The hip-hop latest with J Cole, Paul White and more...
J Cole

Matt Oliver’s back with the latest developments in the hip-hop world. Word, to that man.

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As you’ve already caught up with Danny Brown and Action Bronson, found out whether Killer Mike and El-P are still on song and seen how big compass christener Kanye has made his latest ego trip, should Rapture & Verse just stand aside on its second birthday?

It would, except it’s too busy with a fantastically stupid argument between Pharrell and over the ownership of… er… the words “I Am”; members of The Pharcyde squabbling over band name ownership; Fat Joe doing time for tax evasion; Jay-Z racking up a million phone app album sales that won’t count for squat; and Rick Rubin alluding that a sequel to ‘Yeezus’ ain’t far off.

With candles blown and cake cut, it’s DMC Finals time again, the UK showdown happening on Friday 12th July at The Garage on Highbury Corner, with performances from Rodney P & Skitz and DJ Unkut, with Inja as master of ceremonies. More at, or seek it out on Facebook.

Get prepped with a playlist that runs through Evidence’s ‘Self Taught’ from the ‘Green Tape Instrumentals’, Jones Brothers’ money trap ‘Gettin’ Paper’, anything from Rediculus’ smart-casual ‘Dirty Concrete’ (the Chicagoan also funky freshening Late’s ‘I’m Underground’), Joe Blow & Ral Duke’s selection of battlefield savagery on ‘Leviticus’, and D.Ablo & Essa sashaying over smoothness laid on by Just Jack (remember him?).

Then flip over to Side B for Audit’s psycho-strung ‘Stay Raw’, Foreign Beggars juggling chainsaws with Noisia that’ll ‘Make Those Move’, a handy dizzy spell hatched between ‘SDS’ initialisers Mac Miller and Flying Lotus, new Ultramagnetic MCs’ trigger-readier ‘Let The Bars Go’, and Heavy Links’ kick-n-spit carat cruncher ‘Heavyweight’.

Telemachus’ ‘In The Evening’ is not an answer record to either The Coral or Razorlight (shame), but a Chemo full-length of instrumental intellect coming alive under a night sky and causing an uneasy dipping of the sun. As the shadows lengthen, Roc Marciano, Jehst and the empowering Jah Mirikle and El Crisis circle like vultures, plenty of rustic reality contributing to the producer’s soul gently weeping before it finds an earth-crushing streak and learns that it’s okay to let the blues wash over him. Obviously a man with his diary aligned, there’s a track called ‘Tennis Season’, letting go of a barrage of drum break forehands. Accomplished, all day long.

‘Watch the Ants’ says Paul White, his latest south London colony of boom-bap bled over by a psychedelic spray can making your mind’s eye itch. Creating exciting team-ups with Danny Brown, Sean Price, Trim and Homeboy Sandman, and individual assertions of authority from his unseemly kingdom on high, White keeps on taking headswims 20,000 leagues lower than the rest.

Nowt fishy about Metabeats’ ‘Caviar Cackle’, who supplies classy, drums-to-the-front angles for Action Bronson, Tanya Morgan’s Von Pea, Dubbledge, Ralph RipSh!t and more to chow down on. Once settled and convincing you all in his garden is rosy, MB brings in the likes of ‘SLSBS’ and ‘The Median’ as real muck-spreaders, and ‘Battery Phunk’ and ‘Bootney Farnsworth’ oiling up for some jitterbug ballin’; but a dabble in electro-powered R&B is a nice buffer at the album’s back end. Silver Cymru service as standard. 

While fuss may have been made over Mr K West, J Cole (pictured, main) has not so much been hot on his heels as making his Achilles tendons burn. His new album ‘Born Sinner’ is licked by firm ease, a conscious-clearing flow that separates introspection and ignorance by a hairsbreadth and turns righteousness on a sixpence, though you like to think any head measurement inflation stays in the booth (specifically with the unusual open letter of ‘Let Nas Down’). Ready to eclipse Kanye, Kendrick Lamar (who features on ‘Forbidden Fruit’), Drake and co, Cole runs over a richness that can’t resist shaking things up.

