Lazerbeak - Lava Bangers

It must be nice to be Lazerbeak. It must be nice to have a friend (in this case, DJ Plain Ole Bill) go through some unreleased beats that you’ve been working on and to emerge with an album in tact. Seriously, I’m in awe of just how talented and prolific this guy is. On the heels of working on last Decemeber’s incredible No Kings with the rest of Doomtree, he comes right back with his first instrumental album in Lava Bangers.

Yöt - Bitch Bender

Yöt is a four piece group from Helsinki, and Bitch Bender marks their third release. They’re calling it a mini-LP or mini-album, and I’m not clear as to why they’re avoiding the term EP, but that’s all just a matter of semantics. What matters most is that they released a collection of six songs of instrumental hip-hop, dub, and skweee. Before I could really listen to their music, I had to deal with Yöt’s titles on this release.

I Self Devine - LA State of Mind

It’s been a while since I Self Divine released his debut solo album in 2005, but now that he’s back in a big way. In the time since you last heard from him, Devine has been working at the Hope Community Center in Minneapolis, helping to develop programs that encourage others to develop skills as artists, musicians, and political activists. All this time, he was still writing, so when he finally went back in the studio, he had a plethora of material to work with.

Bleubird - CANNONBALL!!!

With major labels, when albums get pushed back, that usually means that the label and the artist are at an impasse in their views about artistic expression vs. commercial viability. In the most unfortunate of cases, it means that a really interesting album will get shelved indefinitely. However, when an independent artist has an album that gets pushed back, it’s not nearly as damning a message. Most of the time it’s purely the result of working with smaller budgets and coordinating schedules with other artists, producers, and engineers.

PSY/OPSogist - Auditory Hallucinations

One of the best parts of a project like Scratched Vinyl is that every so often, an album will get submitted by an unknown artist with very little fanfare. It will get the obligatory cursory listen, when suddenly it becomes apparent that a real talent has made itself known. Such is the case with PSY/OPSogist’s Auditory Hallucinations. With a note attached that only read “Instrumental Stuff,” this album could have been anything.

AKO - periodic portfolio of elements: VAPOR

New Jersey producer AKO has recently launched a series of instrumental releases by the name of periodic portfolio of elements. The first volume, VAPOR, was released in December, which will being followed up soon by condensation. Each song is titled after an element on the periodic table, and this all ties into the collective of artists he belongs to, Chemistry Music Collective. I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve studied chemistry, but aside from everything sounding cool, I can’t exactly explain the exact correlation between songs and their titles, or the overall title of VAPOR.

Girls Got Kicks by Lori Lobenstine

Did you ever wish those Jordans that your brother and boyfriend are rocking came in your size? Did you ever get mad that the kicks you could find in a women’s size 5 were pink? Did you ever look at a pair of six-inch stilettos and ask “but how am I supposed to ball in those?” Lori Lobenstine understands. After falling in love with basketball and sneakers as a kid, Lobenstine pursued her passion for sneakers by founding the site Female Sneaker Fiend, a space for women and girls who view their sneakers as an extension of themselves and hip hop’s fifth element.

SigNif - Embracing Rejection

In a search to both expand my knowledge of Wisconsin hip hop and to find more female artists that released albums in 2011, I was extremely fortunate to come across SigNif. One listen to the Milwaukee-born and New York-based emcee, and it was clear that this was a talent that I need to know. After releasing her debut EP in 2009 and her first album in 2010, SigNif came right back in 2011 with an EP and a full length album.

Kool Krys - Listen To Your Art

At some point, hopefully sooner than later, it will no longer be noteworthy to come across talented female emcees. That’s not to say I’m surprised when I do, but more to say that I am very aware of the lack of women on our Top Ten of 2011. And while I’ve grown to enjoy a lot of Canadian hip hop, my biggest concern to this point has been that for all the talented men rapping and producing that I have come across, the only woman on the scene that I knew of was Eternia.

LMNO - Overtime

After the ambitious project of releasing ten albums in 2010, it would be completely understandable if LMNO took 2011 off. The Long Beach emcee wasn’t content to rest on his laurels, though, and dropped Overtime right at the end of December of 2011. Produced entirely by LD, they team up to bring us yet another collection of solid hip hop in the Visionaries member’s catalog. The title of the record is a play on words, both referencing the fact that LMNO has been put a lot of time in in the studio in recent years, and that he’s been on his grind for a long time.