The month in hip hop...

Happy New Year to all Rapture & Verse followers, volume six looking to make some predictions as to who’ll blow up across the coming months and hoping to avoid miserable failure as the R&V crack team of Mystic Megs shine their collective crystal balls. All while tidying up all the ins and outs of hip-hop like festive wrapping paper being crumpled bin-wards.

What was that about the old guard thumbing their nose at the retirement home throughout last year? Now we have Naughty by Nature throwing themselves a 20th anniversary party. ‘Anthem Inc’ includes all of their feelgood flavas from way back – ‘OPP’, ‘Hip Hop Hooray’ etc, which you’ll inevitably head to first - while the remainder from Treach, Kay Gee and Vin Rock does a solid (i.e., they don’t embarrass themselves) job of staying relevant to newbie ears, with R&B crosses and rugged rough-ups.

Something to get those unsightly holiday pounds shed is the Project Alfie mixtape (@ProjectAlfie), a mashup/cover concept involving/half-inching from Dr Dre, Outkast, Jay-Z and Kanye West into a soothingly slinking and soulful seasoning , like the thug talk and gang banging spruced up in a slick new tuxedo. No Our Price vouchers to spend in the New Year? Hunt down a free download from Show n Prove instead for a set of instrumentals he’s laced for everyone from Tinchy Stryder to Klashnekoff, Skinnyman to Moorish Delta 7’s Malik. Plenty of bolshy beats, a bit of hoedown lassoing and disco freaking, street rompers and more besides, it’s a more than handy headphone punisher with a volume two already being prepped.

Doesn’t look like the Midlands’ ultra prolific Tricksta of the Wolftown empire is thinking of slowing down as a New Year’s resolution. Tricksta brings back another one of his infamous ‘UK Runnings’ mixtapes while supplying the fire behind the Skriblah edition of ‘The Digital Revolution’ series, ‘Urban Kaos’ featuring S-Kalibre, Supar Novar, Phoenix da Icefire and stacks more, and then his own forthcoming album lining up Dubbledge, Karl Hinds, Genesis Elijah, Shameless and more emcees than an Albert Einstein equation. And then there’s Wolftown’s Late hosting a US free-for-all on ‘Straight Realism – All City Hustlin’ ( – once again, all part-timers are put to shame and then the sword.

Skuff & Inja are onto a good thing with ‘Fat Love’ deserving of some overground shine – view the fairground-filmed vid here – and with Inja on a roll from the back end of last year, he taps into the tears of Adele’s 2011 uber heartbreaker with some male perspective, helped out by the frightening-sounding Bioviolence. Not quite an answer record serving the Tottenham chanteuse, but 'Someone Like You' gets rattled about a bit nonetheless.

Keeping with the UK pressure, Ramson Badbonez sprays influential get-up-and-go with the Row-D-produced 'Pump Dat Bass', and one many army Lowkey keeps on with words to slap your conscience out of slumber with 'Soundtrack to the Struggle'. Benny Banks fits the formula to do things above and below radars, having signed to the significant ranks of 679 and with Dappy and Maverick Sabre in his phonebook. Cock an ear to Facebook freebie 'I'm Going In' to gauge what’s what. SAS come back into earshot, the UK pair who ran with Dipset a while back now in cahoots with Chipmunk for urban plink-plonk 'Ready'.

Gunk and grunge peddlers Gangrene are cooking up another unholy sludge of stew, Oh No and Alchemist steering ‘Dump Truck’ to flag up new album ‘Vodka & Ayahuasca’, a concoction unlikely to be 2-for-1 down your local Wetherspoon’s. It features a killer holographic synth loop and Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, whose ‘My Infamous Life’ autobiography will have you replacing the book’s dust jacket for a bulletproof vest.

Who holds the hot ticket for 2012 then? A straw poll (well, a quick email circular and search engine check) threw up names such as Clams Casino, who may sound like a seafood/roulette wheel tie-in, but the New Jersey creator has beats touting him above and beyond super-producer status. Azealia Banks has got some Shunda K/Kid Sister thing going on and is being hyped as a hot hip-house breakout with no problem ignoring her Ps and Qs. Formbooks suggest Dot Rotten and Sincere might be next to go from grime firebrands to pop darlings. JonWayne looks as unassuming as his cowboy moniker (as is the way with new employers Stones Throw), but has bristled interest with lo-fi/electro instrumentalism having switched from rhymer to producer. How about Plan B making 2012 his own? Rapture & Verse’s two bob is on Ben Drew getting talked about by panicking moralists and protective parents for his return to hip-hop blood and guts after a starring role as suited and booted balladeer Strickland Banks. There’s also a (very) faint suspicion that Diggy Simmons (son of the Reverend Run) might make a significant breakthrough on his own two feet.

Of course, if all of the above predictions go belly up and you never hear from any of them again, just put a few bob on Tinie Tempah – here in commanding, don’t-give-a-fuck form as he bids for another matchless run through the calendar.

Words by Matt Oliver

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