Amalia - Art Slave

Continuing on their terrific run of electro-boogie releases, Tokyo Dawn now gives us the debut album Amalia. Produced by Opolopo, who had already featured Amalia prominently on his 2010 album Voltage Controlled Feelings, Art Slavebuilds on the chemistry they had already established. The result is a sound that is reminiscent of the R&B/hip hop/boogie that was happening in the late eighties and early nineties, with plenty of great keyboard work and big drum hits.

Sims - Bad Time Zoo

Ever since I saw Doomtree last year and heard a few new tracks from Sims, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this album. Debuting new material in a live setting can be tricky, especially at a raucous hip hop show. I knew this album had the potential to be really good though, because not only did I enjoy the songs as they were happening, they stuck with me afterward. Now that the album is finally here, I can enthusiastically announce that this album exceeded all my expectations.

The Electric - Life is Moving

DJ Vadim, the Russian-born, UK-raised New York resident, has been producing music since the early ‘90s. He was a staple at Ninja Tune for much of his career, and has collaborated with everyone from Paul Weller to Antipop Consortium. On this, his most recent project, he has teamed up with Chicago emcee Pug Atomz and British singer Sabira Jade. They've come together to create a sound that harkens back to the hip hop/R&B hybridization that happened in the mid ‘90s.

Beans - End It All

After the reunion of Antipop Consortium and the stellar album Fluorescent Black, emcee Beans took little time coming back with another solo album. After spending the majority of his recording career with Warp Records, Beans teamed up with anticon. to put this record out, becoming the most high-profile established act outside of the collective to put out an album on the label. It’s certainly a good fit, though, as both anticon.

Apollo Brown - Clouds

In 2010, Apollo Brown established himself as a producer to know, releasing an album with The Left, another with Boog Brown, and The Reset, a solo album full of guest emcees. While we're currently seeing a new generation of hip hop arising in Detroit, Brown is firmly staking his claim as one of the premier beat makers. On Clouds, Brown builds an instrumental album that shifts gears from his work in 2010, giving us a peaceful meditative experience.

Amad-Jamal - Barely Hanging On: The Chronicles of a Brotha Like Rodney King

Amad-Jamal has been a part of the LA hip hop scene since the early ‘90s, first recording as part of the Soul Survivors along with DJ Khalil and RaSudan Daaood. After recording with groups and on other artists’ tracks, Amad-Jamal has finally been given a chance to shine as a solo artist. It may have taken him a while to get here, but he's displaying plenty of staying power with this album.

D-Sisive - Jonestown 2: Jimmy Go Bye Bye

D-Sisive is a Toronto-based emcee. After a prolonged absence from making music for much of the 2000s, he reemerged as a prolific artist (this is his fourth album since 2009) with plenty to say. Jonestownwas released in 2009, but Jonestown 2stands on it own, so no previous knowledge is required. All you need is love for solid production based on quality soul music samples and smart, sarcastic lyrics that give way to a moving emotional experience.

Jet Age of Tomorrow - Journey to the 5th Echelon

Before I get to the music, I have to acknowledge what an amazing job hip hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All did in building an Internet hype machine. Without any serious label support (Tyler, the Creator recently signed with XL), they've spread their music and videos virally, giving away the albums for free via their Tumblr page. After a short period of time, this L.A.-based group of kids (none of them are old enough to drink) convinced the right people that they're brilliant, landing praise from such publications as Pitchfork, Fader, LA Weekly and Rolling Stone, and securing a performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

IMAKEMADBEATS - IMAKEMADBEATS

IMAKEMADBEATS, also known as Nemo, is a producer based out of Brooklyn. He previously released a full-length with Roc C and worked with artists such as Rah Digga. This album marks his solo debut. My first complaint here is his moniker. While I Make Mad Beatswould be a good title of a producer's solo debut, it's incredibly awkward as an artist's name. There are a few skits on the album that play with his name, but I find the skits confusing and they disrupt the flow of the album.

Elusive - Hip Hop For Hipsters

Elusive is a Los Angeles-based producer who has been releasing records for years and has worked just about everybody in the California underground, from Gift of Gab to Planet Asia to Living Legends. I was particularly intrigued by the title of this collection, since everybody has a slightly different idea as to what a hipster is, and what they listen to. Naturally, I was curious as to how Elusive was going to address this.