When I interviewed Toronto producer Fresh Kils, one of the points he wanted to make clear in our discussion was that people don’t realize the amount of vision D-Sisive has going into an album. Well, with his third and final volume of his excellent Jonestown series of albums, I think this point is going to be more apparent to a lot of people. I don’t know if he’ll ever get that Juno, but I do think a little recognition is due.
Most artists, if they do release a Christmas album, don’t even bother with new material. Instead, they just revisit the same small catalogue of songs that we’re all tired of. A select few musicians in recent years have actually been bold enough to contribute a few new songs to shake things up. Of course, Vancouver emcee Moka Only doesn’t work like most musicians, and in his case, he’s been releasing a new Christmas album of completely original material every year since 2004 (except for 2005) with his Martian XMAS series.
Language Arts is easily the most ambitious project in independent hip hop this year, a three volume set of records, comics, and video games, all of which tell the story of Mr. J, a teacher struggling to keep kids in the classroom, while a video game called Killcount is destroying the town. When we last left at the end of Volume 2, his girlfriend had been kidnapped, and his job was in jeopardy.
MyrihaB is part of the Not Enough Mics collective, a group of womyn hip hop artists in the Midwest, and Life of a Struggling Student marks her debut album. The Detroit native has come to Madison to come to school, and this album documents that experience. It’s a great debut, and it presents a unique perspective about a situation that many of us go through, yet doesn’t get a lot of media coverage.
CRASHprez is up-and-coming emcee who has quickly established himself in the Madison hip hop scene. An eighteen-year-old college student who came to the Madison from Maryland, he dropped this EP on election day. With this release, it's easy to see that there's a lot of talent in this young man.
If only every up and coming producer had a back catalogue like BoomBaptist. Over the course of this year, the Austin beat maker has dropped several volumes of music he’s crafted in the past, before he started releasing music, in which we’ve been introduced to the different styles that BoomBaptist is capable of as an instrumental hip hop producer. We’ve also had the fortune of being able to listen to BoomBaptist explore and change in fast-forward, which is also incredibly interesting. With the latest installment in The Lost Files, you can hear the confidence growing in his music.
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.