Where else are you gonna find an introduction mulling over the implications of Diddy going back to being Puff Daddy, Wu-Tang putting their music box/travelling art exhibit/one-off LP on the market for squillions (read our opinion piece on this), Kanye offering to buy his wife a string of Burger Kings as a wedding present, RA The Rugged Man having a pop at Gene Simmons over who should rightfully take their place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame... and a new San Fran radio station playing Nelly’s ‘Hot in Herre’ for 40 hours straight as means of introducing itself?
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Single syllables: “Sometimes it’s what you don’t say that says the most, to say the least”
Clipping’s mix of campanology and tweeter-blowing bass is a fine LA shake-up to start with, ‘Work Work’ making you clap to this with a distinctive mixture. Catch MaLLy if you can, on the run around ‘City Of Fear’ on an energetic three-and-half-minute pre-LP warning, and ThisisDA on club safari for the spring-heeled tribalism of Mojek’s ‘Voodoo’.
Then, fall back into the East Anglia/Canada match-up Paper Plates and Jay Bee. ‘Bachelor Of Arts’ looks for post-campus clamour through five pretty low-key spits playing as a sleep-deprived student. Using subdued manner as sharpened weaponry is Booda French for Associated Minds’ latest ‘Classics’ stint, and Sonnyjim (pictured above), who shows you don’t need histrionics, just headnods from understated, film-flecked edge, for when you’re teaching ‘How to Tame Lions’.
Sonnyjim, ‘Royal Flush’
J-Live offers the ultimate in constructive criticism on ‘Not Listening’, building up opposition before smartly swatting them aside. Album ‘Around The Sun’ should be a home banker. Sage Francis’ (pictured above) mind-rollicks resume on ‘Vonnegut Busy’ – retirement rumours have been greatly exaggerated as there’s a whole world that needs putting straight again.
Asante’s thought-provoking ‘Show Me The War’ intelligently enquires as to the unanswered conundrum of ‘what is it good for’ over a ravage of lapsed thunderclaps and poignant piano licks. Red-dotting your jugular are Pierce Artists – ‘Show You To The Gates’ is no garden centre chaperone, but a trip to the gallows mapped out by Elliot Fresh and Deeq coming on all Brit dastardly. Steady Rock is a brave man to offer a lighter, worry-free remix, leaving King Boyden to follow up his own ghoulishness with the jauntily haunted ‘To Be Ignored.’ ProbCause and Chance The Rapper’s ‘LSD’ should have you floating to the meadows, rather than running for the hills.
ProbCause feat. Chance The Rapper, ‘LSD’
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ReaLPolitiks: Barmy armies, Middle Man cuttings and Southern hospitality
Blueprint’s eight-track pledge ‘Respect The Architect’ goes big on soul-wound, funk-thickened beats and rhymes that know the rulebook inside out, with a brawling title track repaving the warpath and ‘Perspective’ valiantly focussed on raw reality. Also keeping things brisk, Playdough laces up his ‘Gold Tips’ for a breeze-shooting, slightly brattish sounding mix of club takeovers and leading the streets like a pied piper. Consider your rabble roused.
Should you ‘Meet Jesse Medina’, the Bay Area rhymer will neither overwhelm or particularly frustrate you, with the previously previewed ‘Get Money’ its crown jewel campaigning for a mainstream turn (or at least a Spring Break sing-along). Easy to throw on, just as easy to switch off.
With their customary bone-breaking resolution, Army Of The Pharaohs celebrate ‘In Death Reborn’. Right from the first bell it’s wave after wave of super-heavy tunnel vision from the heaving gang of steel toecap wearers, interestingly letting in the UK’s Leaf Dog into their vicious circle on ‘The Demon’s Blade.’ Less a warpath, more a scaling of Hades’ staircase.
Another Brit abroad is Beat Butcha, taking his place on the boards alongside Alchemist, Illmind and Kaytranada for Mobb Deep’s fan-funded ‘The Infamous Mobb Deep’. While the original, fabled ‘The Infamous’ gets a 20th anniversary tune up, Havoc and Prodigy are a way off recreating that particular album’s legend, though overall it holds up much better than some of their long-players since.
