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  • Old Tales by Last Rhetoric

    Old Tales Last Rhetoric High Energy, in both contexts is the best way I can describe Old Tales. The new album from Last Rhetoric. From lyrical delivery, to the overall messages of hope in the lessons of life across the album's 12 tracks. The standout tracks are the effortlessly metaphor-laden “Black Metal” with a hypnotic guitar riff that you just can't escape. Lines like, “Death-metal, dead singers, heart brings us, harbingers, hard nickel, dark steel, killers finger, cramp real, movie clippings, plot thickens, oatmeal…” Reign has the vocal range, vocabulary and sheer ability to rhyme that rivals some of the very best, it's only elite names that can come to mind when you can speculate on who would sound at home with him on the same track. It can be absolutely brain bending to analyze this album and realize the gritty and punctuated rhyme spitter on “Toolz” is the same distorted yet jazzy melodic voice on “Madboy” and “Timelapse”. An absolute stylistic ANARCHY on this album (the very best kind). To call it experimental doesn’t do it justice, that would imply a level of unpolished or unfinished. This is an extremely well-produced and polished album from top to bottom, a bespoke masterwork from veterans in musicianship. Old Tales is a concept album capturing the past, present and future of a journey. It is a story of multiple perspectives viewed from the highs and lows of life’s path told with a collection of traveled ideas and sounds gathered from varied upbringings serving as the backdrop. Last Rhetoric is a hip-hop music collaboration created by two multi-genre artists, David Bruce aka Armanni Reign and Nick Weiller aka Bro Safari. Armanni Reign, former battle rapper turned US Drum and Bass artist,respected EDM vocalist and festival host. Touring the planet with some of the biggest names in the culture from DJ Craze, Goldie, Andy C, DJ Snake Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, Dubstep, House and more. The production for Last Rhetoric is written and arranged by Nicholas Weiller, an artist/DJ, and lauded veteran of bass music. From the stateside pioneer-like Drum and Bass beginnings of the collective known as Evol Intent to the mash-up community’s highly-requested Ludachrist, and most recently the undeniable solo rise as Bro Safari. Words by Xlo Released: March 10, 2023 Region / City: Austin, TX

  • The Show You Can’t Tell - A\Villain

    There's something to be said about the indie spirit when someone with vision and all the skills necessary creates a project with their own hands from top to bottom. Michigan has had a lot of success as of late but it would be wrong to not also highlight the avant-garde and deep underground works being made in this renaissance of Detroit creativity. Heaven Studios/The Machine Shop extraordinaire, A\Villain dropped a tight 8-track album late 2022 with features from Alien-gang Nalij, the goat Royce 5’9, Solr and Ace Gabbana titled: The Show You Can’t Tell and it is an excellent place to start if you wanted dig deep and see what is being made outside of the Detroit sound you have likely become a accustomed to. Mr. \Villain raps, sings, and adlibs his way through subject matter from women who are bad for you, Fahrenheit 451 references, weed smoke, media lies and the pessimisms of daily life in the modern era. Not only a lyricist but a producer and engineer, A\Villain creates a unique sonic bedrock to get out all his thoughts along with some supremely talented guests. Royce does an excellent “Renegade” call back at the top of his verse on “I Tell Em,” “Since I'm in the position to talk to these chicks and they listen, I ain't got time for pimpin’ but I’ll kick it wit em a minute...” He and Nalij both flex their melodic chops on this album to great effectiveness. Nalij lets people know he still has great command over his voice as an instrument over “Garden” as he effortlessly breaks into rapping again after 8 bars of flexing his ability to glide up and down the scale in his signature raspy baritone. Solr and Ace Gabbana come with nothing but bad intentions and heat on their verses on “Kok Boru,” the sinister album closer. A minor key piano anchors the beat opposite a pulsing arp and some of the best drums on the record. The hook alone encapsulates the overall theme of the album, “Striking the match, lighting the gas, fighting my past, why did I last… I need advance, I need investors to hear me out once and then give me a chance, I need a bad, shorty with dreams and a dope energy that I really can match” We’re one of the most lonely, hardest working generations in recent history, most can relate to the need for companionship and validation by the gatekeepers that are the difference between the toils and monotony of the daily experience, and something else where one can become a step closer to master of their own fate. The braggadocious confidence you can come to expect from Detroit rap records is all but absent on this album. Like the cover art, it's bleak, tongue-in-cheek but pointed with its messages and undercurrent of pessimism. If you like rock influenced and varied, experimental production… give it a spin or 2. RELEASED: July 22, 2022 WORDS BY: Xlo

  • Money For Dummies - Smoke DZA x The Smokers Club

    "It Came From The Clouds" Harlem's current most prolific son, Smoke DZA emerges from the cloud with another solid project that closes out 2022 and sets the pace for 2023. Money For Dummies is the first music project from The Smokers Club, his newly formed record label collaboration with Johnny Shipes and Bubz. Johnny Shipes laid out the inspiration behind The Smokers Club on an Instagram post. He wrote, “Earlier this year Me, DZA & Bubz sat down & mapped out the next phases & goals of The Smokers Club. When we took a step back & looked at how we started the Club & what influenced us since the beginning, it always came back to Great Music & Smoking Great Weed." The Smokers Club Producers have laid out a stellar soundscape for Smoke DZA to apply his hazy rhyming abilities. Money For Dummies starts with "Box OTW," a cinematic instrumental, complete with soulful wailing. Smoke DZA goes in with one of the most effortless sounding flows in rap, conjuring images of underworld exploits, and cautionary advice to any would be competition. "Put a tracker on your truck, hit your teepee / really hit you where it hurt, do you greasy dog / old Giant running through the pack like Tiki / I'm just trying to stay alive like the Bee Gees y'all" A lot of rappers let the track dictate how they sound on it but DZA maintains his essence no matter the track's style or tempo. It's pretty fun to listen to, he's never hurried, never sounds robotic, and never fails at sounding as smooth as possible on any song. Smoke DZA teams up with another legend of Hip Hop haziness, Curren$y, on "Park Bench Blues." It's not the first time these two have worked together. Over a sparsely paced, melodic beat, they verbally pass the blunt back and forth. Smoke DZA lays more of his personal philosophy out. "I got a license for these dope sales, yeah, catchin' packages like Odell / yeah, you know I gotta treat my folks well / when it's all over they gon' speak of me in folk tales". I love the sound that we get on "Only Care In The World." The mellow, slow drum loop is determined to starve us with drum elements, but a blissful soul sample from The Montclairs holds it all together. Smoke DZA glides over this kind of production and does his thing. "Take it back, when the teacher told you niggas keep your eyes on your own paper / multi-millionaire I'm on pace to / being straight for the rest of my life, family no chaser / the bullshit, I'm World Peace, you got the wrong Pacer" Coming 10 tracks deep, Money For Dummies is another in a long line of solid project's from one of Harlem's finest. I have not doubt that we'll get at least 3 more projects in 2023 from the self proclaimed "studio rat." Released: December 30, 2022 Words by: Monk

