Lupe Fiasco - Snitches 2

artworks-000072039372-anmcjw-t500x500
It was a choice between one of three tracks Lupe’s released in recent days, and it was this (the sequel to one he released on the very same day) that grabbed me most. For reference though, Snitches (featuring Ty Dolla $ign) and DopeBoysAtAllStarWeekend (featuring Gizzle) are available here. Of the two, the former is unquestionably better, for what it’s worth.

On first listen, it’s a very ‘un-Lupe’ production. I’m not sure what this whole Drogas thing is about (is Lupe suddenly a Hispanic drug dealer?) but it’s resulted in a thumping, club-ready production that many of today’s mainstream rappers would be quite happy to get on board with- you can quite easily hear the likes of Rick Ross having a great time with this, and to Lupe’s credit, he does a good job of adjusting his style enough to not sound out of place himself.

Packed full of street raps (from the third person, interestingly), it’s a pretty solid performance, and though Lupe’s inflections and emotions aren’t exactly at peak intensity, his flow is as watertight as ever and it’s an easy to follow, uncomplicated effort, which makes for a degree of change as far as Lupe’s lyricism goes. Worth a listen, and hopefully Tetsuo and Youth isn’t far away.

Flatbush Zombies - Demos

flatbush
There is something about these two that entertains me. The music is generally good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as if they’re constantly dropping 10/10 material. However, they exist beyond the music, and it’s utterly ridiculous imagery like this that enamours the duo to me.

In a generous spirit, Erick of the Zombies let loose this collection of nine unreleased tracks from 2012 sessions, possibly around the time of the recording/release of the breakout D.R.U.G.S. mixtape, in what appears to be a very popular release. Whilst it’s all offered as one long mix (much to the detriment of us iTunes librarians!), the feedback is convicing enough to give it a go anyway- the Childish Gambino feature on one of the tracks doesn’t hurt either. Check the whole thing out below, and look out for more from the Zombies soon.

J. Cole and Dreamville Records - Revenge of the Dreamers (Mixtape)

j-cole-revenge-of-the-dreamers2
What a few days Cole has had. His Dreamville imprint (featuring Bas and Omen, both OTU alumni) has been picked up by Interscope, an announcement made on his 29th birthday. With a relatively solid track record with rapper’s imprint labels, it’s a great home for him to develop the brand, and to cap it all off, Jay-Z was kind enough to gift young Cole with an original Rocafella chain at a recent NYC show.

And amidst it all, this new mixtape was released to celebrate the Dreamville signing. It’s a mixture of tracks from Cole and the two aforementioned signees, with previously-unheard music from Cole including an alternate version of Born Sinner single Crooked Smile. It’ll be interesting to hear Bas and Omen hold up their end of the deal here – whilst they’ve proven their talents on occassion in the past, this is about as lofty a pedestal as they’ve been put on thus far, and to avoid wilting under Cole’s shadow, you’d hope the material they’ve selected is amongst the best they’ve offered to date. Nonetheless, I’d expect to see plenty of development from both in their new partnership, and keep your eyes peeled for any more additions to the roster – not to do anyone’s job for them, but someone like ANTHM has always seemed a great fit for a team such as Dreamville, and it’ll be interesting to see if they pick up anyone of his ilk. For now, grab the 3-man, 11-track tape below.

Audio Push - Turn Down (Video)

Despite Come As You Are being a release I was looking forward to, listening to it seems to have inadvertently slipped down my queue, and hence it still remains untouched. One listen to this track, and the foolishness of my ignorance will impact you as much as it did me.

Who knew that the duo were capable of laidback, easygoing hip-hop of this ilk? They both surprise and impress with this effort: the mellow production is instantly captivating, with feathery guitar plucks accompanied by a combination of delicate synths for a smooth upper layer, and a strong (but thankfully, not dominating) percussion holding things together in the background.

