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    This list isn’t meant to be totally comprehensive, or the “best of the best”. I had a scattered, pretty sketchy year. Ups and downs, accomplishments and setbacks, all that. Coming into 2023, I’ve got some new resolve, and hopefully you’ll see the fruits of that here and elsewhere in the coming months. But this list that follows is the past; my 2022, through the new rap music that kept me going and kept getting replayed. Disclaimers out of the way first. A lot of my listening is done in the car these days, so there’s some tempos or subgenres with heavier representation. Also, I’m not naturally inclined to ranking; numbers aren’t my thing, and I get way too caught up in all the elements to consider. The factors weighed most heavily on this list are simply how much I listened, and how much I want to tell people about the music. I refrained from writing on a few that made it on here, because writers I admire have done better jobs than I could hope to. I wanted to use this opportunity to discuss lot of the artists that I felt deserved more shine for their showing last year. I hope you can come away from it with some new music you enjoy. Thank you for reading, and thanks to the team at CROWNTHEM. Shoutout Jameka especially, for the huge year and all the work you put in. Grateful for all of you. A lot more coming! SME Taxfree - Unexpected My undisputed 2022 MVP. While Certified Trapper and MarijuanaXO pushed the Milwaukee scene further into the spotlight this year, Taxfree stole the show for me with his effortless flows and irresistible parlance. Putting out 7 albums through the year (including another excellent solo effort, I’m Off the West and a great collaboration with RRB Duck,) he’s cemented himself as one of the top-tier rappers coming out of the Midwest. In between those projects of straight heat, you can find him trying his hand at autotune croons. He’s at his best on this album though, which is 25 songs and an hour long, but never loses the fun. It’s hard not to have a good time listening to him rap about how fast they make those yings disappear, not to mention the cars they’ve got zipping around Milwaukee. Bonus points any time he’s on Tay Love’s bouncy production. Bonus killer guest verse: EST Gee & 42 Dugg - Last Ones Left Despite enjoying Detroit rap quite a bit, I never got into 42 Dugg too heavy. Not until this collaboration dropped, and I was forced to confront what I’d missed. One of the best joint albums in recent years, the labelmates tapped their own crews in over some vicious, thumping production, and came out of it with an electrifying final product. EST Gee spits the bloodlust and hatred-filled bars he’s perfected, and Dugg never lets up alongside him, making me a full-blown believer. I was honestly more excited for Gee’s solo effort this year, I Never Felt Nun. There’s a few standouts on there, like the opener and "Voices in My Head." Overall though, that project leans more on his melodic (weaker) side, and is a bit long, with some features that only diminish the raw stuff he’s rapping about (Bryson Tiller was cool, Harlow was meh, but whichever label sadist is responsible for getting MGK on albums like this and So Much Fun needs to stop. Seriously.) Last Ones Left is where I come when I want to hear the Gee that I love. Regardless of any feelings about INFN, listening to this tape makes me certain that both their respective runs aren’t nearly finished. Moor Mother - Jazz Codes Pure magic. Poetic, psychedelic, prophetic. Moor Mother is to me what I believe Grimes is for some fairylike young women. Seriously though, magic is the word that keeps coming to mind. The wash of sound below her haunted delivery warrant return visits to the world that’s conjured up here. "BRASS" is still a personal all-timer, and once again here, it’s a thrill to reckon with (and occasionally be confounded by) the music. Tony Shhnow - Plug Motivation Tony Shhnow was my most listened to artist this year, and I’m better for it. He’s said in songs and interviews alike that (like Los), he makes music for people to make money to. Listening to enough of his music will make you want to cash out, pick up a pound or two, maybe become your own boss. He enjoys a lavish lifestyle, and funds it further by talking about it, as well as the work that got him there. But while some hustle rappers are tied to a specific sound, Tony can murder just about anything laid out for him. In that way, him and Boldy James are kindred spirits. And like James again, his other albums from this year are just as worth checking out. The deluxe edition of his collaborative project, Killstreak 2, from real early in the year, featured him sliding over some prime loops via GRIMM Doza. For the more grandiose Reflexions, he tapped a variety of producers, such as the Crackhouse maestro, Who the Hell is Carlo, plus other mainstays like Poloboyshawty and Popstar Benny, for an undeniable final product. Songs like "Park My Car," "Don’t Look at Numbers," and "Keep N Touch" never left my rotation. I chose this album because of its combination of uncontainable mixtape energy and his trademark plugg bliss. A few tracks stand out (him and Cashcache have never done anything wrong together, and features from Bear1boss and Darkside Mally deliver), but it’s really a killer listen through and through. Regardless of whether it’s the trap alphabet on "A to Z" or his vocab gymnastics on "M’s," the tape fulfills its title and then some. He differs from Boldy in tone; where the Detroit native’s street-weary voice lets his words carry all the weight, Tony never shows up without that energy in his delivery. Essentially: no one should be telling you how to live, but if you’re gonna take someone’s advice, listen to Tony Shhnow before any of those other charlatans. billy woods x Preservation - Aethiopes Writing about woods feels like writing a book review; so much is said, and yet I’m given the task of tryna wrap it all up neatly for you. No can do, especially with this one. The layers and samples combined with the dense, vivid lyrics make for a captivating album experience. His second of the year, Church with Messiah Musik is similarly great (listen to "Classical Music" with AKAI SOLO and FIELDED), but there’s moments on this one like the opener, or "Sauvage," "NYNEX" and "Heavy Water," where whole new worlds are introduced to the listener. I was blessed enough to catch him twice this year in Toronto; once alongside E L U C I D and once solo. Neither are nights I’ll forget anytime soon. Listen all the way through, and then listen again. Boldy James x Nicholas Craven - Fair Exchange No Robbery It’s fair to say Boldy is on an all time run. No robbery either to say he’s the best out. Who’s doing it like him?. No one. Putting quality music out at his clip and consistency is an unreasonable and unsustainable ask from anyone else. What would be even fairer is if every single album he dropped was this list. Mad love to all those producers. Of the two Canadians he worked with, my favourite goes beyond provincial borders. Had to go with the Montrealite Nicholas Craven, as I’ve been itching for this project since I had an inkling it might happen. Recorded real quick with some futuristic mic tech, they locked in and captured a moment in time. The closer (and the single that made me certain this was gonna be special), "Power Nap," is beautiful and eerie like nothing else I’ve hear this year. There is a lot to be said about songs like "0 Tre Nine" and "Designer Drugs" too. Here’s my ranking of his other three offerings: 2. x Cuns - Be That as It May Was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this one. Boldy further showing how he can kill just about any beat. The lead single is a stunner. 3. x Futurewave - Mr. Ten08 Another northern collab I dreamt of. Boldy over these dark, jazzy beats is just captivating. I feel that this one will grow with me, and might rise up the ranks as the years pass. Shoutout Futurewave for crafting these backdrops for Boldy to smoke. 4. x Real Bad Man - Killing Nothing No shade, shoutout Real Bad Man. Real Bad Boldy was right up there with The Price of Tea in China for me before this year shook my whole rankings up. This one still has some very solid tracks and features. "Hundred Ninety Bands," "Open Door" (ft. Rome Streetz and Stove God Cooks), and "Sig Sauer" all got a bunch of replays from me. WB Nutty - City of Addiction They really dialed it in on this one. "Whole Hood" (prod. DODBH, with that wicked whistle) is one of my favourites from him since he and JRDN cooked up "Dope Sick" off Narcotics Anonymous in 2021. Similarly, "Rush," "Heavyweight," and "Invested" are undeniable. The stakes feel higher from the start, yet he steps right up to the plate to deliver a killer project. You can always count on either brother to tell it how it is, and here, Nutty doesn’t hold back. MIKE - Beware of the Monkey I knew this was making it high on my year-end list immediately upon hearing it. For years now, through grief and reinvention, MIKE has made some beautiful music. Plenty of impressive songs here, although the immediate hit for me was "Stop Worry!," the dancehall-tinged tune with Sister Nancy. Rinsed that one before the album was even out, it’s pure bliss. His production alias, dj blackpower, shows out just as much as he does with his lyrics. It’s his album with the most sublime moments yet. Very easy to get lost in, and I recommend doing just that. RX Papi - First Week Out Deluxe Forever with the quotables, and comfortable on seemingly any beat, Rx Papi had an impressive 2022 given the circumstances. First Week Out Deluxe is the culmination of a lot of things, but notably a demonstration of his freedom. He hops between heavy Detroit beats and an exciting mixture of other sounds, for a project that serves well as an introduction but should also satiate his biggest fans, who were itching for new Pap. It’s hard to imagine watering down rap this raw, and he does no such thing, opting to keep sharing his life with us uncensored, through his brilliant, off-colour, punched-in bars. Whitehouse Studio - Da House, Vol. 3.5 An incredible crew tape lost to the streaming abyss, for reasons that were either never mentioned or that I missed. I never understood what made it 3.5 either, because it seemed a worthy successor to the former three. Incredible, blown-out production, like the beat behind "Forever World Touring," and Rude Villain bringing out Durk’s “Man WHAT!” adlib was enough to make me miss this album every day it was gone. MarijuanaXO - Milwaukee (It’s R Turn) MarijuanaXO dominated this year with his gruff voice and passionate delivery. He’s part of a few dynamic duos; him and Joe Pablo are like Teejay and Kasher in terms of early scene hype and raw talent you can’t miss. But tracks with Chicken P, Taxfree, Juicester and Trapbaby carry this project strong all the way to its conclusion. It’s sweet to see all the Milwaukee guys coming together to expand and popularize their regional sound. He dropped a few other excellent tapes this year, like, Red Rum and Da Under Dog, but this is a real solid jumping-off point into their midwestern mania. He contrasts his realist hustlee bars with a lot of the more melodic guys from his city, and more than a few songs stick out. Check out "LOE," "No Name Rappers," "Out of Bounds" or "Gold Teefe" and you’ll get what I’m talking about. 10kdunkin - TENSEI II (DELUXE) 10kdunkin has his lane of dreamy whispered rap conquered. Whether it’s SenseiATL or Jaimoe laying the beat down (check "TOP GOLF" ft. Flee for the latter), he simply floats. Through this album, he shows off how easily his flow is molded, sliding on all his verses with perfect footwork. Scorned men, blast "NEVA PRADA ME" and know you’re worth it. Waiting eagerly for RPs and Plan Bs 3. Tony, what’s good? Ponae - Rap N**** Still Dealing This would’ve definitely been higher on my list if it was dropped earlier in the year. It was released on Christmas by one of the Whitehouse Studio’s most consistent, and I gotta admit it suits the weather. Cold bars, menacing beats, real hustle talk; this is one of the essential albums out of Detroit from the year. Ponae is raw as hell and he knows it. This project is his most honed in yet. Features go in as well. The use of refrains in his music (“I’m tryna tell you”, “I got a line up the street”, “NFLWB”) echoes those of Los and Nutty, who both show up to push the eerie production chosen into new territory. Wrld Tour Mafia - Tourmania Wrld Tour Mafia are relentless. This year alone, a number of the members put out their own projects, as well as dropping their second album as a group. The stacked list of solo releases include: WTM Milt’s RAFA, as well as Dogshit & Ammunition, WTM Miles’s Crackhouse Mafia, WTM Solid’s Originatour, and Daemoney x Trees dropping Slayer’s Coming. All of those are worth checking if you appreciate their gritty style. On TOURMANIA, the successor to 2021’s Wrld Tour Mafia or Die, they all trade verses breathlessly, sounding hungry as hell. Their favourite producers shine all over; LulBoobie especially brings his best, while Lul Rose, Terrotuga, Chino and the rest of them set the tone throughout. From the song "Final 4" onwards, it’s a run I don’t see anyone else replicating. They have their fun, spitting reckless and callous bars trying to outdo each other. Songs like "Construction," "Or Die," and "Backend" are undeniable. Vince Staples - Ramona Park Broke My Heart My favourite album from him yet. "AYE! (FREE THE HOMIES)" and "WHEN SPARKS FLY" are both total stunners. Ty Dolla $ign croons something about life tasting bittersweet on "LEMONADE." The Lil Baby feature on "EAST POINT PRAYER" was a cool surprise too. He surely occupies a unique spot in rap, but when he’s putting out albums like this, it doesn’t matter what he’s tweeting or saying in interviews. Goldenboy Countup - Chicken Man 3 Top-tier mythmaking music right from the start. Like with a few artists, Mavi put me on. That bird cry in all his songs makes me feel like I’m at a Hawks home game, and his ad-libs only add intensity/urgency. I’ve been scoffing at whispers overheard claiming Florida rappers were really stepping on Michigan production, but Goldenboy made me reevaluate. He alternates, going from cinematic production with heartfelt keys to something that would be right at home on a Flint rapper’s tape. The impressive part is sounding right at home on both. Another drop this year, his Golden Ticket, was real fun as well, but the third Chicken Man is the winner for me. A must-listen. EBK Jaaybo - Rrari 4eva I am Nightingale was the breakout track off this tape, and maybe rightfully so. But I was first truly captivated by JaayBo when I heard the back-to-back punches of Ride Along (ft. RSB Poopie and Lik200) and Respectable. His chilly rhyming and unshakeable confidence makes this project a must-hear out of the EBK camp. He recently spent his 18th birthday incarcerated, while his music and the So-Cal scene at large continued to explode internationally. I’m hoping to hear a lot more from him soon. PhoeNix - Crybaby Soprano 2 Much love to PhoeNix. I’m still so grateful I was able to talk to him in mid-2022. He’s one of the brightest talents in the currently booming South. His writing, the beat selection, not to mention the effortless flowing in that drawl, all contribute to some excellent music. If you missed this piece we put out leading up to the release of Walkthru, I’d love for you to read it here. But if you need some convincing first, listen to this: Drakeo the Ruler - Keep The Truth Alive Not the biggest on posthumous albums, but this one felt different. Taken far too soon, the Ruler had plenty of hits still in the vault. Songs like "DRAKEO Not Drake-O" and "3Ks" sequenced out in between skits taken from past Instagram Live videos remind us of his brilliance, his one-of-one approach. Before any of the biters, there was the truth. BIG30 - Last Man Standing BIG30 has been holding it down in Pooh Shiesty’s absence real well. This album got a lot of play in my car this year. "Nuskie Living" and "Dead Guyz" are both hits on their own, and ATL Jacob brought his beats as well as a pretty dope feature on "Uh Huh." Momentum carries all the way through, and Memphis remains a rap stronghold. OTM and Ralfy the Plug - Stincs Got It Off the Mussle Ralfy went on a tear this year following the loss of his brother. Lots of great music, mostly solo albums, but this tape stuck with me. Ralfy and OTM were both artists who I listened to alongside Drakeo most often, so it’s cool to see them come together here in his absence and still elevate. Tons of songs, clocking in at just over an hour and a half, so maybe not the most focused effort, but there’s a lot to enjoy in here. It’s a great full-length intro to the darker OTM energy. Daniel Son x Futurewave - Sun Tzu and the Wav God Huge ups to Daniel Son for sending me the CD. Saved me a few days in the car when I was without an aux. Bush Doctor was a really solid album as well. He’s been due to level up, and this year might have been that. Decide for yourself, but either way, don’t take your eyes off him. LG Deno Skeno - Born to Trap Must listen for Detroit heads, went way under the radar. DODBH brought some fire to the table, and Deno did his thing on it. The features come with the heat, and songs like, "5 Felonies," "Only Life I Know," "Born to Sell Dope," "Never Fold," and "Made N*****" are all impressive as hell. Don’t hold off, press play and get caught up on his tales. Popstar Benny - Album* (Deluxe) Big love and respect for Benny. This album is killer, and his next one is about to blow your minds too. I was lucky enough to speak with him for SharpieCovers’ Crazy Bastard Magazine this year, where he told me how he connected with MIKE and we bonded over the greatness of Tony Shhnow. One of the most exciting in the game right now. The 6th Letter - ePIFFany Wrote this piece earlier for his first album of the year, but the ALS-produced ePIFFany ended up being my favourite of the two. BKRSCLB has some real talent, and The 6th Letter’s measured, elevated bars have always resonated with me. Tay Love - All in the Game Tay has got it, talented as hell. If you like the exciting, bouncy tracks he works on with Taxfree, do NOT sleep on this tape. He knows how to make a hit, and songs like "Shipping & Receiving," "Double Shift" and "Talk My Shit" all demonstrate how the the SlappHouse don does far more than just make beats. With an ear for clever bars and references, he’s got it locked down. Milwaukee’s premier producer in my eyes. Y’all really can’t do it like Tay Love. Icewear Vezzo, DJ Drama - Paint the City Vezzo was pivotal for me getting into Detroit rap, so I’ll always vouch for him, even as the “same flow on a slightly varied beat each time” allegations pile in. The Rich Off Pints series, of which the third installment dropped July, has some demonstrations of him at his best. However, his Gangsta Grillz tape Paint the City from late this year was by far the winner for me. The song with Kodak, "It’s All on U," is irresistible, and "No Talking" featuring Peezy and G.T. is real hard as well. Drama’s shit-talk pairs real well with Vezzo’s trademark arrogance. There’s some triumphant trumpets and a motivational theme here, but you can never take the Detroit out of his music. Babyface Ray - FACE Deluxe All eyes have been on Face since he brought Detroit further into the mainstream. His late-in-the-year release, MOB, was solid, but it’s on FACE (Deluxe) that he shows why he’s that guy. Some all-time Ray songs, a strong cohesive feel, and some ridiculous bonus tracks too. It does lean more major-label, but he maintains his effortless cool and expands his canon in the way only he could. Standouts are "My Thoughts 3 / Pop’s Prayer,""Tunnel Vision," "6 Mile Show" with Vezzo and "Overtime" feat. Yung Lean. The deluxe has Veeze and LUCKI doing their thing on "Spending Spree" and "Back N Action" respectively, to great effect. K-Trap - The Last Whip 2 K-Trap had his track "Warm" blow up this year, and rightfully so. The project it came off of, TRAPO, was excellent, and a big step forward for one of the pioneers of UK Drill. This year, he released a killer joint album with road rap legend Blade Brown, called Joints. For me though, his best was the sequel to his classic mixtape, The Last Whip. Best of the Rest (34-100) 34. Earl Sweatshirt - SICK! 35. Chung - See You, When I C U 36. Roc Marciano and the Alchemist - The Elephant Man’s Bones 37. Wrecking Crew - Sedale Threat 38. BoofpaxkMooky, GRIMM Doza - I’VE BEEN HIGH FOR DAYS (Deluxe) 39. 716soup - Soup Springsteen 2 40. Wifigawd - CHAIN OF COMMAND 42. G.T. - Money Counter Music Vol. 2 43. Big Moochie Grape - East Haiti Baby 44. Young Slo-Be - Southeast 45. Chicken P - Bussabrick Vol. 2: Bussone 101 46. Drego and Beno - Sorry We Were Trapping 47. Stik Figa x August Fanon - Heresy 48. Daboii - Can’t Tame Us 49. Shaudy Kash x Top$ide - On the Yeah Side 50. Mavi - Laughing so Hard, It Hurts 51. E L U C I D - I Told Bessie 52. Mike Shabb - Sewacide 2 (HM: Bokleen World) ME 54. JoogSZN - Where’s Joog? 55. Willyynova - Novacane 56. G.T. - Money Counter Music Vol. 2 57. Conway the Machine - God Don’t Make Mistakes 58. Louie Ray - Still Grinding 4 59. Che Noir - Food for Thought 60. Shawny Binladen - Wick the Wizard 61. CEO Trayle - HH5 62. Kamaiyah - Divine Timing (Deluxe) 63. Akai Solo - Spirit Roaming 64. Ronrontheproducer - Ronrondothatshit Vol. 2 65. August Fanon - MORE… 66. Young Nudy - EA Monster 67. Messiah! - Perfect 7 68. Los - Kareem from New Orleans 2 69. Young Dolph - Paper Route Frank 70. Iblss - raja’s sun 71. Sideshow - Wegahta Tapes Vol. 1 72. Future - I NEVER LOVED YOU 73. DJ Lucas and Papo2oo4 x Subjxct5 - Continuous Improvement 74. Kay Anthony - Color Theory 75. Brooks - Everybody Brooks 76. Westside Gunn - Peace “Fly” God 77. Top$ide - Lost Files 78. Armand Hammer - WHT LBL 79. Conductor Williams - Samo’s Revenge 80. 3AG Pilot, Popstar Benny - Fuck Rehab! 81. Rome Streetz - Kiss the Ring 82. RMC Mike - Junior Season 83. Muddy - Muddyworld v2 84. Babytron - Megatron 85. Raz Fresco - Magnetic 86. Defcee x Boathouse - For All Debts Public and Private 87. 7xvethegenius - Self 7xve 2 88. SMO - Who TF is Smo 89. Armani Caesar - The Liz 2 90. Krispylife Kidd - The Art of Spice Talk 3 91. AJ Snow, Jansport J - No Awards for The Real 92. Lord Jah-Monte Ogbon - Here, There & Everywhere 93. Bbyafricka - The Art of Geekin 94. Lord Juco x Finn - Company 95. Duke Deuce - CRUNKSTAR 96. Yungeen Ace - Survivor of the Trenches 97. Benny the Butcher - Tana Talk 4 98. Nicholas Craven - Craven N 3 99. Mach-Hommy x Tha God Fahim - Dollar Menu 4 100. Baby Stone Gorillas - BABYST5XNE GORILLAS RAP SONGS OF THE YEAR: Los - "Smoove Exchange" ft. WB Nutty & Icewear Vezzo EBK Jaaybo - "Ride Along" JoogSZN - "Bleedem like Joog" ft. NFant and Young Who Young Nudy - "Impala" SME TAXFREE - "‘21 Kia Stollie" ft. Big Homie DreCash billy woods and Preservation - "Sauvage" ft. Boldy James and Gabe Nandez RX Lil Cuz - "Yung N****" AMF Big CEO - "Pay Me In Dope" ft. WB Nutty and Los Boldy James x Cuns - "God Speed" Future - "Like Me" ft. 42 Dugg and Lil Baby Rome Streetz - "Long Story Short" Saba - "Soldier" ft. Pivot Gang RX Papi - "Daddy was the Dopeman" Badd Karmal x Boyo Levity - "Lousy Man" ft. 716soup Goldenboy Countup - "Decatur" And of course, MarijuanaXO - "Free Da Yung OG" words by Sai / twitter / instagram