  • Briefcases and Sunglasses - Leaf Erikson x The Davis Way

    Hip-hop being a multi-generational art form has inevitably reached the point where its reflected in the music, it should be no surprise that talks of fatherhood and financial literacy become more common topics in the art itself when the genre is now 50 years old. Architect Entertainment if nothing else strives for conceptual diversity and consistency, Briefcases and Sunglasses is a short and sweet 24 minute meditation on topics such as fatherhood, love, and financial literacy. The Davis Way single handedly holds down the beats as Leaf Erikson, a veteran of the Detroit underground, is joined by fellow Architect artist Crystal Rae on vocals and trades bars with KonPhlict on the standout "Business Statement," a track full of double entendres about the business world and how the rap game intersect. The production here is diverse and rich. In a world torn between progressive trap and drill on one end, with minimalist sample driven sparseness on the other; this project strikes a balance between traditional boom-bap with jazz and soul injected ("Flowers for Laura and "A Dream Unfolded") with some more experimental elements from funk on ("Murderer’s Row" and "California") to drill inspired hi-hat rolls (Self-Restraint). Leaf is sharp and focused on sharing his wisdom and opening his heart in his lyrics on this project, songs such as "Nurturing My Seed" and "California" speak to his lived experiences and what’s next for Leaf as he looks to the future. He name drops his son, young rapper D.Apollo as he muses on his own upbringing and lessons learned from his own father. Leaf sounds comfortable and conversational as he muses on moving to the west coast, the theme which wraps up this movement from the more commerce focused top of the album as it ends on a hopeful and sun soaked note, better bring your sunglasses! words by Xlo released: December 31, 2022 /


    I LOVED Hip Hop this year just like I do every year but this year really aided in not only keeping myself alive but also learning to enjoy the responsibility as well. Thank you to every artist who made this list. You’ve assisted in the betterment of my mind, body, soul in a significant way that will never be forgotten. This last year was really my first year mourning the loss of my mother. Naturally, it was filled with a lot of lows, some vibrant highs and a search for grounding and community. As a reflection of that a lot of my favorite music that resonated with me this year dealt with grief, death, depression and how to heal and maneuver in some manner. Even if it was a slight verse, ran it up then I did it twice / depression almost killed me, I used to wish I had a different life / turned the Bonneville to a Benz / was stripper turned rapper before it ever was a trend. That shit meant a lot… to bring in the depression and the way it can alter your mind but how one persevered to not only change but save their life. Around my birthday which is also around the time of my mother’s birthday — Elcamino released, Let There Be Light which said it all within the title. Let There Be Light in a time where emotions and reality seem/feel very murky. It was no different for Mac J’s True Story, which I wrote about to quite an extent. The way that different modes of knowing situations mixed with grief can cause some confusing yet enlightening things. To finish up the year, Jameel Na’im X really provided words that helped guide me furthermore with his release, HE DIED TRYING. An LP dedicated to his father who recently passed. I wanted to write and write a lot about all the great music I’ve heard. The LPs that stood out, the EPs still gettin’ play. The videos that made me question aesthetic and how it affects artist craft and output in various ways. The new artists that lead me to new artists that lead me to my favorite songs of the year. There’s just a lot I wanted to write about. Some projects I enjoy and I'm able to write from the soul while others trigger the mind, both or somewhere between 'n beyond. The form/craft and language used differs. There are clearly patterns and similarities... all that to say how a project is written about doesn't necessarily denote it's value, purpose or reception. All these words are out of the love of Hip Hip and reveling in what it provides in the present tense. Also, shoutout the 6 other writers who contributed their words and love for Hip Hop / Rap to CROWNTHEM this last year. You all have pushed me to become a better editor, writer, designer, curator and supporter. Evolution and expansion are our friends this year. Without further ado. HE DIED TRYING by Jameel Na'im X My undisputed Hip Hop / Rap AOTY of 2022, HE DIED TRYING. And previously to this release my undisputed favorite was Caravaggio Is Alive by JNX as well. There is no artist in the Hip Hop / Rap realm that I’ve heard that has quite the distinct artistry as JNX. The levels and depths of reflection, intuitive and intentional lyrics that often serve as manifestations and alternative ways of thinking coupled with soulful-meditative-trap production (while at the mosque) is out of this world. Truly where Hip Hop and Rap fuse. No bar is unused, double and triple entendres everywhere and an unequivocal love for his own craft. So much heart, soul, experience and wit. I can say a lot more and eventually will but in the meantime do yourself a favor and spin it. Notable Tracks: HIGHER, SAME TIME, I REMEMBER, ARTICLE 15, MI RUM IZ RED & OPEN. SHUT. City: New Orleans, LA Released: December 28, 2022 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. Read full length review here. Notable Tracks: Inside, Angels, Gawd Did & Mirror Match City: Sacramento, CA Released: September 16, 2022 The Complex by Asun Eastwood x Wavy Da Ghawd Top 10 album and lyricist from the year. I had heard Asun on a few features before and I enjoyed it but I hadn’t visited a project of his until this one. The cover art with Asun sitting holding Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia