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steel tipped dove :: arguing on the internet is cool and fun

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New beat tape by the maestro Steel Tipped Dove...the homie's been around for a while, producing beats for PremRock, Armand Hammer, the Das Racist guys, YC The Cynic, Tone Tank, Open Mike Eagle, SHIRT and other illustrious underground MCs I fuck with heavy.

The style is heavy on expanded sound, TV-static skies, 3am realizations about the Ten Thousand Things, that dream where the stairs were red and squishy and squirting water, and that joke about punching the guy whose face is made of cookie dough.  That is, it's not thumb-heavy boom bap, it's not block-rockin' beats, it's how we do in these Roy Batty baby years.

Cop the new beat tape here, and argue about in on your favorite internets.

(Steady blogging on new content/releases usually isn't my bag, but what the fuck, let's try it out.)

Albums of the Year, MMXV

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As much as To Pimp A Butterfly didn't really interest me that much--it's not as complex or artistic as people think if you listen to a lot of complex and artistic rap music--it's great to see an ambitious and socially conscious rap record at the top of so many year-end lists instead of, you know, Drake.  Also I know a lotta cats were feeling Vince Staples, but I rep Office Max so that one didn't really do it for me either.

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Ka & Preservation :: Days With Dr. Yen Lo

I been rocking with Ka since Grief, and this is the latest capstone on the temple.  Bringing behind the boards the legendary Preservation instead of his own beats, it's got a classic sound that again eschews drums for brushstrokes of jazz, bossa nova, Ali Farka Toure-sounding guitars.  As great as the instrumentals on Grief and Gambit, the soundtrack here is lusher and works more directly in counterpoint to the words. "In these parts, get shot in your heart--it ain't Cupid / One sacred loop, one naked truth, my lane's suited."  Once again I'm fiending for the instrumental LP too. This is Sketches In Spain but not in Spain, Brownsville.  

The record uses The Manchurian Candidate as its jumping off point.  The days move in a haze from Day 0 to Day 1125 in no order.  It's a fever dream, a delirium.  Yen Lo is the mad scientist of the book/movie, but while Ka alludes to indoctrination, brainwashing, cultural hypnosis, programmed violence, and state-sponsored terror, it's a motif but not a concept album.  When you're raised around rage and vengeance / you can change, but in your veins remains major remnants.

"I usually don't talk about my art," Ka says, "I just give it to you and you eat it how you eat it." So don't look for literalism.  On previous joints, Ka compressed and twisted whole epics into couplets. Here he's reached a level of abstraction--no logos, no shootouts, bare bones of stories--that he's painting with pointed syllables.  Blood, blood, blood with the pen flow.

The voice is still there, the rasp and the pyramid-stacked syllables and compressed rhymes.  His voice sounds kinda like LL's actually. If LL had early on experienced some great tragedy. Like LL had lost his arm and spent twenty years eating beans out the can.  Ka's often compared to Guru or Rakim, fair cop, but he doesn't have their swagger.  He's the first ego-less MC; no namechecking Buddhist monks, this is true Zen.

Scorcese called the overhead shots in Taxi Driver 'sacramental perspective.'  Ka moves from those down to virtuouso tracking shots through subways and past chainlink into elevators crazy wet with piss. It's an epic of whispered forbearance and suffering. I need more prayer to stay out the crosshair.
Of all the elaborate rituals performed at ancient Egyptian funerals, the most important was the Opening of the Mouth.  Symbolically cutting open the corpse's mouth.  It enabled the dead to pass into the afterlife seeing, hearing and breathing, and able to eat to sustain the Ka--the vital spark. That part of the soul that distinguishes the living from the dead.  You here in the spirit? You only brung flesh / I keep it primal 'til it's final, who wanna come test? / I use a mic device to give a slice of life...


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Ratking :: 700 Fill

Like I said last year, Ratking is the freshest shit out there right now. Their music pulses with the pure vibrancy of youth, something unusual in rap's sphere of street weariness and wary posturing.  And somehow they create a bridge from hip-hop's solidly NY past to its global future...you could poplock on cardboard to 'Steep Tech' or you could make it rain bitcoins in that Blade Runner club with the robot stripper with the robot snake.  'Makeitwork' would rock the Wild Style bandshell or a Panther Moderns oculus rave.

