The Happy Unfortunate - July Never Dies

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.

Aquil - Land of Synth

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. The first comparison that came to mind when I heard Aquil rhyme was to another Philly emcee, Has-Lo.

Amin PaYnE - Cosmic Disfunktions

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.

Adam WarRock - City Beautiful

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.

L'Orange - The Mad Writer

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. What hit me very quickly when listening to L’Orange is the great understanding he has of how to effectively use cinematic samples in his songs, namely the movie quotes.

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.