Category Archives: Year in Review

The Latest Playlist: Best of 2010


Open Mike Eagle – I Rock

Curren$y – Airborne Aquarium

The Roots feat. Blu, Phonte & Patty Crash – The Day

Homeboy Sandman – Angels With Dirty Faces

Roc Marciano – Thugs Prayer

Boog Brown & Apollo Brown feat. Kam Moye – Friends Like These

Blacastan – The Life of a Tape

Freeway & Jake One – One Foot In

Danny Brown – Nowehere 2 Go

King Fantastic – Westcoastsynthesizerbeachbumgangstermusic

Sapient – Clouds Clear

Marco Polo feat. Surreal – So Basic

Qwel & Maker – El Camino

Dark Time Sunshine feat. Reva Devito – Defender

J-Live – The Way That I Rhyme

Panacea – Natural Selection

Factor & Def3 – Luck Ducks

Super Chron Flight Brothers – Reggie Miller

BIG K.R.I.T. feat. Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa – Glass House

Kanye West feat. Rick Ross – Devil In a New Dress

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2021 In Review

This has been a year unlike any in the history of hip-hop. The variety of sub-genres and styles are more plentiful every year, and in 2021, fans were blessed with no shortage of quality music to choose from. Questions of AOTY or GOAT become less and less relevant as artists within hip-hop move in completely different directions stylistically. Nonetheless, I’ve chosen a handful of artists to make note of that impressed me the most in 2021. As usual, below is the latest playlist with my favorite tracks for the year.


The Latest Playlist: 2021

*Track listing at bottom of post


The Year of The Alchemist

2021 was the year of The Alchemist. Easily the producer of the year, The Alchemist was debatably the most significant figure in hip-hop for 2021. The veteran producer was coming off of a great year in 2020, releasing 2 of the best albums of that year with Boldy James and Freddie Gibbs. He accomplished that feat again in 2021 with Boldy James and Armand Hammer, but that’s only a portion of Al’s impact on hip-hop this year. The Alchemist’s success of late has been in his unique ability to create dynamic cinematic listening experiences through his production. I believe he chooses emcees to collaborate with based in part on how compelling they are as protagonists, and how well they’re able to narrate their own content within Al’s aesthetic.  His beats are thoughtfully layered and masterfully produced, but still maintain the warm character of dusty vinyl.

Early in the year he released Haram with abstract emcee-duo Armand Hammer (Billy Woods & E L U C I D). For Armand Hammer fans, this was a dream come true. I hate the phrase, but when it comes to working with Billy Woods & E L U C I D, The Alchemist understood the assignment. As can be expected from Armand Hammer, their dystopian metaphor-infused raps are deeply layered societal critiques that are not for the faint of heart. The Alchemist composed a series of eerily sinister soundscapes for these experimental emcees, creating a fitting backdrop for their post-apocalyptic vignettes. Armand Hammer and The Alchemist are all avid proponents of experimental beat production, and collectively do an exceptional job blending themes of societal collapse and insanity with an underground hip-hop aesthetic. This is easily an AOTY contender for any fans of abstract or experimental hip-hop.

A few months after Haram, The Alchemist and Boldy James released Bo Jackson; another AOTY contender, which has been just as successful if not more successful than their previous year’s The Price of Tea in China. The Alchemist and Boldy James have a very special collaborative energy. The sound here is drastically different from Al’s work with Armand Hammer, and is equally inspired by the corresponding emcee’s aesthetic. Boldy is a great protagonist. His smooth villainous flow details a life of crime and business; cooking, selling, and trafficking illegal drugs.  For Bo Jackson, The Alchemist assembled an impressive cocktail of bizarre and vintage sounding samples that perfectly support the nefarious energy of Boldy’s content, reminiscent of old mafia movie scores. As if having 2 AOTY contenders wasn’t enough, The Alchemist & Boldy James released a follow-up project titled Super Tecmo Bo near the end of the year. This project provided a fuller, more ‘supped-up’ production from Al, with even sharper raps from Boldy. I still prefer Bo Jackson to Super Tecmo Bo, but there isn’t a bad track on either project.