  • Top Canadian Hip-Hop Albums of 2022

    There's a lot to be said about Canada's presence in the hip-hop landscape this past year. On one hand, the Toronto camp of Daniel Son, Futurewave, Asun Eastwood, Finn and others have been steadily gaining notoriety south of the border and making waves in the dominant underground hip-hop thread of the culture. At the same time, new movements from the likes of Raz Fresco and BKRSCLB are beginning to solidify; terraforming their roster from 6th Letter, Brisk and Raz to a powerhouse of some of the most creative and promising emcees the country has to offer. Montreal's Nicholas Craven has continued his run with projects from the usual suspects in Fahim, Mach-Hommy and Droog, but has furthered his position in the game with the joint Fair Exchange No Robbery with Griselda's Boldy James. It wasn't a bad year for Canadian hip-hop royalty either. Toronto's Thrust released Broken Arrow as well as Like It's 1994, both under a new moniker "Thrust OG" and entirely produced by BoFaat. Saskatoon Folk Rap Records have continued the Prairie rap tradition with releases from Rove, a fun music sampler and the long overdue re-release of 8:30 in Newfoundland by Epic. Moka Only continues to fail his retirement efforts by giving us project after project. This year Moke gave us the vaulted Summer 2002 Vol. 2 as well as the next installment in his Martian Christmas series Martian XMAS 2022. Perhaps the biggest surprised-return this year was Buck 65, a staple in Halifax hip-hop lore who's been absent in recent years. In 2022, he released three projects. One of which, he teamed up with Tachichi for their collaborative Flash Granade album; giving Tachichi an album with both Sebutones artists in the past few years (the Sixtoo joint was old material, never released). Additionally, Buck 65 put out The Last Dig with Canadian legend Birdapres. Lastly, Buck's solo joint King of Drums is exactly what you'd expect from Buck 65; 21 tracks without track-names and just as odd and adventurous as he's ever been. Hand'Solo Records, URBNET and Black Buffalo have continued to supply the demand of the Canadian sound and giving a viable home to much of the indie rap scene that has defined Canada's since before the turn of the century. From The Dirty Sample, Mickey O'Brien, Primal Winds, Ambeez x Uncle Fester, Ghettosocks x DK, DJ Moves, Fresh Kils, and Moshiri of Sweatshop Union to two albums from Swamp Thing. Peanuts and Corn have also made an impact, with mcenroe dropping multiple projects and Pip Skid releasing his album, A Really Nice Day with mcenroe on the boards. We cannot end this discussion without acknowledging that Backburner has delivered their third studio album release with Hand'Solo Records, Continuum. Dropping earlier in the year, the Canadian supergroup features: Thesis Sahib, Jesse Dangerously, Ghettosocks, Toolshed, Wordburglar, More or Les, Ambition, Fresh Kils, Frank Deluxe, Savillion, Ginzu and Mister E. If you've never heard of Backburner, they've been around from the early 2000s and represent much of what the East Coast hip-hop scene has been since their formation. Now scattered across the country, crew albums are rare. Continuum is a record many have been waiting for. Lastly, this is my list. Of course, these things have some subjective qualities to them. I'm a supporter and a fan of Canadian hip-hop and I hope that a list like this puts people on and celebrates what we have. My intent is not to divide. A note on the list: Canada has a wide array of hip-hop artists; producers, rappers and DJs. I've decided to allow entries onto the list which only reflect Canada in one part of the record. Essentially, if a Canadian is named in the artist credits, then it qualifies. This means that projects like DNTE and Onaje Jordan's, African Medallions can feature despite it being produced by Chicago native Onaje Jordan. This also means that Your Old Droog and Nicholas Craven's, YOD Wave can see inclusion, as Craven, the beatsmith, is from Montreal. Oh, and lastly, alphabetical by project name. Sorry but not sorry. Listen to them all. It's worth it. African Medallions DNTE x Onaje Jordan This year I've grown to love cats like Hus Kingpin, Willie Da Kid and Smoovth who all have adopted this laid back, pimpish, cigar smoking rap music modelled after cats like Roc Marciano. Unfortunately, the criminal fate of hip-hop culture has led to a severe lack of appreciation for Toronto's addition to this camp: DNTE. DNTE, previously Al-Sham from the group Al-Sham and KP (they released Street Visions in 1999, check it out) has been on a roll the last handful of years with some of my favourite cuts. This time he links up with producer extraordinaire Onaje Jordan for a full album. Conscious street rap with that suave persona that I have grown to love. Don't miss this. And add DNTE to your list of favourites, his back catalog is well worth exploration. A Really Nice Day Pip Skid Mcenroe and Pip Skid are back together for a whole album. What's not to love? Or hate? The grumpy but comical Pip Skid is an absolute gem as always. The album starts off with the title track "A Really Nice Day" with a hook that chants 'What a shitty day,' but hey, at least he's white. None of these guys take them themselves too seriously. Peanuts and Corn never really has. These aren't street dudes, but they are mad hip-hop lovers and fun and quirky personalities that you just grow to love. It's hard to sell this with an honest description, but out of all of these albums? This might be my favourite release of the year on a Canadian tip. Listen to this, and enjoy the little Farm Fresh reunion we got on our hands. As the Crow Flies Futurewave x Daniel Son x 36 Cypher I had never heard of 36 Cypher before this album. Hell Sweet Home was released elsewhere in the year also entirely produced by Futurewave, however, As the Crow Flies with the wav.god staple Daniel Son, is easily the preferred project of the two. Songs like "Riot" and "PTSD" are some of the hardest anthems of the year. If you like dirty, grimy, and sludgy hip-hop. This is what you need to listen to next. Apocalyptic gutter rap and my favourite joint from all three personalities this year. Blood on the Bills UFO Fev x Finn Step aside Futurwave! You are no longer such an anomaly in the Toronto production space. Finn has been on the rise in the coming years working with the same cast of characters as his contemporaries: Asun Eastwood, Lord Juco, Daniel Son, Family Gang Black, etc. Recently however, his name has expanded. This year he dropped with HWY 308, UFO Fev and his Gold Era brethren Saipher Soze and Sibbs Roc and he's already planning an upcoming release with Umbrella's Snotty in the new year. Out of all of these, Blood on the Bills stands out. A modern staple in underground hip-hop, Fev delivers some of his most polished verses yet as he continues to build as a song writer. This is a standout of the year even outside of a Canadian context. Listen to it. Bokleen World Mike Shabb I heard a lot about Mike Shabb this year and it took the release of Bokleen World to finally pull the trigger and check him out. This is something special. From the jump, the track "JB Speaks (RIP)" cements the audiences comfort. You're in good hands here, this is going to be quality. And it is. Features from Raz Fresco and Chung, this is poetic, adventurous boom bap. For fans of Mach Hommy, Raz Fresco, and something brand new. You'll become a fan of the emcee after first listen. I certainly did. Mike Shabb might just end up being Canada's next star in this thing. He's THAT good. The Bush Doctor Daniel Son Two projects with Futurewave. An EP with MichaelAngelo, an LP with Kostia AND a solo album? Yep, Daniel Son absolutely buried another year. The Bush Doctor represents growth for Daniel Son's discography. As an emcee known for the grimiest beats and rhymes known to date, this album shows maturity in beat selection and a new brand of confidence for the emcee. Even the album cover is proof that Daniel Son is confident in his brand, departing from the imagery of his genre in place for a collage of his personal life. Tracks like "Don Sonzarelli" show the Toronto emcee experiment with new patterns and backdrops, while songs like "Cartel Wheels" with Eto show you that Daniel Son is still the dude you fell in love with. Because that's the thing, this album may show maturity, but it's not an overt departure from his sound - this album is GRIMY. There's no mistaking. I'm excited to see the direction he goes for 2023. That BBM shit! Burgonomic Wordburglar If you're not already up on the Wordburglar, then you should change that. It may sound silly, but it's rooted in a real authentic hip-hop aesthetic. And hey, there's nothing wrong with a bit of silliness. Wordburglar is one that just gets better with time. I first heard this album deep into a chess game at the house. Rapid chess immerses you in the tangled adventure of the board, when the Buck 65 joint "Wordburglair" kicked in, we both looked up from the board and smiled. The song had changed the setting of the game. That may not resonate with anyone, but it's a huge compliment, trust me. This whole album sparked frisson from beginning to end. Fantastic, fun and just really really dope music. Wordburglar is always creative with the concepts and rhymes, this is no exception. Just give it a listen, become a fan. Burial Plots x Pyramid Schemes IM'PERETIV IM'PERETIV has been on a run ever since he released "Bricks" and later Under the Scope with Benny and Rick Hyde. These were some of the hardest anthems of 2021, both of which made it onto his 2022 solo producer album Burial Plots x Pyramid Schemes. This is no joke. Hard hitting rhymes from the likes of Daniel Son, Falcon Outlaw, Pro Dillinger, Starz Coleman, Asun Eastwood, Benny and more. If you're looking for a new beatsmith to add to your favourites, look no further. He also dropped an album with Chayna Ashley during the year called The Precedent. You don't want to miss these. The Complex Asun Eastwood x Wavy Da Ghawd Asun Eastwood released two albums this year that got heavy rotation on my end. This, and the new album with DJ Merciless and Benny the Butcher (I need to return to Don't Reach). That's right, Asun Eastwood did a joint with Benny this year. Well, kinda. Benny's not on the title, but Benny's on 7 of the 12 songs. Anyhow, check that too, but this album with Wavy Da Ghawd is maybe my favourite joint that Asun has ever put out. Features from Rigz, Smoovth, Rim, Daniel Son should give you a hint of what we're getting. The grimy, twisting beats by Wavy Da Ghawd are exactly what the recipe called for. Favourite joint off here is "Fish Fry" with Daniel Son. Peep it. Continuum Backburner Backburner returns in 2022! It feels like we've been waiting for Continuum for ages. As Canada's largest collective matures, they've become swampier! Slightly darker, slightly more moody, but the personalities still carry that throw-back boom bap fun that Backburner has always fucked with. Favourite cut on here is "Mystery Machine" with the Thesis hook or maybe "Press Eject"... or maybe all of it. Have fun with this one, it was worth the wait. Craven N' 3 Nicholas Craven I missed this when it was first released. Thank god for mid-year lists because I was quickly made aware of this gem. The Montreal producer has become a favourite in recent years for his work with Ransom, Droog, God Fahim and Mach-Hommy. Well, here is the third installment of his producer album series. No skips. It starts off with a Stove God solo track. Can we wish for more? This is my favourite producer (non instrumental) album of the year; with Buckwild's Diggin in the Tuff Kong Crates being a relatively close second. As Stove God says... 'We wonnnnnnnnnnn.' This is Craven's victory lap. Ducking Indictments HWY 308 x Finn I never heard of HWY 308 before this release. Later in the year he dropped the S As in Slime EP with Jesse Green Beats which was also dope, but this Finn release is MAD dope. From the jump this is some of the hardest music of 2022. HWY 308 made me an instant fan the first 30 seconds of the album and he's someone I'll be checking for in 2023. 