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.

Moka Only & Ayatollah - Bridges

Vancouver’s Moka Only is one of the most prolific emcees working today. It comes as no surprise that he would follow up a busy fall and winter that saw a couple of full length albums drop with yet another album this spring. This time he enlisted the help of Queens producer Ayatollah, best known for his work with Mos Def, amongst others. On paper, it’s a great fit, and I was very interested to hear what they’d come up with.

Apollo Brown & OC - Trophies

Apollo Brown has been building his name as a producer over the last couple years, whether it be his work with The Left or Brown Study or his solo instrumental album, Clouds. This isn’t to say there haven’t been any bumps along the way. His album with Hassaan Mackey, Daily Bread, released last year, featured uninspired production and lyrics and left me wanting. I’m sad to say that’s the case again with his latest album, Trophies, done in collaboration with D.

Open Mike Eagle - Rent Party Extension

L.A. emcee Open Mike Eagle is not one to let his fans sit long without new music. Just a few months after his last EP, he’s come back with one more to tide us over until his new album comes out later this year on Fake Four. While the last EP used a remix of the song “Nightmares” as a stepping off point, this one uses “Rent Party Revolution” to get things rolling.