Another month in 2016 has come to a close and it is officially lemonade and watermelon season. Depending on where you’re at in relation to the tilt on our rock’s axis as we make our way around the sun, it’s really starting to feel like summer. Sweating in NYC. Sweating in LA. Sweating in PHX. And nothing does more to make it feel like the summer season than the music we listen to on those evenings when the sun takes longer to set. I’ve compiled some of the best releases from the month of May that can help you make that Spring to Summer transition. In no particular order, these were the the most impressive projects that reached my ears last month…
Homeboy Sandman. Kindness For Weakness.
Boy Sands is one of the most consistent, creative and thought provoking MC’s walking around the planet, making music, having fun. Some people keep pieces of art around their home as conversation starters; something to talk about. This album is like the audio version of that. Each track can serve as something to talk about if you’re enjoying it in the right company. Dude has always focused on the topical matter of his material. He’s covered everything from homelessness, mother nature, secret societies – he even dropped an EP called Subject: Matter where he consciously tried to touch on subjects that aren’t (often) talked about in Hip Hop. This go around he spends some time in thought on the subject of God, the real New York and annoying folks. Too many artists lean heavily on following a mold or style and have boxed themselves into a particular sound and delivery. This has never been the case with Homeboy Sandman. I appreciate that he is among the few MC’s out there who are against following formulas or trends. Thank you Sandsy, for keeping it fresh and honest. Music with integrity.
Blueprint. Vigilante Genesis.
This is Blueprint with the rhymes. This is Aesop Rock on production. This is me telling you that Blueprint and Aesop Rock created an outstanding piece of work that you should not miss out on. In April, Aes released an album that thoroughly impressed me on the production end. With Vigilante Genesis, he continues with the same style of thick, digital, hold-your-ears-hostage foundation for Print to rhyme over. I’m becoming more and more impressed with what this guy can bring to the table in terms of beats and production. It’s the perfect stage set design and prop work for Blueprint to tell his story to. I love concept albums, especially when there’s a narrative to follow and it’s laid out in a way that you can understand with or without the lyrics (thankfully, the project comes with both). The project follows a vigilante who’s intent on righting a wrong. I don’t want to give away the storyline because it’s good and takes a few twists along the way. Printmatic shows great storytelling abilities, not just with the written account of events but the imagery and the ability to pull you in.
This is only an EP (7 tracks and 7 instrumentals) but the quality is enough to make up for the quantity. I highly recommend this one.
Aloe Blacc & Rhettmatic. CIRCA 2004: BLACCMATIC.
I was recently mentioning to a friend that I miss when Aloe used to rap. “Aloe Blacc raps?!?” Yeah. And he’s damn good too. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I heard he had switched to singing – until I heard him. If this is news to you, get familiar by downloading this free project and then work your way back to his projects with Exile (Emanon). Listen to the track Spittin’ Image for great storytelling and Runaway for the nice laid back flow.
And Rhettmatic…well, you already know what he does. This Beat Junkie is as equally skilled with his turntablism as he is with his production. He’s dropped some of my favorite mixes ever and laid down the soundscape for some of my favorite Visionaries tracks. This album finds the two joining forces for a great project that should never have been shelved. This is a solid project that you need to add to your collection.
Everyone by now should be familiar with the talented soul singer, the man called Aloe Blacc. Unless you are not into Underground Independent Hip Hop or didn’t grow up in the Southern California Music Scene during the 90’s, you might not know that Aloe Blacc is also an incredible Emcee and is part of a group called “Emanon” with producer extraordinaire, Exile.
What a lot of people may not also know that Aloe & myself recorded a whole album together back in 2004. “2004?!”….yup, 13 years ago….can you believe that?? This is around the time when Aloe was attending USC & I was living in Long Beach and was still working at Fat Beats LA.
…The plan was to shop the project but it never got a chance to materialized because we both went on to other things: Aloe got signed as solo artist on Stones Throw & I went to work on the 4th Visionaries’ album “We Are The Ones”.
ScienZe. Good Food.
Well, he had me with the title. You put out a Hip Hop project called “Good Food” and you’ve got my attention. My man K.Gaines put me onto this one and I’m glad he did. From the intro track “Prayer” to the the collabs with Chuuwee and Fresh Daily, and all the way to the outro, there’s plenty to feast on. The production throughout is hearty and filling – I’d love to snack on a few of the instrumentals. There are no surprises with this meal. It’s 13 servings of easy-like-Sunday-morning beats served alongside a flawless delivery and clever wordplay. I’m sure there’s some type of wine out there that this pairs nicely with, I’m just not a connoisseur myself (though I do know Sadat X has one that should do). I could definitely use second helpings of everything from this cornucopia. Give a listen if you’re into the more laid back stylings that the genre has to offer. Eat good.
Substantial & Marcus D (Bop Alloy). Present.