20 minutes, features from Juco and Asun Eastwood. You're in for a treat. Gold Era. Eight Quarters Bigmcenroe Ft. Yy Yy and mcenroe! Or shall I we say bigmcenroe... This is great. Fun throwback boom bap hip-hop, all dope. For real, Peanuts and Corn makes some of the best music. And maybe this is a controversial take, but I think these cats are getting better? Yy's second run of albums since An Uneven Eleven has been absolutely top notch, and I can say the same for mcenroe. Burnt Orange might be my favourite mcenroe release and that's way late into his career. This album holds up to both of those modern Canadian classics. Every song is golden but my favourite cuts are "Compound Interest" and "Carry the One," both with Yy. ePIFFany The 6th Letter & ALS I've been a fan of 6th Letter for a minute now and ALS has been a staple producer in the BKRSCLB camp for some time. This LP however, blew me away. This might be my favourite BKRSCLB release yet, and that includes all of Raz Fresco's discography. The song "Too Much" is quite possibly my most listened to song of 2022. If you haven't heard it, stop this, and check it out. Classic boom bap hip-hop but made by perfected songwriters. This BKRSCLB is more than just Raz Fresco, and this proves it. Say they got drip but it ain't the same fluid. Fair Exchange No Robbery Boldy James x Nicholas Craven Boldy back at it again! He released four albums last year, and although Fair Exchange No Robbery is not exactly my favourite of the bunch, it's undoubtably one of the biggest looks for Canada this year. The cut back, soulful production stands out amongst a discography of hard Alchemist and Real Bad Man beats. Instead, Nicholas Craven elevates Boldy's position on the mic. The melancholy backdrop emphasizes the pain in every syllable the emcee spits.. There's something special about this one. True art. "Stuck in Traffic" is my favourite track. That vocal chop? A+. Grim Day Allah Preme x Uncle Fester Allah Preme had one hell of a year in 2022. Releasing dozens of projects and dumping more music on the culture than Tha God Fahim in 2017. Two of those projects were produced by Nova Scotia beatmaker and DJ Uncle Fester. Fester, known best for his role in the Backburner collective, also produced albums for Ambeez and Swamp Thing this year, but his work with Allah Preme stands out. Not only is it a departure for Fester into a new terrain of underground rap, but it's one of Allah Preme's best albums of the year. And that says a lot. Grim Night A.P. Da Overlord (Allah Preme) x Uncle Fester Where to begin. This is the follow up to Grim Day earlier in the year. Preme and Fester are a match made in heaven and a great look for both artists. "String Beans" with TYRNT is one of my favourite cuts of the year, so is "Grim Night," also with TYRNT. So is "Ice Tea" with Indigo Phoenyx. Damn, another stellar project from AP Da Overlord and Halifax's Uncle Fester. Pure excellence. Do a deep dive into both of these cats' discographies and you'll see two vastly different careers, but you'll find a ton of new gems. Do it, you're welcome. Griptape Gritfall Another new addition to BKRSCLB. Where to begin? This cat is young but one of the nicest you'll find. Remember that feeling when we first heard 1999 by Joey Badass and it felt special? Like who was this KID who had that 90's sound so authentically, but pressing for mainstream attention? Gritfall feels that exciting. Without perhaps the commercial push of Joey, Griptape is a debut album to be proud of. Super jazzy, dusty production handled by Raz Fresco and Eric Right. This cat is nice. As an emcee, Gritfall is promising. I'm excited to see the directions he takes and I can't help but encourage that exploration. BKRSCLB is really onto something. Always. Marvelous! Her Loss Drake x 21 Savage This might be my first Drake project I ever truly loved. I heard the first four songs of this joint when it was released on my way home from campus. I was loving what I heard but had to pause it. By the time I would have resumed the album, I had been inundated with reviews and opinions on the joint which all claimed that the album got wack after the first four songs, complaining that there wasn't enough 21. Well, it took me nearly a month to listen to the rest of those joints due to that feedback, and I'm left dumbfounded by the response. I never knew I wanted anything from Drake, but apparently, this is what I needed. Drake is talking shit on here and actually sounds good doing it. Did Drake have more shine than 21? Sure, but did Drake out perform 21? He sure did. This was a Drake album and it was for the best in my books. If Not Now Rove Oh damn, this was cool. A producer album from Rove that flew completely under the radar. A fun, diverse collection of interesting ideas. 2Mex, Subtitle, AWOL One, Sole, Jihad the Roughneck MC, Epic, Megabusive... Real gems on here by a cast of absolute legends of indie rap. My favourite cut on here is "Pieces of Blue" with Epic. BTW, Epic also re-released his 8:30 for Newfoundland tape this year. Check that out too. Desperately waiting for a new Epic LP over here. I'll take another from Rove too. Saskatoon Folk Rap, pay attention. The Introduction EP Axel & E.J. The Introduction to two new cats from BKRSCLB. Stepping into Toronto underground royalty is big shoes, but these cats, and Gritfall have all nailed it. This is 6 songs, full of creativity, and DOPE hip-hop. Raz comes in on the intro "Macatia" with perhaps my favourite Raz Fresco verse of the year. "Tonight" with Mike Shabb, and "Liminal Sound" are some of my favourites. Oh and "GODAMN" too with Kevin Na$h. I like this whole thing, it's 10 minutes, add it to your list. And follow BKRSCLB. They are not disappointing and are ACTIVELY expanding their roster. Raz seems down to track down the illest talent. No idea where he finds em, but he does. Life and Times of BriskInTheHouse BriskInTheHouse Apparently Brisk is out of BKRSCLB. But that shouldn't stop you from following the dude. BriskInTheHouse is continuing a strong run of releases with the Slick Rick inspired cover Life and Times of BriskInTheHouse. Produced partly by Raz and partly by Max Melanin, a producer which I was not familiar with prior. This dude is clearly inspired by Dilla and embraces the chaos on the beats - but is waaay dustier and filthy. Brisk sounds dope on here and there are a lot of highlights for a short run project. 26 Minutes, with my favourite cut being "Aloha" with The 6th Letter. The MacGuffin Device Wordburglar More Wordburglar! Are you familiar with Ugly Duckling? The rap group with Dizzy Dustin and Andy that was on Fatbeats in the late 90s early 2000s? That quirky, fun, silly yet boom bap and authentically hip-hop group? Yeah, Wordburglar is like that, but way more eccentric, and he embraces both ends of the spectrum. The McGuffin Device might even be better than Burgonomic. Actually, I think it is. This album is loud, bombastic, energized and epic. With the same witty rhymes that Wordburglar is known for. Unapologetically Burgie, someone should give this man his flowers. Favourite cuts are "Input Blitz," "Barter in Nostalgia" and "Verbserker." All with DJ Irate, who laced numerous cuts on the record. Magnetic Raz Fresco MARVELOUS! This is a thing of beauty. Years in the making, this exclusive piece of vinyl was unlocked only for those who had purchased Magneto Was Right volumes 1-9 through Tuff Kong Records, with each piece representing a puzzle piece with all nine forming together like Voltron. Magnetic however is more than simply a sum of its parts. The 13 song LP is entirely new, and works as both a celebration of the series to date, as well as a continuation of the grind that brought Raz to this point. This is an exemplar piece of art and is exactly what we can expect from the BKRSCLB unit. Mr. Ten08 Boldy James x Futurewave Boldy! Futurewave appears elsewhere on this list, but can we take a moment to appreciate Boldy's adoption of Canadian talent this year? Between the projects with Futurewave and Nicholas Craven, Boldy James has legitimized a Canadian production scene in an impactful way. Heads were aware of Futurewave before, especially with his work with Rome Streetz for both Razor's Edge and Headcrack - but despite the underground's fandom, nothing yet has quite competed with the level of notoriety and weight that Boldy James carries. Maybe the Pitchfork fans will start eyeing the Toronto scene now, we'll see. Anyhow, this album is great and is my second favourite Boldy album of the year (behind the Real Bad Man Joint.) Hard beats and hard raps, delivered in the typical monotone fashion that Boldy has been celebrated for. Futurewave also laced this with some of his most colorful and eccentric beats yet. Pam Grier's Kids DJ Moves Another full length Moves produced album. One of the most impressive discographies for any producer in hip-hop and Moves is still killing it in 2022, some thirty plus years after his beginnings in Hip Club Groove. A lot of diversity on here, but a LOT of greatness. Just dope shit. The Blaq Poet track "Loyalty" is a standout of the year, plus we get some classic Stinkin' Rich material on "StankinSpechledSocks" with Jeff Spec and Ghettosocks. Also, Governor Bolts! When's the new Bolts album coming? I want that. Great album, and my favourite thing from Moves of the year. Pocket Operations Raz Fresco I first heard the instrumentals to this joint and didn't realize there was another version with Raz on the mic. This thing was entirely made with a Pocket Operator, a drum machine that literally looks like a calculator. I thought the novelty of the gimmick was interesting enough to check it out but was instantly surprised when I started hearing some of my favourite beats that Raz has produced. Creativity at a high. The fact that Raz is a fan of cats like Dibiase, shows on this album. All this said, listen to the OG version with raps. Raz carries the 18 songs with just two guest verses. One of which being a particular favourite from Lord Juco on "Toothpaste." Fantastic. Check it. BKRSCLB. Son Tzu and the Wav.God Daniel Son x Futurewave This started the year off. We don't often get this kind of stellar material the first few weeks of the year, but Son Szu and the Wav.God was an exception to that rule. Daniel Son and Futurewave were back at it again. This got overshadowed I think by Bush Doctor later in the year, but this is arguably even more of a highlight. "Field Trips" with Rome Streetz, "Death & Taxes" with Pro Dillinger and "Stove Dance" are strong takeaways for the year. Yet another high-quality release in the discographies of both artists. The best rap music out of Toronto you can hope for. Supervillain Team Up: Injustice for All New Villain x Onaje Jordan One of my favourite discoveries of the year was New Villain. A recently established part of High Heat Records alongside Falcon Outlaw - New Villain has proven this year that he is hungry and willing to compete with the rest of them. Joining forces with Onaje Jordan is a good look. Not only is Jordan's production exciting and as hard hitting as ever, but the brand of Onaje Jordan brings the necessary weight and credibility to a project such as this. Along with dope art work, I think this album introduced many to what New Villain has to offer. Other albums from the emcee this year included Evil Flowers in Full Bloom, Exquisite Villainry (a stand out), and Supreme Villainz. Don't sleep on this cat. He's here to stay. Velvet Hammer Saipher Soze x Sibbs Roc Don't let Finn's uprising shade the quality of his Gold Era brethren Sibbs Roc. Roc and Slang Hugh are among the great producers of this new wave of underground rap and are often overlooked by heads. Not no more. Sibbs Roc did two projects with Saipher Soze this year. This album, as well as the EP Tres with the help of Finn. Saipher Soze, a member of Brown Bag Money, is also not to be underestimated. Long time collaborator with Daniel Son, Soze's production pallet is typically slugdy hard drums and dark sample pallets. This album on the other hand, is a complete 180. Think what Finn did with Lord Juco. This is a bit more jazzy, a bit more soulful, but Soze's voice has weight on the mic. This is heavy music. If you're a fan of Guilty Simpson, Daniel Son, and Big Twins, check this. A favourite of the year no doubt. YOD Wave Your Old Droog x Nicholas Craven Droog has followed in the tradition of the Dump Gods this year by releasing five albums in the YOD series; The Yodfather, Yodney Dangerfield, YOD Stewart, YOD Presents: The Shining and lastly, YOD Wave. Although Nicholas Craven is present on a majority of these releases, YOD Wave is the only album of the five that is entirely crafted by one producer. Easily my favourite of the series; Craven supplies Droog with these calm and reflective piano loops that sound good in any environment. The features add to this elegance with cats like Mach-Hommy and Tha God Fahim. Game also has a track on here with "Purple Rain Freestyle." My favourite cuts include "Scooby Snacks," "Lost Love" and "Body Right, Mind Right." No skips. 18 Minutes. All dope. This will be remembered as a hidden gem among the ever-growing library of Canadian rap in years to come. words by Alex Kuchma