by Sean Patrick Griffin while Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates on the table I felt was profound. Here we are in an era where a lot of material things such as whips, chains, drugs and ass are highly promoted... in the same moment here is an artist promoting literacy and knowledge which becomes quite apparent through his intentional lyrics and bar set-ups (not to say Eastwood is without braggadocio raps or sex inspired lyrics -- it's just done with a little more experience and taste.) Notable Tracks: Bicycle Spokes, WHERE’S DA MAYO?!, Duel Chip Phones & EVOLVIN’ City: Toronto, Canada Released: April 22, 2022 Breakfast In Hradec by CRIMEAPPLE x DJ Skizz Very special LP. There’s something about the way CRIMEAPPLE holds his art… from how he delivers his verses, keeps most of his releases on his site or in physical form and just kind of pops out when necessary. There’s an allure that is created when an artist is able to maintain gratitude for his supporters and fans while also remaining somewhat private and unaffected by social media and critics. My first listen of CRIMEAPPLE was his project, Sancocho (2021) and instantly I was hooked. Then earlier in 2022 he released, Jaguar on Palisade 2 and I began to foster a deeper appreciation for his art. But of the other 2-3 releases from 2022 this one took the trophy. CRIMEAPPLE’s artistry is an acquired taste for a certain kind of Hip Hop connoisseur. Notable Tracks: In Flight, The Count of Monte Cristo, Rezamos & La Lluvia City/Region: New Jersey / Colombia Released: June 29, 2022 Let There Be Light by Elcamino “Tell me somethin’ I don’t know / I got pain that I can’t show and I got pain that I won’t show / it’s a difference, just listen.” It's biblical that there will be trials along your journey and highlighted in your testimony. We didn't sign up for it but it's what we have. The cards we've been dealt. So, how do you persevere? What do your prayers look like? Do you believe in prayer, meditation, incantations? So much I want to say about Let There Be Light but it was a project that settled some things with my Soul. This last year I had been grieving my mother and had all these feelings and thoughts that felt like no one else knew or felt too. Until this album… the way in which Elcamino expresses his grief, the feelings and thoughts that he goes thru with it honestly made me feel less alone. Besides the connection to grief and learning to allow the light in again it was beautiful to hear Elcamino sing more in this project. I look forward to the RnB project especially if it’s in the vein of what he did on this one. Glad to have had some of my internal workings assuaged by Let There Be Light. Notable Tracks: Deep, Who I Am & Angels City: Buffalo, NY Released: May 13, 2022 The Four Nights Game 2 by ANKHLEJOHN In all honesty I could’ve written about all of his releases from 2020 to the most recent. ANKHLEJOHN knows when to boast, when to teach, when to express experience and thought. The braggadocio doesn’t turn you away but pulls you in with a distinct texture and unorthodox flow. Authentic, original or at least influenced and shaped by the right kind. The Four Knights Game 2 is a follow-up to his project, The Four Knights Game. The project hosts features from Virginia artists Fly Anakin and Monday Night. Obviously, the title pays homage/nods/pulls out similes and metaphors of the game of chess. He’s able to do that by setting up the albums as almost an auditory exemplification of how to “kill the king” in whatever manner you take that. To be calculated is beneficial and necessary but sometimes risk can’t be calculated and just has to be executed. Some of the context of the project is given through clips from Fresh (1994) featuring Samuel L. Jackson woven in between, at the beginning and end of tracks. Sonically, The Four Knights Game 2 is a balance of real grimey, creepin’ production that has moments of Soul - the Soul is always trying to shine through. “Doing it Wrong,” is one of the most soulful tracks as far as production and lyrics. He touches on Section 8, gentrification and the importance of the native people of D.C. Notable Tracks: Four Blocks Away, Doing It Wrong, Common Courtesy & Real Consequences City: Washington D.C. Released: June 25, 2022 Read The Room by Jayson Cash One of the best albums to come out of LA in quite some time. You have the lyricism with important content, production that will have you movin’ and undeniable melodies throughout. I’m sure this is a project I’ll still be spinning into next year and the year after. Read The Room hosted guest appearances from Dom Kennedy, Blxst, Symba, Kalan.FrFr and a few others. Cash also released a freestyle every Friday to help put him on the radar and still has them rollin’ out. Get familiar, in time you’ll see he’s truly one of the major faces when addressing the present and future of LA Hip Hop / Rap. For those who mix fun and gratitude with their perseverance. Notable tracks: Stay True, Might, Him & Same City: Carson, CA Released: May 27, 2022 DIVINE TIMING (DELUXE) by Kamaiyah Who else is in this lane? Who else doin’ what she do at the quality she do it at? Besides Suga-T what woman Hip Hop / Rap artists from The Bay Area (Oakland more specifically) who have genuinely created their own sound? And continues to evolve it. This was an exciting release that still gets plenty of play, especially when it’s whippin’ n dippin’, gettin’ ready for a function. Indeed, DIVINE TIMING (DELUXE), in terms of release, in terms of how the project flows, the features align. The original hit how it was supposed to then the deluxe came out swingin’ even more. Definitely in line with the timelessness of A Good Night in the Ghetto, Oakland Nights & No Explanations. DaBoii and Cash Kidd are prime collaborators for her. Notable Tracks: Oakland Steppin In Detroit, F.W.I., Play Too Much & ITS ON THE FLO City: Oakland, CA Released: May 27, 2022 & Deluxe: August 5, 2022 The Highest Flyest Fly On The Wall by Pat Ron The Highest Flyest Fly on the Wall in itself is an observation of Self through the happenings and non-happenings of Pat Ron’s environment(s) and “peers.” He gives his assessment of what could be perceived as competition, family, friends, etc - it’s an assessment of the "other" which has almost in a way shaped and defined what Pat Ron is not. A succinct project from start to finish; the themes and lyrics align with the album art presented. There’s a personifying of a colloquial saying. 