It’s a fantastic production that many would associate with the likes of Wiz Khalifa’s weed raps, and credit goes to the pair for taking it far beyond that, with two verses geared around the relaxation of a female subject, or her “turning down”, whilst the third verse is a little smarter and reworks the turn down notion into one of people living beyond their means. It’s an enjoyable set of verses, backed up by a chilled out and catchy hook, and hence comes out as a strong all-rounder.

The video is a simple one, featuring the duo rapping behind grainy, retro filters, interspersed with story footage of the aforementioned female, capping off a great release from one of the best new duos in the hip-hop game today. Get the mixtape now.

YG - Who Do You Love? ft. Drake

yg-who-do-you-love-500x500
How does DJ Mustard do it? I can’t claim to have completed his entire production discography, but I’ve certainly caught a big chunk of it, and I’m always impressed. After breaking through with Tyga’s Rack City, he’s steadily delivered a mixture of mainstream favourites and slept-on speaker rattlers, and here he serves YG with what’s sure to be another big hit for him.

The common factor in Mustard’s production is sheer simplicity (and clean mastering), and that trait continues here. Those clean layers work their independent magic here, with those trademark dark synths accompanied by ominous keys, catchy claps and a healthy dose of bass; each layer is very distinct from the others, and not only does that contrast allow for appreciation of each element, but it’s the track’s pacing and rhythm that ties them all together into a bouncy, head-nodding affair. At heart, it’s quite a sombre, moody production but the sum of the parts ends up being a much funkier listen than it has any right to be, though of course that’s helped by the contributions of YG and Drake, who both ride along this beat smoothly. YG’s rougher delivery works with the grittier elements of the production well, whilst Drake’s quicker flow is a great compliment to the percussion work, and arguably steals the show.

A probable mainstream hit, and a definite addition to any car playlist worth its salt.

JD Era - Break From Toronto (Remix)

artworks-000065497696-wsorcc-t500x500
Toronto native (and Raekwon signee) JD Era comes through with a remix of PARTYNEXTDOOR’s single, in another show of appreciation for the young R&B star’s excellent track (and album).

The instrumental is left largely intact, save for a couple of looped sections to extend it out a little further, which is no bad thing as the crunching bassline of this one has yet to grow boring in my world. JD’s raps aren’t bad at all, and though (much like MeLo-X’s remix) they aren’t as addictive as the rap/singing hybrid that PND offers, as an independent performance it’s a good showing: the flows are varied yet with an unerring tightness, and the raps themselves are packed with touches of cool and flashes of aggression. Lyrically, it’s the expected arrogant raps, as per the original, and it’s fair to say that JD Era does make the most of what he’s working with here, in terms of the thunderous production. Worth a go if you liked the original, or if the original was “too R&B” for you.

Like (of Pac Div) - Sao Paulo

Mibbs dropped an EP earlier this year, and now Like comes through with some solo work, letting loose a feelgood jam that’ll have you longing for the summer.

A quick blast that comes in at just over 2:30, Like’s supplied with a jazzy production built on distorted keys, punchy percussion and a dash of strings that combines into a bright, vintage soundscape oozing a nostalgic summer appeal. I daresay there’s an infusion of a 90s hip-hop vibe running through this one (or maybe it’s just that it evokes the same memories and imagery that Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith’s Summertime does), but in any case it’s an excellent production that would light up any summer.

Like’s performance is strong throughout, flipping between his husky singing voice and a few sharp, slick raps for a good mix of elements. The raps are easygoing and descriptive, performed as “a letter about the city“, whilst the airy singing on the hook is a lovely complement to the uplifting production, and does a great job in finishing off that sunny day feel. Add the bright, positive video to the mix and you’ve got an excellent dose of summer vibes to warm you up until the season rolls around.

Kendrick Lamar - Poetic Justice (Vestige Remix)

artworks-000056285127-n3nmoo-t500x500
Consider this one of those odd situations where I’ve been listened to a track for quite a while, but just forgot to share it with everyone. It’s been a fixture in my playlists for a couple of months after stumbling on it completely accidentally (it got automatically played by Soundcloud right after I was listening to something else), and offers a nice refresh of the popular single from Kendrick’s GKMC album.

