The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble - Miles Away

Madlib has done so much hip hop production, it’s easy to forget that he’s just as serious a jazz musician. This is his second jazz album of the year, along with the Young Jazz Rebels album. Here, we take a journey to the fusion jazz of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, paying tribute to artists like Derf Reklaw, Roy Ayers, John Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders. Madlib apparently spent the last two years tweaking this album until he was happy with it, and while I don’t know what the rough draft was like, I can say I enjoy the finished product.

Dosh - Tommy

On his fifth full-length album, anticon. mainstay Dosh brings us a world of music that has no real use for genre or classification. His typical composition method is based on looping multiple instruments, and his association with his label mates align him with hip hop and electronic music. He also just went on tour with indie-rock violinist Andrew Bird, who also makes an appearance on this album. I imagine others would want to put some sort of post-rock label on him, due to the mostly instrumental nature of the album and the loose song structure and ever-present drums.

Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek are Reflection Eternal - Revolutions Per Minute

Ten years after their initial collaboration as Reflection Eternal, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek have once again joined forces to produce some fun and accessible hip hop that will also make you think. It takes a little bit for the album to get going, with an intro/skit that doesn’t quite come together, and a couple of songs that are decent but don’t really go anywhere. At this point, I’m just a little nervous that this ten-year reunion is going through the motions.

Sage Francis - Li(f)e

Sage Francis has had a pretty interesting career so far, with a background that ties him to anticon. and spoken word/slam poetry circles. With the release of the Non-Prophets record, it seemed for a hot minute like he might go a more traditional hip hop route, but that didn’t last at all. It wasn’t that long after that he was collaborating with the likes of Will Oldham to create a unique indie-folk/hip hop hybrid.

B. Dolan - Fallen House Sunken City

B. Dolan has been plugging away for a few years as a spoken word artist and social activist. When I found out he was friends with Sage Francis and would be touring with him in support of their new albums, this made sense. On this album, which Dolan collaborated with anticon. member Alias on as producer, he comes at you with a focused, intense barrage of songs. At times, it feels that Alias is channeling El-P, laying down a sonic background of funky, harsh, urban decay.

Murs & 9th Wonder - Fornever

I have a long history with Murs, so let me put this album into context for you. I first came across Murs when he released his debut album for Definitive Jux, as did most of us outside of the L.A. area. I liked the album, although it was a little inconsistent, with too many songs and producers. In 2004, Murs got together with producer 9th Wonder, and they dropped 3:16. This album made me sit up and pay attention.

Joyo Velarde - Love and Understanding

For a lot of people, Lyrics Born’s Later That Day wasn’t just his coming out party, it also brought our attention to the wonderful voice of Joyo Velarde. It seems like it wasn’t much longer after, seeing the two of them on tour together, and at the Quannum World Tour, that they kept telling the audience to be on the lookout for a Joyo Velarde solo album. This was 2003-2004.

Madlib - Medicine Show No. 3: Beat Konducta in Africa

This is the third installment in Madlib’s Medicine Show series. Here, he comes back as the Beat Konducta and takes us on a trip to Africa. While this is supposed to be a Beat Konducta joint based on samples from African music from the early ‘70s, this plays out more like a well put together mix-tape. Not that I’m necessarily complaining. It just feels more like a lot of snippets of pan-African records that Madlib occasionally throws a beat under than a complete re-imagining of the music.

Georgia Anne Muldrow - Kings Ballad

Georgia Anne Muldrow is quickly becoming a favorite for me, even though I only discovered her last year. I’ve since filled up a bit of the back catalogue, and I’m certainly impressed by her output this year. The psychedelic funk/hip hop/R&B she has hit upon really resonates with me. I love that her lyrics are smart, emotional, and original. I love that she writes, plays, and sings her own material. Even on a song like “Kings Ballad,” which is a tribute song to Michael Jackson doesn’t seem like a cheesy remembrance ballad, but instead comes across as a strong, urgent, pulsing, jazzy, psychedelic genuine appreciation for a musical artist that broke down barriers and inspired a generation of younger artists.

Thavius Beck - Dialogue

I mostly know Thavius Beck as a producer, who worked with artists like Busdriver and Saul Williams, along with releasing solo albums of instrumental works. It was with this background that I was pleasantly surprised to find that this album not only features Beck as producer/songwriter, but also as lyricist/emcee. Even more pleasant is discovering is that he’s quite capable on the mic. Production-wise, this features his unique blend of house/glitch/dancehall/hip hop that he’s been making for years.