Q-Tip - Kamaal The Abstract

By now, if you know much about Q-Tip, you’ve surely read up about how trying this decade has been on his career. Trying to follow up on his solo debut Amplified, which came out in 1999, Q-Tip decided to get more experimental, only to see his efforts shelved while Outkast and Common released strange albums in the years following, to critical acclaim. It wasn’t until last year that we finally saw the release of The Renaissance that his musical career got feet again.

Rakim - The Seventh Seal

So it’s not as well known as Q-Tip’s struggle in the 2000s, but it has also been ten years since the last Rakim release. And as one of the illest emcees to ever grab a mic, that’s a shame. I had the good fortune of seeing him perform at SXSW a few years ago, and he had the audience eating out of his hand. It shouldn’t take that long to get thing right.

Themselves - theFREEhoudini

Doseone and Jel, who make up Themselves, never took a break from working with each other, even though their last album under this moniker was released in 2002. In between then and now, they joined forces with other musicians, most notably as part of the group Subtle, who reached a fair amount of success over the course of several albums. This mix tape, mixed by Odd Nosdam and mastered by Daddy Kev, was put out to get the name back out there while Jel and Dose get their next full length ready.

Toki Wright - A Different Mirror

If you know Toki Wright already, it’s probably because you’ve seen him as a hype man at some other Rhymesayers artist’s concert. What you probably didn’t know was that Wright was honing his skills and writing his own rhymes in preparation to be the next great underground emcee. I say this in part because he has a song on the album called “Next Best Thing,” but also because this is one of the stronger debut albums I’ve come across.

Ugly Duckling - Audacity

Before I even listened to this album, I was already planning out how I was going to write this review - about how Ugly Duckling never blows you away, but they are always enjoyable and I’m always happy to hear a new UD album, etc. Something happened, though. It’s not that this album is a huge departure or so challenging it’s not accessible or anything like that, it’s more that this album just nestles its way under you skin and really grows on you.

Chali 2na - Fish Outta Water

After years with Jurassic 5, Ozomatli, and countless guest appearances, we finally get a Chali 2na solo album. That’s right, that distinctive laid-back smooth baritone voice is striking out on his own. And while I’ve always enjoyed his verses and his voice, I was never so sold on his all around abilities that I’ve been waiting for him to strike out on a solo career. Upon listening to the album, my initial suspicions were confirmed - this album is very dependent on who is producing and guesting on each track.

Fashawn - Boy Meets World

This album is why I still believe in the power of the record store. I had never heard of Fashawn when I walked into a record store, looked around, and went over to the listening booth. After being disappointed by a few artists I already knew or had heard much hype about, I moved on to Fashawn. Much to my surprise, he was right up my alley. “Cheech Hop,” as my girlfriend likes to call it – Laid-back, funky soul samples with socially conscious lyrics.

Edan - Echo Party

Fans of Edan have been waiting for a follow up to 2005’s Beauty and the Beat for some time now, and while he still hasn’t given us a proper full-length follow-up with original material, he has given us quite a mix tape to tide us over. For this mix, Edan was given access to Traffic Entertainment Group’s vaults. In this situation, most people would simply find some favorite tracks, find an order that created a good flow, and put that out.

Felt 3: A Tribute To Rosie Perez

That’s right, Murs and Slug are back at it again. The third in a series of collaborations they’ve done, each time with a different producer and b-movie actress namesake. The first go round was with the Grouch, the second with Ant, and this time they’ve enlisted the help of Aesop Rock. The result here is a darker, more aggressive album than in the past. For the most part, this encourages the two veteran emcees to bring their battle rap to the project.

Themselves - CrownsDown

While they never really spent any time apart, both working together in Subtle, this is Jel and Doseone’s first album as a duo since 2002’s The No Music. After the promise of the freeHoudini mixtape gave us a glimpse of things to come, it feels great to finally have the album. While their work is Subtle was extremely interesting, and incorporated a lot of different sounds, Themselves is more stripped down and raw, much more immediate and forceful.