The original’s production wasn’t exactly lacking in gentle or smooth qualities, but this takes those elements and really enhances them a great deal. The entire original beat is stripped out, and in its place come airy, delicate synths, feather-light piano touches and light, unobtrusive percussion- it combines into a relaxing production that feels excellently suited to a summer evening. Kendrick and Drake’s raps were far from aggressive on the original incarnation, and hence here their laidback qualities are enhanced even further, with the production infusing a more easygoing vibe into their flows and vocal work, versus the occasional jagged edges (not a criticism) found in the Janet Jackson-sampling source work. Definitely worth giving a go, and a simple yet effective twist on the enjoyable original.

Flying Lotus - Ideas + Drafts + Loops (Compilation)

flying lotus
To celebrate reaching 300k followers a few days back, FlyLo let loose of a .zip file full of remixes, draft tracks, loops, unreleased material and much more for his evidently growing fanbase. Given the amount of material some artists sit on (looking at you Dre), it makes you wonder why more acts don’t just do the same with tracks they never intend on doing much else with, though in fairness recieving this from someone the calibre of Flying Lotus at least comes with the comfort that even his cast-offs will be good material.

Plenty of his previous collaborators are invovled, from Thundercat to Earl Sweatshirt, whilst it seems the remix of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead has been one of the releases from the pack gaining the most traction thus far. Add to that the inclusion of material from his “side project” as Captain Murphy, and you’ve got plenty of potential contained in this archive, and enough to keep fans going until the next album. That being said, there’s another of these generous offerings planned before his next LP release- we’re basically spoilt.

Flying Lotus – Ideas + Drafts + Loops

MeLo-X-Break From Flatbush

melo-x-breakfromflatbush
PARTYNEXTDOOR’s self-titled album/mixtape is easily one of the most underrated projects this year, and whilst Break From Toronto was recently given the video treatment, it’s probably fair to say that amongst those who did enjoy PND’s project, that track gets a little underappreciated as it’s rather short. Nonetheless, MeLo takes it for a spin here, and gives some extra shine to what is an excellent production.

No surprise with the formula: the atmospheric yet bassy sound of the original is completely intact, and MeLo just chooses to kick some rhymes over the top, throwing forth some fairly solid work that works well with the slow pace of the production. Whilst it’s missing that mix of both rapping and singing that PND offers, MeLo’s raps are generally clever and he switches through a handful of flows to offer a little variety. Nothing complicated, but a good remix and nice appreciation for an overlooked gem. MeLo’s GOD: Pièce de Résistance is available now.

Childish Gambino-Telegraph Ave.

E31NC2I
Every track that lands from Childish Gambino’s upcoming because the internet suggests we’re in for a late album of the year contender. He seems to really have settled his sound down a lot (just listen to the variance between Camp and Royalty), going for a sound akin to the former, but with much improved lyrical and vocal work- you sensed that he felt obliged to deliver something “harder” around the time of Royalty, and hence it’s nice to see him shed that pressure and get on with making good music that suits his skills.

There’s something about this track that has a So Far Gone vibe about it, and that’s definitely not a bad thing at this time of year. The production is a fantastic combination of atmospheric synths, thunderous bass and light, airy melodies, creating an easygoing vibe yet one with enough intensity to stop it becoming too laidback. That classic versatility is on show too, as Gambino moves from gentle, distorted vocals on the hook to a hybrid delivery on the verses, and throws in a rapped verse towards the end- such is the difference between the cadence and softness of the two styles, it almost feels as though he’s a ‘guest’ on his own track. It’s really just an excellent all-rounder that will most definitely be a favourite with CG fans. Free download, including the uptempo Ta-Ku remix below, available here.

Kanye West - Bound 2 (Video)

Yeezus was a pretty hit-and-miss album by all accounts, but this seemed to be the sole track that garnered universal praise. It clearly evoked memories of Kanye’s older, more soul-driven work (I daresay it would have slotted in smoothly on Late Registration), and whilst I wasn’t massive on the track at the time, it’s one of the very few that I can endure listening to from the LP these days.

