There are many times that you can appreciate an album when it comes out, but it’s hard to put into context until you have some time to gain some perspective as to how that music affected you on a personal level, as well as how it affected the culture and the industry. Other times, though, someone’s musical output is so immediate in its impact, that you get the pleasure of watching someone’s prime unfolding around you in real time. Open Mike Eagle is such an artist.
If you’re a regular reader of Scratched Vinyl, you might already know that Sammus has emerged as one of our favorite artists over the past couple of years. The grad student/producer/emcee has delivered two of the best albums of the past two years with M’Other Brain and Prime. One of my favorite litmus tests, though, is just asking another hip hop fan if they’ve heard of Sammus. Without fail, you’ll get one of two responses. It’ll either be, “Who?” or “Oh my God! She’s so good!” With her latest EP, Sammus has gone back to her roots.
Has it really been four years since Li(f)e? It seems like that album came out just yesterday. I guess that’s what happens when you release a landmark album such as that. It was grand in design, with lots of non-typical collaborators for a hip hop album, and featured some anthemic songs that quickly became crowd favorites. So many people were moved by that album that for a while, Sage Francis was collecting photos of people getting Li(f)e tattoos and posting them on Facebook. A lot has happened, though, since the release of that album.
One of the beautiful things about the age in which we live is how artists are able to connect from all over the globe. Uncommon Nasa has been reppin’ New York underground hip hop since he launched his record label over ten years ago. However, he has also used Uncommon Records as a platform to shine the spotlight on talented artists from a variety of locations that might not otherwise find their audience. Duke01, an emcee from Nottingham, U.K., is such an example. He might have a following in the U.K., but he remains relatively unknown in the U.S.
Bay area born, Brooklyn-based singer Corina Corina made her debut in the fall of 2012 with her album, The Eargasm. With that release, she occupied a strange position of being a soul/R&B singer in the world of independent hip hop. Over the last ten plus years, there has become quite a niche for retro-soul acts, with groups like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings giving us great soul, funk, and R&B inspired by music made in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And that’s great - I love that music. But what about the hip hop/soul that’s been made since then?
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.