Brother Ali - Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color

A lot has happened with Brother Ali since his last album, Us, came out in 2009. After two years of exhaustive touring, his long time deejay BK-One decided to quit the touring life to start a family, and Ali himself decided to take some time off the road to spend time with his own family and regroup. He lost some dear people, including Eyedea and his own father. He also went on a Hajj to Mecca.

Homeboy Sandman - First of a Living Breed

Homeboy Sandman has been steadily rising over the last few years. On the success of his excellent 2010 LP, The Good Sun, he signed with Stones Throw. To build anticipation of his new album, the Queens emcee dropped two EPs earlier in the year, and has just embarked on tour with Brother Ali. All things point toward First of a Living Breed being a landmark album in his career. Expectations can be a bitch - this is where I’m having trouble with this album.

Kid Koala - 12 Bit Blues

Many artists have tried to move from the turntablism of the battle circuit to the studio, only to struggle with adapting their abilities on the decks to the new format. Canadian deejay Kid Koala made the transition look so easy, and has been doing it for so long, he almost makes you wonder why others failed. On his latest album, Kid Koala focuses his attention on the blues. On paper, it would seem like the blues, a natural forebear to hip hop, would make for great source material, much in the same way that jazz is used.

Kid Sundance - Kid's Colors

It’s been a little while since we’ve heard from the Netherlands-based Fremdtunes label, but they are back with an album that’s perfect for the changing seasons. Kid Sundance is Dutch producer known for collaborations with artists like Boomoperators, Dudley Perkins, and Busy Bee, and even though he’s been recording for over ten years, Kid’s Colors marks his first official solo album. He makes it count, delivering a varied and interesting journey of instrumental hip hop that will finally get him into the spotlight.

Languages of Global Hip Hop Edited by Marina Terkourafi

The globalism hip hop is a phenomenon that has been studied from many different angles, and it can be pretty tough to encapsulate in one book. Narrowing the focus can certainly help, and in the case of this book, the field of linguistics provides us with an interesting entry point. The collection, edited by Marina Terkourafi, Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explores how different languages interact with each other within the context of hip hop, and what this can tell us about the greater culture.

Substantial - Home Is Where The Art Is

Substantial has been putting out albums for years, but the emcee hasn’t gotten the national coverage he’s deserved. Fortunately, as more attention is being focused upon the D.C. and Baltimore scenes, Substantial is set to get that recognition with his Mello Music debut. It’s the type of effortless release from a veteran emcee that feels so good, you’ll be kicking yourself that you weren’t listening to Substantial this whole time.

Ackryte - Shades

Minneapolis is well known for cultivating a strong independent hip hop scene, but as with most cities, instrumental producers have a harder time getting noticed than emcees and groups. Well, if you haven’t been paying attention, you’d do well to start. There is a serious talent from the Twin Cities in Ackryte, and his best hasn’t even come yet. Shades is a compilation of older material Ackryte has put together before he drops his debut album with HW&W later this year, so consider this your late pass.

Chorus: A Literary Mixtape, Edited and Arranged by Saul Williams, Dufflyn Lammers and Aja Monet

Saul Williams has accomplished a lot in his career, in many different facets, whether it be as an actor, musician, or writer. Because of the cache he’s built up with his other work, he’s been able to reach a wider and younger audience with poetry than most others are able to. With his latest project, he teamed up with fellow actor/poet Dufflyn Lammers and editor Aja Monet, and created a way to gain exposure for a great number of poets.

Chants - Night After EP

While thriving beat scenes in big cities like L.A. get most of the attention, talented musicians are making instrumental hip hop and electronic music all over the country. While the Midwest isn’t slept on in terms of emcees, there are certainly plenty of producers who aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. One such artist is Madison’s own Chants, who creates a really interesting soundscape with his latest EP, Night After.

TLO - Jahyu EP

TLO might not be a name you recognize, but the Toronto deejay/producer has been working with Shad for several years, producing such amazing songs as “Rose Garden” and much of his latest mixtape, Melancholy and the Infinite Shadness. This year, he steps into the spotlight with his own instrumental EP, Jahyu. If you’ve listened to his work with Shad, you’ll have a good idea as to what to expect from this EP.