Animal Farm - Culture Shock

Animal Farm is a group out of Portland. The city may not be on many people’s radar as a big hip hop town, but it actually has a thriving scene. It is home to acts such as Lifesavas, Mic Crenshaw, Cool Nutz, and Ohmega Watts. Animal Farm released their first album in 2008, but remain largely unknown to a national audience. With an excellent sophomore effort featuring guest spots from Talib Kweli, Abstract Rude, Rob Swift, and DJ Wicked, I have a feeling they are going to enter the lexicon of hip hop fans everywhere.

MC Elijah Black - The Brother From Another Planet

Formerly known as L.O.S.T (Last of the Soldiers Taken), MC Elijah Black is a young emcee from New York. His debut album should be coming out later this year. To whet our appetites, he’s released this mix tape, inspired by John Sayles’ movie The Brother From Another Planet. If nothing else, it will hopefully inspire people to watch the movie. The premise might seem novel (an alien that passes as an African American crashes his ship in Harlem), but it is actually a poignant film about race relations and immigration.

Kid Presentable!!! + Morbidly-o-Beats - 72 Virgins and a Mule

Kid Presentable!!! and Morbidly-o-Beats are both part of the relatively new Paper Lantern Collective, a group of artists based in mostly Southern California. They got together over a love of music and antiestablishment need to break free of the restraints of the traditional label system. As a result, they made all of their albums free to download. On this album, Kid Presentable!!! mostly works as an emcee, but does a little bit of production as well.

BC - Timepieces: Part (The Surface)

BC is an emcee from the Tampa-based group Red Tide. They had fallen off of my radar in recent years, but one listen to Timepieces quickly reminded me of the talent they possessed. Timepieces: Part 2 is the second part in a trilogy, a conceptual story told from the point of view of a time traveler from the future who has come back in time to discover Pop World. It’s a little odd, but it’s an interesting take on criticizing the music industry.

YC the Cynic - Fall FWD

I first heard YC the Cynic on J-Live’s “Watch the Sun,” the b-side to his new album’s first single. Soon after, I went to see J-Live during SXSW this year. During his set, Homeboy Sandman came on, which was as expectedly great. What I wasn’t ready for, though, was YC the Cynic. When he was introduced, I thought, “Oh, right, he’s on the new single.” J-Live gave him space in his set to do three or four songs, and he delivered a high energy performance that showcased his intelligence and charisma.

Fremdtunes - Series 2

Fremdtunes is a relatively new label based in the Netherlands, but in the past year that I’ve been aware of their work, they’ve released two of the strongest instrumental albums I’ve heard from Coco Bryce and Optimace. On the heels of the Optimace album, they’ve come right back with the second in series of label samplers. It’s only six tracks long, but it still manages to cover a lot of ground and give us a very fulfilling listening experience.

Bambu - ...exact change...Reloaded

Bambu was part of the Los Angeles-based group Native Guns, a politically-minded hip hop group consisting of two Filipino American emcees and a Chinese American deejay. Bambu kept going strong as a solo artist since the group broke up in 2007. …exact change…Reloaded is a re-release of an album that originally came out in 2008. A lot of people (myself included) slept on this album when it originally came out, but hopefully this time around more people will recognize what a strong album it is.

DJ Cosm - Time and Space

DJ Cosm is one half of the Calgary-based duo Dragon Fli Empire. They’ve been together since 2002 and have released three albums and one EP. Time and Space marks Cosm’s first solo LP and features a plethora of guest emcees, Canadian and American. Cosm isn’t reinventing the wheel as a producer. But piecing together funky drum beats with soul and jazz samples is a time-tested formula and Cosm is really good at it.

Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip-Hop Feminist Pedagogy by Ruth Nicole Brown

As a Girls Rock Camp Austin volunteer who is about to reenter the academy as a feminist media studies scholar, I have tremendous respect for scholars who put theory into practice. Ruth Nicole Brown does the reverse with Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip-Hop Feminist Pedagogy, which casts a critical eye toward SOLHOT (Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths), an afterschool program for black girls that Brown helped found in Illinois.

Has-Lo - In Case I Don't Make It

Has-Lo is a producer/emcee hailing from Philadelphia. He’s only been releasing records for a few years, but he’s already developed a distinct style, dropping dark introspective rhymes laced with humor over some down tempo beats. For his Mello Music debut, Has-Lo produced a concept album, walking us through the mind of a man close to breakdown. While this could easily give way to maudlin self indulgence, Has-Lo avoids all of these trappings.