It’s weird to think that enough time has passed to have some critical distance from the wave of underground hip hop that came out of New York in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. This music that reached me when I first got involved in college radio in the early ‘00s that completely opened up my ears and my mind and forever changed my perception of what hip hop could sound like. One of the exciting aspects of this was connecting the dots between different acts, learning about labels and crews.
Detroit producer Apollo Brown has been part of the Mello Music Group roster for a while now, and in that time he’s produced for the likes of Boog Brown, Ugly Heroes, The Left, Hasaan Mackey, and OC. He’s also released several instrumental projects along the way as well. His latest effort, Thirty Eight, is an instrumental project that is supposed to sound “like Detroit transitioning from heroin to crack in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.”
Batsauce might be best known to most hip hop fans as the producer who has recently been collaborating with Typical Cat emcee Qwazaar, but there’s much more to him than just that. The Jacksonville-born, Berlin-based artist has produced for everyone from Mr. Lif to Bahamadia, along with releasing some instrumental solo projects. His latest release is a labor of love, paying tribute to one of the unheralded heroes of jazz, Rudy Stevenson.
It’s strange that for a genre of music that’s been around for thirty to forty years, we still don’t have that many models for how to grow old in hip hop. We’ve seen artists hit hard at a young age and die early, we’ve seen some move into acting or business ventures, and we’ve seen some swallowed up by the music industry or the legal system. We’ve also seen some artists grow increasingly irrelevant, losing touch with what made them great, getting increasingly corny with each new album. There really are a shortage of hip hop acts who have successfully transitioned into middle age.
The last time we checked in with German producer JuSoul, he had just released a beat tape entitled Nuggets last fall. It wasn’t perfect, but it definitely showed a lot of promise. With his latest release, Quince & Soda, a full length album that also marks his first release on vinyl, the stakes are considerably higher.
French producer Qiwu hasn’t given any lengthy statements as to why or what comes next, but with this release, he simply offered the statement, “Qub is my final chapter as a beatmaker.” It’s sad to hear for those of us who appreciated his style, especially since this is a collection of beats and songs recorded between 2006 and 2014, and not the official full length he was supposedly working on when he dropped Tr3 last July.
Just over a year ago, Minneapolis noise-rap group Moodie Black dropped their debut EP for Fake Four. It was a release that marked a shift in style for the duo of emcee K and guitarist Sean Lindahl, as they expanded upon their previous work, moving away slightly from the uptempo aural assault that they had built their reputation on. With their first full length as part of the Fake Four family, they continue to build and expand upon their previous work.
Psymun is a 21-year-old producer out of Minneapolis that made a splash at the end of last year when he released the amazing LucidDreamingSkylines in collaboration with vocalist K.Raydio. Now he’s back with a solo effort, a more experimental EP simply called Pink Label.
If you don’t already know Blitz the Ambassador, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with the Ghana-born-and-raised, Brooklyn-based emcee. The artist has been building and finding his voice over the last few years, and with his third full length album, Afropolitan Dreams, we find him truly coming into his own.
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.