Once upon a time, J-Live was in danger of becoming an artist who never got his career off the ground, with his debut album lingering in limbo for about five years as he feuded with his label. Of course, that happened in the mid ‘90s, and since the early 2000s J-Live has thrived as an independent artist, and these days can claim his title as a New York hip hop institution. Around the Sun is J-Live’s sixth full length album, and it seems silly now to think that there was ever a time when J-Live didn't know if he'd ever even have a career to talk about.
It’s been six years since we last heard from Heiruspecs. The St. Paul band never broke up, it was merely a matter of getting everyone in the same place at the same time, since everyone involved in the group has multiple projects they are always working on. They might be solo projects, they might be collaborative efforts with other Twin Cities artists, they might not be musical projects at all, but these guys keep themselves busy. Fortunately, 2014 found them all on the same page, and we get the best album yet from the band with Night Falls.
North Carolina producer L’Orange has been riding a wave of creative output recently. In the past two years, he’s released an excellent solo album in The Mad Writer and a full length album in collaboration with Topeka emcee Stik Figa, The City Under The City. Now he’s back once again with another solo album, a dark tale built around samples of ‘30s and ‘40s vintage.
There was a long and winding journey in between the debut and sophomore albums for Columbus emcee/producer Blueprint. His first album, 1988, was a concept album that explored a Golden Age of hip hop (there have been more than one), with throwback production styles creating a soundscape that took you back in time. After six years, with many twists and turns along the way, Blueprint came back with Adventures in Counter-Culture in 2011. It was a huge departure from his first album, moving in several different directions, pushing the boundaries of hip hop.
Electroom Acoostap is the alias of Medline, a French producer who has been working with several different labels under several different names to establish and explore different sounds. With this EP, he uses the name Electroom Acoostap to explore a gospel/boom bap sound.
Sleep is one of the more slept on emcees in independent hip hop. For that matter, Portland hip hop is largely overlooked. The fact is, though, that Sleep has been recording for over fifteen years as part of a few different groups and has put out many albums. The flipside is that those that are familiar with him are quick to sing his praises, and if come across a fan they will likely talk your ear off. He’s been part of groups such as Oldominion with JFK and Onry Ozzborn and The Chicharones with Josh Martinez, along with all the work he’s done as a solo artist.
Since debuting on Stones Throw in 2012, Homeboy Sandman has gone on an EP tear, releasing five up to this point. This of course is in addition to the full length he dropped in 2012, you know, just for good measure. What makes the EPs fun is that each one is a short, concentrated collaboration with a specific producer. This time through it’s London producer Paul White who teams up with the Queens emcee to give us a varied collection of seven songs.
New York emcee PremRock has been building up quite the resume over the last couple of years. Last we heard from him, he had released a seven-song EP recorded with Czech producer Talpas, Splendid, which came out last fall. Before that, he put together the ambitious Mark’s Wild Years, in which he reimagined and repurposed the catalogue of Tom Waits. Not one to rest, he’s back with his fourth studio album, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.
IAMNOBODI is a producer from Dusseldorf, Germany, who has been making a name for himself over the past couple of years by creating a sound that moves between instrumental hip hop, house, and various other forms of electronic music, while also incorporating plenty of jazz and R&B. His latest project for Jakarta Records was inspired by the city of Berlin, a soundtrack for the streets of the city.
L.A. emcee/producer Nocando has existed in a weird purgatory for a good portion of his career, with his first solo album, Jimmy the Lock, largely going unnoticed in 2010, as did his collaboration with Busdriver as Flash Bang Grenada. This is even more surprising, considering his association with Scribble Jam and Low End Theory to give him the necessary cred to establish his reputation. However, putting more focus into building up his label, Hellfyre Club, in the past couple of years, has been paying off.