I Self Devine - The Upliftment Struggle

The Upliftment Struggle is the second in a series of four mixtapes that I Self Devine is releasing in anticipation of his new album coming out in May. On his first mix, he presented a look back at his childhood growing up in L.A. in the ‘80s. In the second chapter, Devine changes perspective and tries to analyze how one can rise up and overcome a tough background. It’s a strong development of what was built on the first mixtape.

Brother Ali - The Bite Marked Heart

It’s been a little while since we last heard from Brother Ali. After releasing the fantastic album Us in 2009 and touring extensively in support of it, the Minneapolis emcee made the decision to spend some time with his family and regroup as an artist. Now, with a new album coming up on the horizon, we get our first taste of new Brother Ali music in the form of a free EP, The Bite Marked Heart.

Speech Debelle - Freedom of Speech

Speech Debelle made a splash in her native England in 2009 when she won the Mercury Prize for her debut album, Speech Therapy. Despite the critical acclaim, her album sales where still low compared to other Mercury Prize winners, and she actually left Big Dada over a dispute involving this discrepancy. However, both sides were able to resolve their issues in time for her sophomore effort. Hopefully the fan base will come around this time, because Speech is a unique talent that deserves recognition on both sides of the Atlantic, and Freedom of Speech shows us why.

Nneka - Soul Is Heavy

Nneka is a Nigerian singer/emcee who has been building an international following the past few years. One listen to Soul Is Heavy, and it’s easy to see what the fuss is about. Nneka to writes incredibly smart lyrics to music that seamlessly moves between R&B, hip hop, reggae, Afrobeat, and straight-ahead pop music. She’s got plenty of charisma, and the comparisons to heavyweights like Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu are completely justified.

Milo - Milo Takes Baths

Wisconsin emcee Milo made a splash last year with his exceptional debut, I wish my brother Rob was here. It introduced us to a young, awkward emcee who had a knack for constructing unusual lines over indie-rock samples. While the style was unique, what made him really special was the smart social commentary and deep emotional confessions contained within those lines. A few months after dropping that release, Milo is right back at, this time using the material of anticon.

Ghost Mutt - Sweat Mode

Ghost Mutt is a young producer from Brighton. He first caught our attention a little over a year ago with a short EP out on Lowriders Recordings called Sasquatch. It was pretty short, but it certainly held promise of greater things to come. We still don’t have the full length we’re waiting on, but this short four song collection will tide us over in the mean time. Sweat Mode seems to be built on reinventing the disco-funk of the early ‘80s.

Busdriver - Beaus$Eros

There are few artists as difficult to write about as Busdriver. He’s built his career by constantly challenging preconceived notions of what hip hop should sound like and how an emcee should act on stage and deliver rhymes. When he’s at his best, such as his work with producers Nobody or Boom Bip on RoadKillOvercoat, he’s creates hip hop that’s weird and challenging, yet still has a pop sensibility. Teaming up with Belgian producer Loden for his latest album, Beaus$Eros, he once again delivers a record that immediately appeals to the ears.

Adam WarRock - You Dare Call That Thing Human?!?

For all the EPs, mixtapes, and singles that Adam WarRock releases over the internet, it might surprise you that this is just his second full length album. However, after all these releases and the constant touring and building up his fan base, there couldn’t be a better time for him to drop this album. Teaming up with Baltimore producer Vince Vandal, You Dare Call That Thing Human?!? delivers on all the aspects of WarRock that make him appealing - a nice mix of nerd humor, comic book references, battle raps, as well as songs discussing race, regionalism, and showing your sensitive side in hip hop.

K. Flay - Eyes Shut

Brooklyn-by-way-of-the-Bay rapper/producer K. Flay has been building momentum over the last couple of years through a series of EPs and mixtapes. Some of that attention comes from the fact that a pretty white woman is making hip hop, but that only gets you so far. A pretty face doesn’t get you on a Zion I record, talent does. Looks didn’t teach her to play guitar or make beats or get her through Stanford.

Lee Bannon - Gnarlon Bando's Midnight Noir

Lee Bannon is an up-and-coming producer from Sacramento. His time seems to be approaching, as his upcoming album, Fantastic Plastic, promises appearances from Inspectah Deck, Del the Funky Homosapien, and yU. Before that, though, we get Gnarlon Bando’s Might Noir, an instrumental album intended to serve as a soundtrack to a fictional film. The album opens with a mysterious short and cryptic phone call, between a man and woman who arrange to meet.