I don't really get these cats saying Ratking is reviving the '90s.  Nobody made icy, translucent beats like this in the '90s.  Aside from the ethereal sense of a wider world from Hyderabad to Rio to Tokyo, there's the compression and re-purposing of trap and grime elements that's transformative and elevating.  It can't be like the '90s when it so firmly sounds like the '10s. It's nostalgic for '90s puffy coats only because global warming's putting New Year's in t-shirts.

The new Wiki solo record, Lil Me, is a pretty great record on some bodega coffee and late night stoop confessions shit. But it doesn't reach the shimmering transcendence of Ratking-proper, the fractured concrete-and-fiber-optics verbal playgrounds.

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SHIRT :: MUSEUM / NIKE ADIDAS RECORDS


Y'all really fucking sleeping on this cat.  SHIRT is the best new rapper hands down in a while.  You gotta dig into his Soundcloudsite, his old Bandcamp and YouTube to find the gems, but they're diamonds as big as the Ritz.  There's something in the water in Queens that just springs forth the best goddamn rappers.

SHIRT brings hard-spitting sandpaper flow and a hunger for the mic that's compelling--it's heart, it's raw ambition, it's ego triumphant ripping through the speakers. He jacks beats with and without producer's consent and he's got a great ear--in fact I like those joints more than his RAP MONEY EP where he actually had producer and studio time.  Struggle and underground suits his style.

Then there's the art. He throws up his dot-Mickey in Brownsville.  He jacks Philip Petit. He quotes Brion Gysin: 'Writing is 50 years behind painting.' Gysin meant collage and abstraction.  Burroughs flipped that in 1959 with cut-ups. But music was 20 years behind writing until '79 when Herc stepped on the scene.

But SHIRT doesn't actually rhyme hardly about art; there's the odd reference to Guggenheim grants or 'Top of the Whitney.'  He raps pretty much about...rap shit.  Polo robes and fly whips, Timbs and herb. It's all good.

I'll wait for 'the modern art rapper,' who drops bars like 'Coke so white, Robert Ryman' or 'Box in hand like my name was Cornell' or 'Dick hard as a Richard Serra / bitch reconsidered her perception of public space' and finally lets me know what rhymes with Kandinsky.  SHIRT is not that rapper, I don't think. Maybe he will be. Maybe we don't need that rapper though. SHIRT's too real to get pretentious, too much doing his own thing.  

Thing is, when he did drop "THEORY"--spitting Kenneth Goldsmith--it doesn't quite work as well as, say "NY TAP WATER." Maybe because it's Goldsmith's theories and not SHIRT's. Maybe because I'm on the fence whether Goldsmith's repurposing of texts as his own art is brilliant or bullshit.  It's interesting, but it's not engaging, aesthetically crafted, honest, raw or heartfelt--all of which are exactly what I love about SHIRT's shit. It's got heart.

On the flipside, he's bringing in the yacht-level swagger of Koons and the gangsta threats of Dada.  He knows about art as repurposing, art as re-appropriation, art as statement--what the fuck you think rap music is?  Jenny Holzer is just Chuck D on postcards and Richard Prince is just Puffy on Wooster Street.  

So there's those who say SHIRT is trolling with his Nike/Adidas shirts, $250 Soundcloud campaignshirtfuckedrihanna and fake NY Times article. Word to COST Fucked Madonna. Word to Fluxus. Word to art concrete for the internet age. If you do it downtown it's art and if you do it in Queens it's the thirst of a struggle rapper? Fuck outta here son.

Look peoples, SHIRT is too hungry to fizz out.  Pay attention and get with him before you gotta pay Sotheby's prices. This king was raised to go for the crown. He's standing on top of the Whitney watching for the blimp that says BE FEARFUL OF MEDIOCRITY. Get with the kid. I think it's time, I think it's time.

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milo :: So The Flies Don't Come

milo closed out last year with the fuck-around-in-the-studio, freestyle-and-bandcamp (Boyle) and Piles mixtape, then shot back again in May in his scallops hotel alter ego for Plain Speaking. To be honest that one had me go ruh-oh...the raps were pretty much on point as always, but the Casio clock radio beats made me worry milo was about to just keep hoeing the row he's dug, slowly devolve into a jokey-profound, campus touring, Portlandia guest star, Rap Game Trader Joe's Maple Syrup Popcorn.

