Category Archives: Project Profile

2020 In Review

Below are some of my favorite hip-hop highlights of 2020. Check the following playlists, albums, and videos for my personal recap of the year.

The Latest Playlist: 2020

*Track listing at bottom of post

Noteworthy 2020

Griselda Records

For hip-hop in 2020, the crown belongs to Griselda Records. Label founder Westside Gunn, brother Conway the Machine, and cousin Benny the Butcher have been creating plenty of buzz over the last few years, but in 2020 they made a statement. With 5 albums between the 3 of them, a debut album by their female counterpart Armani Cesar, and a Griselda-released mixtape from the tremendously productive Boldy James, 2020 has been Griselda’s most productive year to date.

Despite making a sudden splash on the scene, these emcees have been rapping for a long time. While the way they rap is characteristically unique in it’s graphic descriptions and hard-hitting punch lines, their music has a foundation in a classic style of hip-hop, garnering them no shortage of praise from hip-hop legends across the map.

Through expert storytelling, Griselda artists include explicit details of criminal activities, and while they don’t necessarily glorify the lifestyle, they are not in the least bit apologetic. They don’t shy away from rapping about the details of their lives before rap fame, the struggle they endured to get here today, or boasting on their success that could only have come from unwavering perseverance.

One of the most compelling stylistic features of Griselda artists is their footing in a Mafioso aesthetic. This theme runs through all label members, and is one of the notable characteristics that unify them as a collective. It is not surprising that Griselda has been referred to as “the next Wu-Tang Clan”, which has been recognized even by members of the Wu-Tang Clan themselves. This claim is not just an acknowledgement of success in 2020, but an understanding that Griselda is set to be an iconic generational influence on the culture.

Lo-Fi Lethargic Raps

Over the past 5-7 years there has been a growing sub-genre of hip-hop characterized by low-energy rapping over lo-fi, sample-central beats. Counter to stereotypical rap braggadocio, artists in this style write more genuinely introspective. Despite their lethargic leaning tone, they write in a way that is both deeply expressive and seemingly therapeutic. The consistent themes are self-reflection and social observation from an introverted perspective.

The beats can be easily digestible, or in many cases can break rhythmic norms, providing an embrace of dystopian aesthetic. This approach gives the artists flexibility to maintain a refreshing level of unpredictability. It may not be a coincidence that 2020 was such prolific year for this style of hip-hop, being a year defined by isolation, depression, and dystopia.

I often refer to this style of hip-hop as “the other mumble rap”. While this sounds nothing like the commonly referred to sub-genre of mumble rap, these artists undeniably rap in a way that could be described as mumbling, but are nonetheless far more articulate as lyricists. There have been about a dozen or more notable artists operating successfully within this style, and while there is a common thread connecting them all, each has their own unique stylistic contribution. Above are 6 projects within this style from 2020 that I recommend from Medhane, MIKE, Redveil, Demahjiae, Chester Watson, and Navy Blue.

Boldy James Banner Year

I’ve declined to explicitly choose an album of the year for 2020, but if any artist should be recognized for their productivity it would have to be Boldy James. This year James dropped 3 collaborative projects with The Alchemist, Sterling Toles, and Real Bad Man, as well as a mixtape released by none other than Griselda Records (The Versace Tape).

Boldy James has been on the scene for over a decade, but his presence has never been more prolific than it was in 2020. Between the 4 projects, Boldy generously delivered 47 tracks (not including features), easily making 2020 his banner year. Despite the abundance of production, he didn’t cut corners. There are almost no intros or skits, and The Price of Tea in China & Real Bad Boldy are legitimate contenders for album of the year.

Like other Griselda artists, Boldy is a great storyteller, and his laid back flow guides the listener through a mesmerizing tour of illicit struggle raps. Each project has a different producer and corresponding sound, demonstrating James’ versatility and ability to adapt without compromising his own style.      

Check out other notable albums from: Apollo Brown & Che Noir, Armand Hammer, Clipping., Denzel Curry x Kenny Beats, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist, R.A.P. Ferreira, Run The Jewels, Sa-Roc, and Statik Selektah.

