Top Twenty of 2021

Here we are at the end of another weird year. There were peaks and valleys and moments of sunshine and rainstorms, but throughout it all we had some brilliant hip hop to carry us to the other side. 2021 is going to be a tough year to decipher in a lot of different ways, but the world of independent hip hop did not stop turning out brilliant albums of all different styles from artists of all different walks of life.

Moka Only - Martian XMAS 2021

Moka Only is the Vancouver hip hop staple who has been putting out music at a prolific pace since the mid-‘90s. In 2004, he started the tradition known as Martian XMAS, when Moka would release an album annually each December. Now, after the rare year in which he was relatively quiet, Moka Only is back with Martian XMAS 2021. A couple of years ago, Moka ditched the “XMAS” portion of his annual December release, since they weren’t really Christmas themed at all, but this year he decided to put the “XMAS” back in.

R.A.P. Ferriera - the Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures

R.A.P. Ferreira, fka milo, has moved around a lot in his career, but these days he’s calling Nashville home. Way back at the beginning of the year, he gave us his most recent album, bob’s son. Now, just before the end of the year, he’s back with yet another album, the Light Emitting Diamond Cutter Scriptures. For a large portion of his career, most of the production for Ferreira’s projects was handled either by Kenny Segal or Ferreira himself.

Ben Buck x BoomBaptist - The Marquee

Ben Buck and BoomBaptist have been staples of the Austin hip hop scene for a few years, with both artists delivering a wide variety of projects and killer live shows. Since releasing Speaker Bump Deluxe in October of 2020, Buck has released some singles and instrumentals, but now that he teamed up with BoomBaptist, he’s ready to step back on the mic and deliver some killer raps with The Marquee.

DJ Harrison - Tales From the Old Dominion

DJ Harrison is a producer/multi-instrumentalist from Richmond, Virginia. He is known to a lot of people as the keyboard player in Butcher Brown, but he’s also been doing his thing as a solo artist for nearly ten years. In 2017, he made his debut on Stones Throw with the album, HazyMoods. Now he’s back with an ambitious follow up, Tales From the Old Dominion. For this album, Harrison wanted to make an album that reflected his Black Southern heritage, as well as just reflect how he moves through the world and hears different influences.

SB The Moor & Progeny - Sleeping in Seattle

One of the best traditions in independent hip hop is Fake Four’s Freecember, in which the label releases one EP per week in the month of December from lesser known artists for free on their Bandcamp page. Last year included releases from Chief and the Doomsday Device, Anthony Maintain, Virgil Wolfe, and Two Weeks Notice. This year they are starting off the series with an EP from SB The Moor & Progeny, Sleeping in Seattle.

Foolish Immortals - Illustration

Foolish Immortals is the duo consisting of Toronto artist Birdapres and Vancouver artist Jeff Spec. Both have been releasing music for over twenty years, with Spec splitting time between a solo career and working with groups like City Planners and Soviets. The two have now joined forces to drop their first album together, Illustration. If you’ve spent the time with these artists, you know that it wasn’t that much of a stretch to imagine what they might sound like together as a duo.

TINO - Never Worried About Tomorrow

TINO is an emcee born and raised in Cleveland, but now based in Dayton. He’s been releasing music for the last ten years, with various side projects along the way including Sidekick and Safe Money. His last solo release came out in 2020, when he dropped the Past Due (Deluxe) EP. Now he’s back with a new full-length album, Never Worried About Tomorrow. The majority of the album is produced by Nick Robison, with additional tracks from Blueprint and Rizo.

Akil Pratt, K1NG ELJAY & OZU8LACK - Flags on Saturn

Just this past March, Birmingham artists Akil Pratt and K1NG ELJAY teamed up for a project called Perfect Timing. In August, Pratt teamed up with another Birmingham artist, OZU8LACK, to release an album called AkileeZ Heal. For most artists, that would have been enough, but Pratt ran it back for a third time, this time getting them all on the same project to make an album called Flags on Saturn.

Nataani Means & Antoine - Landback

NDN Collective is an organization with a home base in South Dakota, but they are a national organization built around the idea of spreading collective power amongst the Native American populations to exercise their inherent right to self-determination. With the idea that “Every revolution needs a soundtrack,” NDN Collective is now presenting a compilation album led by Nataani Means and Antoine called Landback, giving you a look at the current state of Native American hip hop and shining a light on the issues they face.