  • 2022 Hip Hop Televised

    According to Billboard, Hip Hop was the most popular music genre of 2022. It's no wonder we are seeing more and more TV influenced by the #1 genre in the world. It was a good year for programming that depicted the culture and shined a light on some of it's greatest contributors. In the articles are 6 shows and documentaries that highlighted Hip Hop from the past, present and future. DOCUMENTARIES 2022 saw the release of several well made documentaries that centered Hip Hop or were Hip Hop adjacent. The biggest contributors were SHOWTIME, Mass Appeal, and Nas collaboration dubbed Hip Hop 50. This collaboration aims to produce Hip Hop centered programming until 2023 which marks what many Hip Hop historians consider to be the 50th anniversary of the culture. Cypress Hill: Insane In The Brain Synopsis – The unique, smoke-filled story of the trailblazing hip-hop group Cypress Hill. With archival footage to show how this musical brotherhood has withstood the test of time. This documentary is told with great care by legendary photographer Estevan Oriol using his personal archives of photos and video, collected from years as the group’s tour manager and photographer. We also get modern interviews of Cypress Hill as they reflect on their lives and careers as one of the greatest music groups period. Network: SHOWTIME You Are Watching Video Music Box Synopsis – This is the story of Video Music Box, the music video show that aired on WNYC from 1984 to 1996. This is a lively, feel good documentary about Video Music Box which was created by Ralph McDaniels and Lionel C Martin for NYC public television. The series left an undeniable mark on Hip Hop and introduced many artists to the public that would eventually become greats. Video Music Box's impact was wide reaching for a local creation, it spawned shows that would become national staples like Yo! MTV Raps and Rap City. Network: SHOWTIME Supreme Team Synopsis – A three part docu-series about the notorious Queens, New York Gang. Narrated by Nas, It tells the story straight from the mouth of Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff and Gerald "Prince'' Miller. What does this have to do with Hip Hop? A lot actually! This story not only covers the gang but it paints a picture of what was going on in NYC in this era with interviews from members of the crew and artists such as LL Cool J, Irv Gotti, Ashanti and more. Their exploits were notorious but they also helped nurture a generation of artists and have inspired and continue to inspire some of the best music in Hip Hop from one of the culture's most impactful cities. Network: SHOWTIME jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy Synopsis – A documentary film directed by Coodie & Chike about the life of American rapper, record producer, and fashion designer Kanye West. This documentary provides a look at the artist formerly known as Kanye West at a time when he's experiencing success as a producer and is on the verge of making his debut as an artist. It's an interesting period because we see a humble guy just trying to be seen in the beginning, to a Grammy winning artist who's all of a sudden acting like he doesn't have time for the longtime friends who were always by his side supporting him and advocating for him as he tried to shop his music. This documentary is made from a day in the life perspective with the audience right there with Kanye in the studio, at the record label, and with family and friends. We get a glimpse of him working in the studio and dealing with his post car accident medical struggles. I can't think of too many docs that had more access to their subjects. Nowadays as Ye, the artist seems to be in limbo and preaches like he wants to be a savior but continues to act like a villain. If you want the old Kanye, jeen-yuhs this will give you that fix. Network: Netflix TV SHOWS Wu Tang: An American Saga took a break for 2022 but it will return in February 2023 for the final season. Its absence was felt but the year didn't disappoint for Hip Hop as we saw a few interesting shows make their debut in 2022. Jungle Synopsis – In a near future London, two young men try to better themselves, but are forced to face the consequences of their actions. Jungle is a series like no other. It's a neo noir style crime drama that takes place in a futuristic London that looks straight out of Blade Runner. Another interesting aspect is that a large amount of the character dialogue and interactions is done through rap. It's cool as hell to see two character trading bars back and forth as they try to sort out their differences. The cast is bolstered by the use of the UK's finest rappers. UK Hip Hop artists such as Tinie Tempah, Big Narstie, IAMDDB, Jaykae, and more make appearances and help give this series an authentic London street feel, and some entertaining, ingenious bar work! Network: Amazon Prime Rap Sh!t Synopsis – Two estranged high school friends from outside Miami reunite to form an all-female rap group, hoping to make it in the music industry. This is definitely my overall favorite Hip Hop related series of 2022. Coming from the production house that Issa Rae built, it's no wonder the production value and writing is so good. Rap Sh!t takes you on the journey of Mia (KaMillion/Alja Jackson) and Shawna (Aida Osman) as they juggle work, family, relationship, all while trying to break through in the Hip Hop music industry. Being based in Miami gives it a unique flavor and adds to the atmosphere of their world. An interesting aspect of the show is how social media and its impact on our daily lives is woven into the storytelling. It definitely feels like something that's taking place in the now. In the midst of their day to day struggle we get some of the most feel good Hip Hop moments to grace any kind of screen this year; from an impromptu car freestyle, to hearing your song in the club for the first time. I found myself cheering them on and also feeling disappointed along with them when things didn't work out so well. Fortunately, for us a second season has been ordered by HBO, so Mia and Shawna will return to do some more seducing and scheming! Network: HBO As for 2022 that's all I got folks! There are some interesting things on the way in 2023 as Hip Hop continues to get a much deserved spotlight. A few other documentaries/TV shows to keep an eye out for in the new year are: May The Lord Watch: The Little Brother Story, Mixtape: The Movie, Fight The Power: How Hip Hop Changed The World, Robyn Hood, Paradox Live, Rap Caviar Presents Season 3 of Wu Tang: An American Saga, Season 2 of Rap Sh!t and more that we'll find to explore.

  • 2023 LP + EP RELEASES

    Largest release week yet? The artform is alive 'n well. Evolving, descending, expanding & everything in between 'n beyond. Published earlier in the week was "RAP ALBUMS FROM THE YEAR 2022" by Sai. He he recaps 100 albums and 15 songs that served as some of his highlights from the year; acknowledging artists from Tony Shhnow, RX Papi, Popstar Benny, billy woods and many more. 1 more recap coming this week. 1.27.2023 Penultimate: A Calm Wolf Is Still A Wolf by Styles P El Cantante by CRIMEAPPLE F.I.R.E. by Starz Coleman x godBLESSbeatz Gotham City by Don Trip Dead Poets by Eto x Futurewave SugaHill by YeloHill x Suga Free Farewell, my friend. by Thes One Welcome 2 Room 39 by Ty Farris x Trox left4dead 3 by bbymutha Jp Day 1s by Junglepussy Money Family Respect by Celly Ru LOVE IS WAR by Reuben Vincent In The Meantime by Will Hill University! by Popstar Benny DARK SHOGUNN ASSASSIN by Tha God Fahim x Camoflauge Monk SWEAR FO GOD by Chavis Chandler x Bo404 INSTRUMENTALS ISSUE #3 by IM’PERETIV PLANET UNFAITHFUL EP by Fatboi Sharif x Roper Williams Red Brick Dust by Indigo Phoenyx x Kwenu Scribble Face by AWOL One The Big Lebowskiii: The Story of Eastside Jesus by Teller Bank$ Parables of The Sower by Ja’King The Divine IT Was All a Dream by Reggie Rare Let’s Start Here by Lil Yachty Clark Street Baby by BiC Fizzle The Kickback by Brody Brown Bender’s New Grooves by Dom Venice Buried Emotions by Spiffie Luciano THINKSTRUMENTALS by Dreddy Kruger The Lonestar (Side A) / The Lonestar (Side B) by Bo Bundy It's Amazing by Bouba Savage WAR LORD by Talibando 448 Pt. 2 by Dai Ballin Ball Til We Fall by TGE L Masi x MarijuanaXO Go Crazy EP by HOP3 Da Don Hoochie-Ville EP by TrapDoll Whoop Jesus Piece Revival by GRIM MOSES Still Learning by Free Game Griff 4th Wall by Tony Tone Moneygram 2 by Adro Wake Up EP by 27Delly Fly Langston by Shaw Calhoune Blank Kanvas by Kash Flow Stuck In My Ways by Summrs MANN IM HAUS by Loredana Dirty South by Rua Forever Da Menace by Anti Da Menace x FOREVEROLLING Diamonds Lost At Sea by Cam Farias x Day Andrade x Jamar Johnson Spoken Letters Deluxe by Trey Posey Malvatrem by Slipmami No More Heroes by Spinabenz Secret Formula by Aflacko Tag Team Championships by Ryan Milla (1/30/2023) Although it is 2023 we're still releasing our wrap-ups/recaps of 2022. This last week "Top Canadian Hip-Hop Albums of 2022" by Alex Kuchma was published, a thread highlighting "The Best of 2022" by Xlo, and a couple weeks ago "2022 Hip-Hop Televised" by Monk was also published. Additionally, we have 2 more recaps coming in the next week. (Subscribe to the site and get notified before they hit social sites.) 1.20.2023 A Lesson To Be Learned (Refreshed) by RBL Posse x DJ.Fresh To What End by Oddisee Born in it 2 (Really) by Chippass Indiana Jones by Boldy James x Rich Gains Lunch by Chiddy Bang DIMENSIONS N' DEMOS by Ron Obasi N' Friends Organized Crime 2 by Allstar JR Samples of Eden by Phonk P x godBLESSbeatz Black Bottom by Sh3llz Experienced by Regular Repty Dangerous II by A.P. Da Overlord (Allah Preme) x True Cipher Chess Moves by Tha God Fahim x NicoJP The Anubis Archives (Side B) by INDIGO PHOENYX x King David Beatz Stop Playing With Me by Kia Leiani Radio Days by Bobby J From Rockaway x Nef Before The Gloss Up by Gloss Up Like…? by Ice Spice Pray by Lil Tracy x Drippin So Pretty What Will It Take by BlackLiq x ohbliv (on DSPs now) The Harvest by King Adroit x Intifada Beats Wish You Well by Griff Tyler Living On The Edge by Jyou Lover’s Quarrel by NAE FIVE FINGER DISCOUNT EP by Mackbo Lyrics to GO, Vol. 4 by Kota the Friend It Was Fun While It Lasted by Kayo MAVO Vol. 1 by The Last Maven Trife God 2 by EBK BCKDOE Deranged by YCB Frenzy Homesick by BIGBABYGUCCI Classroom Hero by Lonni Monae Ea$y & Chill by Ea$y Money x Chilla Jones POWER PACK *VNGRD EXCLUSIVE* by VNGRD (al.divino) R&G by Slim Guerilla x Genshin Same Old Different New… by FRD FRLN SLANG POETRY by Ralphiie Reese Thee Almight Threesus by TayF3rd G4OST 2 by ICYTWAT FLIPS V1: Triple Lindy by Sndtrak Stand On Business by DNYC3 x ECLIP$E Mansion Musik by Trippie Redd PAP on P.E.D.’s by Papo2oo4 Pink House by Boogotti Kasino There is a lot of music within this list that is very much worthy of a listen. If you find something new I hope it meets you where it needs to. Also, if you're here please consider subscribing to the site to stay tapped in and know when we publish before it hits social sites. We have some pretty exciting things on the way in the upcoming weeks as well as throughout the year. 1.13.2023 RELEASES In The Beginning, Vol. 3 by Declaime x Madlib The Mind of a Saint by Skyzoo Devil’s Due by Elcamino x TrickyTrippz (on DSPs now - released in 2021) Oroku Saki by Mickey Diamond x Ral Duke Blockstar Ranger (In The Name Of Fire) by A.P. Da Overlord Free 03 by 03 Greedo Madden by Dan Nicholson Might Not Make It by ZelooperZ Mom, Can You Come Pick Me Up (New Age Chicago Steppers Set Anthems) by Chris Crack GUANAHANI by Obijuan x dylantheinfamous Still Hurt by Airplane James Big Castle by Pricy Pop Songs for the Apocalypse by Jason Griff x Alaska FAX by Fashawn x Marc Spano LOST FILES 2 by Southside Hoodlum The Spokesman 3 by Mac God Dbo Angels Never Die by Luke Bar$ It Was Me by DeAngelo Jamess SELF PHONE by VNGRD The Son’s Shine by Silky Southern The Harvest by King Adroit x Intifada Before The Fire, Vol. 1 by RIPXL IV by JUNE! HOMETEAM by P. James Walking Aimless by Nebula. GODSPEED by Shopwitme Guillotines On The East by Da Commissioner x YP NU BALANCE by Nelson Bandela amavi by Jeh White More; DEMOS by olde. Well Why Not by C Dot Hall x The Standouts If Antonio Survived by Masethemessiah Penitentiary Baby by FLYKHI Back From The Future 2 by Rich Rocka x Deedotwill B All You Can B by Lil Beezy Humble As Ever by Hunxho After The Curse by 21 Lil Harold Cartel Crazy by Acito x Armani DePaul Butcher House by Sematary Rap Game Awful by Clavish Bin Reaper 3 by BabyTron Snow, Vol. 7 by Wun Two GAME day ! + * by Staggr altopalo on Audiotree Live by altopalo motion! EP by Frank Leone We're back with 30+ releases from the first week of the new year. A variety of artists, sounds from an array of regions. Be sure to support these artists where seems fit and check out some new and unfamiliar names. 1.06.2023 Guide to World’s Greatest Cities by MURS Rollin Stone by J. Stone x DJ Drama I Let My Tape Rock Til My Tape Drop by Thought Provokah PONTIAC PROMISES by Seafood Sam For The Love Of Money by Ro J. x Saddiq Player Games, Pt. 2 by Westside Webb The Players Retreat by Monroe Flow x Dvme Good Company by Monday Night x 3wayslim End Of The Year 3 by JohnNY UniteUs Tew Be Continued by Miss Kam 12 Days of Christmas and Dia de Los Reyes by Homeboy Sandman CARHARTT KEITH: A KARHARTT KOLLAGE by Dango Forlaine SNAKE INNA RATTRAP by DøøF TEXTURE by BUB ROCK Homie Don’t Play Dat by Trav Hen In Da Car by Tia Tutt Indica Music by AJ Suede GONE 4 THE WINTER by DXPE FROM THE BACK TWICE by Joey Trap Sincerely A G by Jimmy Waters CULTURE MUZIK by SMG JB Playa Exclusives by Adro FLANNERY by RONTHEGREAT TROO BLOO by Bloo Azul x The Standouts Diamante De Las Madres by XP The Marxman 24hr Casino by 24hrs x Kino Beats Motion Luther King JR by JUST BANG Coke Boys 6 by French Montana x DJ Drama Thank Us Later by OTM Public Housing, Pt. 2 by Real Boston Richey I Rest My Case by NBA Youngboy 30 M’s by Johnny Cinco Middle East by E Mozzy x Celly Ru I'll Be Back by Q Da Fool 5 DEGREES by DUSTY LOCANE x Kajun Waters On The Yeah Side 2 by Shaudy Kash x Top$ide OMAHA by LaRussell x Hokage Simon Sunday Service by Mi5ta DARK HEART by El Hitta Lost Files 4 by Ken Carson Way of the Scrumble by Scrumbleman Fantastic Beats and Where To Find Them by Peanuts