19 minutes of expressing the complexity of the simplicity. When we talk about the well known saying, “fly on the wall,” it’s about an observation of environment(s) without necessarily being seen. An unnoticed observer with minimum interference in the situation or environment but that’s not to say without influence of said environment(s). The Highest Flyest Fly on the Wall is not only an observation and commentary about the fickleness of human behavior - whether it be conditional love, envy, hate or rare support. Many will love you when you’re achieving/creating/accomplishing things that may be perceived as “beneficial” for them to whatever extent. But is it the same love and support shown when you’re not at one of your pinnacle(s)? Can you even expect that from anyone but yourself tho. Notable Tracks: Never Another This Fly, Centerfold & Logo Ralph City: Dallas, TX Released: June 3, 2022 E Pluribus Unum by UFO Fev “I ain’t have nothin’ growing up; everything was a double team, break thru the defense, get the bucket - AND 1.” Harlem artist UFO Fev presents a representation of what it means to be influenced by where you come from but still remain original, authentic and 1 of 1 in his album, E Pluribus Unum. The album is solely produced by DJ J Hart and hosts features from Ace Arty and Jose Santiago. E Pluribus Unum begins with a clip of an interview where Mike Powers asking about a phone call UFO Fev received from Diddy and what that means to Fev coming from where he comes from. Read full length review here. Notable Tracks: El Sapo, Money & In The Rain City: Harlem, NY Released: February 18, 2022 In Loving Memory by donSMITH Content, lyrics and message wise the EP is somewhat similar to a testimony or sermon as donSMITH explores various topics that essentially point towards gratitude for the path ordained for you. It’s an EP that asks you to hone in on the beauty of you and your life; where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, where you’ll go and what you’ll do. Are you grateful for it? For the flaws, the stumbles, the losses, lessons, moments of uncertainty that kept you guessin’, riddled with anxiety and indigestion? Are you grateful for it? Could you be who you are without it? Read full length review here. Notable Tracks: To Be Grateful (Long Live,) Long Time Coming & Still DON City: Harlem, NY / East Coast Released: March 18, 2022 Company by Lord Juco Toronto artist Lord Juco and Finn team up for their EP, Company. I've been personally tuned into Juco's work since his 2020 release, HHSS, which caught my attention of the strength of sounding like nothing I was listening to at the time. Additionally, when I saw the cover art to this EP that pays homage to Kathy Bates character “Annie Wilkes” from 1990 film, Misery adapted from Stephen King’s novel, Misery I was ready to journey into Juco's artistry again. The EP hosts the proper company of: HWY 308, Asun Eastwood, Eddie Caine, UFO Fev, Ashton Francis & Hus KingPin - some of the finest MCs of the cross-regional Hip Hop scene. With that said, this is an EP for those who truly enjoy witty, thoughtful, knowledgeable and comedic lyrics. Bar set ups that sometimes take a minute to catch up in hindsight. Lord Juco is an artist who doesn’t necessarily need features but these features made for an even more exciting EP. The cratt of an EP was lowkey mastered with Company. Notable Tracks: Poignant, Palazzo & Split Screen City: Toronto, Canada / North Released: June 3, 2022 On Dogz by BoriRock x Michaelangelo You feel me? Some people they put it on their dead homies but where we’re from we say, “on dead dogz!” On Dogz by BoriRock and Michaelangelo begins as an ode to those of past, present and future. The timeless energies that harness vessels down here on Earth. Expressions of what the term, "on dogz" means to them and theirs'. BoriRock also touches on who he is, where he comes from the changes, the growth and the static. Everyday that I do shit, I surprise myself / and I used to move bricks, you surprised I dealt. I enjoy how the music makes me feel. It acknowledges the climb to becoming and the stableness in whatever avenues you request. It feels luxurious but not necessarily off of tangible assets (although a lot of the drive is coming from there,) it’s off of knowing that you did what you did to do what you do. The stories that come along the way of the larger narrative. The lessons, learnings and confidence builds like muscle when you conquer and learn to work with the deficits. This was a treat of an album. You’ll hear obvious influences but he somewhat does it better. Thru this album alone I was opened up to a whole new world of artists; Dun Dealy, TOP HOOTER (featured on the album,) but those acts lead me to FUNERAL Ant Bell, Shaykh Hanif and Cam Bells. I’m in disbelief that a project like this would go so under the radar. Anyways, they’ll catch on to this one for sure. Or his more recent project, HOOT WAVE. Notable Tracks: Self Sacrifice, Everything Must Go, Cerberus & Unfamiliar Feelings City: Dorchester, MA / DMV Released: October 25, 2022 Can’t Tame Us by DaBoii If we’re talking about outstanding years DaBoii needs to be in the convo since he came into the Rap realm with SOBxRBE. Every year, you hear the evolution with playful flows and inventive wordplay (inherited when one the biggest acts out your city is E-40,) content/subjects and as well as visually thru music videos. Since 2020, DaBoii has found exponential growth, every release is a level up. Following this project he also released, Onna Gang in December which gave way for my vulnerable raps that matched chosen samples. Notable Tracks: KickDoe, Cole Bennet & No You Not Released: May 13, 2022 City: Vallejo, CA See You, When I C U by CHUNG "This come from the left breast and from the Soul." Phenomenal entry to an artist. I wouldn't be surprised if she had some poetry published in French somewhere. Ain’t no gimmick, no trends, not motivated by the hype or limelight. See You, When I C U is genuinely a compilation of expressions to exude her connection to Spirit. Oftentimes this was a project I’d have on repeat while biking through South Memphis. Very peaceful production and a classy poetic disposition. I could tune-in to what she was saying while also having catalyzing thoughts of leveling up and future endeavors. CHUNG is a poet that can motivate through her stories and worldviews created thru personal experiences. Notable Tracks: More Plays, Touch Money, Bigger Fish 2 Fry & You See Us City: Montreal, Canada Released: September 19, 2022 NO AWARDS FOR THE REAL by AJ Snow x Jansport J Both AJ Snow and Jansport J have been on my radar for some time. Jansport J a bit longer as he’s been on the scene for quite some time and worked with some pretty large names in Hip Hop / Rap. So, when I saw this project was going to be released I was thrilled. It was really done well – this is lowkey a dream match up. Jansport J with stellar production (that can stand alone,) but AJ steps in and paints the canvas with some of his best lyrical imagery. You feel on the climb and see the pinnacles and checkpoints. It feels luxurious, worked for and exciting. New heights. Keep an eye out for their follow-up. My innerview with AJ from earlier this year you can find here. Notable Tracks: '83 EL CAMINO, HOW I MAKE IT HERE? & NO AWARDS FOR THE REAL City: Springfield, IL/Dallas, TX Released: June 21, 2022 Let’s Do A Drill by Asian Doll This project had me on edge the whole time wondering what would come next song2song. I didn’t see this coming and