Del The Funky Homosapien - Golden Era

Twenty years after the release of his first album, Oakland hip hop mainstay and Hieroglyphics member Del The Funky Homosapien is still going strong. Along with the new material, the CD is being sold as a triple pack, including two albums only previously available as digital downloads, Automatik Statik and Funk Man. It’s a great gesture for his fans, but for the purposes of this review, we’ll be focusing only on the new material.

Blueprint - Adventures in Counter-Culture

In the six years since his solo debut, Columbus-based artist Blueprint has stayed busy, releasing the second Soul Position album with RJD2, two Greenhouse EPs with Illogic, a few solo EPs, and a collection of instrumental hip hop. The whole time this was happening, though, he was slowly crafting what was to become Adventures in Counter-Culture. Not taking the typical approach to a hip hop album, Blueprint started at the piano every day, and went from there.

Digital Martyrs - Remix Beatrock

Digital Martyrs are a trio from the Bay Area who are still relatively unkown. Beatrock Music is a young label based out of Los Angeles, producing plenty of great politically aware hip hop from artists such as Bambu and Rocky Rivera. If you’re not familiar with the work they’ve been doing, this remix collection is a great starting point. The formula on this collection of remixes is fairly simple, but it works extremely well: well-chosen soul samples, funky beats, and smart lyrics.

Jesse Dangerously - Humble & Brilliant

Jesse Dangerously has been making hip hop for years out of Halifax, contributing to the rich hip hop culture of the city before relocating to Ottawa in 2007. Humble & Brilliant marks his sixth solo album, and features a complex and varied range of music that is smart, funny, and moving. He’s not as well known in the states, but hopefully this album will change that. Dangerously is not only an emcee.

Dennis Coffey - Dennis Coffey

Ever since I saw Dennis Coffey perform during SXSW, I’ve been telling people that they know his work, just not by name. If it doesn’t ring a bell, I’ll give you a brief overview: he played guitar with the legendary Funk Brothers, Motown Records’ in-house backing band. He also played guitar on such notable records as “It’s Your Thing” by the Isley Brothers and Edwin Starr’s “War,” and scored the movie Black Belt Jones.

Kyle Rapps - Re-Edutainment

New Jersey native Kyle Rapps has been on his grind for a few years, working with the Thought Breakers and the Mayhem Poets. The EP Re-Edutainment marks his debut as a solo artist, but this does not come across as the work of an inexperienced emcee. Working with producer Kev Brown and including a title that pays homage to Boogie Down Productions, what we have is a solid set of music that recalls some classic NYC hip hop.

Zion I & The Grouch - Heroes in the Healing of the Nation

Five years after their first full-length together, Zion I has once again paired up with The Grouch. When they collaborate, they really push each other to create hip hop that not only entertains, but encourages political action and community involvement. These are noble intentions, but it wouldn’t reach that many listeners unless the music was good. No need to worry - they got that on lockdown. AmpLive, who handles the production for Zion I, switched gears from his fantastic work with live instrumentation on the last Zion I album, Atomic Clock and went back to the first Z & G album, Heroes in the City of Dope, as a starting point.

Sweatshop Union - The Bill Murray EP

Sweatshop Union is a collective of five emcees and one deejay from Vancouver that have been producing soulful, thoughtful hip hop for over ten years. Bill Murray marks their first release in three years, and their fifth overall. The EP starts off strong, with a very short intro that builds atmosphere before giving way to “Makeshift Kingdome,” which features some great production from Pigeon Hole. Layers of keyboards play off each other, building tension as a simple drum march pushes everything forward as Mos Eisley and Conscience trade verses.

Mic Crenshaw - Under the Sun

Mic Crenshaw is a Portland-based emcee with roots in Chicago and Minneapolis. Under the Sun is his second album, after releasing Thinking Out Loud in 2009. He prides himself in his work not only as an emcee but as a community organizer and founder of the non-profit organization Global Family. While I commend him for this kind of work, there is the matter of the music at hand. Crenshaw has a powerful low voice and very deliberate delivery on the mic.

Amalia - Art Slave

Continuing on their terrific run of electro-boogie releases, Tokyo Dawn now gives us the debut album Amalia. Produced by Opolopo, who had already featured Amalia prominently on his 2010 album Voltage Controlled Feelings, Art Slave builds on the chemistry they had already established. The result is a sound that is reminiscent of the R&B/hip hop/boogie that was happening in the late eighties and early nineties, with plenty of great keyboard work and big drum hits.