  • INNERVIEW 018: The Most High EP w/ Shun Gawd

    PHOTOS BY DERIAN (@HOUPICSPHOTOS) ”Struggle and survive, man. When you struggle and survive you need someone to follow. So, I figured, why not give them GOD." - God, In Too Deep Since Hip Hop’s inception it’s provided a vehicle for many entrepreneurs, catalysts and artists to pave their own way through expression and influence of their art while putting on for their city/region. Sometimes, simultaneously highlighting the changing Hip Hop landscapes. 2022 was a reminder of the various sounds, regions and mediums of Hip Hop artists. When we speak of independence and independence of the “non-mainstream/”yet” to be mainstream/potentially mainstream” or just pure underground artists... an often held paradigm of independence is how you’re selling your art (?) Have you curated enough content to garner a crowd that engages and supports your elevation and evolution? Do you have a pivot? Pump fake? Hesitation — how do you create space in your lane to score? In September, I had the opportunity to get an innerview of Houston/Memphis artist Shun Gawd’s pivotal moves that brought him closer to what he envisions for his craft and mastering of lanes. The innerview gives further insight about his name, artistic diet, his recent EP, The Most High, Hip Hop legends/influences, streetwear brand work and more. This innerview has been condensed and edited for clarity purposes. Jameka: So, who is Shun? And what does your name represent? Shun Gawd: Shun is really me. My real name Marshawn. When I was coming up, I was interested in how Kendrick Lamar said he changed his name from K. Dot and he rebranded to Kendrick Lamar with the Kendrick Lamar EP just because he wanted to kind of give himself. So, I kind of followed that path, which is like, I had wanted it to be Marshawn, but I just kept it as $hun. Then alter ego of $hun Gawd came in. J: Tell me more about the alter ego, because I thought your name was Shun Gawd. S: It kinda is. The reason that I probably haven't just fully switched it over is because my name on Apple Music, and all my music is already under the Shun tag. But the alter ego of Shun Gawd came into play when I first started. I was trying to figure out something catchy because people have these different things, like good Fridays and stuff like that. So, that's why I came up with Shundays, and I'm going to drop on Sundays. Within the music, I was always, like, kinda speaking on certain topics, kind of giving free game and shit like that. So, I started saying, I'm preaching or dropping a sermon so that's where the Shun Gawd came in and it was just like, when I'm on the track, I'm kind of Shun Gawd type shit. The whole thing kinda played in and came about. What can you say about what has led you to where you're at right now. I came on board when you dropped that project last year, Reign Man & the Glove. So, in between these two projects where have you been mentally? Really just kinda just mapping everything out. Trying to see where I want to take it next with the music wise and just trying to see certain topics that I want to speak on and stuff like that. But, in between the space is really just trying to keep building, whether that's with music or whether that's with anything, Really, just keep evolving and keep building Shun Gawd as a brand. Do you follow me on Instagram? Yeah, yeah. So, I do the streetwear stuff too. For me to get, like, different brand deals. So, just kind of trying to expand that. And with this new project, we're trying to go into the merch. Really, just mapping out how I can really just continue to do this independently and create different streams of income for myself around what I'm already doing. Yeah, because I saw ol' boy that took your pics, too, houpics. I saw that y’all be putting out ads with Puma. I do different brand work for Puma, so they'll send me different sneakers. Whatever sneakers they’re trying to promote at the time. We negotiate a price and we'll get the content knocked out for them. And you probably seen a recap of when they invited me out to one of their events that they threw in Houston. How did you get involved with that? How did that come about? Oh, man. That's the question everybody asks. To be honest, it's really just me taking my image more seriously. Honestly, I was posting more on Instagram. Like high quality content towards the streetwear community and as I was doing that, different brands just started to reach out to me. What I really think is, when I'm marketing, I'm really interacting with a lot of people when I dive into a community. A lot of these people that work for Puma or that work for Culture Kings, Fashion Nova, Hat Club… these different people are within these communities. So, as I'm doing my marketing, they're stumbling across my profile and then they just look at it like, “oh, you got high quality ass content, kinda fly. How about we reach out to him?” And that's honestly how it happens. Just alignment. Yeah alignment and I started the whole streetwear thing just as something as when I'm laying dormant with the music and I feel like those two run parallel anyway. Because if you like hip hop music, I’m pretty sure you like sneaker culture, you like streetwear culture. It's all the same to me. So, I started to do that just while I'm plotting out this music, I need something that will still have me in front of people's eyes or audience eyes. Something that allows you to keep building. That's a cool situation you have worked out there. I appreciate it, appreciate it. A lot of hard work. I can only imagine, because you got to be able to market and do that type of work for yourself. You gotta really have a solid vision and a creative vision at that. Facts, and the product has to be A1. That's what I've been telling people too. Not to really toot my own horn or anything like that but when you comin’ across people on the internet… I feel like for people, period, when you tell them, “oh, yeah, I do music,” it's like one of those things like, “oh, you make music, too.” Everybody make music. So, I try to keep the product as A1 as possible. When a person comes upon it, that's the least negative thing they can say about it. Like, to the point where the only thing you can say about it is, “ahh, it’s dope but it's not really my type of music.” You can't really say it's trash. You can't really say the engineering is bad. You can't say the mix is bad because everything is full circle. I try to keep it A1. So, when I come across these people, when the quality is A1, at the end of the day, the one thing they left to say is, “that shit fire bro, keep going.” or “I'm going to tap in with you soon.” It's real strategic and I feel like it's really authentic, too, because a lot of it is just me. When it's authentic, people feel it even more. Learning how to strategize that type of shit. Where did you come up with it? One of my younger homies back in the day he put me on how to target market, kinda. Once he did that, that kinda, like, lit up a light bulb in me and it was just like, oh, damn. So, if you're telling me to do this, then I can take it a little deeper, and I just kinda start layering. Once that light bulb went off in me, then it kind of became second nature, you know what I'm saying? Because it was just about dropping dope shit. I feel like I just got dope ideas that people fuck with. It’s very quality. As far as the project, The Most High, where did the title come from? What were you trying to accomplish with this EP? The name and everything came about when I was trying to figure out how I wanted to theme it. I kinda like theming my projects. I like it being a little layered with the concept. Really, I was watching In Too Deep, a lot. That was one of my go to movies. I think it was a couple of months ago when they had it on Netflix and they just recently took it off. You know, with LL Cool J and his name was God on there, and I'm like, “yo, this is dope as fuck.” If I actually use clips from this where it's kind of like they hinting’ at God. I’m Shun Gawd, I drop on Shundays, I drop gospels, I drop sermons. The Most High, with me smokin’ on the cover, everyone know I love smokin’ weed. The Most High, I just started layering it. I kinda got that from Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole. Where it's kind of like you really give the audience layers. But they don't ever speak on it. Even though I just spoke on it. They just let the audience come up with their own conclusion. It's just like, it could be what they were thinking or it could be completely left. But the audience is connecting dots and they're making it their own. That's really where I was going with it. Do you consider yourself religious? Do you have a belief in a God? I definitely believe in God. I wouldn't say I'm religious though. I feel like I kinda got an understanding. I kinda look at it as there's multiple ways to the source. So, I don't look down on any religion. I feel like they all have truth in them. I feel like they all are pretty teaching you to live a great, wonderful life but there just certain nuances within them that people hold onto and try to condemn another religion. Like, I don't do that. I grew up Christian, but I don't say I follow a specific religion. I like to listen to all different perspectives. I feel that that makes sense. So, on one of your tracks, “Champagne,” you made this statement that you got to be malleable to be valuable. What exactly does that mean to you? In this world, you gotta be able to bend without breaking. You gotta really be able to adjust on the fly. You gotta be ready for whatever comes towards you. One of the main things I've learned in this past year is just living in the moment. Stop trying to be. I don’t always have to be so strategic. But, with living in the moment comes quick adjustments, speed bumps that's going to come your way. So, you gotta be malleable to be valuable out here. Bend without breaking. Have you had moments in this last year where you’ve had to be malleable? Oh yeah, man… I had a couple. I had some investments go bad, you know, relationship problems and a whole bunch of shit. These past couple years being kicked out of the crib. Just trying to find my foot, stepping back, trying to rework my plan while keeping the goal the same, you know what I'm saying? Life just throw them different obstacles at ya. Random shit, my rims got stole off my car a couple weeks ago. You know, it be all kinda shit. Always something, fr. How do you persevere through those moments? One, having a safety net. Staying prepared for those rainy days and just continuing to push forward. At some point you gotta take some of the advice that some of the great people or wise people will tell you. One of the main things people tell you is you can't really worry too much about what you can't control. So, if I can't control it, I get pissed over it for a little bit. But, after awhile I probably smoke joint and I just be like, man, fuck that shit. What am I going to do to fix it? How am I going to get out of this situation? Because, me harping on it ain't going to help me. Not one bit. And that shit just end up causing hella anxiety. Exactly, exactly. God always came through for me. I know he's going to come through. I just got to keep pushing and doing what I'm doing. It’s aligning beautiful. I know you mentioned you were watching In Too Deep in reference to theme for the project. What other things did you intake? Books, movies, food, views, places of inspiration. I was in New York a lot. That's where we got a lot of the content, too. I was in New York towards the end of last year for a little stint out of show in the beginning of this year and just connecting with different people out there, just catching the vibes of the big city. Travel always is an inspiration, and other than that, it's really just inspiration from different artists that I've listened to, that I'm inspired by and stuff like that. Who are those artists who inspire you? Sounds cliché. Ain't no cliché. Yeah, I know. I tell people all the time. I get like, man, I'm going to name these artists and they are probably the biggest artists right now. But what y’all gotta realize is I've been on before they got to who they are now. So, three kings, of course, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Drake. Anybody that's really Dreamville; JID, EARTHGANG, all of the greats. TDE. Cozz, REASON. Mick Jenkins, I actually got a track in the bag with him that’s gonna be on my next project. Super dope joint. The guy that that takes my pictures, houpics he actually makes beats too and he actually made the beat. I'm looking forward to that fasho. Yeah, we’re probably going to plan to get that out probably within the next few months after The Most High has kinda run dry a little bit to get it back on. But yeah, those artists… and I got a couple of my homies that actually rap that inspire me and stuff like that. So, like the three kings. What is it that when you first started listening to them back in the day, what drew you to them and what kept you a fan? So Drake, what drew me to Drake? Initially, the first song I heard by Drake was “Brand New” and I was like, “what the fuck is this… get this out of my ear.” But, I think once I heard “Ransom,” I had to really hear him on some rap shit. His flow was smooth. It wasn't the craziest bar. Actually, in the beginning he did have some crazy bars, but it was always smooth flows. Once I started diggin’ into his stuff he had the smooth beats with Comeback Season. Once he dropped the breakout, So Far Gone, it was just like, “yo, this sound is just crazy.” I never heard an intro with, “Lust For Life,” so smooth and airy. So, for Drake, I really feel like it was his sound and then once he got later into his career, it was just like that braggadocious Drake because he’s doing so good. It's just like he can flex on whoever the fuck it is. You know what I'm saying? J. Cole, Friday Night Lights was like the soundtrack to my senior year of high school. He spoke to a teenager I feel like at the time. When I first got on J. Cole it was my sophomore year of high school. That was when I got onto “School Daze” and The Come Up and stuff like that. I was just like, “yo, this nigga is rapping my life.” Like, what the hell is going on here? You know what I mean? Then Kendrick, the first time I heard him I didn’t fuck with him either. The first song I heard was “ADHD” and I just didn't get it at the time. Not even just it was "wack" I was just like… what is this? I think at the time, I was heavy on Drake. It's funny because I seen that video on WorldStar back in the day when Snoop Dogg and a whole bunch of people was handing Kendrick Lamar over the crown. I was like, this shit should be going to Dom Kennedy. I was big on Dom Kennedy. I didn't even know who Kendrick was at the time. I was like, “who the fuck is Kendrick Lamar?” But I think once I heard “The Heart, Pt. 2” and I was like, that's just undeniable shit, you know what I'm saying? I can't fuck with hip hop and then say this shit right here trash. Like, nah this shit is stupid. So, that's when I got on Kendrick, he was just that raw talent. That authenticity. I wasn’t into him either at first. I felt like he was doing too much but truthfully he was just different than what we were hearing at the time. SO different. That's one of the ones that I say right now, (because I personally take Jay-Z as the goat,) but I'd I take that argument for Kendrick. I accept that argument. I wouldn't even debate it. He's up there, for sure. I definitely agree and in such a short amount of time, too. Yes, with four projects but they’re so dense. Those four projects probably worth, like, ten normal projects from these other rappers. It's so true. So, who are your Houston legends and greats? Like, not just hip hop either. Any type of realm of art. The greats, for sure is the two that you just heard have a big mess over. Trae, Z-Ro, Mike Jones. Little Flip, the freestyle king, just had a freestyle on... what was the name of that podcast? The white guy. I can't remember. I watch it all the time, but he killed it. He’s the freestyle king I don’t care what nobody say. There’s a lot… Slim Thug, that was from that stint. Scarface, of course. DJ Premier, you know, people forget that he's actually from Houston. I really would love to link with him, because that would be perfect you know what I'm saying? We both from the H, but we both got an east coast sound. It's inevitable at this point, especially because you're out there networking and shit already. I got a link with Premier. Those are some of the Houston Legends fasho. DJ Screw, I’m being disrespectful. And it's a bunch more, man. Chamillionaire. Yeah, Houston got a lot of artists. A lot of Houston legends fasho. I feel like Houston's right up there with L.A. and New York, to be honest. Atlanta, Houston, L.A. and New York. Legends. How would you describe your sound? I would say without just kind of like putting, like a normal hip hop tag on it, like boom bap and stuff like that. I would just say it's just authentic. It's not trendy. I don't really do the trends. I don't really care about what's hot right now in rap. You know what I'm saying? I really just authentically make what I love. I just really feel like from the test of time people really kinda like my ideas a little bit. I would say my sound is authentic. When you come across, like, new supporters and listeners assume you're from the south or do they think you're from somewhere else? No, never. They never guess that I'm from it. If it wasn't in my bio and stuff like that, they would never think that I was from the South. Probably the only thing that may be a giveaway is my accent that I may have that I don't recognize. I actually recognized it recently in a video that we're going to drop for, “Let’s Move!” I don’t recognize my accent but probably the Southern twang to my speech and stuff like that. Other than that, people always think on the East Coast when they listen to the type of music that I make. I always get that, “you rapping like this and you from Houston?” They love it. Yeah, and that's really because I rep Houston. I say I'm from Houston because I've been here since I was 14, but I'm originally from Memphis. No way. That’s where I’m at. Oh, for real? I'm not from here, but I've been living out here for the last few years. Yeah, that's originally where I'm from. But I wasn't there for long. So, I'm from Memphis, all my family is in Memphis, and I was in Memphis every summer. That's my nod to Drake because we kinda got that in common. Visiting my dad because my dad is out there and he used to go back and visit his dad. But originally I’m from Memphis and I moved with my mom and my stepdad. We moved to Santa Barbara, California, when I was in the second grade. Then when I was in the fifth grade, we moved to Houston, Texas. And then when I was in the 7th grade, we moved back to California. But in Long Beach, and then once I got to the 9th grade, we moved to Houston. I kinda got love, I've been everywhere. I gravitated always towards the hip hop sound. Like I said, Jay-Z is my goat. I dig into his discography at a young age. So from that, you just get a lot of influences from the East Coast. I've always, for some reason, been infatuated with New York. Honestly, it's been since I saw this video on YouTube, the first video I've seen about Flight Club, and I was like, yo, I gotta get out there to New York. I don’t know what's going on out there but I gotta go get some kicks. I need to take a trip out there for sure. I've been to, like, Toronto, but I haven't been to New York, you know what I'm saying? I'm trying to get to Toronto, man. That's the city I would fasho live in. It's a real cool city. That's what I heard. Because my homie used to play for the D League basketball team out there and he used to love it. It's a beautiful city, but that's pretty crazy; Long beach. Santa Barbara, of all places too, Like Santa Barbara? Yeah, like man, that was right there was eye opening, and I loved it. That was my favorite place I've ever lived. I cried so bad when we left. It's so beautiful out there. Yeah. like, the little trail, and it used to be, like, a beach behind the trail. We used to have, like I started skateboarding out there and BMX stuff. It just felt like a kid's dream. Felt like a movie, man. Yeah, but Memphis. That's home, home. All my family is there. I probably haven't been in, like a year and a half, but I should be coming back soon because I'm definitely planning on shooting a video out there for my next EP. What do you hope people gain from listening to your music? I hope people gain inspiration just through the grind, through the game that I get through the lyrics through, you know what I'm saying? My own experience, just inspiration to just keep going and do whatever you want to do. What everybody see now I really built this shit from the ground, you know what I'm saying, with me and my couple of teammates. But, just keep going and get the inspiration. You can do whatever the fuck you want to do and live your life to not later ask yourself what if? That's one of my biggest things. Really go hard like my nigga LeBron say, “leave it all out on the court and then live with the results.” The inspiration is to give it your all. CREDITS: $hun:<sid=e5522f36-128f-4d1f-b22a-42c68d5ddcdd HOUPICS PHOTOS:

  • 'Hip-Hop, It Started Out in the Park': How Unity Park Created John Creasy

    "Urban renewal means negro removal." - James Baldwin 'My area? Niagara? Everybody wanted to be a rapper,' the emcee notes during an interview in August, 'everybody wanted to be a star and to come back and give back to their community where they grew up.' As an emcee, John Creasy has made quite the splash in recent years. With more projects than I can count with my hands, Creasy has contributed his fair share to the onslaught that this renaissance has created. Within the Western New York rap scene that has dominated modern underground waves, Niagara has received little attention. However, artists such as G4 Jag of Lord Mobb, TRUST's Jynx 716, Jamal Gasol and Creasy are just a few examples to indicate the significance of Niagara's contribution. This story follows that of John Creasy and Unity Park; a housing project near Highland Avenue in Niagara Falls, New York and subsequently, John Creasy's childhood residence. Creasy has publicly represented his roots before. Last year, the emcee recorded and dropped the song, aptly titled 'Unity Park' which illustrated the influence that the area had in shaping his identity. Exploring the history of Unity Park revealed patterns of government neglect, systemic racism and struggle; a story that finds itself woven into Creasy's lyrics throughout his catalog. My aim is to communicate the meaning of those threads. Unity Park 'N****s slight me. That's why I give them extra bars. They didn't think a n**** could do it out of Niagara Falls' - John Creasy, Bomb First. James Baldwin had once stated that urban renewal was equivalent to Black removal. A read through The Color of Law or The Origin of the Urban Crisis will prove just that. The story of Unity Park exists as one of a handful of anecdotes the city of Niagara has contributed to this failure of Americanism. The project, originally developed under the name 'the Lehigh Project' in the early 1970s, was a response to what Michael Boston describes as a demand for housing among Black Niagarans. In the late 1940s, America, under the Truman administration, developed the 'Housing Act of 1949,' an effort to fund urban renewal projects, highlighting a need to eliminate 'blight' and clear slums. This 'slum clearance,' as it is referred to in the act, allowed many municipal governments to secure funding that they hoped would better their community. As Niagara Falls began to enter a period of decline in the early 1960s, efforts were put in place to request federal funding for a series of urban renewal projects in the city. These projects, as Boston notes, predominantly affected the regions Black community. Areas that housed the Black community were often deemed 'slums,' which allowed for the government to clear the land and construct new units to house the now dispersed population. By 1971, after a series of these projects had taken place, the city of Niagara felt necessary to construct additional housing units to house many of the dispersed (often Black) members of the community. The topic of race was not ignored during the creation of Unity Park. Unlike the past urban renewal projects that the city had undergone, Unity Park was designed as an integrated housing complex, meaning it would house a mixture of low income and moderate-income residents. The aim was to diversify the demographics of the project, in hopes to prevent decay in future decades and appease much of White Niagara's racially motivated concerns with concentrated African-American neighbourhoods. In a meeting that took place in March of 1971, a resident of the neighbouring McKoon Avenue, stressed to the planning board, asking if 'Unity Park would be totally black?' The response from those in charge was clear; 'no one can guarantee one way or the other, but considering the rent structure the danger is that it will be all white.' Additional comments during this meeting proved, with hindsight, to be of note. Anne Myers of DeVeaux St. noted that she had 'never seen a public project that didn't fall to pieces in 10 to 15 years.' In this, she was asking who would be responsible for the upkeep. Charles Baker, who held the office of the president at Wright and Kremers, the developing corporation selected to construct the units, claimed that the units would be maintained by Wright and Kremer, and that rent money would be sufficient for any maintenance. Speaking directly to Mrs. Myers, Baker claimed, 'you're visualizing something that's never going to happen.' Two decades later, both of the objecting citizens’ concerns had been validated. Unity Park, had went from a mixed demography to a nearly all Black housing complex. Additionally, the units had begun to fall apart. By the late 1990s, the city was already beginning touch-up jobs and band-aid operations to help with the deterioration of the Highland Avenue project. This is the Unity Park where Creasy was raised. When I was younger, I would play basketball a lot. So, I had to go to different neighbourhoods and different community centers around, so I seen it all. The first time I ever held a gun in my hand I was seven years old. I was riding my bike, going across the street to Ms. Doominsting's house. That was our candy lady in the neighbourhood. She sold penny candy back in the day. I was riding my ten speed to her house to go get some candy, and thought it was a rock but I hit something and fell off my bike. I picked it up, and it was a big ass [gun.] I'm seven years old, right? it was an all-black joint, had the leather handle on it. So I wasn't sheltered at all. I seen everything. I seen crackheads overdose in front of me. All types of shit. So, I wasn't really sheltered at all. Just being around it, you become accustom and used to it. But yeah, me just seeing a gun and holding it in my hand at seven, I could have almost killed myself. But my cousin seen me - I had it in my hand - he like ran over to me. It was loaded and everything. It was a glock too. He ran over to me, grabbed it from me. So, I wasn't sheltered. I had seen needles; we'd be playing around the playground. There was used needles in the playground, empty weed bags, empty crack bags, empty crack pipes everywhere. So, I seen everything. Creasy was raised in 14 E Peace Walk in Unity Park I - an area of the units that was labelled 'Last Court.' South Gate, Center Court, Last Court, and the neighboring Jordan Gardens were all distinct sections of the Highland Avenue neighbourhood. These sections, consequently helped define the territorial borders for local gangs. A fact that the Niagara Police repeatedly emphasized when reporting to the press. As Creasy notes: You had people beef with different territories even though we all lived in the same apartment complexes. You could walk across a little pavement and you're in a whole different apartment complex. I mean, it was your average neighbourhood. It was gritty grimy, people selling drugs out there, doing what they gotta do to make a living. But [gangs] were prominent as you had older people out there showing you the rope. Younger kids trying to do what they see the older dudes do. [...] You had your top people. You had your captains; you had your bosses under them, you had your workers under them. Unity Park in Niagara Falls was on the west side. We had a different apartment complex over which was called Jordan Gardens. And Center Court was like down the street from Unity Park. So, you had these three different sections. Within Unity Park [you had] everybody beefin' with each other. By 2002, conditions had continued to worsen. From 1995 to 1999, the vacancy rate for Unity Park had increased by sixteen percent, with nearly forty-five percent of all units vacant by the turn of the century. The vacancy had become a means to nest further crime. Vacant buildings represented opportunity. 'You're giving people an opportunity to come to the buildings and do their thing in the vacant building,' Creasy spoke, 'when I was growing up, everything was coasting. I was a little kid, having fun. But by the time I got up out of there, it was definitely time to go. There was more drugs being sold out of there, there was fiends being hanging around out there.' Crime in Niagara had escalated. From issues of petty theft to gun violence, citizens stressed feeling unsafe with where they lived. Even larger displays of violence seemingly had the ability to fade in and out of the weekly news cycle. Perhaps the most grotesque example occurred on New Years Day 1997 at 3M's bar on the corner of College and Highland Avenue when a gunman entered the facility and 'opened fire' causing hundreds to flee the premises and six injured. The 1997 New Years mass shooting disappeared out of the media in a week, it simply wasn't shocking enough to the city of Niagara Falls for a permanent scar to be felt. As predicted in the 1971 meeting, Unity Park had come full circle. Within three decades, decisions were made to demolish the units and build anew. The process of urban renewal had failed - and the circumstances the process had intended to fix had returned. It's important to stress the feeling the city had in 2002 regarding Niagara's blight. Though the Niagara Beautification Commission was fighting the problem, community members were vocally fierce, frequently addressing their concerns in local papers. One citizen described Niagara Avenue and 18th Street (outside of Unity Park) as sprinkled with 'graffiti-stained eyesores, overgrown yards and blighted buildings.' To those in Niagara, Unity had become the worst of the worst. On August 24 of 2002, the residents of Unity Park wrote a formal complaint of their conditions and published it in the Niagara Gazette, the cities most widely distributed paper. The headlines read 'Neglected at Unity Park,' 'Residents complain apartments owned by state are falling apart,' and 'Unity Park II in disrepair.' The call for action was bold and powerful. 'Welcome to Unity Park II, the 35-year-old apartment complex where boarded-up windows, broken glass and peeled siding are the rule, not the exception' the statement read. The article raised several complaints with the maintenance of the properties. Residents had reported the neglect from management for issues ranging from broken screen doors and leaking roofs to pipes freezing and falling down cupboards. In one instance, residents received notice that the fuel company was soon to be turning off their power, a utility that was the responsibility of the landlord. For one house alone, the government was in arrears for nearly four thousand dollars in today's currency. A 1999 letter sent to commissioner Joseph Lynch from the State Comptroller revealed that Unity Park had been in mortgage arrears for an excess of two million dollars and that foreclosures were imminent. At this point, over sixty percent of the units were vacant. For those forty present that remained, they wrote 'something needs to be done out here. It's terrible.' The response should read as familiar. In light of the public outcry, just one month after the August write-up, headlines were made again as the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency and the Niagara Falls International Airport had agreed to 'renovate' the housing projects. In assessment, they determined that eighty-six of the apartments were unable to be repaired and had planned to demolish them. The remaining one-hundred-and-twelve would be renovated. Forty-three percent of all units were destroyed. The demolition and renovations began in 2006. The neighbours presently occupying Unity Park II experience improved living conditions, however a decline has already begun to be felt. Interviews in the community revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic was felt particularly hard in the neighbourhood - as jobs diminished and the appeal of illegal money became increasingly enticing. The cyclical nature of urban renewal does not appear to be over. John Creasy Raised alongside three brothers, Creasy was born in Niagara Falls and raised within Unity Park. His mother was a nurse from North Avenue and his father, a factory worker from Jerauld Avenue near Hyde Park. As a child, Creasy was into sports and idolized the great basketball legends of the 90s like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Rap, would come later. 'I wanted to be a basketball player growing up.' Creasy reflects. As basketball became more serious, music was beginning to resonate. As a middle child to twin older brothers, Creasy's musical influences were readily accessible in his home environment. Youth in the Highland Avenue region identified with street rap in New York City, primarily that which was coming out of Queensbridge. Havoc and Prodigy's apocalyptic vision of New York street life was powerful and intimate and reflected the circumstances Unity Park residents seen at home. QB area. I would say that's how Niagara Falls is set up. So, Nas, Mobb Deep, all those people from the Queensbridge, so I definitely related to that. The first song I ever heard was 'Trife Life' from Mobb Deep on The Infamous joint. I fell in love with that song. Everything they was going through, we was going through too. It may not be New York City, or Queens New York, but it's still Niagara Falls New York. It's still part of New York. We upstate, but the same thing that they was writing about, I was living the same thing too. As Creasy grew, priorities in basketball began to decline in substitute for rap music, weed, video games and having fun. Once again, Mobb Deep played a critical role, as Creasy claims it was Prodigy that ultimately made the choice clear in his identity; John Creasy wished to be a rapper. Prodigy man, he made me want to be a rapper. When I first heard P, he reminded me of myself. I'm a short dude in stature but I got a commanding voice. When I first heard Prodigy on 'Trife Life' I'm like; 'who is this?' My brother rewinds it back, I got to hear joints like 'Right Back At You', 'Survival of the Fittest', all of them joints. That's what made me want to be a rapper. Around that time, I should have played basketball, but I kept listening to music more. I'd say Mobb Deep had a heavy influence on my area, my hometown. That's all anybody was playing in Unity Park. Rap music was popular in Niagara Falls. As Creasy notes, everyone he knew in Niagara either wanted to be a sports player or a rap star - however it proved difficult for Niagara talent to be recognized on a world stage. As a result, Creasy and his friends began a rap crew called, 'Wild Squad.' While still in high school, this was an opportunity for friends to better their craft and take a plunge into hip-hop culture. As a unit, Wild Squad went through various iterations and names. 'Homicide Crew' was the active namesake for some time, then ultimately to H.O or 'Helluva Outcome.' Creasy's first performances were with H.O. and helped him come more comfortable with the idea of being an artist. Like most local rap groups, individual growth and life circumstances prevented the group from reaching their aspirations. Although some members had become disinterested, the brand was still loosely used in 2015 when Creasy decided to step away to focus on an alternative path for his artistry. Creasy remembers: We're still all cool, but we all kind of stopped. I personally, stopped repping the Helluva Outcome brand probably around 2015. That's when I thought I'd go off on my own and let my name speak for itself. A lot of people had their own vision and went and did their own thing. I figured I might as well do the same thing. But we all still talk. We're all family. That's one thing I can say. We may not all still do music together, but a lot of people I was doing music with before, that's my first cousin, or I grew up with this dude, so we're all still cool. They still check out my music. They still rooting for me. But as far as us being a group, and us being known as that - I would say around 2015-2016. That's when I decided to go my own way and do my own thing. In 2018, outside of Niagara Falls, emcees Pro Dillinger and Snotty were tossing strategies back and forth over the phone. How to make it in the underground rap space? The Umbrella came about from a necessity for resources, and the belief in an almost artistic socialism. The Umbrella was envisioned as a space for artists of a similar discipline and ethos to share resources and develop, grow and prosper as a unit. As a super group, the Umbrella has been responsible for some of the most exciting music to be coming out of the underground hip-hop landscape. When Snotty and Pro Dillinger were considering who to grab, John Creasy was in the initial roster. Dillinger recalls: I got cool with John Creasy. But Creasy was with Jamal Gasol and Piff and all that so I didn't think he would go with it, but he came with us. And that was like our first immediate roster. As Dillinger described to me, Creasy was 'an OG member made from the first cut.' The affiliation with The Umbrella had proven successful for Creasy. From rapping at talent shows over Mobb Deep instrumentals, Creasy reached a point where selling out vinyl units was the norm - built off name alone. From 2018 to present, John Creasy has dropped a barrage of releases and has written guest verses at an even more impressive rate, all of which had been under the Umbrella brand. In the past four years he has released over a dozen projects; a mixture of both LPs and EPs; ranging from works with Jamal Gasol, Wavy Da Ghawd, Ol' Man 80ozz, to the Unity Park producer Prxspect. A rapid fire release schedule that is only appropriate for this brand of underground rap. His latest vinyl drop; a deluxe edition to his 2018 project Power with producer Enrichment, is out through I Had An Accident Records, a label which has consistently released vinyl for artists within this new wave. The album, with bold and hardened artwork by C Dyer will undoubtably sell out as his other releases on the label have. Creasy has, at this point, solidified himself as a significant contribution to the rap renaissance. To Creasy however, his work is not over. Recently, John Creasy announced that he would be departing with the Umbrella brand but made it clear he wished to continue to push forward and further his own name within the industry. For Creasy, there's a more important mission at stake. Recognizing that his artistic output has had impact, there's a sense of urgency to 'put on' for his hood and do bigger and greater things. It's a big weight on my shoulders. I think of that every day. I want my hood to be a legendary spot in my city. Where one day I can go back and they may have a mural put up of me out there. So, I feel a big pressure and I want people to understand when I do my music, where it comes from, where I grew up and all the lessons I learned and everything. So, it's definitely a big weight on my shoulders. I think about that shit all the time when I do music. I feel like I've been a good representative. But there's still more work to do. I'm definitely not done yet. But as a representative of where I'm from, and where I grew up at? I feel like I'm doing a hell of a job of that right now. There's nobody that grew up with me, or grew up in my area, ever been on Shade45 before, just building relationships off of this music. Unity Park is my heart. I believe in that shit with every pump of my heart. Every breathe I take is always Unity Park. For me to be able to put on for my city, that's a major accomplishment for me. Once it does happen. Last year, the emcee wrote the Prxspect produced 'Unity Park' for much of these reasons. Creasy remarks that "when I do music, I don't want people to get it confused. I like to let people know where I'm from. Where my upbringing is from.' To Creasy, he figured the song would let himself 'paint a picture' of his childhood residence, to give fans a vantage point, some context, for the lyrics he raps. 'When I got that beat from Prxspect, to me, it talked. The horns on there, the loud rock joint, the drums, everything talked. It was Unity Park.' The song features video shot and directed by Nova Vision and was released on March 27 2021 on the Paka the Plug YouTube channel. Much like the story of Unity Park itself, John Creasy's story has come full circle. Today, he's able to return to Unity Park with love, support and a feeling of youthful nostalgia. 'It's a good feeling. Even though it don't look the same, it's still that same feeling. I get a warmth in my heart. I feel comfortable there,' he reflects. Through every lyric and every action, John Creasy is a product of Unity Park and the failures of the Americanized process of urban renewal. The struggles reflected on by Baldwin, or scholars like Sugrue and Rothstein, have renewed themselves in the twenty-first century and will be remembered in time through the stories of those that endured and the art that they create. John Creasy, is that art. It effects it a lot. How I grew up. The lessons I was taught. The shit that I've seen. The shit that I've done. The people that I've been around. The lessons that got talked to me. Looking up to my older brothers, my older cousins, I got taught a lot of game living there. If I didn't grow up there, I'm not saying I wouldn't have been a rapper, but my presence, my cadence on a track? Everything comes from me growing up in Unity Park. I'm very much thankful to Cecilia, Kevin and Richard at the Niagara Falls Public Library, Jeff at the Book Corner, John Creasy, as well as Ashley and Mike of Niagara who agreed to be interviewed for the article. The Origins Of Urban Crisis by Thomas Sugrue - The Color Of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein - Housing Act of 1949 - Blacks in Niagara Falls: Leaders and Community Development, 1850-1985 by Michael B. Boston - "Falls Planning Board Approves Unity Park After Public Hearing [March 23, 1971]" by Laura Winchester for Niagara Falls Gazette via Niagara Public Library. "Unity Park II: Complex Problems" by Rick Pfeiffer via Niagara Gazette - John Creasy Photo by 1000words - Power (Deluxe) by John Creasy x - C Dyer Artwork -

