There’s a common misconception that any artist who’s been labeled “nerdcore” doesn’t actually care about hip hop, it’s merely a means to an end for them. The truth, however, as it is with most things, is much more complex. There are certainly a few nerdcore artists and fans out there that have helped perpetuate that stereotype, but there are just as many, if not more, that are true hip hop fans and artists that just happen to be nerdy. If you’ve been following Mikal kHill of ThoughtCriminals, you’ll know that he falls into the latter category and is a truly talented emcee.
I’m always excited to find hip hop from cities I'm not familiar with as a hip hop fan. In this case, that city is Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Happy Unfortunate started when two friends both faced the tragedy of their respective dad’s deaths, and decided to join forces and take their love of hip hop more seriously. The name they chose refers to the positive creativity that they were able to build out of the unfortunate situation that brought Malcolm-Jay and DJ Envoy together. A few years into it their career, July Never Dies shows the group at their strongest.
Emcee Aquil has been making records in his hometown of Philadelphia for a few years now, but has remained relatively unknown outside of the area until now. He seems poised to breakout, though, with his latest album, Land of Synth. Working with a handful of producers constructing songs on synthesizers, Aquil introduces himself to a potentially new audience as a thoughtful and creative artist.
Amin PaYnE is a producer raised Aukland, New Zealand and now living in Melbourne, Australia. He has put in work as part of Condensed Milk along with Jackson Miles and MåSëlf, and as part of The Operatives with Silent Jay. He has put out a few solo projects over the last couple of years as well, including the enjoyable tributes to Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield. This album once again allows Cascade to introduce everyone to a talented international producer they might not have found otherwise.
Devoted fans of Adam WarRock would be quick to note that he’s not a one trick pony, that for every TV-themed EP he’s released, there’s been a “Ta-Nehisi,” or “Guilty as Charged” - serious songs that tackle important subject matter. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to take a step back and not label WarRock as anything beyond “hip hop artist,” and we’d just let his career unfold and we could see how the different sides of his music and personality were actually in conversation with each other. Maybe we’ll reach that point someday - I’ll be thrilled if we can do that.
L’Orange is a producer from North Carolina who’s only been putting out music for the last couple of years. In that short time, though, he’s been able to establish a unique sound and has delivered some fully formed conceptual projects, often including cinematic, noir-influenced themes. The Mad Writer is his latest effort, and it's his strongest to date.
Myka 9 is a legendary emcee from L.A. who helped usher in an unprecedented wave of creativity in hip hop in the early to mid ‘90s, with the Good Life Café open mic, Freestyle Fellowship, Project Blowed, and Haiku D’Etat. His distinct style, with a smooth baritone voice that moves between straight soulful singing and a rapid fire spitting, has set him apart from his peers. At this point in his career, it would be easy for Myka 9 to phone it in, and I'm sure there are a few detractors that will say he's been doing just that.
In a little over a year, Columbus-based producer Maggz has quickly become one of my favorite instrumental hip hop artists. After finishing the run of excellent Soundscapes EPs, he’s right back at it with his full length debut for Feelin’ Music.
DJ Scientist is probably best known to those of us in the U.S. as the producer who worked with Ceschi on The One Man Band Broke Up. The German producer and deejay has already released one solo EP earlier this year, The Artless Cuckoo, but now he has finally given us his first full length album. The material was actually produced from 2001-2006, but for a myriad of reasons, didn’t see the light of day until now. Scientist's music is so unique, though, he doesn't need to worry about it sounding dated or anything.
Bugseed is a producer from Tokyo that’s been putting out music for the past couple of years, but is still relatively unknown Stateside. Fortunately, he just teamed up with the French label Cascade Records, who will hopefully help expand his international profile. This particular record is collection of beats Bugseed had posted on his old Soundcloud page, sequenced here to showcase his skills as an instrumental hip hop producer.