Come September, he dropped the Kenny Segal laced Flies, and cue worldwide acclaim.  Milo's not gonna tread water. He pushed himself forward stylistically, lyrically and musically here, asking more questions than he can answer and creating another journal for the bibliography.  The lyrics are still well-compressed and laced with references to Camus and the Hagakure and the Voynich Manuscript and Tekken and stuff like that. But there's also a barely-suppressed anger and reconsideration of milo's place in rap and maybe in Amerikkka in general.

He's still doing his own thing like no one else's thing.  Splitting the difference between the Golden Rectangle and 3/5ths of a man and Schopenhauer's maxim that we forfeit 3/4s of ourselves to be like other people.  He's still running the math.


Honorable Mention
Earl Sweatshirt :: I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside
The album was OK, but the title completely describes my life, so it gets props for that.

mouths of madness

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Best of 2015, Part 2: Art Rap Underground & Outer Space Type Shit Edition

Dial In (Get Ya Own) - Black-Tokyo Musik / Iron Rose - Cannibal Ox (feat. DOOM) / Mutate - ialive (feat. Mr. Lif) / Danger - Mr. Moods / Hook Fish Sheep - C.S.X.T.C. / Vietnam Sports Coat - PremRock / Having Too Good of a Time - Uncommon Nasa (feat. Black-Tokyo Musik & Carl Kavorkian) / Chopa Sidi - Basmala / Sleep - billy woods / Steep Tech - Ratking (feat. Despot & Princess Nokia) / Galapaghost - Juan Deuce & Falside / Typecast - Cavanaugh (Open Mike Eagle & Serengeti) (feat. P.O.S., Hemlock Ernst & Busdriver) / Return of the Angst - Words Hurts (feat. Zilla Rocca) / Santeria - Kool A.D. / Arrows - Homeboy Sandman / An Encyclopedia - milo / Brooklyn Freestyle - Russ / Day 1125 - Dr. Yen Lo / Quantum Spirit of Creation - Killah Priest / No Records Sold - SHIRT

Nine Best Indie Underground Albums of the Year
Dolan came back from a long hiatus with two records that stormed the bunkers, overthrew the moneychangers' tables and generally knocked fools' fucking heads together.

billy woods :: Today I Wrote Nothing
woods has been on my year-end lists every year since I started 'em in 2009, and good to see him getting some shine on a lotta others' this time round.  His output's been prodigious lately with no let up in quality.  With most songs clocking in well shy of three minutes, there's a sense of notebook pages or short poems (the impressionistic 'Woodhull' sketch of Bed Stuy healthcare) instead of the novels of previous, but the references still dig deep.

Cornel West Theory :: Coming From The Bottom
Boasting guest-drop cosigns from Chuck D, Mumia, MOVE and others, CWT brings back the uncompromising bombastic political sound of P.E. and X-Clan with loud, gravy-thick beats.

C.S.X.T.C. :: C.S.X.T.C.
After a long hiatus, Raven from Solaris Earth Pipeline drops this solo dojo of hobo rap.

Jel :: Greenball 6
Another dope instrumental LP from the Anticon sphere. Fatter beats than you'd expect, for reals.

Killah Priest :: Planet of the Gods
My faith in the Priest is resolute and unquestionable, but since Heavy Mental he's rarely able to find the beats to rock upon which to found that church.  On this one though he brought down Godz Wrath to provide the right 70mm backdrop of flutes and chants and samples--finally befitting his epic of Mac 10s, sandals, eagles, pyramids, flying saucers, wise elders, Biblical computers, convicts, evil ancient scientists, galactic thrones and chakra points, and that's just the intro track.

PremRock :: Who Art In Nada
Rap bohemian remixes and offcuts, straight from foggy bridges, greasy spoons and dive bars.

Uncommon Nasa :: Halfway
Nasa's newest ruminates on what it means to be halfway through your life--what matters, where you come from and where you're going. You gotta admire the man's grind and how he pushes himself into new territory with every record.

Words Hurts :: ALKAST:REMIXES
Remix EP that was as good as the originals. On point heaters. Go grab that.

Honorable Mention in the Form of a Rhetorical Question Running Along the Bottom of the Album Cover
Public Enemy :: Man Plans God Laughs
Look peoples, I was born listening to P.E. and I'll die listening to P.E. I always check their new shit, and their 13th is pretty good for late-epoch-Chuck et al., even if it has a Country & Western joint for no reason I can possibly think of.

