Monolith Cocktail

Kanye’s album circus…Kayne’s beef-n-make-up with Wiz Khalifa…Wiz Khalifa being a part-time DJ called Daddy KatIggy Azalea and Talib Kweli going at it, via Macklemore’s ‘White Privilege II’… Meek Mill going after Drake. Again…Meek Mill and 50 Cent beefing on Instagram…Mos Def announcing his retirement…BoB and the whole ‘world is flat’ theory…March madness checked in early this year.

Snubbed on Valentine’s Day? Stop moping: go get yourself the reissue of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s ‘All Souled Out’, now available on super snazzy clear vinyl to mark its 25th birthday. Then check out the encores sought by Dead Prez at XOYO on March 10th; The Four Owls headlining the Exeter Phoenix on the 12th with support from Stinkin Slumrock, Selecta and Jman; The Last Skeptik at the Wonderland Festival on March 19th; Nambucca’s Ill Breed Show showcasing Verb T, Kashmere, Shay D and Fliptrix on March 25th; and late night specialist Kirk Knight, over here for three March dates.

February gets filled out by Skuff’s album launcher at Stereo 92 on the 26th, and Dr Syntax & Pete Cannon’s Winter Tour carrying on through Cardiff, Bristol and Nottingham. Fancy this year’s Boom Bap Festival? It’ll be a small, intimate affair, as you can see below.

Monolith Cocktail - Boom Bap festival


Mr Brown’s new instrumental 4-track for King Underground is comfier than favourite slippers. Gently flipping jazz and funk loops, it’s nice and simple, nice and smooth. Casual wins again when Benny Diction points you in the right direction on ‘The Best’ before getting busy with the shopping bags looking for ‘The Next Label’. One of the most striking moments on ‘Kubrick’, Stig of the Dump’s ‘She’ stays strong once the 14th’s roses start to wilt, and Rewd Adams keep his head above stacking stress levels on ‘Sometimes’.

High on pre-album hype, Paul White has made Open Mic Eagle his latest running mate; lead single ‘Check to Check’ is bumpy, fizzy, witty and wired. Ocean Wisdom also fires another piping hot pre-album torpedo: ‘High Street’ is his destination, and there’s barely any mic left once the chaos theorist is done.

Replacing Cupid’s arrow with a full clip, Valentine maps out authentic NY on boom-bap bruiser ‘The Arrival’. Connecticut’s DiCipher isn’t in the mood for warming cockles either. ‘’-3° Below’ descends onto a bed of icicles and is crystal-tipped trap clearer than the usual mumbling mumbo jumbo. Roll on spring time, if the jazzy horns and mic warming of Ron Rico and Skyzoo are anything to go by – ‘Expectations’ is a certified street honey dipper.

When Bumpy Knuckles speaks, the world tends to listen: ‘Emoshunal Greed’ is Freddie Foxxx’s own version of parental advisory guidance, with DJ Premier laying down one of his primetime head ringers. Ras Kass is another to twist ears front and centre, disproving his own theory of ‘Lyrical Hip-Hop is Dead’ and laying down a sixer of defiance with Kaytranada in mind. In the wrong hands, Nu Shooz’ ‘I Can’t Wait’ is a dangerous precedent to handle – thankfully Your Old Droog is on hand to blow Marco Polo’s bright idea wide open. ‘42’ is the lucky number.

Taking it back to vintage DJ Quik-style, drop top live funk with slashes of trap, Dizzy Wright wishes you ‘Wisdom and Good Vibes’ with a flow that’ll have you reaching for the air con. Hot gangster biz has Smoke DZA & Snoop Dogg calibrating their compasses for ‘Morals’, owning a sublime breezer from Harry Fraud. Instrumental cross-hatching from Abstract Butta Fingas conjures angular drum machine overlaps codenamed ‘Stillmagic’ to screw with your lugholes.


Eatgood Records’ ‘Bakers Dozen’, its oven fresh crew of Booda French, Sonnyjim, Redbeard and Apatight whipped up by Kosyne, is an appetiser and refresher course full of nice and doughy beats and cordon bleu/cor blimey rhyme recipes. A lucky thirteen for us all. Taking your headphones for a swim, The NortHaze’s ‘Mellow Thrills’ is a bleary-eared night flight taken by the rapid Yorkshire flows of Swish & Kosi Tides. Despite not being a particularly warm album given the vibe, it’s worth dumping yourself onto a beanbag for so its vapours can orbit you. A classy set of instrumentals from Scarborough’s Ding takes it back to ‘1988’. 27-tracks deep, it rolls out, chops up, is both sweet and aggressive on the ear, and also puts on works in progress with the mic plugged in.