The Alchemist has also been collaborating with a younger generation of artists, as seen on the 2 EPs that he released this year: This Thing of Ours & This Thing of Ours 2. It’s no mystery to fans that The Alchemist has been collaborating with Earl Sweatshirt, but this two-part EP provided strong evidence that he’s become a central figure in this rapidly progressing sub-genre of lo-fi, sample-heavy, lethargic emotive rap, which I wrote about in last years 2020 Year in Review (See Lo-Fi Lethargic Raps). The Alchemist included many of the bigger names from this niche genre in his project, including Earl Sweatshirt, Navy Blue, MIKE, MAVI, Maxo, Sideshow & Pink Siifu. The Alchemist has shown that he is not only capable of perfectly catering to the aesthetic of different emcees, but he also brings out the best, most interesting versions of the artists that he works with. I can’t wait for whatever he brings us in 2022.


           

Conductor! Conductor!

Griselda founder Westside Gunn aka Flygod also delivered two AOTY contenders…or one, depending on how you view the ‘2-sided’ 8th installment of his long running Hitler Wears Hermes series. Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Sincerely Adolf was released in August, and in September he released Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side B, for a generous total of 33 tracks packed to the brim with top-notch features. Gunn’s style in 2021 remains uncompromisingly outlandish as he raps of extravagant expenses, flamboyant fashion, and malicious murder…gun sounds included. The abundance of features appear to have been a call to action from WSG for his collaborators to bring their A game, because everybody did. The guests include the usual extended Griselda family members such as Stove God Cooks, Mach-Hommy, Rome Streetz and of course Benny the Butcher and Conway the Machine, as well as appearances from standout artists like Jadakiss, Jay Electronica, Lil Wayne, and Tyler, The Creator. I especially like the synergy between Westside Gunn rapping and Stove God Cooks on the hook as heard in tracks like “RIGHT NOW” and “Vogue Cover”. When it comes to the beats, Flygod never disappoints. Between the embrace of his rap persona and his preference in samples, it’s no mystery that MF DOOM would be proud of his former collaborators recent success, and the influence he’s had on it.


Navy Blue The Truest

Navy Blue has quickly become one of my favorites since his December 2020 release: Song of Sage: Post Panic!. That was technically last year, so I won’t say much more about it than ‘it’s incredible, and you should give it a listen’. This year Navy put a lot of work into his solo release Navy’s Reprise, as well as a great deal of work producing albums for his peers. Navy’s Reprise is a deeply personal arrangement of introspective reflections. Wise beyond his years, humble with respectable intentions, he opens up about his family, spirituality, and his efforts to heal trauma and grow as a being. Navy is apparently void of inhibitions as he pours his heart all over the project. When it comes to authentic expression in hip-hop, Navy Blue is The Truest.

Navy’s sample heavy production fits comfortably in the “Lo-Fi Lethargic Raps” style that I wrote about last year. I likely oversimplified my explanation of the style, but I’m happy to see it taking off. Navy Blue is another one of the central figures in that community of artists as both an emcee and a producer. Navy’s beats beg to be expressed upon. Generally at a slower tempo, Navy tends toward samples that evoke emotion, compelling emcees to genuinely express. This year Navy produced 3 different albums (not including his own) for emcees AKAI SOLO (True Sky), Wiki (Half God), and Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon (Beautifully Black). I hadn’t heard of AKAI SOLO or Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon until these Navy-produced releases, but they’re both on my radar now. Beautifully Black is my personal favorite production from Navy Blue this year. Half God ended up being a very successful collaboration with Wiki that culminated in a tour that included Wiki, Navy Blue, and Demahjiae. I was lucky enough to catch their show in LA, and it’s worthy of note that Navy Blue is the real deal at a live show.


Mach-Hommy

Another artist that gave us 2 AOTY contenders in 2021 was Mach-Hommy, with Pray For Haiti and Balens Cho (Hot Candles).  His first release of the year, Bulletproof Luh went largely under the radar despite having some solid tracks; it was his 2nd & 3rd 2021 releases that stole the show. Pray for Haiti was an instant classic. Produced by Flygod himself, Westside Gunn found some characteristically outlandish samples that Mach-Hommy coasts over with his smooth and raspy vocals. Some tracks stand out like “The Stellar Ray Theory”, “Marie”, and “Kriminel”, but the project is stylistically consistent as a perfectly blended vibe of Westside Gunn & Mach-Hommy. In this project, Mach incorporates moments of singing that are refreshingly melodic, creating a nice contrast with his off-kilter flow structure. Towards the end of the year, Mach-Hommy released Balens Cho (Hot Candles), and despite having only 8 full-length songs, many fans prefer this release to Pray For Haiti. It’s another solid project with a jazzier mellow vibe. Over the course of 2021, Mach-Hommy showed an immense amount of progress in his craft, and has become a dynamic artist with a great amount of stylistic flexibility.