Army Of The Pharaohs, ‘God Particle’
Apollo Brown’s (pictured above) ‘Thirty Eight’ is a statistic of instrumentalism digging for faded sepia soul. Sturdy if unspectacularly structured, and glumly indicating that golden days are at an end when not wearily drawing pistols at dawn, it’s one for when headphone sessions want their privacy respected. Two late appearances by Roc Marciano are both welcome and bemusing. Running parallel but with more boost to its soul splices and spinal rubs is Handbook, the York producer flicking through ‘Olden’ with a more contented sway, fanning a faint scent of love in the air.
Essa eases back behind the mic with his natural, healthy swag. ‘The Misadventures Of A Middle Man’ is nowt shady, over-the-hill or a chronicle of past capers, just the former Yungun effortlessly dedicating time between entertainer and educator, realist and analyst. Sweeping across nonchalantly profound production capable of hosting genteel partying, Essa is a people’s champ and a champion of people, humility through skills always coming first.
When all around are losing their heads, you can always rely on Atmosphere (pictured below) to ground you. ‘Southsiders’ is their patent blend of sorrowful logic and meaningful shrugs, with Slug and Ant tussling with life over bluegrass and folk-seamed hip-hop dashed with rock-outs, affording just a hint of a smile – despite the title, ‘The World Might Not Live Through the Night’ is good and jaunty, and ‘Mrs Interpret’ is as close to a straight-up soppy love song as you’re gonna get.
For something a little testier and less erudite, Snowgoons have teamed up with Onyx for the ranting and raving alarm call ‘#Wakedafucup’. If anything (he says quietly), it’s sometimes a little too spotlessly produced an effort from the Euro unit – it bangs, but with a digitally supported precision. Anyhow, there’s bags of steam shooting out the mic wielders, with the nozzle adjusted by A$AP Ferg and Cormega.
We continue with the monster that is English Frank’s ‘Frankenstein’; a bleeder of raw emotion and always travelling in 100mph gusts over boom-bap, synth storms and bluesy wallows howling at the moon, showing the man to be unbowed whatever the conditions. Reef & Emynd’s ‘The Fast Way’, a reconnection of knuckle ups and knuckling downs, is solid enough to tuck itself into the back of any spare playlist space. Plus, ‘I’m On My Phone’ shouts out all those that cherish mobiles as they would a family pet. Reef can also be found on King Syze’s ‘Union Terminology’, which has got plenty of Philly punch and a resilient chin, but isn’t one to bob and weave around the ring. We’re sure he admits to being a Gooner on ‘Due Process’ as well.
Castle’s ‘Return Of The Gasface’, as re-rendered by Has-Lo, is a creamy passage of rhymes scornful of screwface crews, comfortable with his own mic grip to a majority vote of soul spasms with the occasional full-on bodyshock. ‘Casual Fridays’ is a classic speak up of office drudgery, typical of the North Carolina emcee keeping wits and wittiness about him. On ‘Omega Supreme Soundwave’, Will C rises to the challenge of such a grandiose title, planting his garrulous gift into a pseudo psychedelic soul train like it’s no big deal. The rapid B-boy verbals are the engine room to a marvelling of colours through the sunroof – whether keeping it real or doing something more self-fulfilling, it ain’t dull.
Will C, ‘Omega Supreme Soundwave’
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It’s a De La Soul (pictured above and main) double this month, with DJ Platurn’s Maseo-endorsed ‘So This Is De La Heaven Part Deux’ comprehensively getting to the bottom of their sample secrets, and a Dilla-produced 11-tracker ‘Smell The D.A.I.S.Y.’ (Clash news) sure to delight collectors and lovers of spring-cleaned classics. REKS’s ‘All Eyes On REKS’ is a proper turn-up-to-10 flex, including spots from Termanology and NORE; one where the mixtape could well trump the proceeding album. J. Period pulls off another majestic mixtape feat in wishing Notorious B.I.G. a happy birthday, a superlative rhyme collection rebuilt to fit past and present faves as well as dial-twiddling inserts marking ‘#March9Revisited’.
Giving it up for the VJ this month are Carpet Patrol welcoming you the crease...
...Confz reaping what he sows...
...and RRome re-heating a fresh batch...
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Words: Matt Oliver
Atmosphere photo: Dan Monick
Related: more Rapture & Verse columns.