Amad-Jamal - Barely Hanging On: The Chronicles of a Brotha Like Rodney King

Amad-Jamal has been a part of the LA hip hop scene since the early ‘90s, first recording as part of the Soul Survivors along with DJ Khalil and RaSudan Daaood. After recording with groups and on other artists’ tracks, Amad-Jamal has finally been given a chance to shine as a solo artist. It may have taken him a while to get here, but he’s displaying plenty of staying power with this album.

D-Sisive - Jonestown 2: Jimmy Go Bye Bye

D-Sisive is a Toronto-based emcee. After a prolonged absence from making music for much of the 2000s, he reemerged as a prolific artist (this is his fourth album since 2009) with plenty to say. Jonestown was released in 2009, but Jonestown 2 stands on it own, so no previous knowledge is required. All you need is love for solid production based on quality soul music samples and smart, sarcastic lyrics that give way to a moving emotional experience.

Jet Age of Tomorrow - Journey to the 5th Echelon

Before I get to the music, I have to acknowledge what an amazing job hip hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All did in building an Internet hype machine. Without any serious label support (Tyler, the Creator recently signed with XL), they’ve spread their music and videos virally, giving away the albums for free via their Tumblr page. After a short period of time, this L.A.-based group of kids (none of them are old enough to drink) convinced the right people that they’re brilliant, landing praise from such publications as Pitchfork, Fader, LA Weekly and Rolling Stone, and securing a performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.


IMAKEMADBEATS, also known as Nemo, is a producer based out of Brooklyn. He previously released a full-length with Roc C and worked with artists such as Rah Digga. This album marks his solo debut. My first complaint here is his moniker. While I Make Mad Beats would be a good title of a producer’s solo debut, it’s incredibly awkward as an artist’s name. There are a few skits on the album that play with his name, but I find the skits confusing and they disrupt the flow of the album.

Elusive - Hip Hop For Hipsters

Elusive is a Los Angeles-based producer who has been releasing records for years and has worked just about everybody in the California underground, from Gift of Gab to Planet Asia to Living Legends. I was particularly intrigued by the title of this collection, since everybody has a slightly different idea as to what a hipster is, and what they listen to. Naturally, I was curious as to how Elusive was going to address this.

Dimlite - My Human Wears Acedia Shreds

Swiss producer Dimlite has been making music for a while now, but is just now beginning to make his mark stateside. After an appearance on Everything She Touched Turned to Ampexian by Prefuse 73, last year’s Prismic Tops and now this EP being released on Now-Again, those of us in the U.S. are finally catching on to what those in Europe have known for years - Dimlite is a very talented musician.

Andre Afram Asmar - Harmonic Emergency

Andre Afram Asmar debuted on Mush in 2003 with Racetothebottom, an album that people noticed for its eclectic mix of hip hop dub, Middle Eastern, and Latin American music. He tried to put together another album, but battled a debilitating aneurysm. It was a tragic setback, but he persevered. After years of hard work, Asmar finally has his follow-up record. Harmonic Emergency starts with the same ingredients that Racetothebottom used. Asmar’s preference is to work with live musicians, and then apply dub and hip hop production techniques to develop the final product.

Talib Kweli - Gutter Rainbows

Less than a year after the release of his collaboration with Hi-Tek on the second Reflections Eternal album, Brooklyn emcee Talib Kweli returns with his fourth solo album. It was originally planned to be a digital release, but he heard the cry of die-hard fans who wanted a physical copy, and responded with a limited edition release. I think the most fitting place to begin discussion of this album is the song “Palookas,” which features the line “You ain’t got a verse better than my worse one.

The Insane Warrior - We Are The Doorways

We’ve already seen a lot of sides of the artist known as RJD2. We’ve seen him produce hip hop records with old soul records, take apart and reconstruct rock records, write songs on guitar, and write electronic dance records. He’s collaborated with numerous artists. For all we’ve seen though, RJ shows us that he’s not done exploring his musical influences and trying new ideas. For his latest project he tries something new - an alter ego.

Verbal Kent - Save Yourself

Chicago emcee Verbal Kent has been on his grind for about ten years. He’s never really bothered with pushing himself on a national level, preferring instead to carve out a small niche. On his sixth solo album, he’s enlisted Pete Rock, Masta Ace, Sadat X, One Be Lo, and Apollo Brown, among others. From the beginning of the album, I thought I’d be conflicted about this album. The opening track, “Same,” produced by Kelakovski, never comes together.