Lukah

Lukah is an emcee from Memphis that I only just discovered with his early-2021 release; When The Black Hand Touches You. I was immediately drawn to this album as an early 2021 favorite, due to the well-polished nature of its classic underground style. Lukah is very good at rapping and makes great music for underground hip-hop heads. With southern flavor and emcee smashing confidence he projects every word with powerful delivery, relentlessly rapping details and perspectives on life in his community. I have my favorites, but every track on this project is solid.

His 2nd release of the year, Why Look Up, God’s In the Mirror shows a clear improvement in vocal projection and flow, accompanied by a fuller production on the instrumentals. On this project Lukah continues his tear on 2021, establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with: “I am God, God is power, who dares to challenge it?”. There’s no shortage of braggadocious boasting, but he also has some very real moments addressing his community and mental health in tracks like “COLORED ONE” and “THE WAY TO DAMASCUS”. This project is just as consistent as the previous, and a strong contender for AOTY. Why Look Up, God’s In the Mirror also has a handful of features including Boldy James, Estee Nack, and Cities Aviv. I’m looking forward to seeing what this relatively new artist comes up with next.


Gumbo

I’ve mentioned a lot of “contenders” for Album of the Year. There’s been more variety in hip-hop this year than ever before, and there is no objective AOTY. My personal favorite album from 2021 is Gumbo from Pink Siifu. Without question, it’s the album that I vibed to the most this year. The project is a beautifully orchestrated stew of southern styles and sounds mixing into an absolutely delicious project. Pink Siifu soulfully glides through an eclectic mix of funky, jazzy, grimy, swaggy instrumentals, rapping about friends and family, while proudly embracing his southern roots. This is an album that keeps the listener engaged from track to track, never falling victim to any kind of predictable repetition. Pink executes a variety of styles with mastery and class, from the more hype tracks like “Roscoe’!” to the super laid back jazzy joints like “Gumbo’! 4 tha Folks”. I’ve listened to this album in it’s entirety many times, and I rarely skip tracks, but my favorite tracks that refuse to get old are “Fk U Mean/ Hold me Dwn”, “Back’!”, “Doin Tew Much. (In My Mama Name)”, and “Call tha Bro (Tapped In)”. Siifu is a dynamic experimental artist that’s rapidly evolving. As much as I’d love to hear a sequel to this project, it stands successfully on it’s own as a fantastic moment in Pink Siifu’s career and 2021 hip-hop as a whole.


Notable Videos of 2021

Freddie Gibbs feat. ScHoolboy Q– Gang Signs

Brady Watt, Westside Gunn, DJ Premier – The Narcissist

Erick Arc Elliot – Self Made on Colors

Isaiah Rashad – HB2U on Colors

Kipp Stone – Retrograde Raps on Kinda Neat

Ray Vaughn on LA Leakers

J. Cole on LA Leakers


The Latest Playlist 2021

CZARFACE & MF DOOM – Break in the Action

Freddie Gibbs feat. ScHoolboy Q – Gang Signs

JPEGMAFIA – HAZARD DUTY PAY!

Navy Blue – Ritual

Mick Jenkins – The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Tyler, The Creator – MASSA

Westside Gunn feat. Stove God Cooks & Jadakiss – RIGHT NOW

YUNGMORPHEUS & Eyedress – Candyman

Pink Siifu feat. Maxo – Call tha Bro (Tapped In)

Chris Crack – Sex Dreams About Platonic Friends

Medhane – Keep Looking

MIKE – Babyvillain (in our veins)

Fat Ray – Mental Case

Nas – Nas is Good

Cities Aviv – Imma Stay Here

Rome Streetz & Futurewave – Mud into Moet

ANKHLEJOHN – The Browder Files

Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – Roaches Don’t Fly

Mach-Hommy – Separation of the Sheep and the Goats

R.A.P. Ferreira – Gemilut Hashadim

Little Simz – Little Q, Pt. 2

J. Cole – l e t . g o . m y . h a n d

Kipp Stone – Get Myself Together

Lloyd Banks – Death by Design

K.A.A.N. – Gone

D Smoke – Shame On You

Lukah – Black Dragon

Brwnsounds feat. Eyeswideshut – 03

KA feat. Navy Blue – We Livin’ Martyr

Boldy James & The Alchemist – Bumps and Bruises

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The Latest Playlist: Best of 2011