Honorable Mention for Records I Didn't Get a Chance to Listen to Yet But Are Probably Dope, Maybe That's Cheating But Too Fucking Bad
Defcee :: Damn Near Grown
Red Pill :: Day Drunk EP

the usual roughnecks

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It's your Best of 2015 Roundup, Rappitty-Rap Rapping edition. Just the bangingest bangers and the hottest heaters and the tastiest joints.


Blacka - Blackalicious / World Premier - Czarface (feat. Large Professor) / Man Plans God Laughs - Public Enemy / Razor Blade Rhyme - A-F-R-O / The History of Atlantis - B. Dolan / Fractured - Guilty Simpson (feat. Fat Ray) / Organ Donor - SHIRT / Garbanzo Beans/4 No Reason - Sean Price / Rubble Kings (Dynamite On The Street) - Run The Jewels / Paris Texas - Jel & Odd Nosdam / Yesman Shit - Apollo Brown (feat. Sean Price & REKS) / Unlimited Metro Card - Your Old Droog & Statik Selektah / Falconry - Action Bronson (feat. Meyhem Lauren & Big Body Bes) / Bodega! - Bodega Bamz & Statik Selektah / Dooo It! (Remix) - R.A. The Rugged Man / Hell's Messenger - Jedi Mind Tricks / I'll Die For This Shit - The Cornel West Theory (feat. Queen Helene of Les Nubians) / Kirk Fuckin' Douglas - The Alchemist

The Six Best Rappitty-Rapping Records of the Year*
Guilty Simpson :: Detroit's Son
Can't get enough of the D's sharpest hattori hanzo, and don't understand why this record hasn't been on anyone else's lists this year.  It's his hardest, sharpest, meanest, illest, blessedest work to date, more on point than a box of needles.  An all-around 7th place for album of the year. 

Sean Price :: Songs In The Key of Price / About 85,000 Guest Verses
My favorite actors have always been character actors--the guys who come in as weird sidekicks, creep-ass villains, but always make their mark.  This record ain't here because we lost him, it's because it's a damn fine record.  P was one of the greats and most definitely gone too soon.  He was a rapper's rapper who never turned down a guest verse but always brought his A-game to it, endlessly quotable, with more punchlines than Nintendo's unreleased Mike Tyson: Punch Factory. He got stoopid without ever being ignorant--he slips in more political lines than he gets credit for.  P! was the illest of the usual roughnecks.

Inspectah Deck, 7L and Esoteric came back to body you on this one, bringing along Meth, DOOM, GZA, Large Pro and other thugs. Just a good, solid album for all your head-nodding, mad-face-making needs.

Action Bronson :: Mr. Wonderful 
The second most notorious Albanian in the tri-state area comes through again. Like every Bronson record, it's hit and miss on the beat choices, but also solid as his massive gut when he does hit it. Dude has cemented his career, and I now can't see any haute cuisine reference like 'scrape a ravioli envelope' or 'venison au jus reduction' without thinking 'I wonder how Action Bronson would rhyme that into a deviant sexual act?'

Jedi Mind Tricks :: The Thief & The Fallen
If you were ever down with JMT, this is their comeback from Stoupe forgetting how to make beats. Just forget the last 10 or so years happened. If you like that 'Cypress Hill, but with more beheadings' sound, this one's for you.

Your Old Droog :: Kinison EP
I kinda think I'm over this dude. He's definitely nice with the rhyming of the words, mostly picks good beats, but there's something too...technical? Something missing, I don't know if it's a narrative or sense of character or charisma. I just don't know who the droogie is somehow. I mean, content-wise Redman is not exactly Virginia Woolf,** but you feel like you know the guy, he's that cat you got high with in the parking lot that one time or whatever.  With Droog I don't get that. I like the work but I'm not catching feels from it.  OK not really selling this, but the EP is solid work.


