Prometheus Brown & Bambu - Walk into a Bar

Promtheus Brown (aka Geologic from Blue Scholars) and Bambu are long-time friends who have collaborated a few times over the years, most notably on “Slow Down,” from Bambu’s …paper cuts… EP. Due to the distance between Brown and Bambu’s respective home bases in Seattle and LA, they haven’t been able to find much time in which to collaborate. Fortunately, the opportunity came up last winter, when the University of Hawaii’s Ethnic Studies department invited the two Pilipino American activist/emcees to come and speak to the students about community organizing.

Kosha Dillz - Gina and the Garage Sale EP

Kosha Dillz is a Jewish rapper from Jersey who’s been on his grind for years. He’s collaborated with the likes of C-Rayz Walz, Homeboy Sandman, and others. With his new EP, he’s looking to kick off a new chapter in his life, which is evidenced by the opening track, “Garage Sale,” which serves as an extended metaphor for cleaning out past clutter and starting fresh. On a nine-track EP, Dillz manages to cover a wide range of styles, from the soul-funk of “Garage Sale,” to the new wave synth of “All These Years,” the West Coast gangsta swagger of “To The Most High,” to the pop soul of “Dance Away the Pain,” to the Latin-inspired “Span-Hebrish (Ech Ani Olech),” to the Timbaland-esque “The Sweatpants Song.

Shabazz Palaces - Black Up

I’ve long been a fan of Digable Planets. Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) and Blowout Comb rank among my favorite hip hop albums of all time. It’s always bothered me that they don’t get the recognition given to other artists from that era. I suppose this can in part be attributed to how all three members disappeared from the spotlight for a while, then struggled to find new projects that worked as well as Digable Planets.

Zero Star - Don't Look Now

After releasing The Ink Pen Method earlier this year, Zero Star is back with an eight song EP. For this project, he enlisted fellow Columbus native J Maggz to produce and rhyme on a couple of tracks. It’s a solid effort, and one that hopefully sets the stage for Zero Star’s sophomore full length album. The production is solid, with a lot of jazz-inspired grooves that provide a platform for Zero Star to rhyme.

The Real Hiphop: Battling for Knowledge, Power, and Respect in the LA Underground by Marcyliena Morgan

Marcyliena Morgan is a professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard and founder and executive director of its Hiphop Archive. When I saw that she put together a book about Project Blowed, I was excited. This is the Life is one of my favorite hip hop documentaries. It focuses on the open mic sessions at the Good Life, a health food store in L.A. where many underground hip hop artists cut their chops.

Casual - The Hierophant

Casual has been working as an emcee for over 18 years, as a member of Bay Area group Hieroglyphics and as a solo artist. He released his last solo album in 2005, but one listen to The Hierophant and it won’t feel like much time has passed. He keeps it largely in the Hieroglyphics family, entrusting the production to Toure, and features Pep Love and Tajai. That’s not to say that he doesn’t bring a few other Bay Area artists as well.

i.deals - Spill

It feels good to be right. Back in February, in the review of IV the Polymath’s Push IVward EP, I wrote, “‘Days & Nights’ with Jondis of i.deals does feature great chemistry between producer and emcee…I will definitely be checking out some i.deals based on the strength of this song.” Come late June, with the first full length from i.deals, what immediately grabs me upon listening to the album is just how well Jondis and IV work together.

Rocky Rivera - POP KILLER MXTP

Rocky Rivera is a former journalist (Rolling Stone) turned emcee from the Bay Area. She also performs alongside DJ Roza and emcee Irie Eyez as Pacific Division. After releasing her self-titled album last year on Guerilla Busfare, she’s returned with this mixtape on Beatrock, hopefully giving us a preview of greater things to come. Rivera presents herself as a hard emcee, and she can hold it down on the mic. Occasionally, though, it can be taken too far, such as the opening track, “Pop Killer,” which features a transphobic line about wannabe emcees, where she states, “All you Nicki Minaj knock offs/ Rapping like a tranny ho that just cut his cock off.

Donwill - DPPLGNGR

Donwill, member of the Brooklyn-based group Tanya Morgan, is back with an EP to follow up his solo debut, High Fidelity. It was recorded about a year ago when he hooked up with German producer Suff Daddy. All of the songs are fairly short, so even though there are ten songs, the whole thing still clocks in at just under twenty minutes. Although Suff Daddy is German, his beats are straight-up New York on this EP, clearly influenced by the likes of Pete Rock.

Stypes - 7 Stories High

Stypes is Aaron and Adam, a Chicago-based duo. They’ve been performing together for almost ten years, but the absence of a full length release has kept them from reaching a larger audience. Hopefully they’ve found a good home at Kitchen Dip, because 7 Stories High shows promise. Most production duties on this EP are handled by Toronto-based producer incise. Wax Buzzard from the UK and SoulChef from Auckland each contribute a track as well.