I’m not sure too many did. I think we anticipated Asian Doll doing a couple drill singles, featuring some drill artists or vice versa. But nah, this is 20 songs / 50 minutes fusion of where Southern rap meets N.Y. drill. Vast majority of the production is drill heavy except “Down South” featuring Tay Money also produced by Hit Kidd (which should be all over the radio waves, but isn't.) Asian Doll is one of the best rappers coming out of Texas and South in general. Many think she’s new to this but previous to Let’s Do A Drill she has put out 10 other albums/mixtapes. Some of my personal favorites being: Doll SZN, So Icy Princess, UNFUCCWITABLE. Very fun times in Hip Hop / Rap right now as we see more and more women create and execute their lanes. Notable Tracks: No Exposing, Nunnadet Shit, Wait, 41 Shots, Down South & Viral City: Dallas, TX Released: July 22, 2022 The Untold, Vol.1 by FrankieOG x NugLife Not sure how I came across FrankieOG but when the project found me it brought me to a better place. FrankieOG brings humble raps that also demand and know what one deserves in this life. The Untold, Vol.1 is rare in the sense that it’s one of the projects of the year that lead me to one of the “best new artists” releases. NugLife also provides some great production for FrankieOG to express himself. The underground on the West Coast is just as vibrant, deep and offering of variety as the usual regions we look towards for underground and independent work. Notable Tracks: RISK IT ALL, IN MY SOUL I TRUST (INTERLUDE), FREE MY MIND & ALL IN City: Inland Empire, CA Released: April 8, 2022 The Tragedy of a Clown by Ramirez A fusion of horrorcore, g-funk/phonk and gangsta rap from The Bay Area, Florida and Memphis -- 90’s era capsuled into contemporary rap (2022). Not exactly a "recycled" sound like what we hear more prominently in mainstream rap... Ramirez keeps his sound personalized enough while paying homage to the likes of Andre Nickatina, Cypress Hill, Three 6 Mafia and more. Maybe more specified The Tragedy of a Clown is direct homage to Tears of a Clown by The Bay Area pioneer Andre Nickatina. Deep bass, melody, honest themes with complementary verses from Pouya, Shakewell, Fat Nick & Mikey The Magician. There's a retro aspect to the project that feels like something you should only be able to find in a tape deck. Notable Tracks: Intro, Bacon, Eggs and Grits, The Root of Demise & Shameless Gorillas City: San Francisco, CA Released: September 16, 2022 Sky Traffic by Hydeparkfb x Python P x Dough Networkz What is sky traffic? Frequent flyer? Too many wires? Putting up several planes in order to clear one's brain? Regardless, a great project that definitely deserves more ears. Also, I need to mention the work of Dough Networkz and how many artists and connections he makes almost every release day and outside the release day. That “Dough Networkz Presents” definitely keeps me checkin’ out those specific projects because a good majority of the time it’s quality work from artists that not many are too familiar with but have an undeniable value. One of my favorite introductions to a new artist from the year. Notable Tracks: Sky Traffic, Futon Music & Egg Shells Released: April 12, 2022 City: Los Angeles, CA El Perro 2 by Rucci If there’s an artist that can get me to dance... Rucci is definitely 1 of those 1s. A lot of the production is high-energy inducing. Any of these tracks you can play at a house party, club, whip… whatever you desire. Not just turn up songs though either. There’s quite a bit of introspective lyrics and vulnerability. Additionally, he released a documentary with the same title alongside the album. It's apparent Rucci is carving his own lane while also paying homage to many of the L.A. greats that came before him. An artist growing in prominence on the West Coast. Notable Tracks: House Party, BDG, Till The Day I Die, Pt. 2, What If? & Geek’d Up Released: May 27, 2022 Region/City: Inglewood, CA / West Coast The Liz 2 by Armani Caesar hella cheese, a lot of bitches hate but it’s jealousy / separate breed, could give a fuck about celebrity / pretty, private and paid, the coolest niggas sweating me, tuh! / I got more wood stocked than the 70s She makes Griselda actually make sense for a rap collective/group/label. I always questioned why they would name their collective after a woman who was a boss and catalyst that also bore the name for a majority male collective. I don’t think we’ve heard a woman artist quite like Armani Caesar — while we hear the obvious influences (mostly Nicki Minaj) but Armani has expounded on the lavish/luxurious gutta flow that we initially loved Nicki for before her pop escapades. Armani Caesar lets it be known that shit gotta be more than pussy raps and what she delivers is some of the sexiest yet player lyrics to come out this year. The Liz 2 seems like the ideal craftsmanship from a woman artist in the Rap realm. It’s balanced; hard raps, reflective raps, pussy raps (in good taste,) retro production that allows you to think and look back at who else has done it like this? It’s still different than Foxy, Kim, Lyte, Nicki, Latifa, Mia X, Missy, Shante… you know, this is voice or voices of the past that have huddled behind Armani Caesar to elevate her craft and artistry to what it is. Voices who were left out at inception and thereafter. What I enjoy about this LP is the fact that the tracks with features or served as singles or video premieres don’t hold the only value or allure within the project. Most of the time the features and said singles outshine the LP as a whole but not in this situation. THE LIZ 2 only gets better as the LP plays, although she could’ve for sure extended the length of some of the songs. Notable Tracks: Diana, Hunnit Dolla Hiccup, Survival Of The Littest & Ice Age City: Buffalo, NY Released: October 21, 2022 I Don’t Give a Fuck About This Rap Shit, Imma Just Drop Until I Don’t Feel Like It Anymore by $ilkmoney I enjoy when $ilkmoney releases because he’s constantly taking risks with his music. He speaks from his gut ‘n heart and it’s clear by not only the topics he touches on but very much on how he approaches the topics and gives you the the less traveled thought patterns. He speaks in a tone that communicates possible impeding doom. A doom that comes from what the various sytems, energies and powers have done to “black” folk as a whole — across lands, languages and lineages. There’s also this mythical/ethereal type energy/aura of the music he delivers. A Divine poetic. An artist who isn't afraid of being disliked for speaking their truths and observations while not catering to any crowd or audience. “Emmm, Nigga you Is Tasty >:)” is a hell of a track. The texture, the in your face energy and delivery that speaks about how society is just eating black folk; making “nigga soup,.” There’s many historical aspects of this (e.g. The Delectable Negro by Vincent Woodard) but also it’s metaphorical in the art/labor realm for black people (using “black” as an umbrella term for the