*Fuck arbitrary round numbers and fuck long lists. Like I'm really gonna go peep out all 100 records you recommended. I have five jobs for fuck's sake.
**If Redman is now inspired to do a three-CD Mr Dalloway concept album, come back and thank me.

b-bop for b-boys (take 5)

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Don't play what's there, play what's not there.
- Miles Davis

Publicity Blues - Dysposable Heroes (feat. GZA vs. Ray Charles) / Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat) (Instrumental) - Digable Planets / How Sly - DJ 2-Tone Jones (feat. Meth & Red vs. Ahmad Jamal) / Maintaining (Instrumental) - No I.D. / Miles Of Greenery - Gadget / 1,2,3, Hit It - DJ Mark The 45 King / Da Da Da Da....Da - DJ Mayonnaise Trouble Man - Juggaknots / Yikes - Scienz of Life (feat. MF Doom) Collectors Choice (Instrumental) - Autolect / Mostly Tha Voice - Gang Starr / Fakin' Jax (Dee La Kream Remix) - I.N.I & Pete Rock / Meat Grinder (Four Tet Remix) - MF Doom / Bell Tolls - Blockhead / Pot Belly (Rob Swift Cut) Lou Donaldson / Virtuosity L*Roneous / Drunk Trumpet Kid Koala / Genisis Of A Nemisis Digit Span Test / Jupiter - John Coltrane / Day 13 - Dr. Yen Lo

bad lieutenant (badges, bullets, beatings & bodies)

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Cops have been killing people, and people have been getting outraged about it, and the cops have gotten off scott free, for over 150 years.  Freddie Gray, killed by the Baltimore PD on April 19th, was the 346th person killed by a cop this year.

Some of y'all old enough to remember Eleanor Bumpurs? Amadou Diallo? Micheal Stewart? And so on. This shit ain't new. It just goes on and on.

Pigs - Homeboy Sandman / Who Protects Us From You? - Boogie Down Productions / Hands Up - Vince Staples / NYC Cops - Heems / The Headcracker - Double XX Posse / Pigs Is Over - Malcolm & Martin (feat. Bambu) / Pig Iron - billy woods / Jordan Miles - Jasiri X / Good Cop/Bad Cop - Blahzay Blahzay / Piglets - Guilty Simpson / Mr. Officer - Ka / Cop Crush - Odd Nosdam / We Living In These Dark Times - Uncommon Nasa / Made You Die - Dead Prez, Mike Flo & Mos Def / Film The Police - Toki Wright, Jasiri X, Sage Francis & B. Dolan / Fuck Officer Wahl & The SDPD #9 - Tenshun / Police Get Busy (Black Thought x Dead Kennedys) - Max Tannone / Fuck Tha Police (Live) - Rage Against The Machine

the classical

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So I went to see this Benjamin Britten opera in Berlin (because caucasity) and all I could think was: oh shit, this bit would be good to sample.  That little bit right there would be fire on a beat. Remember, hip-hop started with the breaks: looping the tightest, hardest parts of records to move the crowds. Cue the bridge. Cut the rest.  And every kind of music ever made has got those nice bits to flip.  I said all this before fam.

If you read this piece on Beethoven, dude's influence was so great that CDs were set at 75 minutes to fit the 9th Symphony.  But all that talent not only shaped all orchestra music that came after, it kinda calcified and stultified it too--an anxiety of influence classical music still hasn't broken out of.  And John Cage said: "If you listen to Beethoven, it's always the same. But if you listen to traffic, it's always different."  And sampling, flipping, looping--that's cars on the interstate kid.  By chopping it up, it's bringing something new to the table.

So some people think sampling classical is outrageous, or corny, or shitting on high culture. It's nothing new and you got your corny high school music teachers doing Tuba Tupac probably and Asian chicks fluteboxing on WorldStar.  All I care about is what they did with it: is the beat heat or not?

The real question is how is it possible the whole boom-bap '90s went by without a lotta diggin' in the Wagner crates.  He had that large-ass, giganticous sound on lock.  It is kinda funny though that most classical samples are on chest-thumping, bumpining joints, not the smooth sensitive types.  And if anything, you'd think in these sampling-lawsuit heavy days cats would be jumping for those public domain sounds. Zombie Chopin ain't finna sue you b.

Anyways get ya opera glasses ready and peep it.

