By TJ Love
King Magnetic: Timing is Everything
King Magnetic has been slaying guest features for years; rewind-worthy verses are his trademark. He’s the type of emcee where if you see his name attached to even one song on a project, the odds are more than likely that you’re gonna cop off the strength of his association alone. King Mag separated himself from the “that dude nice but never released an album” ranks with his debut LP Timing is Everything. It would have been easy for him to half-ass it and mail it in like a lot of super lyrical cats when it finally comes time to putting together a cohesive project, but it’s apparent he put as much time into the overall LP itself as he does his bars. The production lineup is incredible, featuring 9th Wonder, DJ Premier, Khrysis, Marco Polo, and more.
People Under the Stairs: The Gettin’ Off Stage
If there’s a group that exemplifies Hip-Hop’s tenets of Peace, Love, Unity, and Having Fun it’s People Under the Stairs. Nearly two decades deep in the game, LA’s best kept secret released a short and sweet EP The Gettin’ Off Stage. Thes One and Double K are crate-diggers par excellence, spitting party hardy feel-good raps over soulful chopped, diced, and spliced break beat soundscapes. With so much cynicism in Hip-Hop and the world in general, The Gettin’ Off Stage serves as a reminder that all is not lost and sometimes it’s necessary to look at the world from a glass-half-full perspective to maintain your sanity, and happiness. This is them at their best, just as timeless and exuberant as the rest of their catalog.
Kenn Starr: Square One
One of the founders of the DC’s Low Budget Crew, Kenn Starr established himself as one of The Uhhrea’s top flight wordsmiths early and hasn’t looked back since. Kenn Starr was supposed to drop back in 2011, but it’s hard to be mad at dude after hearing Square One. If the wait was eight years it wouldn’t matter; a lot of bammas go entire careers without crafting an album this good. Starr is at times whimsical, cocky, thoughtful, and above all meticulous in his rhymes. It also helps to be able to tap into some of the best production talent from the DMV and Mellow Music Group, with Black Milk, Kev Brown, 14KT, Roddy Rod and others helping maintain a consistent vibe.
cop Square One rightchea
The Doppelgangaz: Beats for Brothels Vol. 3
Sometimes it’s as if the easiest way to fame in Hip-Hop is to start a “movement” of sorts and focus on the music later. Not so with rappers/producers Matter ov Fact and EP. While they’ve surged in popularity due to their branding, dubbing fans “Sharks,” rocking black cloaks in their videos and performances and preaching the virtues of “The Black Cloak lifestyle,” all of it would be for naught if they weren’t genuinely dope. Doppelgangaz have been labeled “horrorcore” by undiscerning listeners, but more than anything, their style is predicated on tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating dark humor. Beats for Brothels Vol. 3 is more of them waxing poetic about the not-so-fine things in life over steel grey soundscapes with a penchant for being bouncy at the same time. This is perfect hangover music.
Moka Only: Chicken Wingz
To be honest I didn’t want to like Moka Only. I was never a fan of the Swollen Members collective he was a part of, and I really thought he was just another corny Canadian. Times have changed. He released four projects this year, all pretty good, but it was Chicken Wingz that truly made me a believer. The rapper/producer is firing on all cylinders on this project, with Dilla-esque headnodders accompanied by lighthearted material about relationships (or lack thereof) and every day working class life. Peep it, I guarantee it’ll stay in rotation for a hot minute.
cop Chicken Wingz here
Jean Grae: iSweatergawd
At first glance Jean Grae and Quelle Chris may seem an odd pairing. But after listening to iSweatergawd it’s clear it’s a match made in heaven with Jean Grae at her apex, and Quelle crafting a soundbed that’s some of his most eclectic and abstract work to date. To be clear, this is not an EP for a casual listen. It’s not very accessible, or catchy, and that’s the point. Jean’s bars are the focus and if you don’t listen carefully you can miss some of the jewels she drops. And that’s not to say there aren’t some heat rocks, August 20th is a tour de force for both parties, easily one of my favorite songs of the year. iSweatergawd is proof positive of the chemistry possible between one emcee and one producer enabling superior output.