Oddisee - People Hear What They See

There are other two-way threats in hip hop today who produce and rhyme, but I don’t know if there’s anybody else working right now who is as prolific and expansive as Oddisee. In the past couple of years, the D.C. artist has released three full length instrumental albums, all with fully formed themes, as well as producing several EPs and multiple tracks for other artists. With all of that work, it’s easy to forget that he also works as an emcee.

Alyssa Marie - HeartBeat

Sometimes when you come across a debut album, you have to grade everything on a curve, keeping in mind that the artist is inexperienced and working out some growing pains in the studio. Occasionally, though, you come across a debut album that’s so strong and confident that you forget about all of that and just treat like any other album. Massachusetts emcee Alyssa Marie has accomplished that with HeartBeat. One of the first things that hits you when listening to Alyssa Marie is just how confident she sounds on the mic.

greencarpetedstairs - greencarpetedstairs

greencarpetedstairs is one of the newest additions to Fake Four, the label that has become home to many of the top independent hip hop artists working today. However, this artist doesn’t fit quite as naturally amongst their existing roster as other recent additions such as Sadistik or Open Mike Eagle. This isn’t an indication of talent level on the part anyone involved, but rather of style. Open Mike Eagle and Sadistik feel right at home alongside acts like Busdriver and Astronautalis, but the electronic, moody, and atmospheric style of greencarpetedstairs takes more time getting adjusted to.

B. Dolan - House of Bees Vol. 2

Once upon a time, mixtapes in hip hop were very unofficial releases, without much in the ways of traditional singles. You’d have to listen to the tape all the way through to catch some great verses, but nothing would really stand apart on it’s own. These days, mixtapes serve a different purpose. Calling something a mixtape versus announcing it as an official album allows for freedom to give a home for stuff like remixes and live recordings, but in an age where digital recording has allowed artists more freedom to record quality tracks without dropping a lot of money and time in a studio, the chances of a powerful single finding a home on a mixtape are greater than ever.

Mega Ran - Language Arts: Vol. 1

From an artist who’s always looking at new ways to reach and interact with his fans, Language Arts is the most ambitious project to date from Mega Ran. It’s a multi-platform release, with a video game and comic book being released alongside the album (which itself is the first of a three-volume set), all of which come together to tell the whole story. This opens up some really interesting doors, since the franchising of independent artists is something that hasn’t really been explored to any great extent.

Muneshine - There Is Only Today

Canadian hip hop artist Muneshine is probably best known as a producer, most notably for his work with Toronto emcee D-Sisive. But for those who have followed his career more closely, they also know him as a talented emcee who released his debut album back in 2005. So while this album might be a pleasant surprise to some, I’m sure some of my neighbors north of the border expected nothing less than the quality work that’s present on There Is Only Today.

Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music

When I first heard about the collaboration happening between Killer Mike and El-P, I was immediately interested. El-P has been an innovative producer for a long time, but when he’s not producing for himself, it’s usually for another Definitive Jux artist such as Mr. Lif or Cannibal Ox. He has a style that’s unusual and forward thinking, but feels best suited for emcees in the Northeast, who live in condensed cityscapes.

Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip Hop DJ by Mark Katz

For all the books and documentaries that have focused on hip hop, there are very few that deal explicitly with the role of the DJ, with the exception of Doug Pray’s 2001 documentary, Scratch. Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton cover hip hop in Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, their book chronicling the history of the DJ, but the book seems much more interested in exploring dance music than hip hop.

Stik Figa - As Himself

I’m always excited when hip hop comes from unexpected places, and Topeka, Kansas is about as unexpected as it gets. Even though it’s the capital of Kansas, it’s not a city a lot of people have on their mind, least of all as a hip hop scene. Maybe this is all about to change, though, because Topeka native Stik Figa has just dropped an album that is so entertaining and enjoyable, I found myself thinking, “Wow - what else does Topeka have to offer?

Kristoff Krane - fanfaronade

When speaking with Astronautalis about working with Bleubird on Cannonball!!!! earlier this year, he explained that while Bird had made some good records, he felt that Bid hadn’t yet made the amazing record that captured his full potential. Up to this point, I felt similarly about Kristoff Krane. He had made some great collaborative records, and some really good solo records, but hadn’t reached the next level that I knew he was capable of.