Notable Videos of 2020

Anderson .Paak feat. Jay Rock – Lockdown

Run The Jewels feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier – Ooh LA LA

D Smoke feat. Jackie Gouche’ – Black Habits I

Spillage Village feat. EARTHGANG, JID, Jurdan Bryant, Mereba, Hollywood JB – End of Daze

Princess Nokia – Gemini

Royce Da 5’9″ on The L.A. Leakers

Benny The Butcher on The L.A. Leakers

Symba on The L.A. Leakers

The Latest Playlist 2020

Conway the Machine feat. DeJ Loaf – Fear Of God

Boldy James & Real Bad Man – Street Shit

serengeti – parisian romance

Evidence – Unlearning

MIKE – More Gifts

K.A.A.N. – Breakthrough

REASON feat. Rapsody – I Can Make It

Apollo Brown & Che Noir – Freedom

Black Thought feat. C.S. Armstrong & OSHUN – We Could Be Good

redveil – Campbell

Jack Harlow – Keep It Light

R.A.P. Ferreira – Mythical

$ilkMoney – Not the Cat Y’all Saw Yesterday

Statik Selektah feat. Bobby Sessions – Immortal

Sa-Roc – Gold Leaf

D Smoke – Rapture

Joell Ortiz & KXNG Crooked – Caddy Bump (LBC)

Grafh – Anonymous

clipping. – Say the Name

Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – Pyro (leak 2019)

Knxwledge – Gangstallthetime

Benny the Butcher feat. DOM KENNEDY – Over The Limit

Meyhem Lauren & Harry Fraud – Yucca

Preservation feat. Roc Marciano – Medicine Drawer

Willie the Kid – Dirty Game

Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – 1985

Chuuwee – Knocked Off

Chester Watson feat. Salami Rose Joe Louis – Atlantis

demahjiae – Divinity

Anderson .Paak – Lockdown

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2019 In Review

Below are some of my favorite hip-hop highlights of 2019. Check the following playlists, albums, and videos for my personal run-down of the year.

The Latest Playlist: 2019

*Track listing at bottom of post

Notable Albums of 2019

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana


The most universally accepted rap album of 2019 was Bandana from Freddie Gibbs & Madlib. Legendary producer Madlib brings some of his finest work to this highly active Bandana instrumental. The samples are chosen brilliantly and blended masterfully, contributing layers of drama and grandeur to Freddie Gibbs’ tales of criminal lifestyle. Gibbs raps about life struggles through the lens of his experiences in illicit activities, primarily drug dealing. He provides generously detailed stories and references of past experiences with criminal activity, women, and law enforcement. Though he raps with the demeanor of an experienced member of organized crime, Gibbs doesn’t shy away from expressing his emotional state as he describes struggles he experiences as a result of his lifestyle. It is not at all lost in his message that his involvement in criminal activity is born out of a struggle to survive in an environment that doesn’t care if he succeeds, fails, lives, or dies. With outstanding production and heavy descriptive lyrics, Bandana is already considered a classic.

Billy Woods & Kenny Segal – Hiding Places


For years Billy Woods has been one of the most prolific emcees in the subgenre of abstract hip hop; 2019 was his banner year. Hiding Places represents a thoroughly developed and sophisticated Woods on the dark beats and crushing drums of his perfect producer counterpart: Kenny Segal. Hiding Places from Billy Woods & Kenny Segal is not an album for passive listening. Over the course of this project, Woods weaves in and out of fragmented thoughts, metaphor, memories and tangents. This is a deeply personal and emotional Woods, as he speaks passionately in heavy reflection of his childhood and life experiences. There is a fine line between rapping and spoken word, and Woods is constantly playing with that line. The overall aesthetic of this collaboration is dark, ominous, aggressive, and a bit uncomfortable. Hiding Places can be off-putting at first, but listening to this project in its entirety is a truly captivating experience. I also recommend checking out Billy Woods’ other 2019 release: Terror Management.

Kota the Friend – Foto


The album I listened to the most in 2019 was Foto from Kota the Friend. Kota the Friend has to be the most genuinely humble emcee out. Foto is not a complex album musically, conceptually, or otherwise, but it is a true gem for fans of boom bap conscious rap. Through mellow melodic delivery Kota speaks frankly about his life, relationships, and the importance of family. Kota is nearly void of rap braggadocio. The occasional boasting is done with a subtlety that points more towards a comfort in himself rather than any self-righteous arrogance. Foto is highly optimistic from front to back, and Kota speaks from a place of content and joy, consciously leaving hardships in his past. The beats are simple but solid. People looking for more innovative styles and sounds might find the album a bit repetitive, but I personally cant get enough of it.