  • Monumental by The Davis Way

    You, person discovering Detroit Hip-Hop but haven't found the eclectic and classical underground sound beneath the viral and street rap that has taken the nation by storm: this is a strong place to start. This city has 4 sides, if you wanted to find the part where the breakbeats and samples coalesce with the BARs, you're in the right place. Detroit-based Producer the Davis Way has unleashed his latest effort, Monumental, combining the powers of Detroit artists across generations and styles to make this a welcome entry to a carefully curated catalog of top notch Rap records. Punchlines fly like bottles in the club in the early 2000s on the stand-out "Impeccable," Supa Emcee and P-dot bring the Hip-Hop shop era aggression and wittiness people expect from Detroit, trading bars as Pierre Anthony glides gracefully on the infectious hook. The immensely talented Drew Green and MYNA hold down the smoky and hard edge "Beyond The Block," more bars traded but this time illustrating the paranoia and angst of being a young artist in a city akin to Gotham. Fans of this should undoubtedly check out Davis’ previous works and the rest of the wonderful music coming out of the Architect Entertainment camp. Also, if you don’t know the Vettese Twins, you don't get out enough in the city’s Hip-Hop scene, they’re kind of inescapable. When you see them, and you will, say χlo told you to tell them “What up doe!” words by Xlo Release Date: November 13, 2022 ALL SONGS PRODUCED BY THE DAVIS WAY VINYL:

  • Last Night at the Loxy: How Underground Hip-Hop Was Experienced

    Dew, stained into the very infrastructure of the concrete pipelines. Lines that paint the city a web. Lines that however neutral, organise the inhabitants above. The underground becomes the heartland of the city. The grime, the hustle, the hardened shell - originates beneath the city streets. The subways not only move the people but encourage those people to participate in the city itself. For the homeless, the underground is shelter. As metaphor, the underground remains home to even more. Black markets, organized crime and subculture all root their identities in this imagined space. For most of the world, the underground represents death and decay. In the urban reality, the underground facilitates life, but of a variety not far removed from the cemetery's grim. For hip-hop, this underground has always been home. As the divisions between hip hop's corporate and the culture's grass roots grew - the very aura of hip-hop was dug deeper and deeper beneath the concrete slabs that made it. Before hip-hop had an identifiable 'underground,' the culture itself understood that it was this environment that spoke to them - over that of the sunlight above. When we started seeing the recordings, a lot of us in the Zulu Nation stayed away from that at first because people thought once it got into vinyl it was going to kill the culture. - Afrika Bambaataa. In Flemingdon Park, Toronto - these imaginations were realized. Although hardly a unique story, by the late 1980s, Flemingdon Park (or Flemmo as it is commonly referred) had incorporated hip-hop into its literal underground terrain. With underground pathways connecting building complex to building complex, through underground parking, and nearby subway routes - Flemmo had an underground that the youth felt particularly fashionable, alluring, and more importantly; hip-hop. There's no better example of this than the Loxy. The name given to an underground storage room for the duration of one summer, sometime near the turn of the decade - when hip-hop turned from Public Enemy to The Wu-Tang Clan and when African Medallions were being traded in for martial arts VHS tapes. The sheer obscurity of the space demands a sense of allurement - of myth. 'It was Johnny B's step-mother,' Chris Jackson remembers. She was the one who owned the joint. Deep in the basement of a Flemmo apartment complex was a regular storage room. However, to kids with access, this was an imagined hip-hop playground. A meeting spot for heads - a privatized community hub that catered to the hip-hop tradition. Furthermore, this was a space that felt, despite the opposing legalities, owned and operated by the hip-hop community - their own space, with their own name and identity attached to it. To many, this is just what kids do. But if we wish to understand how hip-hop was engaged, then we must admit, that we are speaking of the activities of the youth. 'They were the older kids,' Jackson remembers of Johnny B and his friends. They would bring boom boxes, cassette tapes of their favourite albums, food and drinks - all the ingredients for a good night. For Jackson and his friends; Fathead and Headquarters, they had an invite. The Loxy was basically an interpretation of what we thought New York hip-hop was, and what we wanted Flemingdon and Toronto hip-hop to be. [...] It was like a half door, so you had to scrouch down to get in. I was only there twice. But it was something that some of the older guys [would occupy]. We were all part of the hip hop scene in the city. In Flemmo. We had rap crews, and dance crews, and DJs. The older guys turned that room into The Loxy. They turned it into a space where they would just go hang out, play music, do some freestyle sessions. - Chris Jackson. Far too often a history is drawn from memories. Capstones of success within the timeline of a particular person, region, or industry are isolated and used exclusively to formulate a history. Yet remembering a highlight reel chooses to forget the mundane. The day to day lives that make a culture what it is. Hip-hop was, and still is, a youth movement. Although there's value in a macroscopic viewing of the culture, moments like the Loxy represent much of what hip-hop had been made of. Kids being kids; engaging in the culture that they love in the most authentic ways that they know how. The Loxy was shut down by the end of a summer. Johnny's step-mom discovered the enterprise and the operation was put to a halt. But Chris and his friends, Fathead and Headquarters, they continued. I'm sure in some capacity, so did the older kids that frequented the space. They found new ways to incorporate hip-hop into their lives. New spaces to occupy to build community, friendships, and art. For them, the Loxy was just a moment. For everyone else, it was forgotten. Underground subcultures, particularly of the New Yorkian variety, often take this shape. Hip-Hop, the Beats, the Fairies of Chauncey's 'Gay New York' - articulations of underground, sometimes literal, sometimes figurative, but always tinted with the identity of the culture itself. For the Loxy, this literal underground was not vandalized into a hip-hop aesthetic, but for the hours of the night that it was the Loxy, it was hip-hop through and through. From the music, to the clothing, to the dialect and to the mood - it was hip-hop. We don't want no trouble we just came to hang. Maybe sip a little something and shoot the breeze. Some of us high on life, others use the trees. No bloods no Crips, no guns no clips. Just a bunch of fellas running off at the lips. Cause hanging with your friends be the thing to do. Let me see if I can explain my gang to you. - Masta Ace, Me and My Gang

  • Marlowe 3 by Solemn Brigham x L'Orange

    One thing is immediately clear after pressing play on Marlowe 3, the third installment of emcee Solemn Brigham and producer L’Orange joint project: these guys are having a blast making music together. Marlowe 3, the finest entry in the series to date, is 18 tracks of bouncy, horn-laden instrumentals courtesy of Seattle’s own L’Orange. These colorful soundscapes provide a natural canvas for Solemn’s energetic pen and melodic delivery. He rhymes with a permanent smile, but these tracks aren’t all sunshine. Take album highlight, “My People”, where Solemn details the travails he faced en route to triumph: “Came out the well Rang on the bell Live what I talk, I don’t do what you say, you ain’t been where I fell” Songs like “Light Trip,” “Past Life,” “Hold the Crown,” and “Clarity“, highlight Solemn’s hook skills and L’Orange’s soulful sample chops that manage to sound fresh and dusty at once. Solemn thankfully owns mic duties on most songs, but a few friends join the bar fest. Guests include Blu, Joell Ortiz, and Deniro Farrar. Each delivers a slick verse, but none steal the show; his growing confidence as an emcee allows Solemn to go toe to toe with the greats. After dropping their debut in 2018, the titular duo remain in impressive form. Solemn is aware of the rapper-producer chemistry that got them here, a positive sign for those of us hoping these two continue their dynamite run: “They said I’d never be here without L’Orange I told them facts could never do me no harm” Released: October 28, 2022 words by Alec Siegel