various ethnicities that have been categorized as “black” instead of their true indigenous heritage from whatever region and continent they come from.) There’s the literal, figurative and metaphorical all fused together to deliver unfavorable truths and depths some don’t want to explore, don’t know how to explore or didn’t know there was more the explore. Unfiltered creative honesty and warnings (in a way.) The albums teleport you to another galaxy where this type of thought provoking conversations/lyrics are valued and taken seriously. Notable Tracks: Jodi Don’t Love Me No Mo :-(, Emmm, Nigga You Is Tasty >:), Eddie Murphy Golden Child Hat & One Glazed and One With the Jelly Filled Nucleus City: Richmond, VA / DMV Released: November 15, 2022 AZTECAZ by Maze Overlay How often do we hear about the landscape, the stories and the energies in Arizona thru a Hip Hop / Rap artform? One of my favorite introductions to a new artist from 2022. The name Maze Overlay in itself is thought provoking and when you hit play on the project the ethereal and eerie become more apparent. An ancestral channel in a sense; paying homage to the land and energies that created it, destroyed it and brought it back again. Hip Hop / Rap when done in a certain manner brings ancient knowledge forward and that's what Maze Overlay does with the SW region. We're used to hearing stories from the East and North and West but the Southwest has it's own stories to express. Another aspect about the project I enjoyed was the classic rock influence with vocals, timing of lyrics and production. The heavy guitar produced track, "Recon" sounds so natural for his flow and style. I could hear/see him with a live band at Red Rocks or The Gorge. As more and more music comes out of Arizona he is definitely an artist worth keeping up with. With a connectoin to Toronto as as well as The Umbrella, Maze Overlay hosts a range of features (including but not limited to): Asun Eastwood, Daniel Son, Falcon Outlaw, Estee Nack & more. Notable Tracks: 100 Years, Reservoir Dogs & Death Valley City: Phoenix, AZ Released: September 12, 2022 M.O.T.H.E.R. by Killah Priest Always feels like a blessing whenever Killah Priest decides to release a project. His Hip Hop style is somewhat unorthodox yet pioneering and important. He takes you on journeys thru time; touching on the past and how it connects to the future and where we’re at presently. If there is a present? It’s all just a space-time continuum. Killah Priest is magnificent at tellin’ the stories of the stars and the significance of them here on Earth too. I appreciate an artist that I can learn from – whether that be about myself, history, the future or how to express one’s feelings of grief and love. Notable Tracks: M.O.T.H.E.R., August & Balances City: Brooklyn, NY Released: September 22, 2022 Something for the Sunrise by Seafood Sam A follow up to his 2021 release, Something for the Sunset he delivers a project in similar fashion; real fly suave music. Something for the Sunrise is also something for them kickbacks, BBQs, flowin’ thru the city or beach on some chill sunshine shit. Makes you appreciative of the warmth that was and goes and comes again. Fun, relaxed and luxurious production. One of Long Beach's finest. Notable Tracks: Dayton 88, Norf Face 2 & Roscoe’s After Church City: Long Beach, CA Released: April 10, 2022 Self 7xve 2 by 7xvethegenius She sits you down with her lyrical abilities. Poetry and wordplay used to express manifestations of being. The goals, the lows, the carving of her own lane. This project felt like a sampler of what’s truly to come. I think we’ve only seen a small portion of the artistic abilities of 7xvethegenius. There’s a complexity to it that still has yet to be expressed. 7xve has been talking about a new project coming soon so if you aren't familiar give this one a spin too. Notable Tracks: Always Thank God, Fluidity & Forecast Released: April 22, 2022 City: Buffalo, NY WHYSOSIRIUS? by Ron Obasi WHYSOSIRIUS? Is a personal testament for every test that was sent to Ron Obasi. The mixtape reverberates as a compilation of epiphanies and manifestations expressed through a philosophical poetry with a free jazz frequency. Although his sentiments and expressions derived from present-day experiences and reflections it’s fair to say that those same expressions and sentiments have been endured as rights to ancient traditions. The interview below is an inner view of Ron Obasi’s craft, artistic process and paradigms that aided in the creation of his latest work, WHYSOSIRIUS? As the conversation has many thoughtful, knowledgeable and fun moments the overall theme seems to rely heavily upon elevation and alignment. To take heed of your mission at hand and the energy and guidance the Universe grants you each day. To be grateful for your cards and the gifts bestowed in them. This one is for the spiritually minded and guided. Notable Tracks: SOSUPREME, OHHOWLOVELY, HOMESICK & HYPERBOLIC TIME CHAMBER City: Nashville, TN Released: July 12, 2022 Caught In The Webb by Westside Webb A really great concept album and intro to an artist. Could be seen as “breakout” project as Westside Webb has caught more notoriety since the release. The concept that was apparent to me was that Caught In The Webb represents the intricate ties of the artist's life and business. Additionally, he speaks on making a lot of money online and with crypto so it’s also a nod towards the internet, the web in context of Westside Webb. A real cool, West Coast project. Has features from the OG Polyester The Saint, as well as Landstrip Chip and the L.A. RnB sensation Blxst. Really from the underground and independent realm of the Southern California Hip Hop / Rap scene.Tuh. Notable Tracks: Progress, Fake Hustle, Can’t Relate & Stayed Down Region: Long Beach, CA Released: February 28, 2022 FREAKJET by Vel Nine x Zoomo When I speak about the large underground and independent Hip Hop / Rap communities out West it would be a disservice without mentioning Vel Nine (formerly Vel The Wonder.) Although Vel has been in the mix since the early 2010’s I didn’t become familiar with her artistry until her 2019 release, La Sena Ave and then lead to 2020’s Trophy Wife – both completely different projects in the best ways. Her most recent, FREAKJET, is nothing short of quality; enticing flows and undeniable production by Zoomo. She also enlists YL, Starker and Koncept Jack$on as a couple features on the project. I look forward to the day when her artistry is circulated more among Hip Hop communities. Notable Tracks: Backboard, Winning Team & Sylvia Gang City: Baldwin Park, CA Released: September 6, 2022 The Precedent by Chayna Ashley x IM’PERITIV RARE – flow, content, persona, production (IM’PERETIV.) There’s a lineage here that’s being paid homage to but still making it her own. This kind of project gets me excited to see the heights one might flow. There’s a depth in the place where she pulls her lyrics from. Another one of my favorite intros to a new artist (for me.) I