Animal Rap - Jedi Mind Tricks (feat. Kool G Rap) / The DJ - DJ Revolution (feat. KRS-One) / K.I.M. - EPMD (feat. Redman) / No Joke (DJ Snyder Tchaikovsky Remix) - Apathy & Celph Titled / Habitat Of The Gasmask - La Coka Nostra (feat. Vinnie Paz) / Spaz Out - Army of the Pharoahs / War Tactics - Guru (feat. Hussein Fatal, James Gotti & New Child) / Trylogy - Kurupt / Chocolate Box - Falside / Classic - Hieroglyphics / Crystal Glass - dj BC (feat. Smif & Wessun & Talib Kweli) / General Patton - Big Boi / Regeneration - DJ Premier, Nas & The Berklee Symphony Orchestra / Change The Beat (Q-Fish Remix) - DOOM / Battle The Universe - AbcDEFiend? / Savagelands #8 - Tenshun / Pouches Of Tuna - Action Bronson (feat. Roc Marciano) / Underground Hitz - R.A. The Rugged Man / The MC - KRS-One

elephants of style

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So 2014 was supposed to be The Worst Year In Rap Ever? C'mon son. Worst year to be Syrian, maybe. Or Yazidi. Or Ukrainian. Or to get Ebola. Or to be in a cop-on-black encounter. But worst year in rap ever? Y'all just making up stupid shit to argue about on the Rap Internets. Seems to me it was the year of big-ass, dusty elephant beats and another exponential jump forwards in rap styles. 

First up we got the best-of mix for the second half (cop the first here):

Rap Stampede - Guilty Simpson / Behold The Opera - The Black Opera / "Produced By The RZA" - Stripclub Casino / Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) - Run The Jewels (feat. Zack De La Rocha) / Jonathan - Hail Mary Mallon / Everything Bagel - Rob Sonic / Re-Escape - The Hinderance (feat. L.I.F.E.Long) / Shoot The Piano Player - Zilla Rocca & The Shadowboxers (feat. Has-Lo) / Worlds Apart - J-Live / Loosie In The Store With Pennies - Your Old Droog / Sands - ATOMS / Criminal Childish - PremRock (feat. Curly Castro) / War Drum - Loop Minded Individuals (feat. Moe Pope, Roc Doogie, Elucid) / Here We Go - Diabolic (feat. Coast) / Binary Thinking - Skipp Coon / Fck - Chester Watson / This Bodega (Is Trying To Kill Me) - Uncommon Nasa (feat. Elucid) / B.E.T. - Armand Hammer / Mood Swings - Henry Canyons (feat. billy woods) / Stop Growing - L'Orange (feat. Meyhem Lauren & billy woods) / Stolen Norman Rockwells - SHIRT / In Gaol - milo (feat. Kool AD) / Big Pretty Bridges (3 Days Off In Abuquerque) - Open Mike Eagle / So It Goes - Ratking / Lost Prophet Report - Ka / Sleepwalk - SleepwalkERS / Ishmael - Shabazz Palaces

Albums of the Year :: 14 for '14
Top 5

1) Ratking :: So It Goes Been a long time since I heard a record that took me back to eating purple mescaline at the downtown Halloween parade. Every time rap seems to be starting to be divided between dumb teenage shit and grown man stuff, some kids come along and jumpstart it all again. Just like the first Cypress Hill LP threw rap forwards ten steps (and similarly introduced the joy of high-pitched nasal rapping), I felt the same kinda excitement about So It Goes. It's anthemic, generation-defining without setting out to do that. Somehow it crosses way into the past and way into the future, it's the cast of Wild Style in Kids, it's an episode of Welcome Back Kotter where Special Guest Star Rammellzee on some Kazoo shit time-jumps them into a 2039 of poplocking robots. It's The Basketball Diaries via Jamel Shabazz Vines. It's smoking hash on an autumn afternoon and watching Herculoids with a girl you can't quite figure out. It's one of those records that distills and jumps off from the last NYC trio's zetigeist LP, in rap tradition--Run-DMC begat License to Ill begat Funcrusher Plus begat Cold Vein begat So It Goes. It's not a revival or a resurrection. It's new blood, flowing.

2) Skipp Coon :: Miles Garvey I been checking on the regular for new from Skipp Coon since the one-two of 2010's women revolution tennis shoes and Sophmore Slump. Was worth the wait. Political rap can be polemic, didactic, oversimplistic and reductive; more than anything, it can be all rage and no soul, all political and no personal.  Skipp Coon overstands and overcomes all that. He's a prophet of rage, sure, with coals in the belly but also an ox-sized heart. It's a father's anger, not a collegiate rebellion, closer to late The Coup LPs than early P.E. Rebellion Assemble! superheroes.

