Understand Rap: Explanations of Confusing Rap Lyrics You & Your Grandma Can Understand By William Bucholz

William Bucholz’s note at the beginning of Understand Rap says “…the intention of this book is not to poke fun at rap music. Rather, it is to highlight some of the more creative artists and lyrics in the genre today and to bring a basic understanding of concepts and themes in rap music to the attention of an audience who may not otherwise be exposed to these lyrics or give them a second thought.

Aloe Blacc - Good Things

On his debut solo album, Shine Through, Orange County native Aloe Blacc combined elements of soul music with some new-school hip hop, working with producers such as Madlib and Oh No. On his sophomore effort, Blacc created an organic throwback soul record that achieves the rare feat of sounding dated and relevant at once. This is in large part to the political awareness of songs such as “I Need a Dollar,” “Miss Fortune,” and “Life So Hard.

2Mex - My Fanbase Will Destroy You

If you watch the documentary This is the Good Life: How The West Was One, there is a segment at the end of the film where different emcees involved with the L.A. underground hip hop scene are contemplating how their careers panned out since the years that they cut their chops at an open mic night at the Good Life Health Food Centre. Some are bitter that others copped their style and became more famous, while others wonder if it was ever meant to be.

Ghost Mutt - Sasquatch EP

Sometimes it feels like with the accelerated clip with which we encounter music in the information age, we can get bogged down in mediocrity. This is true to some extent, but it also means that every once in a while you can come across a scene that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise and become completely energized. Case in point: Lowrider Recordings. A collective of artists from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, who have come together over a love of bass, my ears have perked up with possibilities.

Coco Bryce - Dis Cam Belie

Right on the heels of their debut release, the Lowriders Collective come back with another EP, this time courtesy of Netherlands-based Coco Bryce. Bryce contributed a remix on the first Lowriders release from Ghost Mutt, and now it’s his time to shine. This is Bryce’s first solo EP, and he quickly establishes himself as a beatmaker to know. Much like Ghost Mutt, he bridges genres, combining hip hop, funk, dubstep, glitch, and skweee, a style of music popular in Scandinavia that derives it’s name from trying to squeeze all the sounds you can out of old synthesizers.

Declaime - Dr. Shrooman aka Black Tripper (Prod. Koyto)

This has been a busy year for Declaime. After releasing a full-length solo album and a collaboration with Georgia Anne Muldrow, he comes back with his third album, this time with Spanish producer Koyto. This release is a natural continuation of the psychedelic hip hop fonk (the name of his last effort and a nice description of the funk that is heavy and uplifting all at once) he’s been laying down all year.

The Anothology of Rap - Edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois

By now, you’ve probably read the Slate article documenting the numerous transcription errors in this book (If not, you can read it here). Paul Devlin does an excellent job in not only pointing out the mistakes made, but showcasing how difficult it can be to decipher the many layers of meanings in the lyrics of different emcees. This leads me to more questions regarding the contents and layout of the book, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Kno - Death is Silent

Is goth hip hop a label that’s been thrown out there? I’m personally having a hard time thinking of anybody that I would describe in such a fashion, but listening to the debut solo album from Kno of Cunninlynguists is a very dark experience. The title is enough to ponder as is the art work, which features a black and white drawing of a young woman crying. I’m racking my brain trying to think of what to compare this to, but I’m drawing a blank.

Various Artists - Night Owls 5: Bird Flu

It’s interesting to come across a good compilation these days. You see plenty of collections of older recordings put together, but you don’t see that many label or regional compilations put together for the sake of promoting a scene. The only one that comes to mind is Casual Victim Pile, the Austin punk/garage compilation put out by Matador Records. I’m sure there are others, but it seems like more of a dying piece of record collecting and promoting.

Opolopo - Voltage Controlled Feelings

Sometimes a record is just so damn enjoyable from start to end that nothing else matters. I’ll delve into more details as to the construction of the album and where it fits in and all that good stuff, but first I just want to tell you that it was a straight-up pleasure to listen to this album. What was my first reaction to this record? “This is fun!” What do I think now that I’ve had a chance to listen to it several times and really digest it?