listened off the strength of knowing IM’PERETIV’s production but besides that she hosts a few artists who are known for their lyricism, such as: Mickey Factz, Daylyt, Dutch Brown and more. Keep an ear out for her – real fierce and fun Hip Hop. Notable Tracks: Gold Blooded, Sippin’, Champagne Dreams & Re-Run City: Harlem/Bronx, NY Released: August 12, 2022 Less Than Three by Kr3wcial New Orleans artist Kr3wcial delivered his EP, Less Than Three. The EP hosts features from BLU, Mick Jenkins, Pell and Kalipop while also enlisting production from Ghazi Gamali, friendkerrek, Cronos and Kr3wcial himself. Throughout the EP, Kr3wcial fuses Hip Hop, neo-RnB with a hint of Pop to create a smooth “collection of reflections” of experiences with love, <3, Less Than Three. The intro track, “Jewelry” begins with a very calming energy that has Kr3wcial reflecting on the appearance and feeling a lover gave him. Read a full length review here. Notable Tracks: Jewelry, Ego Trippic & Who Do You Call? City: New Orleans, LA Released: February 11, 2022 Playing With Fire by Shootergang Kony Kept up with Kony since the release of 6:12 in 2018. Following that, Red Paint Reverend had a hold on me for quite some time. He had a few projects between that and 2021 release Starshooter which set a cool tone for the most recent, Playing With Fire. It's very apparent he's grown a lot lyrically and overall musically. It's a beautiful thing seeing young artists grow and become more. Previous reviewed by Flynt Nixon here. Notable Tracks: Free Smoke 2, Knock Knock, Write My Wrongs & Preaching City: Sacramento, CA Released: August 24, 2022 $hook by Tre’ Amani I went to the Big K.R.I.T. show in Memphis and Tre’ Amani was one of his openers with Dj Trilla Kay. His energy, production, confidence and sound kinda had me from the first song. I went home to look up his music after the concert and found that he had just dropped this project. It was amazing to recognize some of the songs from his performance on the project. Follow-up album later in the year, INCREMENTUM is a sonic treat too. Notable Tracks: lo$t kid., seeing ghost$ & $hook City: Columbia, MD Released: June 3, 2022 For the Views by Starz Coleman A breakout project from 2022… this is 1 of them. Not sure how I came across this project (may have been a Flee Lord suggestion via his Instagram story,) but this was really a refreshing project. A new voice with different syntax and tone that allowed familiar stories to be told anew. You know, he has a somewhat goofy persona that may have one anticipate just as goofy lyrics… and while it’s true in a sense it’s also not the type of goofy that could be dismissed. Whether it’s absurd wordplay or a distinctive yet distracting delivery there’s importance in what he’s sayin’ and doin’. One to keep an eye on for 2023 for sure. Alex interviewed him about his artistry and project here & Monk also reviewed The L Ride. Notable Tracks: For The Views, Mashed Potatoes, Jook Time & El Jefe City: Plainfield, NJ Released: July 10, 2022 Born Again by Young Jr Young Jr has a similar allure to me as Boosie — the tone, texture, can RAP but lowkey runs circles on niggas with hooks ‘n melodies. An exciting artist for me because melody is so important to me if you’re not lyrically in the realm of enlightening me intellectually. I think we’ll see him collabing with more artists outside The Bay, L.A. and West Coast at large. Unique artist who had me hooked from his 2021 release, Last Of Our Breed. It’s just different, you feel the authenticity… somewhat like when you hear Chippass; they’re just different and rare. Notable Tracks: Woodgrain, Factually Spoken & Bird Walk City: Oakland, CA Released: June 3, 2022 Welcome to Loveland by Nick Grant The point where funk, Hip Hop and early Valentine’s Day vibes collide. As far as projects I personally listened to there weren't many at all that were on this sonically or lyrically. Big K.R.I.T. 's Digital Roses Don’t Die is the closest thing to it and that came out almost 6 months after. It’s a fun project and it was refreshing that it came out a month before V-Day because it’s not riding the hype but also the lyrical play is somewhat anti-love in a sense too. Notable Tracks: Azzfunkdeeziak, Cupid Is A woman, Brutal Honesty & Gangsta Lean City: Walterboro, SC Released: January 14, 2022 Church by billy woods Initially, I was hesitant to dive into billy woods music just because of all the attention and hype he was already receiving by many Hip Hop heads. In order to do what I do and follow the mission I’ve been given I had to listen, regardless of the hype. Church is very much one of my favorite releases by the artist. It plays like folklore at moments, it’s poetry and vulnerability, mere honesty. He leaves you with things to ponder and experiences or stories that may also be in your personal alignment. Notable Tracks: Fuchsia & Green, Frankie, Pollo Rico & All Jokes Aside City: Washington, D.C. Released: September 30, 2022 Color Therapy by Kay Anthony I didn't even know a project was droppin' when I was becoming privy to Kay Anthony's videos he was puttin' up. They were all titled, Color Therapy with the coordinating episode number and the specific color tied to it. That intrigued me alone — approaching a Hip Hop project from the lens of color therapy. Eventually, when I did listen it played as a therapy session that wove in and out of expression through rhythmic lyrics and melody. Cool concept and great execution of it. Previously reviewed by Sai here. Notable Tracks: Bless Me, WTF & Love Yourself City: Brooklyn, NY Released: May 13, 2022 Forever Da Gang by Su’Lan Hopping on the scene in 2019 with their full-length project Tia & Tamera, 2020’s Baby Glock Gang, 2021’s Free Su’Lan and most recently, Forever Da Gang. From the first release it was evident that Su’Lan was here to make their presence known. They’ve claimed their lane and continue to evolve it. While Lan delivers these hard-ass flows with feminine touch that outshines many of her male counterparts. Su catches you with a softer and slightly more sultry cadence that commands in a different manner (but she still has verses that bring a rumble to her tone.) This won’t be the last time I write about this duo. Decentralized flows with knockin' production. Notable Tracks: Believe Me, Spin Off & This 'n That City: Oakland, CA / West Coast Released: September 16, 2022 Talk To Him Nicely by Coach Tev A project for the fly and suave. That’s exactly how Coach Tev delivers… real precise with his diction, playful syntax and a laid back demeanor. An artist in a league of his own. Be sure to check out his videos as well as they’re done by him and do bring more color, context and livelihood to the songs and project(s) at large. One of the nicest out of the Dallas Hip Hop / Rap scene. Notable Tracks: Egyptian Rugs, Elderberry & Nice Talk Released: March 27, 2022 City: Dallas, TX $oul $old $eperately by Freddie Gibbs One of the few “mainstream” projects from the year that kept my attention all the way through. Also, didn’t