David Vangel - Breadth Control

David Vangel has been producing under the name Vangel for about ten years, and started releasing solo material under his full name in 2005. Breadth Control marks the debut full length for the Toronto-based musician, and finds him managing a wide variety of influences, from hip hop to post-rock to classical to jazz to electronic. It’s not an easy task to combine all of these factors, let alone make them coherent.

Stro Elliot - Stro's Old Beat Farm

Stro Elliot is best known as Stro the 89th Key from the Procussions. Since the group dissolved, he has continued to work, both as a producer and vocalist, but still remains mostly known as someone behind the scenes. Hopefully this will change in the near future, because Stro’s Old Beat Farm demonstrates that he has clear talent as a beat maker. The album is a collection of instrumental tracks that were recorded between of 2004-2010, but if I was told that this was recorded as an album in one session, I’d believe you.

J. Rocc - Some Cold Rock Stuff

J. Rocc doesn’t need an introduction to any working deejays out there. As a founding member of the Beat Junkies, along with Melo-D and Rhettmatic, they set the standard for turntablism in the ‘90s. If you’ve had the chance to catch him live, you know that he operates on a level that few deejays are able to reach. While he’s produced tracks here and there, it may surprise you that this is his first solo album.

Playdough - Hotdoggin'

When I was growing up in D/FW in the ‘90s, local hip hop was not on my radar. Even today, for as large a metropolitan area as it is, D/FW hip hop isn’t thriving in the way that Houston is. In the past few years, a couple of acts have surfaced, such as DMG$, but right now they are the exception and not the rule. I could take the time to speculate why, but I’d rather take this time to focus on a talented emcee from Dallas who has recently grabbed my attention: Playdough.

The Ebony Bed - Lucid City

The Ebony Bed is a collaboration between three D.C.-based artists: producer K-Murdock, singer/songwriter Alona, and graphic designer Aaron Hill. The project began a few years ago when Murdock remixed Alona’s “The Missing,” inspiring them to collaborate on a full-length concept album. Aaron Hill’s graphics will play a bigger part in the physical release, which also promises an extended back story to the album. Meanwhile, the digital release gives the listener plenty to digest.

Hassaan Mackey & Apollo Brown - Daily Bread

Sometimes being knowledgeable about hip hop can prevent you from approaching an album uncritically. If I listened to this record in a vacuum, I’d probably enjoy it a lot more. However, having enjoyed Gas Mask by The Left last year, I can’t help but think that Apollo Brown just used his leftover beats from that session and gave them to Hassaan Mackey to rhyme over. Don’t get me wrong, the beats are good - they just fit better in collaboration with Journalist 103 and DJ Soko.

MC Elijah Black - Itbeslikethatsometimes

After setting the stage with two solid mixtapes earlier in the year, we finally get the goods from MC Elijah Black. The young NYC emcee gives us a concept album, a day-in-the-life narrative that walks us through the ups and downs of summer in the city. Both mixtapes showed a lot of promise that made me anticipate his first album. I can now say that MC Elijah Black has delivered a fantastic debut album.

Grieves - Together/Apart

I’ll be honest - I’ve had a mental road block with Grieves. I don’t have anything against him, and his music never offended me. It was really just that I couldn’t ever remember what his music sounded like and didn’t understand why other artists I liked kept praising him. He just seemed very forgettable and inconsequential to me. That’s changed, though, because with Together/Apart, I can finally say that Grieves has made an album that moved me.

Wugazi - 13 Chambers

Last November, I had the fortune of interviewing Cecil Otter while he was on tour with Doomtree. As he discussed the different projects he was working on, there was one in particular that excited me - Wugazi. Unfortunately, he asked me to take it off the record, since he didn’t want anybody to steal his idea before he and Swiss Andy finished the project. It killed me not be able to tell everybody, if only because I was so excited about the potential of the idea.

Various Artists - SomeOthaShip: Connect 2011

Formed by Georgia Anne Muldrow and Declaime in 2008, SomeOthaShip is a home for their own work as well as other artists involved in hip hop and beyond. This label compilation shines a light on some of the most creative music happening on the West Coast, led by one of hip hop’s most dynamic couples. The opening track, “Ceilings,” by Stephan Muldrow (Georgia’s brother) is a beautiful, slowly developing instrumental piano piece, letting the listener know that while hip hop is at the heart of SomeOthaShip, their musical vision is not married to genre.