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.
The Bar is the duo comprised of Seattle emcee Prometheus Brown of Blue Scholars and L.A. emcee Bambu of Native Guns. The two artists met years ago traveling on the same circuit of hip hop performances and community organizing workshops. A couple of years ago, they took the opportunity when both were invited to speak in Hawaii at the same time to also record an album together. The album, Prometheus Brown And Bambu Walk Into A Bar, laid a solid foundation for the duo to continue recording together.
Last year, Greensboro emcee/producer Castle dropped his debut album for Mello Music Group, Gasface. It was a strong and clever album, with a sarcastic sense of humor and biting social observations. One year later it’s time to revisit the album, with new beats by his good friend Has-Lo. It’s not exactly a remix album, as Castle also reworked some of his verses as well, and they even recorded a brand new song for the occasion, so let's call it a reworking of Gasface.
LAKIM is a producer from Virginia whose career has been gaining a lot of momentum lately. His latest effort for Soulection, This is Her, makes it pretty easy to see why, too – his music is unique, accessible, and fun to listen to. It’s amazing to think that this is his debut full length album.
Last year, Detroit emcee/producer Black Milk released his EP Synth or Soul in coordination with Record Store Day, with the digital version available beforehand. This year, he’s once again set to release some special vinyl on that day, with the digital version already available. This EP doesn’t have the obvious theme that Synth or Soul does, but those that rocked with his full-length album from 2013, No Poison No Paradise, will not be disappointed.
@Peace is a five-piece hip hop band from Auckland, New Zealand. Last year, they came to our attention with their release, Girl Songs. The album had a lot of potential, and delivered a lot of really good songs, but also featured a couple of moments of the group falling into some of the more unfortunate trappings of hip hop – trying to act hard and invoking misogyny in their lyrics. With that said, you could also tell there was much more to the group than that, and I hoped that the group would continue to work and push themselves to be better than that.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, Denver producer Man Mantis has chosen to forgo the usual route to follow up his last full length album. He decided that instead of releasing his new album in the normal format, he’d split the project up into three EPs. Each volume would be released about a month apart from each other, and each volume would contain four songs, one with a guest vocalist. We now have the final volume of Majestic Dimensions (with promise of deluxe packaging coming later in the year), and it’s probably the strongest volume of the three.
It’s been a few years since Grieves made his Rhymesayers debut with the excellent Together/Apart, which was made in collaboration with his close friend and producer Budo. With the follow up, Grieves enlisted San Jose producer B.Lewis to help him shape the musical direction of the project. This doesn’t mean a radical departure in style, but it does shift a few things over the course of the album.
Portland label Liquid Beats has already exposed us to talents such as Roane Namuh and Reva DeVito, and they continue to expand their sound with the addition of producer Hot16 to their roster. His debut recording is entitled 1983 EP, a promising next step for the label.
When Son Lux, Serengeti, and Sufjan Stevens first collaborated together on their debut EP two years ago as S/S/S, it was fantastic and held a lot of promise. Of course, it also seemed like it could be tough to get these three separate talents from three different cities together long enough to make a full length record and explore their sound further, so I wasn’t going to hold my breath in anticipation.