Shitao - Mono

Shitao is a producer form Paris who is part of the ASP crew alongside Pi-Pol and akabrownsugar. As a solo artist, he’s been putting out music for about the last fifteen years. His last release came in November of 2020, when he released Aleph, a concept album in which Shitao composed a soundtrack to the Jorge Luis Borges short story. Now he’s come back with another concept album, Mono. If you’re going to make instrumental hip hop albums these days, it helps if you can come of with some sort of hook to inspire your creativity and to give your album shape as a way to stand apart from the pack.

Lex Leosis - Terracotta

In March of 2020, Toronto emcee Lex Leosis released her full-length album, Mythologies. Under normal circumstances, she would have ridden the wave of the album release into the summer and toured and played some festivals and really connected with her fans. Of course, we all know what happened last year as the pandemic hit and live music had to slam the brakes. With all this newfound time on her hands and feeling that this album was being lost in the mix a little bit, Leosis started to take the time to be thoughtful and build for the future.

Diamond Lung - Jeweler's Loop

Back in 2017, San Francisco producer Brycon teamed up with emcee Lightbulb to form the group Diamond Lung. They dropped their debut album, When Did Everybody Learn To Fly? After that, Brycon got swept up in about 10,000 other projects, and then it started to get to the point where you began to wonder if there was ever going to be a second Diamond Lung album. Well, we can all rest easy, because things finally lined up for a second album, and it is here in the form of Jeweler’s Loop.

Tarriona 'Tank' Ball - Vulnerable AF

These days, Tarriona Ball is best known as “Tank” from New Orleans hip hop group Tank and the Bangas. Back in the day, though, she came up on the slam poetry scene. With touring on hiatus during 2020, and as we all processed our feelings at home, Ball went ahead and did something new, writing her first book of poetry, Vulnerable AF. As a frontwoman, Ball is dynamic and boisterous and just commands your attention on stage as she draws on hip hop and gospel influences.

Andrea Swensson - Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound

Andrea Swensson has long been a contributing member of the Minneapolis music scene, whether it be as host of The Local Show on 89.3 The Current or working as Music Editor at the city’s late alt-weekly, City Pages. In 2017, University of Minnesota Press released her book Got To Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound. In 2021, it was rereleased in paperback, now with a new foreword from Jellybean Johnson.

BLKrKRT - Ancestors II (B-Sides)

Ever since Fort Worth producer BLKrKRT came on our radar just this past January when he collaborated with Tornup for the album Hologram Zoo Vol. 1: The Crypt, we’ve learned that he’s as prolific as he’s creative. Just this past month, he gave us the album Ancestors, which further cemented his status as one of the most innovative avantgarde electronic composers working today. Apparently, there was so much material recorded for the album, he’s now come right back with a new album, Ancestors II (B-Sides).

Declaime x Madlib - In the Beginning Vol. 1

You might know him as Dudley Perkins or as Declaime or as both. You might know him from his many solo albums, and you might know him from his albums with Georgia Anne Muldrow. What you might not know is that way back when, he was just a young dude in Oxnard that wanted to sing and rap, and he happened to be friends with a young producer by the name of Madlib, who was just starting to make some waves with a group called Lootpack.

Operations/Floco Torres - As We Curve

Akron-based artist Floco Torres is more than a decade deep into his career, and he’s been prolific during that time. While it’s been two years since his last full-length album, West Hill, he has been keeping busy with a string of singles and one-off collaborations. Now he’s back with a new full-length done in collaboration with Akron musician Egan Ammerman, better known as Operations, called As We Curve. As We Curve is an interesting album in that the collaboration pushes Torres outside of any sort of typical setting you think for a hip hop album, with Operations coming at the project as a pianist/guitarist that might steer a little more in the indie rock direction, though not exclusively.

PremRock - Load Bearing Crow's Feet

New York by way of Philly emcee PremRock has been going strong for about a decade now, whether it be as a solo artist or pairing up with producers like Willie Green or Fresh Kils or forming the group ShrapKnel with Curly Castro. His last release came out just last year when ShrapKnel released their debut self-titled album. Now he’s back with a new solo album, Load Bearing Crow’s Feet.

MELONYX - Black Elixir EP

MELONYX is a duo from Nottingham made up of vocalists Georgia Copeland and Nadia Latoya. They released their first single, “Worth the Wait,” in May of last year, but now they make their debut on Tru Thoughts with their first EP, Black Elixir EP. Sequencing is an underrated aspect of putting a project out into the world. I don’t know how the decisions were made when it came to Black Elixir, but however they came to it, it pays off in a really interesting way.