­al well-received pro­jects in 2017 but became almost as fam­ous for his pri­cing strategies (pur­chas­ing his cata­logue would cost thou­sands). How­ever, if you can hear his music it’s worth a listen as he’s a highly cha­ris­mat­ic and unique artist who hasn’t failed to deliv­er any­thing oth­er than good music so far.
  10. #TheWin­ners
    #TheWin­ners are a New York-based crew com­prised of the likes of SmooVth, Hus King­pin, Roze­wood and Ros­ati. SmooVth and Hus King­pin, who togeth­er form the group Tha Con­nec­tion, have been releas­ing music for over a dec­ade and the roster as a whole is a well-estab­lished one who spe­cial­ise in sample-heavy boom bap pro­duc­tion and intric­ately craf­ted street nar­rat­ives. They con­tin­ue to release music at a relent­less pace but remain pigeon­holed to a small corner of the hip-hop com­munity. With Hus set to release his much-anti­cip­ated Dreams Of Sade album per­haps 2018 may see them gain more acclaim…



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Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon

Between 9–5 I’m a pas­sion­ate teach­er for teen­agers with spe­cial needs and dis­en­gaged young people. From 5–9 I’m a left-wing hip-hop head who fell in love with the music in the mid-90’s. Also have an equal love for jazz, soul and funk, am an avid record col­lect­or, lov­er of live shows and occa­sion­al DJ.

About Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon
Between 9-5 I'm a passionate teacher for teenagers with special needs and disengaged young people. From 5-9 I'm a left-wing hip-hop head who fell in love with the music in the mid-90’s. Also have an equal love for jazz, soul and funk, am an avid record collector, lover of live shows and occasional DJ.