The more things change, the more things stay the same. MC Hammer still doesn’t know how to work a savings account. Tupac lives on, this time as a Broadway musical. Kanye is now beyond an entertainer – one fan has turned him into a religion (and according to Joey Lawrence, Yeezy’s a style thief).
Rappers still wanna be fashion designers – see the new MF DOOM shoe by Clarks (we’ll take the ‘Operation Doomsday’ cassette reissue, if it’s all the same). And no sooner are battles won than new gauntlets are laid down: Rick Ross, now officially/legally christened so, is now going at LMFAO (?) in a whole shufflin’/hustlin’ copyright kerfuffle. At least Mark Wahlberg cheered us from our post-Christmas bloat with claims of being the best white rapper turned actor alive. Vive le Funky Bunch.
In other news, Masta Ace has revealed his battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Geographically, U-God has questioned Southern business motives, while Talib Kweli has emerged as an unlikely ally of Trinidad James’ NY stance. At street level, Beastie Boys Square could be the new name for the corner housing Paul’s Boutique. Controversy courter Lord Jamar has been quoted as saying, “We need more voices to counteract the Chief Keefs of the world,” and Scarface has denounced hip-hop’s burgeoning stupidity.
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Single syllables: Minerals and Dunce Hats: an Everyday Grind
Stocking overspill starts with Benji Boko back at it again, this time dressing M.O.P.’s ‘Ante Up’ and Beastie Boys’ ‘Intergalactic’ in new party wear. Dizz1 and Aloe Blacc’s ‘Everyday Grind’ pairs sniping trap with a proper riding of the beat, as the Aussie looks to dictate the dancehall with Warrior Queen and snake through on Om’Mas Keith’s shoulders thereafter. Doctor Zygote brandishes the drumsticks for a brace of dubs dishing out instrumental antagonism, and as a digital yang to an analogue yin, you should also check Fulgeance’s ‘Step Thru remixes’, a foursome of synth freakery and summer vibes shone through a prism.
Genesis Elijah takes it upon himself, quiet eloquently, to tell Yeezy what’s up on ‘Dear Kanye’, and guests on K*ners’ brassy ‘Bringing It’. Just when you think Jae Mann’s six-shooter is all-guns-blazing grime, ‘Minerals’ produces some breezy hip-hop to hang out to for the ultimate in double-sided coins. Catching the same wave are ThisisDA’s confident ‘Trippin’’ and ‘Shisha Monster’ from wonderfully named Canadian Minty Burns, while Lack Of Afro’s ‘P.A.R.T.Y.’ is a like a high school, end of term funk free-for-all; except for hand jives, you get the rhymes of Wax and Herbal T. And if you want Rick Ross and Wale on Lorde’s ‘Royals’, now you can – seriously.
Elliot Fresh holds it down with the chatty, over-a-pint musings of the ‘Dunce Hats’ EP. Gratis niceness from dependable Dr Syntax is ‘On The House’, and Benny Diction and Able 8’s ‘Eventually’ promotes hammock sales before tossing you into the dirt. Jesse Medina’s ‘Get Money’ (video below) reaps riches over Nottz’s feelgood organ wheezes, and Pharoahe Monch’s ‘Bad MF’ shows in 2014 he’s still the wrong dude to mess with.
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ReaLPolitiks: deadly recipes, heavy weaponry and compilation equations
Despite his album claiming his is a ‘Life Well Lived’, :Brownstudy does straight talking like he’s rhyming with a set square. An unruffled, boho style diffuses information within episodes of electronic twiddling and fuggy bumps.
From one inauspicious moniker to another, as Verbal Kent bursts over soul explosions stepping to the street from Khrysis; the dominant ‘Sound Of The Weapon’ is a svelte set where both convincingly make their messages count – ‘Slap The Shit Out Of You App’ will destroy all sound systems and smartphones. For a testosterone booster, Matt Maddox grits his gnashers and strikes down with ‘Righteous Fury’, blood vessels busting over street sweeping fanfares, tear-blotted/folk-fuelled beats and hook ups with Tragedy Khadafi, Sicknature, Vanderslice and Reef The Lost Cauze going against one another in some sort of thugged out gym.
Lazy Habits get remixed from top to tail, their party upped by The Disablists, Fjorka, Benny Aves and Undersound, helping unfurl new flings of funk with twists and shouts. Also funking up the place are The Frank Hill Ensemble and The Ruffcats (reconstruction package ‘Sopa de Tartaruga’); coffee shop b-boys sipping on sturdy, jazz-pinned instrumental sets sheltering from the elements.
Given the unsettling settlements of their previous ‘Hark’, The Doppelgangaz’s (pictured main) ‘Peace Kehd’ is no making of a V sign – opener ‘Holla x2’ is classic – but there is some sunshine on the horizon riding another oh-so-cool vapour trail. Clams Casino’s ‘Instrumentals 3’ collects business done with A$AP Rocky and Mac Miller, a superb batch of videogame booms, digital sorcery and blockbuster trap. If only all rappers shared Gavlyn’s ‘Modest Confidence’ – LA-based, big on social networks and one to keep ears on with a classy flow authentically handling beats that either knock or go deep.
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Gavlyn – ‘Guilty Pleasure’
The Doppelgangaz – ‘Holla x2’
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The meeting of Pete Cannon and Dr Syntax was never gonna be a dull affair. Punchier than a seaside puppet show, ‘Killer Combo!’ rocks from front row to front room, features Del The Funky Homospaien and Jehst on the woozy ‘Do What We Wanna Do’, and goes from in your face to looking you straight in the eye to placing its tongue in your cheek.
Talking of Jehst, he’s dropped a remix album of ‘The Dragon Of An Ordinary Family’ on new-skool, super-limited cassette format. M-Phazes, Doctor Zygote and Mo Kolours take the LP to another level, though the quality throughout means it’s hard to pick a favourite. And talking of Del, high-class freebie ‘Iller Than Most’ shows off his mastermind boggling: in his own words, “Lyrically ill but fun to listen to, nothing super heavy.”
The Livin’ Proof crew show off the remix résumé with 50 Cent, Nas and Jay Z amongst their clients ripe for re-enactment. Lego’s ‘The Rendition’ matches Jack Danz’s blackout vigils with rhymes blooming in coalmine-like conditions – ‘Get Gone’ is a triumphant epitome of stripping back while knuckling up undaunted.
Doing double time, Mello Music Group drop two full-length compilations: ‘Mandala Vol. 1 – Polysonic Flows’ is a crucial underground round-up headed by Mr Lif, Quelle Chris, Jeremiah Jae and Oddisee; and ‘Mandala Vol.2 – Today’s Mathematics’ tots up a top overlap involving Murs, Apollo Brown, Blacastan and Ugly Heroes.
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Tricksta is back on the beat with three volumes of ‘EstateLife’; as usual, it only deals with the UK’s frankest select, with Big Dutty Deeze, S.Kalibre, Big Cakes, Dubbledge, Harry Shotta and Skriblah all marching across the manor and causing concrete jungles to crumble.
Keeping appetites whetted and rumour mills rotating with a pretty damn good throwing together of vintage and newly cued match-ups, Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes are ‘The Abstract and The Dragon’. Blue Sky Black Death close the vocal booth and turn in an ambient spirituality seeker on ‘Euphoric II’ – a fine body of work asking your mind and soul how your day’s been.
Stu Bangas and Esoteric keep it real…
…Juice Aleem won’t be caged…
…see SUM sitting in a tin can…
…and The Last Skeptik shows what evil lurks.
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Words: Matt Oliver