The wild roaming horses, motorcycle ride in front of expansive scenery, windy portrait shot and so on add up to a generally positive video, though one that is immeasurably corny. It exclusively features Kanye and Kim Kardashian essentially engaging in some heavy petting on a motorbike, whilst the screen behind them shows a range of classic rural American scenery (Monument Valley, if I’m not mistaken)- Kanye will pass this off as super creative and so forth, but it’s hardly the case. Instead, it’s just a bit boring in truth, and whilst Ye’s ability to hold back a little on the snarling, brooding expressions helps create a more feelgood vibe, it’s still not the most inspiring or engaging work he’ll ever release. Nonetheless, I’m sure many will be glad to be reminded of the track’s qualities, and I doubt many will complain about seeing Kim Kardashian writhing around, so at least it serves some purpose, whether intended or not.

Audio Push-So Far To Go ft. Preston Harris (Video)

If one of the better duos in the rap game want to have a go on an underappreciated J Dilla beat, I’m paying attention. Audio Push are slowly cementing themselves as a force to be reckoned, and given hip-hop’s lack of true duos (and that doesn’t mean two artists coming together for a one-off project), they’ve definitely got a chance of filling the void that, arguably, was last housed by the Clipse.

The beat is a bonafide classic. Dilla captured a perfect chillout vibe with a bassy hip-hop edge, Common did justice to it on the Finding Forever album, and now Audio Push revive the soulful production for this quick release. Their verses are as solid as ever, with some likeable moments of biographical storytelling laid alongside good raps about their current lives- the latter is actually quite refreshing as rather than focus on the typical ‘bragger raps’, there are moments of honesty and insight that strip away the arrogance and suit the reflective nature of the production. It would be an easy move to stick with the brash, confident raps and just apply them to this beat, but they certainly deserve credit for adjusting their game where many artists in their position probably wouldn’t have bothered, whilst Preston’s soulful hook caps things off smoothly.

If you haven’t already, grab their Come As You Are mixtape now (sadly, this isn’t on there though).

MeLo-X-GOD: Pièce de Résistance (Full Album Stream)

melo-x-GOD-PDR
After a few short years of releasing mixtapes, EP’s, instrumental albums, collaborations, and traveling around the world, MeLo has finally released an official solo LP for sale. This year has been filled with amazing visuals and a EP series leading up to November 5th. Watch the shift occur.

So, there were several big album releases this week, but in truth, I’ll probably be giving this one priority over most. MeLo’s work over the last 18 months has been representative of a man at the top of his craft, having not only matured as a producer, but also growing as a rapper. Throw his enjoyable pack of videos into that, and you’ve got an artist who has developed every aspect of his game, and that appears to culminate with this release.

The 12 track LP features plenty of new material alongside choice cuts from the preceding three EPs released this year (LoFi, HiFi and WiFi), and features previous collaborators Jesse Boykins III and Cheri Coke, amongst others. Given his excellent work with both in the past, it’s fair to expect big things from those tracks, whilst I’m sure the rest will be thoroughly enjoyable too. Very excited about this one- you can stream it in the accompanying widget below, and be sure to follow that up with a purchase.

Mike G-DAM ft. Left Brain

tumblr_inline_mvrl19rWEn1qamoru
There’s something about Mike G’s rapping style that is completely hypnotic. I can’t really figure it out, but almost everything you hear him on, he commands the flow of the track quickly and bounces along it with incredible ease. It’s quite unique in terms of his sheer synchronicity with any production he’s met with, and whilst that might turn some people off, I find it fun listening.

This is as good an example of his rap style as you could ask for. The production itself is pretty easygoing and slow-moving, plodding along with sharp clicks, chunky bass and mesmerising, eastern-influenced string plucks, and generally isn’t too active or in-your-face. That laidback style can often result in quite dour, boring tracks, but again it’s Mike G’s cool, laidback delivery that elevates the track, synergising effortlessly with the production’s tempo to fill out the soundscape’s gaps. His lyrical work is generally consistent and here is no different, with a mix of braggadocios raps and punchlines throughout, whilst Left Brain’s dulcet tones make for a good slice of tonal variety.

