Myka 9 & Factor - Sovereign Soul

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.

Maggz - Fragments of Mind

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. What makes Maggz such an intriguing producer is the way he’s able to shift tones and capture different moods within his music. If you spend enough time listening to instrumental hip hop, it’s easy to come across a lot of artists who have only figured out how to make one type of beat, and they just keep coming up with different variations of the same thing.

Willie Sunshine - Kitchen Blues Explosion

Willy Sunshine is a Swiss beat maker, one who’s been making music for the last couple of years. This EP marks the follow up to his 2010 release, Electronic Relaxation. An interesting take on down tempo hip hop/electronic music he calls “odd-tronica,” Kitchen Blues Explosion sees Sunshine seeking to mix up the general formula of instrumental hip hop and push the expectations of his listeners. The EP works to varying levels of success, but I do admire Willy Sunshine’s commitment to shaking things up, whether it be from the inclusion of dissonant noises, odd samples, or messing with the tempo and groove of the song.

2 Dash Tone & Audio Games - Thick as Thieves

Thick As Thieves marks the second full length collaboration between emcee 2 Dash Tone and producer Audio Games in as many years. Both artists are still striving to make a name for themselves, and they had somewhat grand ambitions going into the album, describing the effort as “designed to play like an audio-movie, and it takes you on a journey from our debut album, The Anomaly, through our artistic growth, all the way to our plans for the future.

Dj Scientist for Better for Worse

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.

Bugseed - Soundcraft

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. One listen to Soundcraft, and it will be clear that Bugseed has some chops.

Funky DL - Nane

Funky DL is a London emcee who’s been quite prolific over his 15-year career. NANE marks his fourteenth full length solo album, which he’s released alongside such mixtape series as Funky DL Samples…. For those of you who have been turned on to British hip hop in the last ten years, your association is probably with artists like Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Speech Debelle, and the sort. Funky DL sounds nothing like this.

Mikal Khill the Walking Dead

Mikal kHill of ThoughtCriminals is a nerd’s nerd, and so when he went to write and record a zombie-themed hip hop album, he wasn’t going to coast on the novelty of it. Instead, he sought to pay tribute to his favorite storytellers in the genre, namely George Romero, Max Brooks, and The Walking Dead comics, whose title he borrows for the album. In doing so, he imagined a scenario taking place with his friends and family in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Zion I - ShadowBoxing

Zion I have been prolific throughout their twelve year career, so it should come as no surprise that after a busy 2011 that saw the release of Heroes in the Healing of the Nation with The Grouch and producer Amp Live teaming up with Eligh to release Therapy at 3, they would come right back with a new album this year, ShadowBoxing. Zion I have built up a large and loyal fan base over the years, through a combination of a steady stream of albums, constant touring, and an overall positive message to their music.

P.O.S. - We Don't Even Live Here

I had the good fortune this past weekend of seeing my sister from another mister, Miss Manners, host of Hip Hop Hooray on KOOP Radio in Austin. Naturally, we quickly began talking about what records we were listening to, which quickly transitioned into a discussion about not only how good the new P.O.S. record is, but how excited we both were to listen to it. When you listen to a large volume of records and keep up with new releases, it can become difficult to get genuinely excited about a particular album.