Si-Phili’s solo debut ‘The 11th Hour’ is simply unstoppable. A mic crusher with a touch of class, the heart of a lion and machine gun lungs, and someone who can hit personal crossover like a bullseye blindfolded, it’s a mere extension of his amazing consistency as part of Phi-Life Cypher. Neck knots come from Leaf Dog and Pete Cannon, and the bar has been set.

By calling their album ‘Anti-Trap Music’, California’s Horseshoe Gang have probably got a good chunk of hip-hop pessimists back onside. The four brothers, posse-thick and patiently waiting to fire saliva, pick off multiple styles except for you-know-what. You’d rather they were permanently at full tilt – they can be a bit horses for courses at times – but you get ‘Who’s the Best Rapper’ mixing healthy debate with a clever spin on an age-old argument, and ‘Shoe-icide Squad’ welting you like a riding crop.

Horseshoe Gang’s elder brother Crooked I goes one on one with Statik Selektah on the predictably bicep-centric ‘Statik KXNG’. Well tailored to one another’s needs, it’s white vest music that can easily slip into a sharp suit, gunning with a nimble turn of pace. The pair throw haymakers and hold it down with a brush of the shoulder, exiting after a high quality half hour.

Shuffling ear-catching narratives covering the everyday grind, word association, and the excellently unexpected vampire yarn ’She Sucks’, Elzhi’s ‘Lead Poison’ covers plenty ground with an effervescent gel. On more than one occasion he keeps things short, not reflecting laziness or a short attention span, more to moderate matters when no more needs saying. His come-test-me flow attacks soul wheel-ups and rich flourishes in an underground clutch, and it’s not far off being a complete LP.

Spellchecker’s nightmare Beneficence shows the workings to his ‘Basement Chemistry’, an old skool textbook user with a Nas-ish twang making beats and rhymes the key elements to his rap periodic table. For its lack of test tube explosions and long tracklist, try quibbling with his actual truth-attitude, corroborating evidence provided by Inspectah Deck, Masta Ace and a surprising appearance by Chubb Rock. If you’re after something to slow and lower your roll, Trae the Truth, Houston’s answer to Ted Lowe, is the king of Southern do-or-die quicksand, enlisting a frankly scary guestlist for ‘Tha Truth 2’.

Over in ‘Malibu’, Anderson Paak blends the best of The Roots, Kendrick Lamar and an edgier Bruno Mars for slick hip-hop/soul zoning in on opposite ends of the party. A talented multi-performer, Dr Dre’s ‘Compton’ student – no further endorsement necessary – nips the unctuous crooner in the bud with sticky rhymes in all the right places. The soul, funk and R&B application moulded by 9th Wonder, Hi-Tek, DJ Khalil and Madlib makes it the coolest hip-hop option for when the shindig needs pushing on. Philly/Washington crew Them That DoPhat Hentoff, Jasper Brown, Chuck Daily and Small Professor – ease out their supremely jazzy self-titled effort (including a track called ‘Jazz Jazz Jazz Jazz’). True schoolers making smoke rings come from the speakers.


Jazz T breaking down Cappo through 360° is a match made in heaven. Don’t take our word for it, ‘Fortune Cookies’ will tell you, an absolute Nottingham knock-out of limited runs, faves and freshness out the vault. British bluntness at its best.

Mixtape Midas Donnie Propa commemorates the 10th anniversary of the passing of J Dilla with a free 60 minute tribute, gathering best bits, an all-star cast and bonuses aplenty; another no-brainer. Back at the top table, DJ Yoda’s ‘Lunch Breaks’ busts a gut to cut and slice golden breaded hip-hop, crispy funk and beats off the funny bone: a hardcore snack attack, made to the chef’s original recipe.

Now looky here: Doc Brown & Luc Skyz build upwards, Ghostface does QVC, Mr Miranda as master of disguise, and Ron Jon Bovi’s bad medicine.

Words:  Matt Oliver

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