All-round, it’s a pretty enjoyable hip-hop jam with a good chillout sensibility, and is one of those that will quietly rack up a bunch of plays in your library. Mike Check Vol. 2 coming soon.

Lloyd Banks-F.N.O. (Failure's No Option) (Mixtape)

Lloyd_Banks_FNO_Failures_No_Option-front-large
If you’re lacking that little bit of bite on your car playlist, or you just want something to make a screwface too, Lloyd Banks is your man. His mixtape work over the last few years has been impeccable in that sense, serving up powerful, speaker-rattling beats under his gristly, versatile raps on a fairly consistent basis. That being said, he’s quietened slightly this year, but pulls through in the final quarter with this overdue mixtape release.

Features are minimal, and that’s just fine. Appearances from Raekwon, Vado and Styles P are about as far as it goes, and across 16 tracks that gives Banks plenty of breathing space to once again show his worth and remind all who are smart enough that he’s about the only G-Unit member left with any shred of relevance in hip-hop (yeah, I said it). He has a sound, he knows what it is, and that’s to be respected- many rappers get caught up in whatever today’s fad is, and tend to leave behind their core competencies, to the point that they never truly recover them. Banks can’t be accused of that, and hopefully, this project will reinforce that belief whilst providing us with some head-nodding hip-hop jams to unashamedly throw up unecessary gang signs to. You do it. Don’t lie.

Lloyd Banks-F.N.O.

Mickey Factz-Zen ft. Yelawolf

mickey-yela-zen
Mickey’s debut LP The Achievement, is due in February, and to get things moving he lets this single out. It’s an interesting situation he’s in: the massive buzz from a few years ago has quietened down, and yet arguably his work has actually improved since then. An example: Mickey Mause was released around 18 months ago to less fanfare than previous works, and yet plenty of it still gets regular play in my world, which is as indicative of a time-tested mixtape as you could want.

On to this one- it’s a promising track, and will definitely get a few casual fans interested again. The production starts off in an upbeat, jazzy manner, before quickly moving to a thunderous, atmospheric beat that builds an intimidating soundwall out of bassy percussion, spacy synths and distant, light melodies. It adds a ton of gravitas to the verses, whilst the slight speed-up on the hook helps inject a touch of energy to proceedings, and finishes off what is a strong backdrop. Mickey’s raps are delivered with a quiet intensity throughout, working well with the beat for a focused performance that packs in a couple of typically-smart lines, along with the self-confidence that he’s rarely short of. his half-sung hook has a catchy, rather anthemic vibe to it, whilst Yela closes out with a good reminder of what he’s capable of, tongue-twisting his way through a solid contribution, and both finish off what is a very solid all-round jam. Worth grabbing, which you can do here.

Snoop Dogg-That's My Work 2 (Mixtape)

snoop-my-work-2
A (presumably) unintentional consequence of Snoop changing personas more than he changes underwear (we’re at Snoopzilla now, after Snoop Lion) is that when he reverts back to hip-hop under the regular Dogg guise, it’s almost a relief and has much more of an appeal than it did before the name-switching.

This project is seemingly a bit of a pit stop before he launches into the Snoopzilla project, as Snoop and DJ Drama come together for an unexpected burst of 19 tracks, packing in features from Method Man, Erick Sermon and Suga Free. The list of features certainly hints at a more old school direction, and fingers crossed Snoop has got all the genre-blending out of his system with his alter egos, and this project packs in some good old fashioned rap work. Either way, 19 free Snoop Doggy Dogg tracks aren’t usually something you’re going to pass up, so head below for the stream/download.

Snoop Dogg-That’s My Work 2

Childish Gambino-3005

artworks-000060682317-e0l9n6-t500x500
Assumedly, this is the latest release from his upcoming Because the Internet album, and it’s one longtime Gambino fans should quite enjoy.