  • My Life Iz A Movie by RJ Payne x Stu Bangas

    Lazy, settled, stagnant are words that would never describe RJ Payne. The Brooklyn born MC, formerly known as the battle rap veteran Reign Man, has dropped his 5th full length project of 2022. In the last several years he has been one of the most active hip hop artists out there with a constant flurry of mixtapes and features. His approach to his career has been just as hungry and aggressive as his rhyme style. My Life Iz A Movie fully produced by Stu Bangas does indeed feel cinematic, it's a concept album that takes us through a few days in the life of RJ Payne as he slides through New York City and the surrounding boroughs. Stu Bangas, one of today's most consistent underground Hip Hop producers, does a great job of giving My Life Iz A Movie a cohesive sound, and keeping us engaged throughout the entire project. The legendary DJ Doo Wop also makes a guest appearance on the album as a tour guide who occasionally provides facts and stories about the various locations in RJ Payne's journey. It's a solid concept and executed well, one really gets a good sense of who RJ Payne is by the conclusion of the album. He's one of the best doing it these days and makes the craft look easy. This is a concept that could wear thin after a few songs but his wordplay, storytelling, and the motivational gems woven in between it all make for an engaging listen. One of the best example is on "Central Park Vibes" over Stu Bangas' sparse drums and piano keys he raps: "Rolling up the reefer, time is just beating faster Met this cat named Peter, he eager to be a rapper He recognized me as soon as he saw me Started smiling, and I gave homie dap, it's a beautiful story He said his time running out, I said N**** look at me, I just blew up at 40" It's never too late in general folks and it's never too late to get familiar with RJ Payne. He made it to the table late but he's gonna be here for a while. Released: October 13, 2022 words by Monk

  • Tales Of The Town: The Album

    It’s rare when multiple individual specialists come together to take aim at a singular target, but when it does happen you get things like The Dream Team, the Apollo 11 crew, The Vienna Philharmonic, and now the Tales Of The Town Compilation! Presented by the Hella Black Podcast (Oakland’s Abbas Muntaqim and Delency Parham) the album pairs together some of the best talent the Bay Area has to offer. From LaRussell, Guapdad 4000, Rexx Life Raj, to Jane Handcock, G-Eazy, Lil Bean and more - the whole roster showed up and gave all-star performances. At 11 tracks this project is concise, precise, powerful, intentional, and inspirational! Tales Of The Town is the soundtrack of a podcast that bears the same name. The latter is a deep dive into the history of the black presence in Oakland, CA, from the Great Migration all the way up into Gentrification. Delency and Abbas use narration, clips, and special guests to give us listeners a play by play description of everything that is black Oakland. The album sticks with that theme and delivers an array of proud pro black slaps. “Off the slave ship we was inhaling them blues/ riding through the West like I’m Huey P. Newton,” Koran Streets casually flows on the song "Black Jacobins," giving you an example of the historic and hometown pride intertwined throughout the project. A lot of compilations miss the mark by randomly combining artists and producers hoping name recognition alone carries the project. Not here. This album was carefully curated, performers paired together like fine wine and Michelin star dishes. But maybe the most important thing about the album is that all proceeds go to the Peoples Programs of Oakland, a true example of the community taking care of itself. Each artist, producer, engineer, etc donated their time and skill sets for the greater good. Every time I replayed the project it sounded even better knowing that each stream was going directly into the community. From community programs for children to food and care packages for the houseless, Tales Of The Town will go down in history as one of the most influential and important pieces of art to come out of California. RELEASED: October 21, 2022 words by Flynt Nixon

  • Blood Shore Season 3 by Xavier Wulf

    It's been years since we stood on the Crimson Sands of the Blood Shore… the third entry in the highly lauded series doesn’t disappoint. Xavier Wulf is one of those artists in the vein of Curren$y and Wiz where if you need ride-around music, you know they will hold you down with every new release. In an era where Memphis has risen up in prominence again with the likes of HitKidd (featured on "The Law") and DJ Paul cranking out tunes for a slew of celebrated young spitters, Wulf sticks to his iconic style and evolves it over shiny new dark and brooding melodies. The Hollow Squad HNIC wastes no time on "First Light" getting to the shit-talk and smoke, literally and figuratively. No concept records, no introspection, all blood and balling out and flexing for the duration of the project minus the very Project-X sounding "Last Moon." HE DELIVERED ON THE THEME, a man of culture. That is why he has such a strong following over a decade into his career, no half-hearted experiments that don’t land, no hour long slog full of rehashed themes. 21 minutes of menacing beats and bars to get sturdy to. Standouts are "The Reason," produced by MVW, a short and sweet encapsulation of everything this album delivers. "The Law" and "Charles Ruffingham" show you what kind of rapping chops Wulf has when it comes to more energetic tempos and wordplay. Wulf has an undeniable ability to rhyme and a vocabulary that completely takes you by surprise whenever he feels like it. Even though some, (it's me, I'm some,) would like a longer playtime when these rare drops happen. Released: October 18, 2022 words by Xlo

  • The L Ride by Starz Coleman

    The L Ride by Starz Coleman is his second project of 2022 following July's impressive, For The Views. The New Jersey native has had a busy past few years between dropping solid Hip Hop projects and shooting videos for rappers, athletes, and other movers and shakers. The L Ride also is pulling double duty as Starz Coleman's latest full length album, and it's also the official soundtrack to his upcoming film of the same name, due out November/December. As an MC Starz Coleman is great at nearly everything he attempts on The L Ride. Straight out the gate "Ivan Drago" produced by Ched hits you in the face with an energetic, urgent pace. Starz Coleman attacks and it's beautiful when an artist can command their voice in so many ways. We get tempo changes, vocal flairs, and cadences that push the confines of the beat to their limits. He's the perfect example of "it's not what you say but how you say it." The man is also funny as hell, and I blame his lively delivery for making me chuckle while he's in the middle of talking about some of the grimiest aspects of making a living in the street life. On "Salvador Dali." Starz Coleman brings along Planet Asia to trade verses over a glorious beat from 4ORD. Gametime, all love like Faizon But I can chop your head off and uplift you in the same line Big blunts with sticky in it, AMG Kitted, GT53 Mercedes tinted N***** finished, I'm really with the business I used to spin the block with two 30s like 60 Minutes, then I switched up the image Perhaps my favorite song on The L Ride is Constantinople. Ched comes through again with a haunting beat that's giving feelings of Daringer or DJ Muggs. I think this one shows Starz Coleman in all his greatness as he switches up his cadence several times and even hits some double time flows as he weaves some vivid street tales. Also the humorous delivery takes this over the top. My B**** from Tobago, she don't like n*****, she only like bank rolls I throw her some pesos, she blow out your brains and cut off your egg roll It's something that I don't see often, on the same song he's also talking about how his parents struggles impacted him as a young child. The L Ride also features more great MC's such as Jameel Na'im X, Rim, Dutch Brown, Bad Lungz, Fat Boi Dash, Spoda, and G4 Jag. They all contribute in various ways that make this ride one you don't wanna miss! Starz Coleman is definitely an interesting anomaly, I haven't seen anyone with his particular combination of skills and personality. Most funny MCs don't talk about the streets, and most street MCs aren't funny. His interesting approach to crafting his music ensures that I'll be keeping The L Ride in rotation and looking forward to what he comes up with next! Release Date: October 11, 2022 words by Monk

  • Frank Motion by Killa Fonte

    Philthy Rich’s FOD label has been making a lot of moves in The Bay Area, signing artist after artist after artist, they’re becoming a real force to be reckoned with. One of the standout signees is Oakland’s very own Killa Fonte, from charisma, to skill, style, respect, and a story to tell his star power is limitless. His latest offering Frank Motion is the stamp he needs to put himself ahead of the pack. From the intro track conveniently titled “Intro” the skill is evident, "drinking champagne to the neck I’m shedding tears while getting wasted cause I’m sick without my other half, ain’t worried about what others have happy about the route I took I coulda chose the other path," he paints a picture of reflection and appreciation. The project is full of real life rap, slap, and gems. A well rounded album, Frank Motion is the perfect introduction for a listener who might be hearing Killa for the first time. From uptempo anthems like "Off Them Thangs" and "Repty Season" featuring Paidro Classic, to songs like, "So Soon" dedicated to a loved one that passed away, all bases are covered. The future looks bright for Killa Fonte and as long as he keeps his foot on the gas there’s no telling where things can take him. Especially with the recent light being shed on Bay Area music the time is now! RELEASED: October 14, 2022 words by Flynt Nixon

  • True Story by Mac J

    Although Sacramento’s Mac J is speaking about his personal experiences throughout True Story, the album still served as a not so subtle universal reminder of the several deaths that continue to escalate among young artists within the Hip Hop realm. If you personally have grieved anyone or anything then you’re aware of the array of emotions and thoughts that can become plaguing or catalyzing. True Story represents what it means to express those grievances and more closely how to mourn those losses when they are your blood and/or chosen family. Despite the pain and confusion Mac J exemplifies what it simply looks like to keep going. How do we keep going? How do we celebrate and honor lives lost? While many have various ways of how they do or do not keep going — Mac J not only expresses his sentiments through lyrics and production but firstly through album art. Noticeably, there is Mac J in the middle of a cut out heart, red flag on head. Within the heart there are yellow flowers (often signifying friendship) and two people inside the heart with Mac J; on the left there is Bris, Mr. Tricky Dance Moves and on the right the late Young Slo-Be. Both, two very important figures in the new wave/era of rap coming out of Northern California, more specifically Sacramento and Stockton. Mac J's perceived perseverance through True Story and his 2021 release, Trickymode are inspirational while simultaneously recognizing the difficulty of “inspiration” when the basis of it is coming from loss and grieving. It takes a lot of courage and heart to be able to put out a vulnerable body of work that still allows space for play and high energy invoking songs. It’s a beacon of light in a time that may seem grim or ill-lit. When they took my lil bro they took the breath of me I had a meeting with my Soul to see what’s left of me The same ones that never listen want to lecture me Once I cut you off — don’t give a fuck about you texting me - Mac J, Angels “Angels” is one of those tracks where Mac J does really well at painting his current predicament. He keeps sayin’ he’s not feelin’ anything and that he’s trying to fix his heart. It doesn’t seem like it needs fixing but more so understanding the process of grieving, the phases and time that takes the acknowledge and know where to go from there. I’m still thuggin’ around this bitch because I got angels with me. He’s sittin’ you down to tell a story on this one with clever and personal lyrics. I can tell that they don’t want me to focus / even if I’m last picked, bitch I’m chosen. “Alicia Bleys” featuring Philthy Rich & AO Meally — alliances, not shaking hands with no enemies. This is one that could’ve been made for the radio that highlights the vicious side of emotions and also how to handle self moving forward with his alliances. “Gawd Did” — personal stand out track due to the soulful/gospel influenced production but the flow and lyrics represent a revival within Mac J. Where he’s got the bear off his back, came above water and here to deliver the fire of the narratives that tried to drown him and take him down. I can tell you what I know, play with fire and got burnt - it’s a blessing and a curse Bitch, I had to step it up I wasn’t hard enough I had to take my backbone and go and charge it up You know I took my own plate because they was starvin’ us I can’t meet you at no finish line because you didn’t start with us - Mac J, Gawd Did “Her Son Stoopin” featuring EBK Young Joc is largely about creating his own money and business… but also battling with emotions and how to feel; fuck what niggas sayin’, fuck what they heard / I’m havin’ trouble, bitch, I’m tryna get my heart to work / I don’t have no feelings, bitch I’m numb to it / buy a glock I’m tryna find a drum to it / ayy, tell ‘em pay attention, this that thug music / tell your mom you beefin’ with the gang like her son stupid. It’s an airing out of thoughts and questioning of emotion that come with circumstances while talkin’ his shit. Braggadocio raps from the Soul. “Inside” is catchy from jump because of the use of “Through The Wire” by Rod Wave alone delivers the energy of the song; so much pain built up deep inside, I try to control it / but the anger built up deep inside, leave me to exploding. Speaks on the deceptions of said “friends” or those that try to get a little too close… callin’ you “bro,” “fam,” “sis” when they have ulterior motives. “Feisty” featuring Bris is about the comradery of those within his circle. Their morals and what they live by when pressure is applied in any avenue. Get the money and protect the brotherhood over chasing women. Catchy hook and a verse on demon time delivered by Bris — this is very much about the street life and the lives lost that go with it whether the deaths are coming from your circle or you’re squeezing the trigger. “Love/Hate” addressing the balancing of loving the street, hating the street, how people love him then hate him — all around encompassing the fickleness of people and how things can change from minute to minute. How do you stay focused? They love you when you down bad but hate you when you on your feet. True Story in entirety tells one story by recounting many smaller moments and because of this every song holds importance to the narrative. On the track, “Loafa Bread” Mac J is conveying even deeper how he feels about his little brother’s death. Ayy, I think these niggas scared / I think they killed my bro over a piece of bread. There’s a lot of questions he’s askin’ and at moments it seems like survivor’s guilt. Eventually, some of the lyrical content makes it clear who and what he's addressing. How you drop the rock? How you let them niggas score — you could’ve blocked the shot How you seen the whole play from the parking lot? You got envy in your eyes, you want my brother’s spot -Mac J, Loafa Bread The final track track that really added to the narrative while also allowing a deeper glimpse into Mac J’s mind is, “Mirror Match,” in full the track shows the intuitiveness of the artist, where my feelings at? / it’s like I’m fighting with myself, this a mirror match. That's a historical battle in terms of chosen ones who are carrying the torch for their various lineages and missions; a mental and physical battle. True Story is a thoroughly impressive album from Mac J considering circumstances and content used to make it. And don’t get it twisted either — while many of these songs have topics of grieving and emotions the production is still gonna make you move your feet, shake your shoulders and try to figure out how the hell the producers sampled that and disguised it so well. This is a real timestamp in Mac J’s catalogue. The talent, energy and perseverance is all there… very much looking forward to what else he decides to do and use his artistry for. RELEASED: September 16, 2022

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