The thing that struck me about Bobby Shmurda's video wasn't the dumb dance. It was the kid's thousand yard stare, soulless, empty eyes staring out as he mumbled lyrics about three kinds of death. This was a young black man we'd all failed, who just happened to go from viral video/novelty dance/dancing on record exec's conference table on some Invisible Man shit/indictment and tearful perp walk in less than a year. It's a good song. It's everything that went wrong with hip hop. Skipp Coon is reparations. I wish more cats would hear this record when they bitch about the lack of rap addressing the year's police shootings. We don't need knee-jerk singles from Jay and Kanye hashtagging #icantbreathe, we need the depth in this record.

3) Shabazz Palaces :: Lese Majesty On the real, at first I really thought this wasn't as good as the earlier records, but once I cut out the songs I don't like I couldn't stop listening to this. It's like wearing intergalactic plushpluvial Dapper Dan underpants. It tastes like purple. But it still has street weight, still has depth, still transcendent. It's exactly the record we should've expected 20 years after Reachin', here in the future where we have talking computers in our pockets and flying killer robots fighting wars.

4) Ka & Preservation :: 1200BC Just a 5 track taste, but better than most anyone's long player. Ka's narrative compression as always rewards multiple replay, and while maybe I prefer his own beats to Preservation's, it's another brick in Ka's discography cementing his legend. I spoke at length on this cat last year and the year before. He's still standing.

5) Armand Hammer :: Furtive Movements Once again Elucid & woods give us the dark, bitter political fruit for a year where we needed it most. If shit seems to be getting refracted through The Purge: Anarchy into a locked cycle of oppression and death, woods & Elucid are the sidekicks on the sidelines growling discourse and commentary like a Statler & Waldorf duo merged with Chomsky & Fanon.

Next 9 In Semi-Alphamabetical Order
The Black Opera :: The Great Year When Sister Souljah met Mother Courage.  That time Biggie starred in the kabuki play Yotsuya Kaidan.  Great beats on this one, interesting range.  This one definitely got slept on.

Dday One :: Dialogue With Life After a three year hiatus since Mood Algorithms, Dday One returns with another LP of his finely crafted, superbly arranged instrumental beats.

I said most of what I gots to say about these cats previously, but these new records see them pushing the antelope of what we define as 'rap,' taking their styles into more introspective, more personal territory. Playing Teju Cole to Mike's Paul Beatty, milo explores his hopes and griefs over ever-more ethereal beats, and M. Eagle whittles his wit to a sharp point and pokes us with it.

These three cats are keeping the underground alive, the heavy gritty shit. Lazy bitches might say it's the post-Def Jux sound, survivors of the backpacker purge sneaking around the ruins. True maybe but these records take it forwards, evolve the style and develop it.  The word density is there. The crunch of beats and Wall of Nails sound is still there. But there's a sense of forward direction, a sense of playfulness that was absent from the multisyllabic seriousness of the late '90s.  This ain't throwback, it's pass forwards.

SHIRT gave himself an un-SEOable name and a record title that's...is it supposed to be all-encompassing, braggadocio omnipotent, or fuck you punk rock generic like the supermarket in Repo Man? I don't know. He pulled a publicity stunt where he faked the entire NY Times site. I thought it was kinda funny. Took balls. Doesn't matter. The kid can rap. He raps the fuck out of the rapping. You slept. Cop it.

Like SHIRT, Droog is a young kid from NY who raps. And kills it dead.  Difference being this kid blew the fuck up off the back of some dumbass Illuminati Youtube conspiracy mindedness that he was Nas in disguise (recap for my four readers who get all their rappity-rap news here.)  This created a Scooby Doo level mystery and not-suspenseful reveal.  I said it from the start: Droog can't be Nas, because Nas has never read A Clockwork Orange, and the one time he tried to watch the movie he got too high and fell asleep on the couch. Case closed. Anyways. The kid can flow and comes out the box assured, game tight and measured. I expect some heavyweight belts in the next couple years.


So a lotta usual suspects here maybe, but worst year in rap? Fuck outta here. Get you some of these records and a nice bowl of cereal or a cream soda or something. Stay positive like the copper top side of a battery fam.