The production has an interesting rawness to it- the melody for the first third is almost (this isn’t meant negatively) amateurish in nature, and creates a throwback vibe. The beat’s progression to a more lavish style for the hook ends up being a clever contrast (see, I went somewhere with the amateur thing), and makes Gambino’s vocals on that chorus far more impactful by completely filling out the soundscape with crisp percussion and airy synths.

The lyricism is introspective, as much of his more recent work has been, and has Gambino again demonstrating an in-depth self-awareness that often flirts with sadness and depression, and has a nice structuring: as the verses continue down a downbeat route, they pick up toward the end as he recalls the lady of his affections, seguing into the relationship-focused hook. It may seem like obvious structuring, but a quick listen to 90% of mainstream hip-hop tracks will reveal verses that have almost no tie-back to the hook that anchors them, and hence that lyrical juxtaposition is a subtle and welcomed touch. Throw that all in with Childish heading back to a sung hook, and it’s a good all-rounder that should keep fans satiated for the meantime.

Lupe Fiasco-Old School Love ft. Ed Sheeran

lupe ed sheeran
On paper, this is everything an OTU fan could want. Lupe’s first single from the upcoming Tetsuo and Youth album, and a feature from longtime OTU favourite (and once interviewee, of course) Ed Sheeran.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t on paper. This will be really, really divisive.

Ed’s hook is delicate and heartfelt, and realistically that doesn’t stack up to what older Lupe Fiasco fans want from his material. Lasers proved that. On the surface, Lupe’s raps appear similarly ‘emotional’ too, and when combined with this light, easygoing beat, there will be a whole host of people immediately throwing this out. Not necessarily the best move: Lupe’s raps are more self-directed than they first appear, and act more as internal monologues than heartfelt excalamations. Equally, the soft, childlike production clearly fits with the ‘discussion’ he has with his younger self, and of course matches the old school motto in a manner somewhat different to hip-hop’s default perception of old school (hard beats, street raps and such). This is not me claiming I’m a huge fan of this though- frankly, it’s just not the best use of Lupe’s ability and at times, Sheeran’s hook holds the track together so well that it feels more like his song than Lupe’s. That being said, give it time and it might be a grower.

Lloyd Banks-Drop A Diamond ft. Raekwon

Whilst I’ve proclaimed I’m listening to very little hip-hop these days, one act has endured this and remains a fixture within my go-to playlist. That man is Lloyd Banks, whose mixtape work gets regular play in my car and house, and though he’s been very quiet this year, this release is hopefully a sign that more new work is on the way.

The production is a great mix between opulence and speaker-rattling, throwing together rather gentle, easygoing piano work and bassy, driving percussion for a contrasting blend that works rather well. Not to say either of them suffer with any particular type of production, but it’s the sort of beat that really does suit both acts, allowing them to play up their lavish lifestyles whilst giving them enough hard-hitting elements to still have the gritty factor that sets the two apart. Whilst Banks’ raspy tones are indeed a good fit for the production, it’s probably Rae that swings this one, purely for his slightly offbeat flow and more dulcet tone adding a controlled sense of ‘I literally do not care about you’, and hence makes for entertaining listening. Hopefully, that A.O.N. Vol. 1: Failure’s No Option mixtape is coming soon.

Game-Operation Kill Everything (Mixtape)

game-oke-cover
My internet has been out for days, so I apologise for the delay. That being said, hip-hop’s current malaise means even obvious releases like this are completely slipping under my radar. I generally enjoy Game’s material, but even he hasn’t escaped the effects of my boredom with rap as of late.

Nonetheless, it’ll be a project I’m certainly going to give a go, if only for the inevitable handful of car-ready highlights that will emerge. Game’s usual running buddies turn up, alongside some of the newer breed, with features from Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, Nipsey Hu$$le, ScHoolboy Q, Diddy, Elijah Blake and K. Roosevelt amongst many more, whilst the production lineup boasts appearances from Cool & Dre, DJ Mustard and League of Starz. It’s pretty much everything a mainstream hip-hop head needs, and is available to stream and download below.

