BK-One - Radio Do Canibal

DJ-produced albums can be tricky. There’s a difference between a coherent studio release of original material and a mixtape. BK-One, Brother Ali’s deejay for years, surely knows this. How else could he have made such a brilliant, carefully-crafted album built off of Brazilian music samples? If you’ve seen Ali in concert, you know that BK-One is a great live deejay. However, most of us probably didn’t know he was capable of something like this.

Abstract Rude - Rejuvination

Abstract Rude, veteran of the L.A. scene and member of such groups as Abstract Tribe, The A-Team, and Haiku D’etat, come at us with his first solo album in about five years, and his first for Rhymesayers. The album features production by Vitamin D, whose slow, laid back grooves seem like a good fit for the low smooth delivery of Ab’s voice. My complaint about this album would be that there lacks any sort of home run tracks.

Aceyalone - Aceyalone & The Lonely Ones

This album is the second in a series of albums that Aceyalone decided to do as experiments in crossing other genres with hip hop, which started with 2007’s Lighting Strikes, his foray into reggae. While reggae is not the oddest direction to take hip hop (the family tree doesn’t split that far back), I had to pause when I heard that this album with be Acey’s experiment with doo-wop. This isn’t as quite a natural fit, and it takes a little bit of finagling to make it work.

Anti-Pop Consortium - Flourescent Black

If there was any doubt that Anti-Pop wasn’t going to hit hard on their long-awaited reunion album, they don’t waste any time answering your questions. The opening track, “Lay Me Down,” opens up with some turn-up-the-volume metal guitar shredding, only to drop out and have some sinister slow drums start pulsing as M. Sayyid begins to lay it down. It’s been six years since they last released an album together, and they’ve released albums as solo artists and side projects, but nothing came close to what they create when all four members are playing off and challenging each other.

Big Quarters - From the Homes of Brown Babies and White Mothers

Big Quarters consist of brothers Brandon and Zach Bagaason, an up-and-coming duo from Minneapolis who shouldn’t be unknown for much longer. For one, they are very much committed to connecting to their fans, passing out free CDs at shows, and providing affordable download subscription services for their music. First and foremost, though, is the music, and BQ certainly brings it on their new album. They bring such a great marriage of inventive, varied production mixed with smart, thoughtful lyrics, this is album is definitely in the running for best surprise of the year.

Bike For Three! - More Heart Than Brain

Bike for Three! is the collaboration between Canadian emcee Buck 65 and Belgian producer Greetings from Tuskan. I’m not familiar with Greetings from Tuskan, but I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve completely lost interest in Buck 65’s career since Talkin’ Honky Blues. I just couldn’t get into his spoken-word-ish delivery over music that was pretty uninteresting. This album was being put out on anticon, though, so I thought maybe this would be a departure of the material of recent years.

Blueprint - Sign Language

While many people might be familiar with Blueprint as an emcee, fewer people are probably aware of his efforts as a producer. Which is a shame, because you’re not getting the full picture if you haven’t spent time with his instrumental works. As an emcee, he’s bold and playful, telling tales of social unrest and personal struggles with a good balance of seriousness and humor. As a producer, he explores areas of music outside of hip hop that are warm, soulful, and sexy.

Cage - Depart From Me

These days, I try to remind myself that Hell’s Winter is a really good album and it was before that idiot Shia LeBouf started championing Cage as his favorite and said he was going to make and star in a biopic about him. It had been a while since that album had come out now, though, and I was curious to see what he had in store for a follow up.

Various Artists - Definitive Jux Presents 4

So for a short time there, it seemed like this was going to be a yearly event, a sort of State-of-the-Union album from one of underground hip hop’s hottest labels. Well, after the third one, I guess they got distracted, ‘cause we hadn’t heard one in quite a few years. The most important thing about the DJP series is that it provided a place to collect good singles that didn’t have a home on an album but needed an audience.

Dälek - Gutter Tactics

I’ve never really gotten into Dälek before. The experimental Jersey duo who have been putting out albums since 1998, and upon listening to this album, it quickly becomes clear to me why I’ve never connected to their music. The opening track, “Blessed Are They Who Bash Your Children’s Head Against A Rock,” is sure to stir up emotions as a slow, ominous, pulsing beat builds while Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s speech discusses race and international relations in the United States.