Check out other Notable Albums from: Rapsody, Dreamville, EarthGang, Anderson .Paak, Mavi, Little Simz, YBN Cordae

Notable Videos of 2019

Freddie Gibbs – Fake Names

Little Simz – Venom

Tierra Whack – Unemployed

Tobe Nwigwe feat. Paul Wall – Juice

YBN Cordae feat. Aanderson .Paak – RNP

Boogie on Sway’s Universe

King Los on Power 106

Open Mike Eagle feat. Danny Brown – Unfiltered (Comedy Central/The New Negroes)

The Latest Playlist 2019

Little Simz – Venom

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Fake Names

Qari & Greenslime – Operation Hennessy

Rapsody – Serena

CRIMEAPPLE & DJ Skizz – Wet Dirt

YBN Cordae – Wintertime

Mach-Hommy feat. Tha God Fahim – Mozambique Drill

Flying Lotus – Andromeda

Tobe Nwigwe feat. Lanell Grant – Caged Birds

Anoyd & Statik Selektah – Purple

Kill Bill x Rav feat. Rekcahdam – Now you don’t

Kota the Friend – Sedona

Danny Brown – Best Life

Dreamville & JID feat. T.I. – Ladies, Ladies, Ladies

Kemba feat. Portugal, The Man – The Feels

MAVI – Love, Of Money

Maxo – Time

Medhane – Affirmation #1

Hemlock Ernst & Kenny Segal – Back at the House

Slowthai – Crack

Apollo Brown feat. Nolan The Ninja & Dopehead – Skimmin’

Homeboy Sandman – Step Inside

Your Old Droog – Train Love

Earl Sweatshirt – MTOMB

Billy Woods feat. Mach-Hommy – Windhoek

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Below are some of my favorite hip-hop highlights of 2018. Check the following playlists, albums, music videos, cyphers, and rap battles for my personal run-down of the year.

The Latest Playlist: 2018

*Track listing at bottom of post

Notable Albums of 2018

Avantdale Bowling Club – Avantdale Bowling Club


New Zealand based rapper Tom Scott is backed by a full live band for this collaborative hip-hop jazz-fusion project. The sound is raw, high-energy, and feels completely improvisational. The tracks are very long and have multiple jazzy instrumental sections that transition from one sound to the next, making 8 tracks sound like at least a dozen songs. Scott’s ability to keep up with the band while maintaining clear vocal projection is one of his most impressive qualities. With each musical transition, Scott manages to adapt the style of his flow to the band. His lyrics are not especially complex, but they come off as commendably honest and personal. Scott raps primarily about his own personal experiences and memories, which are often accompanied by vivid descriptions. He also raps about friends, relationships, and other aspects of his life, at times progressing into unorganized contemplative tangents.

Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 1 & 2


In his first major solo project, 47-year-old veteran MC and The Roots front man, Black Thought blessed 2018 with a 2-part project that made clear he is still in his prime. Thought plays the role of an elder instructor with every bit of vigor from his youth. Commanding attention with his powerful cadence, every line is delivered like it’s for a packed stadium. Vol. 1 was a June release primarily produced by 9th Wonder that served as an explosive re-introduction of who Black Thought is and what he’s about. Black Thought is uncompromisingly conscious and ultra-political, frequently referencing history, spirituality, and current events from local to global levels. Vol. 2 was a late November release produced by Salaam Remi, and debatably album of the year. With the same energy and intentions in Vol. 1, Vol. 2 was a platform for Thought to get into more specific issues, such as the pharmaceutical industry, industrial prison complex, school shootings, and gang violence to name a few. This is classic hip-hop with clean production. For any old heads in 2018, Streams of Thought Vol. 1 & 2 are true gems.

Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs


Only 3 years after his last release, Earl Sweatshirt sounds like he has aged a decade. Despite the album title, this is Earl’s most stylistically and conceptually cohesive project to date. The entire album carries a lethargic dystopian energy as Earl raps with a low muffled tone over mostly uplifting, dusty lo-fi samples. Over 15 very short songs, Earl offers admirably genuine pictures of his life and psychological condition. Despite the undertones of depression, he presents himself as sarcastically optimistic or at least apathetic. Most of his expressive content is not direct, but layered in metaphor and wordplay.

Jericho Jackson – Khrysis & Elzhi are Jericho Jackson


This project is another gem for classic heads. Renowned independent rapper Elzhi flexes clever east cost lyricism over headnodic beats that feel like the cold winter streets of New York City. Throughout the project Elzhi delivers an onslaught of continuous wordplay, creative punch lines and metaphors. Despite the lyrical density, his message is crystal clear, which is in a word, ‘struggle’. He makes clear that his life has been dangerous and difficult, that he has little trust for anyone, that he is “Self Made” and as an underground veteran, has worked for everything he’s earned. Elzhi is often known for his proudly Nas-influenced style, which is expectedly evident in this project. In a way Jericho Jackson feels a bit like a classic Nas album.

Check out other Notable Albums from: Armand Hammer, Jay Rock, Jean Grae & Quelle Chris, JID, Mick Jenkins, Milo, and Noname.

Notable Videos of 2018

Childish Gambino – This Is America

Jay Rock – The Bloodiest

JID – Working Out

Earthgang – Up

Mick Jenkins – What Am I To Do

Iron Solomon vs Rum Nitty 

Chris Webby on Sway

The Latest Playlist 2018

Black Milk – Could It Be

Saba – LIFE

Michael Christmas feat. Tobi Lou – Not the Only One

Mick Jenkins – Gwendolynn’s Apprehension

JID – 151 Rum

JPEGMAFIA – 1539 N. Calvert

Roc Marciano – Power

Mayhem Lauren feat. Conway – Venetian Loafers

Action Bronson – Prince Charming

The Skull Eclipses, Botany & Lushlife – Take My

Avantdale Bowling Club – F(r)iends

Earl Sweatshirt – Azucar

Royce da 5’9” feat. Ashley Sorrell – God Speed

Marlowe – Lost Arts

Bishop Nehru – Driftin’

Jericho Jackson – Self Made

Black Thought – 9th vs. Thought

The Lioness – Great Things

Jean Grae & Quelle Chris feat. Dane Orr – Peacock

Masta Ace & Marco Polo feat. Pearl Gates – Still Love Her

Milo – Mid Answer Trying To Remember What the Question Is

Open Mike Eagle – Southside Eagle

Hermit and the Recluse – Golden Fleece

Evidence feat. Jonwayne – To Make a Long Story Longer

Pete Flux & Parental – Burgermeister

Gavlyn & DJ Hoppa – Note to Self

Chester Watson – Floating

Iojii – Spook Who Sat By Da Floor

Busdriver feat. Dntel & Lorde Fredd33 – The year I became a mutherfuckin’ G

The Alchemist feat. Earl Sweatshirt – E. Coli

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It’s that time again for my review of the last year in hip-hop. Below are some of my favorite highlights of 2017. Check the following Playlists, Albums, Music Videos, Cyphers, and Rap Battles for my personal run-down of the year.

The Latest Playlist: 2017

*Track listing at bottom of post

Notable Albums of 2017

Choosing albums to highlight this year was difficult, and I want to at least mention some of the projects that for whatever reason I had a difficult time deciding not to critique: Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream, Kendrick Lamar – DAMN, Rapsody – Laila’s Wisdom, Marlon Craft – The Tunnel’s End, Billy Woods – Known Unknowns, and Kota the Friend – Paloma Beach. In the end, I decided to bring attention to the following 2017 projects:



The most wonderful surprise of 2017 was the trilogy of albums released by self-proclaimed Internet boy band, BROCKHAMPTON: SATURATION I, II, & III. My initial intention was to comment on just one of the three albums, but it would have been irresponsible not to address the entire trilogy as a whole, as well as the group’s overall significance in 2017. Formed by Kevin Abstract in an online Kanye West fan forum, the group consists of about a dozen members, each with a unique style, blending together in an incredibly impressive and complex dynamic. With a collective 48 tracks (only 8 of which are skits), and accompanied by about 20 music videos, this trilogy is and has everything, leaving little to be desired.

