Skyrider - Aux Send Vol. 1

Known as Sole’s backing band since their first album together in 2007, Skyrider was playing as a trio before that, and continue to write and record even when Sole is working on other projects. While we can expect a Sole and the Skyrider Band album next summer, we’ve got a full-length instrumental album to enjoy right now. The album is difficult to pin down, and its eclectic mix of genres does little to help.

Flying Lotus - Pattern + Grid World

After releasing the ambitious full-length Cosmogramma earlier this year, L.A.-based producer Flying Lotus comes right back to give us a seven-song EP. While it may not have the ambition of its predecessor, it’s a solid record any way you slice it. In a relatively short time, Flying Lotus proved he was capable of harnessing a wide array of musical influences. In less than twenty minutes, we’re taken on quite a journey.

Ninja Tune XX presents King Cannibal 'The Way of the Ninja'

Ninja Tune celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year. In that time, they’ve released a variety of experimental hip hop and electronic music and built up a large fan base. The anniversary has been celebrated in many different fashions, from concerts to box sets to books. This is all great, but none hold a candle to what King Cannibal has given us. A relatively new member of the Ninja Tune family, this London-based artist rose to the challenge to take the twenty-year catalogue and condense it into a 74-minute remix.

Moka Only - Martian Xmas 2010

Moka Only might not be a household name in the States, but this Canadian hip hop artist has put out forty records since his debut in the mid-nineties, earning him the nickname “The Most Prolific.” This is the latest installment in a Christmas series he started in 2007. It definitely doesn’t sound like most Christmas albums I’ve come across, and for that I’m grateful. Hailing from Vancouver, Moka has led the way for Canadian West Coast hip hop.

Dãm-Funk - Adolescent Funk

Usually when you get a collection like this, it’s only meant for super-fans who want to claim they have everything the artist ever recorded. It won’t be good, but it might be interesting. You can catch a glimpse of what the artist was going to become. Also, you would wait until several albums into their career and use it to sate fans until the next album. Adolescent Funk does not fit into this mold.

The Left - Gas Mask

The Left consists of producer Apollo Brown on the beats, DJ Soko on the scratches, and Journalist 103 on the mic. Soko and 103 are from Detroit, and Brown is from Grand Rapids. While environment always factors into the sound of an album, I don’t know if I’ve come across and album that’s as specific to its time and place as Gas Mask is to Detroit in 2010. It is no secret that times are tough right now, and now we have the soundtrack.

Gangrene - Gutter Water

Gangrene is the collaboration between producers/emcees The Alchemist and Oh No. The Alchemist is best known for his work with Dilated Peoples, and also for his two solo albums. Oh No has worked on living outside brother Madlib’s shadow, mostly by being prolific. He releases several solo albums and produces tracks for Mos Def, Doom, MED, Aloe Blacc, and Murs, among others. I especially like Oh No’s Dr. No’s Oxperiment, and brilliant collection of instrumental work he made from sampling records from Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, and Italy.

Loden - Buggy

Four years after the release of his debut album, Valeen Hope, Loden, a Brussels-based producer, gives us his sophomore effort. While his first album tended towards a slower ambient atmosphere, Loden has come back with a second album that is much more immediate in its impact, bringing the focus on beats that wasn’t really there on the first record. It’s hard to pin this record down, as it brings in elements of hip hop, dubstep, house, disco, new wave, glitch, and other genres.

Understand Rap: Explanations of Confusing Rap Lyrics You & Your Grandma Can Understand By William Bucholz

William Bucholz’s note at the beginning of Understand Rap says “…the intention of this book is not to poke fun at rap music. Rather, it is to highlight some of the more creative artists and lyrics in the genre today and to bring a basic understanding of concepts and themes in rap music to the attention of an audience who may not otherwise be exposed to these lyrics or give them a second thought.

Aloe Blacc - Good Things

On his debut solo album, Shine Through, Orange County native Aloe Blacc combined elements of soul music with some new-school hip hop, working with producers such as Madlib and Oh No. On his sophomore effort, Blacc created an organic throwback soul record that achieves the rare feat of sounding dated and relevant at once. This is in large part to the political awareness of songs such as “I Need a Dollar,” “Miss Fortune,” and “Life So Hard.