Substantial has been throwing us EP’s over the past year, preparing us for an impending full length LP. His latest is a project with longtime collaborator and the other half of the dynamic duo Bop Alloy, Marcus D. Good things always happen when these two step into an arena together. Though, this one does take on a different tone from what we’ve become accustomed to from Bop Alloy. You might notice that several of the tracks are darker than what you’d expect from a Marcus D produced joint. Substantial was going through more loss than anyone should have to go through at the time that these tracks were being created. You can sense some of the pain from that loss if you listen closely. This does not take away from the music. Rather, it adds a new dimension to the direction of the sound.
One of the highlights from the EP is the introduction of the a new MC that we should be hearing more from in the near future, Intelligenz. I look forward to hearing what she puts out as the next artist on Hipnott Records. Her verses on A Break 2 Build On set the tone for what we can expect.
With each project, Substantial seems to get stronger and stronger as an artist. Too often, I hear people that sound like they’ve stagnated rather than grown over the course of their career. He seems to get better.
On a side note, I appreciate that Substantial, a fellow educator, chose to release this project in both a clean and an explicit version. That’s real for people that expose their children and students to Hip Hop, but would rather do it without the cursing.
Get this album…
Masta Ace. The Falling Season.
Ace is a seasoned vet. He doesn’t need to keep putting out these amazing conceptual albums. All he needs to do is drop a dope single every now and again and the masses should be content with that. But I think he does this as much for the fans as for himself. His live show is still one of the best around. And the fans still want more. So, he went and did it again; he gave them what they wanted. As one of the strongest lyricists to step into a recording booth, Masta Ace has consistently given us amazing projects that tell some type of story. Why mess with tradition?
This go around he weaves the tale of the trials and tribulations of the high school version of himself. Your Old Droog, Chuck D, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Cormega, AG, Wordsworth, Stricklin, The World’s Famous Supreme Team, Queen Herawin of the Juggaknots, Pearl Gates and Pav Bundy help to tell the story. The production is top notch. Ace enlisted the help of producer, Kic Beats to single handedly take on production duties. And he chose the right man for the job. The beats and music do the verses justice. In fact, they’re strong enough on their own…but combined with Ace’s vocals – it’s a win win. Young Black Intelligent might be my favorite track on this opus but it’s hard to choose one track on a project like this. It’s like choosing one ingredient in a sandwich. Ace’s storytelling, similes and metaphors are well worth the purchase but this album is the whole package. If I worked for a certain magazine and this was 20 years ago I would give this 4 1/2 mics – and I’m only dropping half a mic because sometimes I want to hear the album without the skits (tracks only). It’s that good!
AG & Party Arty. Live From The Balcony.
I’ve continued to be impressed with Ray West and all of the projects released on Red Apples 45. There’s so much to be said about sparse jazzy production that allows the MC to showcase their talents but gives them just enough of a backdrop to rock over. And AG is the perfect dude to rap over something like this. Not surprising, the tracks that he’s featured on are the strongest. That’s not to downplay what Part Arty does on the mic, it’s just that Andre is made for this type of production. No fillers here. Just two dope MC’s over a beat and a bit of jazziness. Favorite cut – NY On My Fitted.
Elusive. French Toasted.
This beat tape is the perfect accompaniment to your morning french toast making. It sounds a lot like the cover art shows. If you think you’d be about that vibe, then please do give this a listen and a purchase. I’ve been a fan of Elusive for a long time now and he’s definitely not an artist that you can put into a box. Awhile back I wrote about a jazz project he put out with his brother years ago. He’s worked with a wide variety of my favorite MC’s, done remixes and instrumental projects. The man is good at what he does. On this latest effort, he strings together some blunted beats alongside static-y old samples and French snippets. It’s the perfect background music to a Hip Hop household like ours. If you need some good instrumental music, this is it…
Say what? Jigmastas have a new project. It’s been a minute since I heard the J-I-G’s. The duo of DJ Spinna and MC Kryminul made serious waves in the underground 16 or 17 years ago. Man, Lyrical Fluctuation was my joint and all of that Beyond Real music was way beyond its time. They dropped some serious bangers. And now they’re back. The album picks up where they both left off. Spinna had stepped away to do some more club-type records but he’s back to his roots on Resurgence. The beats still sound either futuristic and/or boom bap. Kryminul still sounds nice, picking up right where he left off. It’s refreshing and nostalgic at the same time. There are a few features (Shabaam Saadique and SKAM2) but most of the work is handled by the Jigmastas themselves. I’m glad to see them back. It’s solid!
Deep. Bushwick Beatfeed.
Didn’t this dude just bless us with a beat tape? He’s got no shortage of dope material. More bangers from one half of 2 Hungry Bros. These 25 tracks pay homage to where he resides and give us an insight to what his daily life would be like if it had a soundtrack. What can I say? Fresh beats, slick samples and just all around quality instrumentals from a consistent producer. Grab it on cassette while they’re still available. Dude does not disappoint.
There you have it. The best of May 2016. Some freebies, some EP’s, several full lengths, a couple of instrumental projects…Now let’s see what the summer has in store.