Forming a description of this music is anything but simple, as there are completely different styles from track to track, and even from section to section within each track. Some parts are difficult to digest; others contain a beautiful harmonizing of melodies, while others tiptoe into more classical rap and lyricism, and at times display styles that resemble poetry and spoken word. SATURATION pulls from a wide variety of genres and uses a plethora of sounds culminating in a project that is uniquely refreshing and absolutely genuine. The overall energy is invigorating and exiting in a way that is reminiscent of early Odd Future, but far more sophisticated.

In general, the content covers everything relevant to 2017 without beating the listener over the head with anything in particular. The message oscillates between introspective, contemplative, and outwardly conscious to a far less enlightened self-indulgence, which is clearly self-aware, dabbling in a comedic irony. The more time you spend with this music, the more there is to unpack and appreciate.

Milo – Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!


2017 brought yet another magical release from the rap poet alchemist/sorcerer: Milo. With the opening track titled “Poet” and closing track titled “Rapper”, Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! Actively addresses the natural crossover of poetry and rap, particularly in Milo’s own music, which has become commonly referred to as the Open Mike Eagle coined genre of “Art Rap”.

The instrumentals on this project are mostly mesmerizingly mellow (mmm…), leaving room for Milo’s message, which is, as usual, contemplative and inquisitive on many levels. Deeply saturated with abstract metaphor and philosophical references, as in all of Milo’s music, momentary distraction is unforgiving to the listener, and understanding his messages require undivided attention.

Much of this project seems to be a path of self-discovery through music as well as observation of others, and finding his place relative to those observations. He frequently employs blatant critique of stereotypical rap clichés and shortsighted arrogance, though his disses would clearly be lost upon the targets of his criticism. Well aware of his intellectual prowess, particularly in the field of hip-hop, intelligence and vocabulary become his bragging points: “The point is my vocabulary pays my rent”.

Though I wouldn’t consider this Milo’s best project to date, it is undoubtedly successful, solidifying his place as one of my favorite artists.

lojii & Swarvy – Due Rent


Any classic head can appreciate “Due Rent”, the latest double “disc” album from lojii & Swarvy. Lojii tackles the age-old hip-hop theme of hustling for cash, striving to overcome struggle, and then rapping about it. With a low-energy Godfather/Mafioso type East Coast flow, lojii casually floats over a bed of dark lo-fi instrumentals that clearly display Swarvy’s ability to orchestrate sample mastery.

Accurately self described as “rap vintage”, each track is only about 2 minutes and is essentially a different take on the same point: lojii going about his day to day trying to find a way to pay rent and make it to the next day, with of course, a bit of classic hip-hop braggadocio peppered in. Overall the album is cohesively satisfying, with a seemingly low budget production and message, lojii & Swarvy show that they can make dope hip-hop with any budget, reminiscent of an earlier time in underground hip-hop production.

Notable Music Videos of 2017

Open Mike Eagle feat. Sammus – Hymnal

Open Mike Eagle – Happy Wasteland Day

Jay-Z – The Story of O.J.

Brother Ali – Never Learn


Notable Cyphers of 2017

Method Man & Black Thought on Sway in the Morning

Harry Mack Freestyles in Venice

Notable Rap Battles of 2017

Bigg K vs Pass (KOTD)

Dizaster vs Oxxxymiron (KOTD)

Oops vs Xcel (KOTD)

The Latest Playlist 2017:

Brother Ali – Never Learn

lojii & Swarvy – Northern Organix

Marlon Craft – The One (Intro) / TTE 1

Milo – Sorcerer

Danny Watts – Things We Have To Do

Devin the Dude – Can I

Open Mike Eagle Feat. Sammus – Hymnal

Little Simz – Backseat

J.I.D. – General

Billy Woods – Snake Oil


Araabmuzik feat. Illmind – Selda

Anti-Lilly & Phoniks feat. Mariel – Sunshine

Cyhi The Prynce – God Bless Your Heart

Kendrick Lamar – FEEL

Loyle Carner – Ain’t Nothing Changed

Cunninlynguists – Mr. Morganfield & Ms. Waters (A-Side)

