My friends need help. No, seriously. There is a conspiracy to convince us that enjoying hip-hop with wordplay that doesn’t require subtitles over beats slower than 110 BPMS means that we should just roll over and die. No one wants to be reminded of a time when an MC could walk and chew gum—i.e. entertain and inform—when everyone just wants to blow promethazine flavored bubbles.
Part of this conspiracy is our fault though. Some of us continue to bring up music from the 90s when some of our favs from that era are a) still making NEW music and b) younger artists are putting out comparable music that “heads” would love just as much.
But when you have a job and a family to take care of the hunt for music is low on the list of priorities and the radio is of little help. So word of mouth is all you got. And me. Yes, I’m going to give you a cheat sheet of albums released in 2015, most of which are available for streaming on your favorite platform, that will help you get that old feeling back. I know that you’ve been burning Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly heavy since the start of the year but you can’t keep living off of one album, fam.
Lupe Fiasco, Tetsuo And Youth
Released earlier in the year, a quixotic marketing campaign (he tweeted a pic of himself in a Klansmen outfit) derailed an incredibly layered and deft lyrical performance by Lupe. The 8:49 dissertation called “Mural” is worth the click alone but the introspective “Little Death” goes toe-to-toe with anything on “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
DJ EFN, Another Time
The Florida DJs latest is thick with heavy drums and stellar guest appearances. The title track features Inspectah Deck, Guilty Simpson and M.O.P. The groovy “Paradise” flaunts Talib Kweli, Redman and Wrekonize and will take you back to your favorite roller skating jam on a Saturday.
Clear Soul Forces, Fab 5
The Detroit squad of E-Fave, Ilajide, L.A.Z. and J-Roc have been rocking since 2010 and were the subject of Red Bull Music Academy mini-doc. Thanks to some encouragement from local hero Royce D 5’9” they’ve been bringing their own brand of boom-bap from the D and Fab 5 is a banger.
Skyzoo, Music For My Friends
The Brooklyn scribe laces his fifth solo album with bold faced names like Jadakiss and Black Thought, but this reality show is unmistakably his as he takes you back to pre-Bloomberg Brooklyn.
Add-2, Prey For The Poor
One of Chicago’s most promising new voices offers a master class in self-reflection and reporting from the front lines without glorifying the dire circumstances of his home town.
Raekwon, Fly International Luxurious Art
For his sixth album The Wu-Tang veteran takes a victory lap in a private jet to celebrate 20 years of influencing styles and style in rap. But make no mistake – co-consipirators Scram Jones and Jerry Wonda provide enough sonic turbulence to keep the flight crew of Busta Rhymes, 2 Chainz and A$AP Rocky honest.
Scarface, Deeply Rooted
The Houston rap OG continues to offer the most cinematic snapshots over N.O. Joe’s Gumbo Funk, which is just as adept for traversing NYC potholes as it is for cruising I-65.
Camp Lo, Ragtime Hightimes
Before you credit any other rappers with creating their own language you have to visit the catalogue of this verbally ambidextrous Bronx duo. The next installment in their libidinous time traveling chronicles is polished, fun and THC friendly.
DeNaun Porter, Stuff In My Backpack
From the side-splitting “Hey” to the grand verbalizing of “Cookin’” DeNaun mixes the quirky yet biting humor of D-12 with a lush and aggressive Caltroit soundbed. With Rapsody, Phonte, Royce Da 5’9” and Pharoahe Monch riding shotgun this 8-song EP has lyrics to go.
Georgia Ann Muldrow A Thoughtiverse Unmarred
The singer and raptivist from L.A. has logged almost a decade pumping modern day funk into your speakers but her latest work is a great starting point for the unfamiliar.
Slum Village, YES!
This 8th studio album from the Detroit veterans features nine songs produced or co-produced by the late J Dilla. If that isn’t enough to win you over, De La Soul, Phife, Black Milk and Bilal come along for the ride.
Sean Price, Songs In the Key Of Price
The new era “Purple Tape” is simply everything we loved about the late Boot Camp barbarian from Brooklyn. Brash and honest in an era of recycled pastiche, his blunt truths mock the bullshit by simply being real.
Supastition, Gold Standard
For his latest project Gold Standard the NC lyricist packages 10 tracks worth of truculent lyricism with occasional breaks to touch on social ills (“Black Bodies”) and relationships (“Song For the Mrs” and “End of Forever”). In an age of bitCoin raps with suspect value it’s good to know that there is still a gold standard.
DJ Soko, Domino Effect
If DJ Revolution pulled cards like Gambit on “King Of The Decks” and Statik Selektah took us back to the casino on “What Goes Around” and “Lucky 7,” DJ Soko’s “Domino Effect” is a worthy addition to this loose alliance between hip-hop and the gaming commission. Soko peppers deep cuts and scratches over production by disciples of the boom bap with lyrical cameos by Guilty Simpson, Finale, Hassan Mackey and more.
Erk Tha Jerk, Airplane Mode
If you fux with the sound of Big KRIT but want subject matter that is a little more introspective this Bay Area-by-way-of-Virginia wordsmith should be in your rotation.
Persona, Mello Music Group
This indie hip-hop label cranks out more beats per minute than your local Apple Store (wait for it…there, you get it now) and has released projects by Pete Rock, Apollo Brown, Oddisee, Rapper Big Pooh, Quelle Chris and more this calendar year. We could have filled this list with most of their releases but if you want a quality snapshot of what they have to offer, the Persona compilation is one you need to hear.
And a few more…
The Alchemist & Oh No, Welcome To Los Santos
Talib Kweli, Fuck The Money
Large Professor, RE: Living
Mac Miller, GO:OD AM
Oddisee, The Good Fight
Ghostface and BadBadNotGood, Sour Soul
Statik Selektah, Lucky 7
EMC, The Tonite Show