Anthony Maintain - The Elephant Race

As part of an emerging beat scene in Austin, Anthony Maintain drops his debut album. Maintain actually got started as an emcee up in Boston years ago, but moved to Texas a few years back and made the shift to focus more on production. Listening to this record, it’s a decision that I’m glad he made. The Elephant Race is a really interesting record, because most instrumental albums today aren’t being made in this fashion.

Encognito - A Soulstice Cancer

Coming across an artist like Encognito is my favorite part of my work with Scratched Vinyl. Every once in a while, you get that random, unsolicited submission from a young artist that makes you sit up and take notice. It also helps matter that I’ve been to a few shows recently where I sat through plenty of opening acts where young emcees had technical issues to work out, but even more importantly, they were just regurgitating images that they had absorbed from TV and radio and didn’t feel genuine.

The ThoughtCriminals - The Game Changer EP

Charlotte nerdcore group The ThoughtCriminals have gone through a lineup change recently, essentially scaling back the group to the duo of Mikal kHill and Sulfur. While their next full length album is due out this winter, they’ve just released a four song EP, both to tide fans over and to raise funds to cover their trip to Nerdapalooza in Orlando. It’s over before you know it, but it delivers exactly what you want from them.

Roane Namuh & Reva DeVito - Cloudshine

After releasing her debut EP last year, Portland singer Reva DeVito quickly garnered attention for her soulful, smoky vocals. Her style recalled the jazz/R&B style of artists like George Benson and Gil Scott-Heron (namely his work with Brian Jackson). There was also a touch of disco and hip hop to the production, which helped her sound more contemporary, and the appeal was pretty obvious. To follow up her debut, she teamed up with producer and fellow Portland resident Roane Namuh.

Sweatshop Union - Is The Leisure Gang

Vancouver’s Sweatshop Union follow up their enjoyable Bill Murray EP from last year with this summer’s Is The Leisure Gang. The title implies that there’s a concept to the EP, but the group hasn’t come forward with any insight, and the lyrics to the title track and the video don’t provide any clarity. So while the alter ego/concept to the EP is a little confusing, you can easily throw that all out the window and just treat this as another EP from the Sweatshop Union.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Superconductor

There’s always two pieces that need to fit together well when a producer and emcee get together. I know this isn’t groundbreaking news to most hip hop fans, but sometimes it needs to be said. If a really talented emcee can’t find a producer to give them just the right amount of challenge and comfort, they’ll be doomed to wallow in obscurity. On the flip side, if a really talented producer works with a mediocre to poor emcee, the most progressive and challenging music can seem more mundane than it is.

Sidewalk Chalk - Corner Store

When one hears the phrase “hip hop band,” the natural inclination is to go, “Oh, like The Roots?” While The Roots are legendary for a reason, it’s an unfair comparison for any other group to live up to. Granted there aren’t that many live hip hop bands around, but that doesn’t mean they all sound the same. Chicago’s Sidewalk Chalk is a group should be listened to and enjoyed on their own terms.

Dark Time Sunshine - ANX

Northwest emcee Onry Ozzborn has been around a while, whether it be as part of Oldominion or Grayskul or as a solo artist. His latest project, Dark Time Sunshine, a collaboration with Chicago producer Zavala, only began in 2009, but they’ve quickly established themselves as their own entity. With their latest release, ANX, they deliver a moving and intimate album that is sure to set themselves apart. The title of the album stems from both Ozzborn and Zavala’s struggles with anxiety, and the music on ANX was meant to reflect that.

Phashara - Pathways

Pathways is the sophomore solo album from Beatmonstas member Phashara. The Chicago emcee and producer (he produced all but three tracks on Pathways) originally had a high concept name for the album, attempting to compare how traditional high art is created and received with how art is expressed when coming out of the hood. After growing tired of explaining the concept to everyone and making sure each song he wrote fell in line with the theme, Phashara decided that he needed a new direction and title for the album.

ILLROY - Dress For Success

When one is deejaying, there’s basically three general types of interactions that you’ll have. One is the nice and simple, “Good job” variety. It’s always appreciated, and doesn’t distract from the job at hand. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to group all negative interactions into one group, which range from the request that makes you think, “Have you listened to a single thing I’ve been playing?” to the obnoxious drunk who can’t take a hint and keeps coming back with more inane comments.