Sampa The Great – Protect Your Queen

Homeboy Sandman – Bless Up

The Doppelgangaz feat. Tnava– Roll Flee

Kota the Friend – Lawn Chair

Joey Bada$$ feat. Styles P – SUPER PREDATOR

Smino – Spitshine

Blu & Exile – Party of Two

Quelle Chris feat. I, Ced & Mndsgn – Popeye

The Underachievers – Cobra Clutch

Statik Selektah feat. Run The Jewels – Put Jewels On It

Stik Figa feat. Apollo Brown – Holding Back Tears

Armand Hammer – Stole

G Perico – All Blue

Have a great 2018!


I didn’t post anything in 2016 but there was plenty to post about. Below are some of my favorite highlights of 2016. Check the following Playlists, Albums, Music Videos, and Rap Battles for my personal run-down of the year.

The Latest Playlist: 2016

*Track listing at bottom of post

Notable Albums of 2016

First I should mention that there were many important albums worthy of writing about that came out last year, including respectable projects from Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, J Cole, Danny Brown, Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, Kool Keith, De La Soul and Common just to name a few. Despite the plethora of albums to review, I felt compelled to write about two in particular.

KA – Honor Killed the Samurai


Honor Killed the Samurai is a concept album that has a strong cinematic quality and captivating story. The tensely ominous instrumentals set the scene for Ka’s character; a wise and experienced criminal who has done everything necessary (often regrettably) to survive his dangerous environment. The “Samurai” is referenced both thematically in the instrumentals and with direct samples of old Samurai movies.

Ka does not proclaim himself a Samurai or even reference it in his lyrics. Instead he tells detailed stories of having a difficult upbringing and committing “grimy street crimes”. While shooting people and selling drugs are not new topics in hip hop, Ka addresses them with a heavy heart, minimizing the glorification and highlighting the guilt and repercussions. Ka’s character is more of an elder Mafioso who is contrasted stylistically with the concept and sound of Samurai.  Through expert-level multisyllabic flow structure, Ka tells vivid tales of his difficult past, warning those faced with the challenges he once was.

So I stood on mine, during the hoodest time 

Was a nightmare, felt like life here was as good as dying

We was born in the thorns, few arose

Once a town’s noose, now in soundproofs pursuing golds

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3


After Run The Jewels & Run The Jewels 2, the expectations for Run The Jewels 3 were raised to unreachable heights, but nonetheless Killer Mike & EL-P delivered. Scheduled for January 2017, they blessed us all with an early release in December, making RTJ3 my favorite and debatably the best hip-hop album of 2016.

First of all, the production on this album (like its’ predecessors) is incredible. The RTJ sound is uniquely discernable from anything else in existence, and EL-P’s signature apocalyptic production has nearly reached it’s final form. Every beat is deeply layered with industrial, hazardous, and robotic rhythms, turntable scratching, voice samples, intricate drums, and a variety of carefully placed sound effects & synths.

Much of the lyrical content on RTJ3 is the same off the wall, do whatever the fuck we want style seen in RTJ2. In addition, this project covers a wide variety of content from track to track, at the forefront of which are politics and current events. Many of the braggadocios lines on this project serve dually as classic hip-hop boasting and a reflection of the arrogant bully-type attitudes seen in many political leaders. A prime example of this is in the DJ Shadow music video that RTJ featured on for the track “Nobody Speak” which was released in August. When Run The Jewels 3 came out a lot of the lyrics made me think of this video (see below).

Personally I believe this duo is the best thing happening in hop-hop right now. They sound and feel not only current and relevant, but also necessary. The energy on this album is through the roof, and I believe it reflects the sentiment of a culture that is up in arms over the political climate, searching for an outlet just shy of rioting.

Notable Music Videos of 2016

DJ Shadow feat. Run The Jewels – Nobody Speak

Kemba – The New Black Theory

KOOL KEITH feat. MF DOOM – Super Hero

Notable Rap Battles of 2016

Danny Myers vs B Dot (LABG)

Iron Solomon vs Dizaster (KOTD)

The Latest Playlist 2016:

Kemba – The New Black Theory

Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Smiling (Quirky Race Doc)

KA – Just

Homeboy Sandman – Eyes

Blu & Union Analogtronics – Sunny

Run The Jewels feat. BOOTS – 2100

Mickey Factz & Nottz – 414 Words

Mick Jenkins – Fall Through

Elzhi – Cloud

Danny Brown feat. Petite Noir – Rolling Stone

Have a great 2017!

