Happy new year to all our Facebook likers, tweeters, and secret lemonade drinkers. First up, no vids this month if your itchy mouse finger is already scrolling downwards - finding some decent visuals for January was like searching for good Christmas telly. We be keeping our predictions in our pockets this time round, given that every big hitter is rumoured to have new albums on the way. Saying that A$AP Rocky is a safe call to have 2013 all his own way is hardly likely to have you rushing down the bookies, and it’s decidedly even money on whether ’13 will be the year of controversy brewer Chief Keef leading the ‘drill rap’ breakout.
What we can tell all you year-round planners is that Eminem will be headlining the Reading and Leeds festivals this summer, and a little nearer the horizon, next month has DJ Krush spinning at the Kentish Town Forum for a rare, snooze-you-lose appearance. Let’s also hope Kool Keith and the Ultramagnetic MCs bring their 25th Anniversary tour of ‘Critical Beatdown’ over to the UK, having declared an upcoming Australian starting point. Fans of The Pharcyde will have to be this high to board their Bizarre Ride to Europe tour, taking in four February dates; a London Jazz Cafe back to back topped and tailed with visits to Bristol and Leeds.
Mopping up the January spillover, Public Enemy are now fully paid up members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, hipster pair The Cool Kids have announced ‘The Bake Sale’ business is no longer, Fat Joe is the latest rapper to have come all over forgetful when it comes to paying taxes, and Jay-Z, having being remixed by 9th Wonder for ‘Black American Gangster’ (come and get your soul food), is having a bash at scoring this year’s ‘Great Gatsby’ flick starring Leo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, to fill whatever gaps in his CV he feels are glaringly obvious. For those that like to mark the New Year by altering their phonebook, please note that N.O.R.E. (N*ggas On the Run Eatin’) is now going by the acronym P.A.P.I (Power Always Proves Intelligence). So now you know.
Fool’s Gold’s ‘Loosies’ compilation is stuffed with swag, skitter, synths and shit-talking from Danny Brown, MondreMAN of Main Attrakionz, Araabmuzik, Freddie Gibbs and more (special mention for Gita’s ‘Let That’, which is a scorcher). Hip enough to make you wanna shrink your jeans down a few sizes, the look is completed by a cigarette-shaped USB plug-in.
T.I.’s ‘Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head’ is the latest proclamation of “ball ‘til I fall, floss ‘til I finish,” despite the Wild West wrapping. The swagger in full flight remains a compelling top of the leaguer, especially when it feels like he’s laughing at you - usually a precursor to chewing you up and spitting you out. When the trap and attitude start to sag or get sappier, the output naturally suffers, correlating into a conclusion that Andre3000 chipping in is more useful than assistance from R Kelly, Pink and Akon covering Elton John.
T.I.’s Grand Hustle signing and inside contact for the UK is Chipmunk (or now plain old Chip), who has the ‘London Boy’ mixtape looking to cause stereotypical ripples on both sides of the pond. Weird, awkward or inflammatory as it is to hear him with the hustler’s trap mentality (T.I., Young Jeezy and Meek Mill guest - ‘Oopsy Daisy’ this ain’t), it’s a comfortable adapting to such surroundings, though some of the output and braggadocio is as snoozy as those higher up the ladder. Certainly not expressing any inferiority complex (“two things I never get, jealous or complacent”), while rhyming over LL Cool J’s ‘Phenomenon’ brings back cheek found on UK streets, those buying into his pop star progress should be aware of his development as out-and-out hip-hop commodity. Decide yourself what’s gonna net him a better payday.
Feeling the post-Christmas pinch but can’t be arsed with the sales? Enter Malkovich’s free album ‘Great Expectations’, the LA all-rounder always into something blowing away cobwebs with strident searching for truth and justice. Boom bap knuckle-ups are always handled responsibly (though rarely softly, and that goes for twisting the ‘Cheers’ theme tune on the great ‘Get Away’) as Malkovich picks the bones out of situation after situation. Also on a free transfer, Jack Da Union’s ‘Barred’ pushes nine tracks of Slough-shot thuds and rinsing out of your recesses, gesturing a pointed finger across its neck. Give generously if you’re feeling the ever on-point Jean Grae and her wicked odds and ends stockpile cum secret stash ‘Dust Ruffle’ from the last six-seven years or so – added pep to your playlist guaranteed, and your neck muscles will be writing you a thank you note.
If you’re after something a mite more conceptual (or what passes as a concept), LostPoet goes in with just a loaded mic on an acapella abstract for pro-cassette, spoken word/art outfit Blue Tapes. ‘Acapellas 4 the Culture’ strips down to one basic element, though it’s just as likely to make itself open for beat-making business on the sly. In fact it could do worse than run into French brace Souleance, whose two-track ‘La Beat Tape’ sampler offers Eastern banger ‘Sauce Samourai’ and JB’s-style groove ‘Boom Bap Routine’.
‘PEEP: The Aprocalypse’ is a set helmed by one-to-watch Joey Bada$$ (hang on, that almost sounded like a prediction), leading the Pro Era motley crew of street savants making the mic their own. With steadier heads and hands than perhaps expected and with beats lent by Statik Selektah – thickset head shots with a helping of the bleary and a recognisable sample or two – it’s an underground seminar at its most traditional where the quality doesn’t do dipping.
Sod it. Action Bronson and Trinidad James to be everywhere this year. On the nose.
Words by Matt Oliver