Hip Hop Revue

Shabazz Palaces

Matt Oliver returns with a mix bag of  the hottest 2015 Hip Hop essentials and scintillating discoveries for the second edition – and first of 2015 – of his inimitable Rapture & Verse column. 

Welcome to Rapture & Verse, receiving its second audition from the good people at Monolith Cocktail and bidding to return to former glories after a spell of hip-hop cold turkey. Straight into the New Year and the madness begins already: for starters, who’s this Paul McCartney chap trying to dupe the internet into thinking he’s Kanye West’s latest protégé?

Danny Brown is writing a children’s book inspired by Dr Seuss, and Jack White is supposedly having another hip-hop epiphany, with Run the Jewels and Shabazz Palaces his constituents. DJ Premier has laid down something legendary at D&D Studios for the last time – the recording institution has closed for business after being a nerve centre for hip-hop classics for 25 years. A$AP Mob founder A$AP Yams, responsible for a successful shift in the New York sound that sent A$AP Rocky stratospheric, died this month aged 26.

Blackalicious claim one of 2015’s first essential diary dates with an appearance at The Jazz Cafe on February 2nd. Abdominal, who used to tear beats a new one with DJ Format, has mellowed into a three-piece called Abdominal and The Obliques, promising “the finest in middle-aged hip-hop” up and down the country in March. Ahead of new album ‘Shedding Skin’, Ghostpoet holds down two dates in London and one in Manchester at the end of this month.

Singles/EPs

The upwardly mobile Mouse Outfit provide New Year soothers on head-nodder’s special ‘Born Lupers’, with Mattic leading an EP scouting for soul-kissed funk out of Manchester. Sonnyjim’s ‘How to Tame Lions’ receives seven EP revisions of the Birmingham emcee’s big top party piece, with Illinformed, Micall Parknsun and Apatight adding to the spectacle. Unswerving educators Jazz T and Jehst dictate ‘The Lesson’, which is a banger you should all swot up on, and 2014 big deals Problem Child pile into the New Year with posse cut ‘Fully Fledged’  featuring a top-ranking bunch of similar good-for-nothings.

Aesop Rock, in typically blocky, out-of-my-way form with the snappy chat to match, puts ‘Cat Food’/’Bug Zapper’ on shopping lists. A conscious freebie from Red Pill will wake up those sticking their heads in the sand; ‘All of Us’ has damnation flowing out of Detroit via the silk soul of Apollo Brown on production, while Strange U go ransacking in order to uncover home truths and letting ‘Leviathan’ run amok.

If you need release from the doldrums occupied by Wrekonize and Hippy Sabotage on ’Sunny Winter’ – five well-crafted tracks of exacting testimony and electronica in shadow – obey the request of ‘Buy Me a Beer’ from Rediculus and Rich Quick, a slick lil’ liquor-related ditty looped and lapped up to perfection. deM atlas is infectiously chipper, sauntering along the seawall ‘With a Smile’, and Action Bronson rides a backwards-travelling waltzer like it’s all in day’s work on signature mind-boggle ‘Actin Crazy’.

Albums

On another of his whodunit funk crusades, Ghostface Killah has armed himself with the most essential of special teams. BADBADNOTGOOD provide the licks and slickness as Tony Starks plunders another shrewd connection on ‘Sour Soul’, after both parties sleuthed together on last year’s ‘Six Degrees’. Full of twangy intrigue and bluesy versatility from the Toronto three, it betters Ghost’s ’36 Seasons’, the stock verbal gristle added to by DOOM, Danny Brown and Elzhi.

With a high-spirited and easygoing blend of stargazing R&B, hip-hop rubbing up neo-soul the right way, and poetical sass making a stand, THEESatisfaction’s ‘EarthEE’ follows much the same oaths as ‘awE naturalE’. A little lighter on the psychedelic outbreaks than their debut, the pair will warm up you more than January will ever allow.

Joey Bada$$ swoops from the street corner with ‘B4.DA.$$’, fluently keeping everything loose, without scrimping on aggression or intensity. From first breath to last beat, the Pro Era leader will inevitably attract headlines of being hip-hop’s latest golden age representative – contributions from DJ Premier, Dilla and Statik Selektah are responsible, with ‘No.99’ sounding like a reboot of ATCQ’s ‘Scenario’ and ‘Christ Conscious’ sampling Das EFX. An early submission for class of 2015.

Seemingly resurrecting themselves with the ink still wet on their obituary, Death Grips have slipped in new instrumental album ‘Fashion Week’.  Typically it doesn’t do meek, unleashing a torrent of tuneful sub-hip-hop abrasions and energetic rock star disarray to cannily bash your head in with. Also patting a baseball bat, Sole and DJ Pain 1’s highly charged, fiercely competitive ‘Death Drive’ gets some worthy remix activism, with seven selected tracks having their cages rattled to spread the original’s vitriol.

Hus Kingpin & Rozewood’s ‘Pop-Up Shop’ has got enough NY swagger, seediness beyond the bright lights and “anti-gravity bars” to ensure it’s no five minute wonder. Hijacking production from Alchemist and Rza doesn’t hurt either. For all you sloppy Joes and space cadets, Nacho Picasso and Blue Sky Black Death bathe in the kind of ignorance that would be contemptible were it not woozily fascinated by the world dawdling around it. Trap stuck in a cosmic traffic jam, ‘Stoned and Dethroned’ is an addictive itch.

Anchored by the relentless Cee-Rock The Fury, ‘We Got What’cha Earz ‘R’ Lookin’ For!” is a sixteen track compilation living and breathing hip-hop realness. Gimmicks are out, beats and rhymes with a high purity rating are in. Oliver Sudden, which is a moniker this columnist should’ve thought of a long time ago, boasts about his ‘Phenomaler Steaz’ – an unflappable LP. Honestly, it just can’t be flapped, staunchly supporting boom-bap bounties and lyrics laid down with learned disdain.

Mixtapes and VT

Post-Christmas blues get obliterated by Mr Muthafuckin eXquire. ‘Merry eX-Mas/SMD2’ doesn’t hold back and sets himself up just lovely for the next 12 months; like rifling through a selection box with all the good chocolates still ready to swipe. BoB mixtapes usually show similar grab bag tendencies, but save for a handful of smoother numbers, ‘No Genre: The Label’ sees him shrug off his pop persona as booming trap rings out and his crewmates fight over the mic.

For eyes and ears: ZRO FOX and Sasha Go Hard are impeccably non-committal (1), while Jahzel is wholly devoted (2), Shabazz Palaces (3) and Atmosphere (4) do what they do best, and The Four Owls flock up the place (5).

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