Blueprint - Weightless Radio: A Collection of Blueprint Instrumentals

Casual fans most likely think of Blueprint as an emcee. More devoted fans, though, know that he’s an accomplished producer as well. He’s released a couple of instrumental albums, as well as producing his vocal albums and for other artists. When he went to release his sophomore solo effort as an emcee, Adventures in Counter-Culture (one of the best albums of 2011), Blueprint included this collection of instrumentals as a promotional item to those who pre-ordered the album through Fifth Element.

BoomBaptist - The Lost Files Vol. 2 (2005-2006)

Austin producer BoomBaptist is finally starting to get some national (and international) recognition, but as he demonstrated with the first volume of Lost Files, hip hop production is not a new found interest. He’s been making beats for years, and as he demonstrated in the first and now second volume of Lost Files, the talent was always there. This collection is on the shorter side, with ten tracks clocking in at just over twenty two minutes, but that just means that there’s not a lot of wasted space.

BoomBaptist - The Lost Files (2003-2005)

For as great a music city as Austin is, it’s not a great hip hop town. Touring acts will usually get good crowds, but as far as nurturing and supporting local hip hop acts, Austin leaves a lot to be desired. With that said, I was very disappointed to discover a talented producer from Austin going by the name of BoomBaptist right as I was moving out of the state. While his first release didn’t come out until 2010, his latest collection reveals that he’s been making beats for quite some time.

THEESatisfaction - awE NaturalE

In The Black Atlantic, British cultural theorist Paul Gilroy uses the ocean, the portal for the slave trade as well as a conduit for voluntary and forced migration, as a metaphorical space in which to consider the discursive formation of African intellectual history. Borrowing from W.E.B. Dubois, one of the book’s foundational concepts is double consciousness, or the mental state often felt by people who are made aware of the social reality that they go through their everyday lives holding on to multiple identities at once.

Wordburglar - 3rdburglar

As you might have guessed, this is the third solo effort from Backburner crew member Wordburglar. The Canadian emcee isn’t switching anything up on this album, but that’s fine, because it means we get another fun record for all the nerds to bump this summer. First and foremost I have to give props to Wordburglar for his introductory skit, “Pre-Show Routine.” Usually, when hip hop albums have introductions, they usually fall into the category of either “fine, but forgettable,” or “way too long and pointless.

Jaq - Escape From Radio Prison

Jaq is a German producer who came to my attention earlier this year due to his work on Kristoff Krane’s excellent solo album, fanfaronade. As it turns out, Jaq put out his own full length record this year, a collection of collaborations with a wide variety of emcees. Jaq is a member of Scribbling Idiots, an international collection of producers and emcees, many of whom are featured on this album. If you’re like me and new to Jaq and the whole Scribbling Idiots crew, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Oddisee - People Hear What They See

There are other two-way threats in hip hop today who produce and rhyme, but I don’t know if there’s anybody else working right now who is as prolific and expansive as Oddisee. In the past couple of years, the D.C. artist has released three full length instrumental albums, all with fully formed themes, as well as producing several EPs and multiple tracks for other artists. With all of that work, it’s easy to forget that he also works as an emcee.

Alyssa Marie - HeartBeat

Sometimes when you come across a debut album, you have to grade everything on a curve, keeping in mind that the artist is inexperienced and working out some growing pains in the studio. Occasionally, though, you come across a debut album that’s so strong and confident that you forget about all of that and just treat like any other album. Massachusetts emcee Alyssa Marie has accomplished that with HeartBeat. One of the first things that hits you when listening to Alyssa Marie is just how confident she sounds on the mic.

greencarpetedstairs - greencarpetedstairs

greencarpetedstairs is one of the newest additions to Fake Four, the label that has become home to many of the top independent hip hop artists working today. However, this artist doesn’t fit quite as naturally amongst their existing roster as other recent additions such as Sadistik or Open Mike Eagle. This isn’t an indication of talent level on the part anyone involved, but rather of style. Open Mike Eagle and Sadistik feel right at home alongside acts like Busdriver and Astronautalis, but the electronic, moody, and atmospheric style of greencarpetedstairs takes more time getting adjusted to.

B. Dolan - House of Bees Vol. 2

Once upon a time, mixtapes in hip hop were very unofficial releases, without much in the ways of traditional singles. You’d have to listen to the tape all the way through to catch some great verses, but nothing would really stand apart on it’s own. These days, mixtapes serve a different purpose. Calling something a mixtape versus announcing it as an official album allows for freedom to give a home for stuff like remixes and live recordings, but in an age where digital recording has allowed artists more freedom to record quality tracks without dropping a lot of money and time in a studio, the chances of a powerful single finding a home on a mixtape are greater than ever.