Game-OKE

Childish Gambino-Yaphet Kotto (Freestyle)

It’s been a couple of years in the making now, but it looks like the follow-up to Camp could be on its way. Because the Internet (yep) is coming this ‘winter break’, which I believe loosely translates to the Christmas holidays for us folk, and assuming it’s an LP rather than a mixtape, it’ll make for very interesting listening given Gambino’s decision to scale back on acting and concentrate more on his music.

This track was originally released in a shortened form as part of the video trailer that accompanies this post, but was unveiled in its entireity around 30 minutes ago. It’s a very enjoyable piece, boasting a vintage-influenced production built on Hendrix-era guitar work, a mixture of synths and vocal samples, and a rolling percussion set that bundles through the track well, switching up and down dynamically through the track’s middle portion for a touch of unpredictability. Gambino’s output pretty much runs through his entire arsenal, opening with sharply delivered lyrics that pack a sense of frustration at being labelled a poor rapper, before moving down into a dulcet tone that offers a little reflectiveness, and heading back into a mixture of the opening third’s rap style and a touch of breathy singing. It’s a really likeable production, and an intense, dynamic performance from Gambino that makes the track seem far shorter than it is. Worth a go, and a good opening release ahead of that album run. Track download available below (or, at least it was when I posted this!).

Nipsey Hu$$le-Crenshaw (Mixtape)

nipsey-hussle-crenshaw
As good as Kendrick Lamar is, in absolute truth, if you’d asked me before GKMC who my favourite upcoming west coast rapper was, I might have said Nipsey. He’s hugely underrated, but a great talent that is slowly breaking down doors and getting more believers on board with his movement, and doing so purely via his music, with no other PR stunts or shenanigans.

A hefty 21 tracks make this project up, though that extensiveness isn’t used as a device to shoehorn in loads of features; in fact, big name guest appearances aren’t that numerous at all here. Rick Ross, James Fauntleroy, Dom Kennedy and Slim Thug are among the better-known names here, whilst notable producers include 9th Wonder, 1500 or Nothin’, and The Futuristics. It’s been a bit of a dry spell for hip-hop, so hopefully this chunky offering can tie those fans over who are struggling for new work to listen to- free stream and download below, or you can support by grabbing a signed, limited edition hard copy over at Nipsey’s site.

Nipsey Hu$$le-Crenshaw

Lupe Fiasco-Pound of Flesh / Paris, Tokyo 2

artworks-000058586292-ozjlk0-t500x500
So unexpected is the relative flurry of recent material from Lupe, that I’m actually slipping a little with keeping on top of it. Minor problems though, and I expect this freestyle over Drake’s Pound Cake beat will be many listeners’ favourite Lupe track from the batch released in the last few months.

As I’ve not listened to Drake’s album yet (not a vendetta, just no time!), this is my first exposure to the laidback production and it’s rather impressive. Its atmospheric R&B qualities are reminsicent of various highlights from Drake’s back catalogue, and is not only very enjoyable but serves as a backdrop you wouldn’t normally associate with Lupe. It works really well for him though, with the moody, introspective beat adding a great accompaniment to Lupe’s stream of consciousness, which manifests itself as a pack of individually clever lines, and entertaining couplets. It’s all packed into a very unique flow, with the brief pauses usually found around smart points of juxtaposition, as he skillfully knots rhymes together that are equally effective when seperated- it’s a memorable delivery that’s utilised well to almost get double usage out of the most simple conjoining terms. Really worth a listen, and bestowing this the Paris, Tokyo 2 title only goes to show that this isn’t just throwaway rap- Lupe’s taken this one rather seriously. Tetsuo and Youth, coming soon.

Mickey Factz-The New Rockstars (Culture)

artworks-000058707658-11pel2-t500x500
Everyone and their horse has heard Kanye West’s interview with Zane Lowe, and now Mickey Factz grabs a couple of choice soundbites from that now-infamous conversation for a pretty strong hip-hop jam.