Havoc’s ‘13’ is lucky for those wanting music to zip body bags by, waving a Mobb Deep flag with trife life trademarks. Styles P and Raekwon stop by for a nice High & Mighty twist on ‘Favorite Rap Stars’, one of a baker’s dozen of hard-headed, cold-hearted, one-after-the-other heaters that fills out and scrubs up the physique of Hav’s ‘The Kush’, and acts out audio anger management from the QBC.

Meanwhile, the other half of the M-O-B-B, Prodigy, resumes grimy mind games with Alchemist for the ‘Albert Einstein’ LP, tooling up over the usual mix of substance-assisted espionage and hoodlum’s high life, with ‘Curb Ya Dog’ a bonus of kids TV at play that the HNIC shreds. With P sounding up for it and Alchemist on the most productive, in-form streak of his career, the follow-up to ‘Return of the Mac’ is an underground mastermind.

On the one producer-umpteen emcee format this month is Kid Tsunami’s debut ‘The Chase’, the Aussie banging MPC pads for an A+ index that includes Masta Ace, J-Live, KRS-One, Kool G Rap and Chubb Rock (!). Pursuit that’s warm rather than hot. Endemic’s ‘Quarantine’ mixtape makes good on its promise of boom-bap putting the ram in drama before the days end, fuelling the fires of Cyrus Malachi, M9, Ill Bill and a legion of destroyers.  

Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) receives in-house remix recognition from his own brains trust: right hand man Preservation takes his toolbox to ‘The Ecstatic’ album, coming up with a winning, funk band choreography cooking on vinyl dust. While we don’t seem to hear nearly enough of Mighty Mos nowadays, his tour DJ has done him and everyone who picks this up a favour.

Arguably the least-spotlighted member of the Wu-Tang, U-God’s The Keynote Speaker’ doesn’t rewrite Shaolin mythology, but does put up a dogged Clan defence, using a hard to floor hangdog delivery and stodgy storytelling. To a scattershot of post-Wu zeniths and funk spun like a roulette wheel, it’s a dynasty footnote, marooned in midtable.

Adjusting the bass and letting the Alpine blast, Chuck Inglish’s ‘Droptops’ takes trap for a quick spin round the block, but has fun with it too, and Blanco and Nipsey Hussle’s ‘Raw’, with Bay Area grind from Spanish pair Cookin’ Soul, is also worth a place in your coupé’s multi-changer, especially as it’s now free.

The ‘Japan Project’ beat tape of Al Dobson Jr & Creole+ spools a sliver of Eastern-set intrigue formulating a kind of nip and tuck, Detroit kung-fu, as Dfalt’s deft ‘Helsinki Beat Tape’ takes you to the land of (head) nod.

Odd Future accomplices The Jet Age Of Tomorrow indulge in harmless fun with ‘The Jellyfish Mentality’, bright ‘n’ woozy electronica that can strap on a jetpack when its bowtie comes off. Most civil, when not providing Mac Miller, Earl Sweatshirt and Domo Genesis with airtime to blot, dovetailed by Hodgy Beats’ mosh-prone ‘Untitled 2’. Spanking bottom ends, Ludacris tweets conduct most ungentlemanly on the ‘#IDGAF’ mixtape, while Mr MFN eXquire is no angel either, although cool is kept on the challengingly-sleeved ‘Kismet’.  

A recap on the expected greatness of London Posse’s reissued ‘Gangster Chronicle’: fackin’ pukka old skool, dubwise, down-south education, beefed up by a bevy of first-time exclusives and remixes from The Nextmen, Wrongtom, Hint and Steve Mason helping refresh the Original London Style. Carnival floats will cash-in by caning this come summer; make room on your shelf for Bionic and Rodney P runnin’ tings some 23 years on.

Quick mention also for retro returns for Boogie Down Productions’ ‘Man & His Music‘ and Just Ice’s ‘Sir Vicious’ best of, and Roots Manuva’s ‘Brand New Second Hand’ and ‘Run Come Save Me’, both queued for a second wind.

Turn on and tune in this month to Joe Blow putting it on the line…

De La Soul treating the senses…

Loaded Lux ripping the block with Meth and Red…

Ugly Heroes showing off their superpowers…

…and Skuff channelling his inner Mr Benn.

And then: The Uncluded cast and bait, RA the Rugged Man delivers us from evil, and JJ DOOM reflect.

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Get previous Rapture & Verse columns here.

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