Doing the rounds online this year were these not-quite-albums: collections of music that don’t make the charts but drop like influential bombs on a frenzied throng of hip-hop downloaders. Here are the best of the best.
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Markel Scott, AKA Bishop Nehru, proves he’s a lyrical mastermind on the come-up after getting both DJ Semtex and Peter Rosenberg behind his polished second effort, ‘strictlyFLOWZ’. Taking an aggressive step forward from his jazzy ‘Nehruvia’ debut, ‘…FLOWZ’ sees the precocious rapper layer his complex wordplay over harder East Coast beats. Playlist-worthy track: The Mos Def-like ‘IntroVERTz’. (SD)
‘Exhale’ feat. Que Hampton, from ‘strictlyFLOWZ’
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When ‘K+’ dropped in early 2013, there’s no way its maker – a politely spoken, poetically inclined artist-cum-MC by the name of Lakisha Robinson – could have foreseen the demand for downloads. Cue: website standstill. But patience was rewarded: this is a sublime set of love-burned lyricism set against dreamy beats. (MD)
‘Creepwave’ feat. Flatbush ZOMBiES, from ‘K+’
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‘Bastards Of The Party’
Opening with the mischievous ‘Pre-Game’ skit, World's Fair set the tone right off the bat: 47 minutes of catchy hooks, fun lyrics and playful one-upmanship. The kids from Queens take turns stealing the show – besting each other and repeatedly switching vocal cadence whilst simultaneously charming girls. “World’s Fair / Your girl’s here…” Damn right she is. (HLB)
‘’96 Knicks’, from ‘Bastards Of The Party’
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“Young scorcher trying to evolve like Charmeleon,” spits Bada$$ in opening track ‘Alowha’, perfectly summarising the matured and harsher approach of ‘Summer Knights’. The follow-up to his acclaimed ‘1999’ (aside from his Rejex compilation), maintains the ’90s influence of his debut but is considerably darker and sees him getting more experimental with flow patterns. (GB)
‘’95 Til Infinity’, from ‘Summer Knights’
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‘A Little More Elbow Room’
Have a sniff and you’ll notice that a harvest of hip-hop/soul futurists is blossoming from London’s concrete jungle. Hawk House declared themselves a good crop earlier this year when their brand of wisdom-anchored wordplay emerged out of the capital’s pavements. Save it for a lazy afternoon to ensure optimum zoning-out steez. (EA)
‘Tidal Tendencies’, from ‘A Little More Elbow Room’
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“Welcome to INNANET,” salutes Vic Mensa. And like some job-winning cover letter, he wastes no time in detailing what he’s about. ‘INNANETAPE’ is an oddball-driven tumble of non-sequiturs and tongue-twisting randomness backed by a respectable who’s-who guestlist of www favourites. Welcome, indeed. (EA)
‘Orange Soda’, from ‘INNANETAPE’
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Action Bronson & Party Supplies
‘Blue Chips 2’
Following up his most popular release thus far, Action Bronson is reunited with Fool’s Gold producer Party Supplies for another YouTube surfing session, which sees the pair sampling everything from The Champs’ ‘Tequila’ to a medley of ’80s hits for ‘Contemporary Man’. Lyrically Bronson further consolidates his pulp appeal nimbly tightrope-walking diverse and disjointed references from Beau Brummel to Zinedine Zidane. (GB)
‘Contemporary Man’, from ‘Blue Chips 2’
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‘Better Off Dead’
Despite delays, Flatbush’s second tape built firmly upon their debut. ‘Better Off Dead’ swirled drug references, thought-provoking references and Vaseline-smooth flows into a heady concoction. Erick Arc Elliott played autopilot with charismatic instrumentals, while elected guest speakers (Action Bronson and Danny Brown) only proved to awaken any ghouls previously dispelling their trademark steez. (EA)
‘Death’, from ‘Better Off Dead’
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New York’s passion for hip-hop will never cease. But Brooklyn’s The Underachievers offer Big Apple rap something rare: a cross-country liaison with a Los Angeles label, namely Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder. From the Beast Coast to the Sunshine State, this is nostalgia-dipped production with razor-blade wordplay. Edgy, whatever the weather. (MD)
‘The Mahdi’, from ‘Indiogoism’
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Chance The Rapper
Take the wacky flow of Slim Shady, the soul of Kanye West’s ‘College Dropout’ and apply to a kid reared on jazz melodies with a love of Michael Jackson and the result would sound something like Chancelor Bennett’s second mixtape effort, ‘Acid Rap’.
Unanimously voted for by Clash’s contributors as mixtape of the year, ‘Acid Rap’ has opened up a new dialogue about the city of Chicago. Often known as ‘ChiRaq’, the city has been receiving a lot of negative press over the last couple of years due to high levels of gang violence, which is most regularly associated with the punk-esque aggression of drill music.
Here we are offered a different point of view on the city where “they murder kids here / Why you think they don’t talk about it / They deserted us here”. Chance’s views are a lot more hippie than the majority of his peers, with the right combination of optimism and positivity amongst the glimpses of the harsh realities that he touches on in tracks like the hidden ‘Paranoia’.
‘Acid Rap’ secures Chance’s place as one of the biggest breakout stars of 2013 and he will undoubtedly be a mainstay in hip-hop for years to come. (GB)
‘Juice’, from ‘Acid Rap’
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Words: Grant Brydon, Mike Diver, Errol Anderson, Hayley Louisa Brown, Safra Ducreay
Fancy any of these mixtapes? Google and you shall find.
Find Clash’s albums of the year ‘proper’ here.