2015 in Review

It’s been a minute since my last post but today is a big one. Below are some of my favorite highlights of 2015. Check the following Playlists, Albums, Music Videos, Cyphers and Rap Battles for my personal run-down of the year.

The Latest Playlist: 2015

*Track listing at bottom of post

Notable Albums of 2015

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly


Without question, the most important album of 2015 is To Pimp a Butterfly. It is as timely and uncompromisingly relevant as it is uniquely produced. The instrumentals are a well-choreographed mix of Funk, Jazz and R & B melodies that mimic and support the energy of a passionately expressive Kendrick Lamar.

As Kendrick navigates through emotional highs, lows, and moments of clarity, he gives listeners a poetically journalistic perspective of his experience being black in America. He continuously expresses his frustration throughout the album, often referencing slavery, politics, and police brutality. A few of the tracks veer off course and a few stand out as optimistic perspectives on his more painful songs, but his performance is exemplary and he didn’t hold back a thing in terms of his message. There are endless pages that could be and have been written breaking down To Pimp A Butterfly as a significant piece of art reflecting race in America.

BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul


Now that I touched on the most praised album of the year, I want to focus on what I believe is the most slept-on album of 2015. Wu- Tang veteran Ghostface Killah teamed up with the Toronto-based music group BADBADNOTGOOD in February to create Sour Soul, which has become my personal favorite album of the year (or at least the one I listen to the most). Ghostface’s lyrical content on this project is far from enlightening as he confidently boasts of sex, money, and power while threatening violence and domination, but the outcome is highly entertaining nonetheless.

What makes this project such a great success is it’s cinematic quality. BADBADNOTGOOD uses jazz to create instrumentals that feel like movie scores in beat format. Much of the album is strictly instrumental, and Ghostface’s appearances are well placed. He uses this platform to act out his character as a gun-slinging mobster in full rapper machismo and he fits the part perfectly. The instrumental interludes seem like time passing between verses, which become like different movie scenes with each appearance made by Ghostface’s character. I recommend listening to this album from front to back. Over, and over, and over.

Henry Canyons – Canyonland  /  Milo – So the Flies Don’t Come

Two other notable albums that I would place in my top 5 for the year are Milo’s “So the Flies don’t come” and Henry Canyons “Canyonland”. I touched on these albums earlier this year and you can find those posts here:

Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt


One more album I wanted to draw attention to for 2015 is an instant introverts classic. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt. To be honest I’ve never been a big Odd Future fan with the exception of a few tracks and one member. Earl Sweatshirt caught my ear with the track “EARL” back in 2010 (at which point he was 16). It was gritty, offensive, and reckless in typical Odd Future fashion, but Earl’s flow and wordplay was so uniquely dope that it didn’t matter. Now in 2015 Earl shows listeners a more mature and genuine picture of his life and struggles.

The entire project has a kind of mopey depressing energy supporting the album concept, and the beats are pretty minimal. The title of the album says it all. Earl proceeds to elaborate on why he doesn’t like people: men, women, rappers, industry executives, promoters, friends, enemies…the list goes on. Earl is at the top of his game in terms of flow and wordplay complexity and provides an impressively compelling case for why he doesn’t like people. It is exciting to hear Earl Sweatshirt’s music develop over the years as he is beginning to express more genuinely than his younger self.

Notable Videos of 2015

Below are some Music Videos, Rap Battles, and a Cyphers that were  notable highlights for 2015:

Music Videos

Action Bronson – Actin’ Crazy

Open Mike Eagle – Celebrity Reduction Prayer

Rap Battles

Iron Solomon vs Daylyt

Dumbfounded vs Conceited


Illmaculate on Team Backpack

Locksmith on Shade45

The Latest Playlist: 2015

Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
Henry Canyons feat. Zoe Rose – Music Man
Joey Bada$$ – Christ Conscious
Murs – Skatin Through the City
Tre Capital feat. Hudson East – Bear the Burden
Mick Jenkins – Alchemy
Earl Sweatshirt – Grief
BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah feat. Elzhi – Gunshowers
A-Wax – Tried As an Adult
Open Mike Eagle – Dark Comedy Late Show
Lupe Fiasco feat. Crystal Torres – Adoration of the Magi
Apollo Brown feat. Your Old Droog – Not That Guy
L’Orange & Jeremiah Jae – Underworld
Milo – An Encyclopedia

And that is my wrap-up of 2015. Happy New Year.