feel like it had forced features or seeking hype. Really just honest raps, luxurious lifestyle and amazing production. Mainstream LP but played like an intermediary of the underground and mainstream. A lot of shit, it broke my heart, but fixed my vision. Might be one of the most connecting/human lines of the year. I know many felt that. Came from the underground and still in relation with it. Notable Tracks: Rabbit Vision, PYS, Grandma’s Stove & CIA City: Gary, IN Released: September 30, 2022 Apt. 505 by Coast Contra Came out of nowhere and reinvigorated some energy derived from what is heard/seen as traditional Hip Hop. You can break it down and explain it but when you watch 'n listen it's apparent. It will be interesting to see how they move forward off of the foundation they are establishing. Will it sound similar or be fused in other ways? Notable Tracks: Get The Worm, Pimpin’ Benjamin & Legacy City: Los Angeles / Colombia / Philidelphia Released: March 24, 2022 Raptor by Rosewood Swing x Reallyraw I've never heard a sound like this coming out of the 'Sip. As much critique we have about the social media era we also reap a lot of benefits. The connection and web of hearing artists from places you couldn't have imagined unless you were to be there in the flesh. It allows us to be less nieve and ignorant when used and fostered in such manner. This is a real smooth, playa, cruisin' in a pretty whip — chillin', but gettin' to it. Beautiful production and lyrics that lead into the lifestyle and ambitions of Rosewood Swing. Notable Tracks: Northside Knights, Flights To Miami & Snowfall City: Jackson, MS Released: May 20, 2022 Hour Glass EP by Chyna Streetz Bad Influenyce. Not even certain how I came across Chyna’s music but it’s been a blessing since I found it. Of course I enjoy all the music coming out of the East Coast and NY in particular but I enjoy it more when I hear women holding it down too. Hour Glass EP was a reminder and catalyst for me to do more on my part as a woman to support and listen to more women within the scenes that are popping off. The EP felt like an appetizer of sorts… I’m sure there’s more in the works. I know y’all will eventually catch up to this brigade of women artists releasing authentic Hip Hop / Rap projects and when you do – don’t leave Chyna Streetz out of the conversations. Notable Tracks: Ghetto Diva, Hourglass & Mirrors City: Brooklyn, NY Released: May 3, 2022 Pretty In Black by Joony There's a cool versatility in the area/realm of music he's creating... I'm not sure I have the technical or perfect words for it but the whole tape doesn't sound the same although there is a similarity of Joony showing off his vocal abilities, melodies with some sprinkles of rap. A fusion of alt-hiphop, alt-rnb, pop, punk and dance. It's a fun combination. I imagine Joony attracting more and more notoriety in the next couple years. Notable Tracks: MISERY, DRUGS AND FASHION & HIGHS LOWS City: Silver Spring, MD Released: May 27, 2022 BASELINE CAVI by TRIZZ x MIKE SUMMERS Honest tales of vices and homies being caught up in the mix. Delivery wise it feels like Trizz is on the edge you hear the slur in his words and the honesty in the lyrics. The fusion where things are awry but you also are able to remain focused and driven by the chaos. Without the chaos how could one be honest and vulnerable enough? Relatable? Notable Tracks: the inLAnd, BLESS THE DEAD & HAD TO DO IT MYSELF City: Inland Empire, CA / West Coast Released: September 16, 2022 Perfect Timing by Killa Fonte One of the newer acts reinvigorating Philthy Rich’s F.O.D. label. Street raps with a purpose. All in 1 year Killa Fonte released 2 individual projects, helped his team release projects, featured on various songs and also A&R’d No Man Left Behind that hosts a conglomerate of artists… a collective compilation in a way. Future is looking bright for Killa. Flynt Nixon also reviewed Frank Motion here. Notable Tracks: Out The trap, Money Motivated & Nothing On Me City: Oakland, CA Released: May 20, 2022 Bush Doctor by Daniel Son At first… I thought about 2 Chainz and his mixtape, Daniel Son: Necklace Don and I was like is bruh from Atlanta? Then, I hit play. [mind explosion emoji.] He got me off the hook of the first track, we’re the hustlers that make moves to feed the children. Instantly, I thought of how I could get my homies and little cousins back home that love to hunt, fish and be on the land to listen. Superb artistry, especially if you're fond of how "traditional" Hip Hop is being evolved and expounded upon. Notable Tracks: Rag Top Porsches, Eighty Nine & Sugar Cubes City: Toronto, Canada Released: May 1, 2022 The Muddprint 4 by MuddyManTony Probably the #1 artist I’m grateful for coming across this year. The album if I could define it as anything it would be folk Hip Hop and not like Iron & Wine type folk but the folk that was originally used for the indigenous. MuddyManTony is great at playing with his vocal abilities and creating authentic art in relation to him, where he comes from and who is along with him. Notable Tracks: Muddy Tribe, Stomp, Kno it ain’t right, Share transgressions & Sucio City: Dallas, TX / South Released: June 1, 2022 51-100: Results Take Time by Symba Growthfully Developed by Chris Crack DETOUR by Malik Elijah ‘94 by OQ Sweetie Got Stylez by Backwood Sweetie x Furious Stylez The Blue Hour by Rexx Life Raj Street Art Vol 1: (st) Art by Dntwatchtv Stima by Rick Hyde Scot-Free by Bellez The Most High EP by $hun Gawd Coordinates by Brookfield Duece Until We Meet Again by Qualls God’s Favorite by Deezy Da Duce Give Thanks by Six Sev I Got Indian In My Family by Flagboy Giz Carravaggio Is Alive by Jameel Na’im X Scarred For Life by Monroe Flow Pastor Ralfy 2 by Ralfy The Plug Before The Winner Comes The Fall by Grunge Gallardo CHOSEN FAMILY by Negro Justice Jaguar on Palisade 2 by CRIMEAPPLE I TOLD BESSIE by E L U C I D left4dead2 by bbymutha HOL’ UP I’M MAD by Monday Night Iroquois Pliskin by Jae Skeese Goldie Summer, Vol. 2 by Goldie Rebel Worldy Ways by Archibald Slim PERFECT 7 BY MESSIAH! Freelance: Charlie by Ben Reilly Windbreaker XL by Milc x Andy Savoie Wolves Don’t Eat with Shepherd’s by Knowledge The Pirate x Big Ghost Ltd. Chaos Is My Ladder by Ransom x VDON Metropolis by Namir Blade 5 To The Eye With Stars by R.A.P. Ferreira A Tower & Thereafter by Chucky Blk Motivational Purpose by Philthy Rich There’s Glory In the Fire, Vol. 1 by FUNERAL Ant Bell IN US WE TRUST Side A by Polyester The Saint Jp5000 by Junglepussy Never Question God by Young Roddy The Prodigal Child by Kaya Strykes Diggin’ in the Tuff Kong Crates by Buckwild Skanless Levels 3 by 2 Eleven x T.F Heightened Senses by Jay Nice x Machacha Back 2 Ba$ics by Payroll Giovanni Tango by G Perico From The Can by Sheff G Young Hot Ebony 2 by Father This Must Be The Place by Apollo Brown


    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.

  • 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

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