The production is one that’ll thoroughly assault your speakers, combining a thunderous percussion with a dash of vocal samples and bassy synth for an intense backdrop that adds plenty of aggression to Mickey’s raps. Those raps are enjoyable throughout, opening with support for the sample Kanye statements, and moving into a criticism of rap and further down into a mixture of rock and cultural references and bragging raps. It’s certainly not one of Mickey’s storytelling efforts- instead, it’s 4 minutes of consistent rapping in a bouncy flow that rides along the booming percussion well, and packs in a couple of strong wordplay sections. Worth a listen, and hopefully more music is on the way.

Meek Mill-Dreamchasers 3 (Mixtape)

meekmillDC3cover
On the back of the first two tapes in the Dreamchasers series, Meek’s carved out a very strong position in the mainstream hip-hop scene, and certainly ranks as one of MMG’s more recognisable names. Credit to Meek then for sticking with the mixtape scene, despite the fact he could have probably put half of these tracks onto an EP and made a lot of money; clearly, he just wants to get a lot of product out there, and that’s to be appreciated.

Features on this are big-name heavy, as you’d expect, with Diddy, Nicki Minaj, Fabolous, Future, Jadakiss and Ma$e appearing alongside MMG leader Rick Ross, whilst the producer lineup boasts Cardo, Boi-1da, Key Wane and even the massively-forgotten Scott Storch. Meek’s proven himself a very versatile rapper, so expect a couple of club hits, speaker rattlers and maybe a more introspective track or two. Either way, mainstream heads will be grabbing this one- do so for free below.

Meek Mill-Dreamchasers 3

Lupe Fiasco-Piece of Paper/Cup of Jayzus

paper-of-jayzus-cover
#latepass. Lupe dropped this one off about 10 days ago, but it appears to have completely bypassed me. Expected to be the first single from the upcoming Tetsuo and Youth album, it’s 7 minutes of straight rapping that should appeal to the hip-hop heads. No hooks, no over-production, no fuss.

The beat is supremely minimal, with the only constant being four repeated piano notes, whilst thudding bass and a little extra percussion works its way in and out where required. There’s a touch of synth and sample here and there too, but it’s very minor, and doesn’t impact the overall stripped-back quality Lupe’s gone for. As for the raps, where do I begin? Analysing even the shortest of Lupe’s tracks is a heavy task, so I’ll make little attempt at taking on the punchlines, couplets and so on here- what I’ll say is that Lupe isn’t getting super ‘weird’ or overly metaphorical. He consistently hits a nice middle ground between matter-of-fact, face-value rap and double entendre-laced lyrics, with his occassionally patronising wit (let’s be honest) tempered here by a more self-confident, slightly arrogant style that works to bring his raps into a more universally absorbable delivery. It’ll take several plays to really catch everything, and at 7 minutes long it can become a bit of a chore, but it’s worth a go for sure.

Floco Torres-Psycadelphia Two (Album)

The sequel to the “Psycadelphia” EP back in 2009. Floco returns to Psycadelphia after leaving it ruins after an unsuccessful start. During his departure, he left behind many that he brought along in order to find his true purpose of creating the world to begin with. This is the story of rebuilding a world and convincing those that believe in it to allow him to lead one last time. Welcome. Again….

One of my favourite rappers to emerge this year is Floco Torres. Though he’s been around for a few years, it’s his work this year that’s really brought him to our attention, and this 12-track sequel to one of his earliest works provides not only a lengthy addition to the libraries of his new fans, but also a nice nod toward his oft-overlooked back catalogue. Haven’t managed to give this a run through yet, and despite my recent listening habits momentarily sitting away from hip-hop, I’ll certainly break that spell to add this to my playlists- given his previous penchant for diverse, ecelctic track types, there’s bound to be something to fit most moods. Stream here, or grab the album below.

Floco Torres-Psycadelphia Two