Project Profile: so the flies don’t come


milo: so the flies don’t come

Release Date: September 25, 2015

Produced by Kenny Segal

The album I’ve been playing on repeat the past few weeks is Milo’s so the flies don’t come. Kenny Segal’s production is on point and melds beautifully with milo’s mic presence, which is the strongest it’s been. The instrumentals have an experimental synthetic smooth jazz feel that fits milo’s style perfectly. Milo has some of the most layered and abstracted lyrics in hip hop and this project seems to be his most personally revealing approach, showing the listeners a clearer picture of his concerns and perspectives.

Here’s the song that was released a few weeks before the album called Zen Scientist, with Myka 9 harmonizing on the chorus:

Zen Scientist feat. Myka 9

Each track opens a new window to milo’s psyche and follows a style that bounces in and out of genuine and sarcastic while displaying a mastery of figurative language in exceptional rhyme format.

As a big fan of wordplay, there is a section of the song below “an encyclopedia” that is incredibly satisfying to hear, and even more so to memorize (1:42 – 1:57):

Milo last seen with a poor sport, with more ass, got a passport to import more for the war stash, short leash, long lash, Long Beach, with Bombast, I palm palm trees in my thought path. This is a mason jar containing a last laugh. (Followed my a menacing laugh in the background)

an encyclopedia

Features for this project include Hemlock Ernst, Myka 9, Open Mike Eagle, and Elucid. Below is a beautiful track featuring Elucid titled “going no place”:

One of my favorite tracks of the project is “song about a raygunn (an ode to Driver)”, which is a heartfelt tribute to his friend and mentor Busdriver, which can be seen in the last post from The Mic is the Message “The Latest Playlist: September 2015”, track 3.

For a more in depth review of the album, I recommend checking out the video below with Anthony Fantano of I feel he really nailed it as usual.



Henry Canyons: Canyonland

Release Date: June 16, 2015

Henry Canyons’ latest album Canyonland came out earlier this summer on Mello Music Group, and has been one of my favorite hip hop projects to come out this year. The entire album has a cohesive sound with a unique fusion of blues and jazz in the beats, soulful vocalist Zoe Rose harmonizing in 4 of the tracks, and Freddy Jay on the cuts for 2. Canyons has a commanding voice and smooth cadence that blends wonderfully with this style of instrumentals. His wordplay is articulately constructed at an advanced level, and often approached from a more poetically abstracted perspective.

Below is the bandcamp bio given for the project by Henry Canyons:

“Canyonland is not a mythic, unworldly place or a complete invention of my imagination. It is rather, the encapsulation of my experience that became my world five years ago; that of a half-French, Jewish Brooklynite transplanted in Los Angeles. The canyon is the point of the vista. From the top you see where you stand in respect to where you’ve come from, and where you’re going. Canyonland is my experience getting adapted to this environment, struggling to do so, finding my personal and professional spheres, further embracing my identity, my challenges and success with women, witnessing a completely different lifestyle with its various breeds of people, and the place where “dreams come true.” This is my journey through the desert in the hopes of finding the oasis.”

While Henry Canyons has a cohesive idea tying the project together he does not allow it to box him into his writing process. His lyrics are largely guided by the assembly of wordplay, which he uses to weave in and out of the overarching ideas more naturally than a strict cohesion to the concept might. As can be gathered by his bio above, the primary ideas presented are personal to Canyons and his perspective, including struggle and transcendence, music and hip hop, abstracted observations of contemporary culture, and relationship/escapades with women. These ideas are often intertwined and revisited from track to track.

Mixed By: Matt Bowen

Produced By: Keor Meteor

Mastered By: Willie Green

Executive Produced By: Matt Bowen & Henry Chanin