Danny Brown – Die Like a Rockstar

Rashad & Confidence – Shining

Kendrick Lamar – Hol’ Up

Shabazz Palaces – An Echo from the Hosts That Profess Infinitum

The Doppelgangaz – At Night

CunninLynguists feat. Freddie Gibbs – Hard As They Come (Act One)

Flash Bang Grenada – Aphrodite

Open Mike Eagle feat. P.O.S. – Why Pianos Break

Del the Funky Homosapien – Calculate

Evidence – Strangers

Has-Lo – Storm Clouds

Reverie – Roots Like the Trees

Random Axe – Random Call

Reks – 25th Hour

J-Live – How I Feel, Pt. 3

Action Bronson – Brunch

Grieves – On the Rocks

Eligh & Amp Live feat. Inspired Flight – Ego Killer

Blu & Exile feat. Jimetta Rose – The Only One

Erick Arc Elliot feat. Hellacopter City – Bad Habit

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The Latest Playlist: Best of 2012


Quakers feat. Tone Tank – What Chew Want

OC & Apollo Brown – Signs

Reks – Obedient Workers

Killer Mike feat. Emily Panic – Anywhere But Here

EL-P – For My Upstairs Neighbor (Mums the Word)

Kendrick Lamar – The Art of Peer Pressure

Rapsody feat. Nomsa Mazwai – Kind of Love

Home Brew – State of Mind

Murs & Fashawn feat. Adrian – This Generation

Open Mike Eagle – One Day

Karriem Riggins – Double Trouble

KA – Up Against Goliath

Roc Marciano – Emeralds

Billy Woods – Human Resources

Substantial feat. DJ Jav – Check My Resume

Wordsworth – Vanish

Joey Bada$$ feat. Capital Steez – Survival Tactics

Luckyiam – Epiphany

Mello Music Group feat. Oddisee – Slow It Down

Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson – I Can Do No Wrong

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The Latest Playlist: Best of 2013


Captain Murphy feat. Viktor Vaughn, Earl Sweatshirt and Thundercat – Between Villains

Run The Jewels – A Christmas Fucking Miracle

Richie Branson – Into Antiquity (12,000 B.C.)

Billy Woods – Tinseltown

The Doppelgangaz – Barbiturates

Danny Brown feat. Charli XCX – Float On

Mac Miller – The Star Room

Lorn – Bury Your Brother

Open Mike Eagle – Apologies

KA – Kinghthood

L’Orange & Stik Figa – Blind Tiger

Milo – Folk-Metaphysics

First Light – Los Lobos

Quasimoto – Planned Attack

CZARFACE – Hazmat Rap

Hieroglyphics – Golden

Paranom & Purpose – Rise Above

Black Milk – Monday’s Worst

Blame One & J57 feat. Akie Bermiss – They Don’t Know

JJ DOOM – Guv’nor (BADBADNOTGOOD Version)

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The Latest Playlist: Best of 2014


Run The Jewels – Lie, Cheat, Steal

Lakutis – Mumra

Step Brothers feat. Roc Marciano – See the Rich Man Play

Mello Music Group feat. Quelle Chris – Going Swell

Black Milk feat. Mel – Everyday Was

J. Cole – No Role Modelz

Hashfinger – Blue Mirage

Chuuwee – Cool World

PremRock – Lens

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Deeper

People Under the Stairs – Cool Story Bro

Anti-Lilly & Phoniks – Young G (Phoniks Remix)

Open Mike Eagle – Sadface Penance Raps

Cities Aviv – Perpetuate the Real

Black Knights – Sword in Stone

Willie the Kid & Bronze Nazareth feat. Roc Marciano – Avalon

The Grouch – My Best Teacher

Busdriver – Eat Rich

Intuition & Equalibrum – Weight Is Gone

L’Orange feat. Boog Brown – Until The Fall

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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

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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

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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

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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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2018 IN REVIEW

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

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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

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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

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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

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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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2017 IN REVIEW

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:

BROCKHAMPTON – SATURATION I, II, & III

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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??!!?!?!?!

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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

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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

BROCKHAMPTON – SWAMP


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

BROCKHAMPTON – TOKYO

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!