Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation by Sujatha Fernandes

As an Australian born of Indian parents who now serves as Assistant Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, it should come as no surprise that Fernandes would be compelled to write about global culture. In Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation, Fernandes uses her background as an activist and emcee along with her academic skills to inform he observations.

Maggz - Soundscapes: Autumn Selections

2011 has been a busy year for Maggz. After producing Zero Star’s Don’t Look Now EP and releasing Maggnetic Opposites, a solo EP featuring himself as emcee with Optix on prodution, we now get an instrumental EP with Maggz as sole producer and songwriter. Soundscapes: Autumn Selection is a short collection of songs meant to capture the feeling of the current season. Not only would I say that Maggz succeeds, but I’m even more excited to see so many sides of an artist in such a short time.

Brother Ali - Us

I feel like I need to preface anything I write about Brother Ali by saying that I am a huge fan, and his music has meant a great deal to me personally. That said, I also pride myself on being able to objective and taking my heroes to task when the need calls for it. Which is great, because one of the things I love about Ali is that he takes criticism as a challenge and tries to rise up to it.

Villa Rosa - Blue Diamond Island

Blue Diamond Island marks the official debut of Villa Rosa, the collaboration between Minneapolis/St. Paul artists Maria Isa and Muja Messiah. Both have shown moments of great promise with solo releases, but neither have put together a collection of material that’s solid from start to finish. When I heard they were releasing an album together, I thought they might combine their talents to finally realize their potential. Instead, my frustrations with both artists continue.

Illogic & Walter Rocktight - Year 8076

Back in 2005, Illogic was set to release an album on Rhymesayers. The Columbus artist had worked with Blueprint on 2004’s Celestial Clockwork, and had toured with other Rhymesayers artists, so it seemed like a logical expansion of their roster. Illogic went straight to work on a followup to Clockwork, which is an album fairly downtempo and dark in tone. To move away from this sound, Illogic enlisted Walter Rocktight, a fellow Columbus artist and deejay, most well known for his production work on S.

Random Axe - Random Axe

Random Axe is the collaboration between Detroit’s Black Milk and Guilty Simpson, and New York’s Sean Price. Black Milk produced the entire album, which features appearances from Fat Ray, Roc Marciano, Melanie Rutherford, Rock, and Trick Trick. There’s a temptation to call an album like this a super group, but it doesn’t play out as such. I’ll be completely up front and honest before I get started. I’m not the biggest fan of Guilty Simpson and Sean Price, as both have the tendency as emcees to spout rhymes that just reinforce gangsta clichés and fall back on sexist and homophobic insults.

Illogic - Diabolical Fun

Illogic is one of my favorite emcees that no one seems to know about. This seems wrong to me. He’s got such a clear, strong delivery on the mic with such smart lyrical play, I don’t know why he hasn’t gotten bigger. Illogic is a storyteller and entertainer on par with any of the best in the game. More than anything, on this album Illogic seems determined to reclaim his rightful place in hip hop.

Chee Malabar - Burning Tire Artisan

Chee Malabar has recorded as part of the Himalayan Project and Oblique Brown, but he’s recently started to branch out as a solo artist. For this album, the Indian born emcee enlisted Staten Island producer Ali Abidi to lay down the beats. Burning Tire Artisan is rooted in classic East Coast hip hop, from KRS-ONE to Nas, but is given an unique perspective as Malabar presents us with a political awareness that’s informed by his experiences as an immigrant.

Brothers From Another - Quality of Living

From the opening beats of “Q.O.L.,” produced by Justo, I knew that the production value of this album was going to be good. The tight snare hits, quiet bass line, understated horn line, and the subtle use of wah-wah guitar in the background all provide a nice foundation for some solid hip hop. The pressure than shifts to the two emcees that make up Brothers From Another - Goonstar and Breez.

Dessa - Castor, The Twin

After releasing A Badly Broken Code last year, Dessa has spent a lot of time on the road. After changing her live configuration from a deejay to a trio of standup bass, drums, and guitar/keyboard, she began to see the songs take on a new life. The fans noticed as well, and began to ask if these versions of the songs were available. With this demand, they went into the studio to capture her new sound and came out with Castor, The Twin.