1) DJ Qbert - Extraterrestria + GalaXXXian (Galactic Butt Hair Records)
Although only released digitally in 2014 following a successful Kickstarter campaign (vinyl to arrive at Amoeba in 2015), this instrumental album (Extraresstria) and its rap/emcee counterpart album (GalaXXXian) rate as my top pick(s) for the best hip-hop released in 2014. Apparently I'm not alone in thinking so; Extraterrestia is up for a possible Grammy award. The stated goal of DJ Qbert's new album, which the artist considers as a Wave Twisters Part II, is to present the sound of skratch music in the future as he sees it, or - as he said upon the release of the new project - "the time capsule response and interstellar transmission to any galactic civilization, alien or far-future human." The "Jimi Hendrix of the turntables" ably accomplishes both solo as producer/DJ as well as with such album collaborators as Kool Keith, Del the Funky Homosapien, Mr Lif, Dana Leong, and Chad Hugo, who (along with Tipsy) co-produce the album's best track - the soothing, dreamy, ethereal "Ascender (Agartha)."
Freeway & The Jacka "Cherry Pie (feat. Freddie Gibbs & Jynx)
1) Freeway & The Jacka Highway Robbery (Golden Mean)
2) Busdriver Perfect Hair (also in LP format) (Big Dada)
3) Homeboy Sandman Hallways (Stones Throw)
4) Slimkid3 & DJ Nu-Mark self titled (Delicious Vinyl)
5) Philthy Rich Not Enough Real Niggas Left 3 (RBC)
With cover art that resembles a movie poster the brand new East meets West coast collaboration Highway Robbery - this week's number hip-hop chart entry from Freeway and The Jacka - is a powerful rap release clocking in just under an hour that melds one of the East Coast's best (Philly's Freeway) with one of the West Coast's finest (the Bay Area's The Jacka of Mob Figaz fame). With production duties care of Traxamillion, Jake One, and RobLo this popular fifteen track release features an array of impressive guest spots from mic wreckers from both coasts (and down south) including Cormega, Killer Mike, Trae Tha Truth, Paul Wall, Freddie Gibbs, Joe Blow, Dubb 20, Fam Syrk, Husalah, Rydah J. Klyde, Blahk Jesus, and Ampichino.
To get you a better idea of the sound of this recommended new release are two videos by the collaborative duo. Above is the video for the album track "Cherry Pie" that features both Freddie Gibbs and Jynx and below is the video for the non album track "Combine The Coasts." While just published to YouTube in the last couple of weeks the "Coasts" video, which perfectly describes the collaborative duo, first appeared a year ago on a hip-hop website when it was rumored to be on the new album. But the non album song, which is a single, is promised to appear on the upcoming Freeway & The Jacka mixtape Write My Wrongs mixtape.
Homeboy Sandman "Problems" (2014)
Following a slew of releases (five EPs and the full-length First of a Living Breed) for Stones Throw Records, to whom Homeboy Sandman signed in late 2011, this week the refreshingly unique and ever prolific Queens NY emcee released Hallways - his second full-length album for the LA based label founded by Peanut Butter Wolf. "An ode to the space between where you are and where you are headed; a space in flux, and a space where Sandman himself noticeably thrives," is how Stones Throw cryptically describe the collaboration heavy new twelve-track album. The various mic and production guests (eleven different producers over the dozen tracks) include J-Live, Blu, Kurious, Oh No, the experimental artist Jozef Van Wissem, 2 Hungry Bros, Inspirimentalist, J57, and Jonwayne. The latter produced the new LP's excellent first single, "America, The Beautiful" while the other single/video is the Knxwledge produced "Problems" (see the just published Adam Tyree directed video above)
"In thirty years I want to see Stones Throw records either in the $100 bin or in the 99 cents bin," says Peanut Butter Wolf in the engaging new Jeff Broadway directed documentary about his label Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton (This Is Stones Throw Records). He hopes that he doesn't see releases from the now iconic label of his, that he humbly founded back in 1996, in "the $5 bin." It's got to be the 99 cents or a $100 bin, one or the other. "I want people to really hate it or really love it," he stresses.
Those future decade crate diggers the DJ/producer and label founder born Chris Manak imagines, whatever their music tastes might be, are bound to find lots to love from the totally unique and independent Stone Throw Records label's incredibly diverse and prolific roster boasting hundreds upon hundreds of titles released over the past 18 years - all with that instantly recognizable logo known and respected the world over. Shoot, forget all the music releases; even those ubiquitous Stones Throw logo turntable slip-mats have become synonymous with DJ culture of the past two decades - as has The Turntablist's (aka DJ Babu) highly revered 1996 Stones Throw battle record release Super Duck Breaks.
Hot on the heels of his collaborative album with Stik Figa (The City Under The City) talented prolific producer L'Orange now returns just six months later with more of his refreshingly unique sound: the highly recommended The Orchid Days that was released last month and that, like City, comes via the high caliber indie label Mello Music Group. "Two and a half years ago I got out a piece of paper and wrote down every single thing I wanted to do in the next year and at the very bottom of it I wrote Mello Music Group," the artist told me of finding his ideal label home after self-releasing some free albums digitally. "This is where I have seen myself for a long time and it is definitely an honor to be counted among the roster." His brand new Mello Music release The Orchid Days features carefully selected guest vocalists, (including Blu, Homeboy Sandman, and Billy Woods) on just 7 of its 19 tracks allowing the Nashville based producer to fully stretch and flex his trademark, hypnotically dreamy production style - while interweaving just the right amount of vocal guests to perfectly compliment his (and their) styles - all the while subtly moving the album's storyline along. The Orchid Days storyline is the story of love - finding love, falling in love, and then losing it and missing it - a story told via random soundbites expertly assembled - to the backdrop of an old world mood crafted by building layer upon layer of dreamy jazzy grooves from digging deep into really old jazz records with flutters of dramatically engaging soundbites/samples (handpicked over time by L'Orange) from old black and white movies, along with, often static sounding, classic old radio broadcasts. These samples along with the mood created by the musical backdrop tell a story that strongly hint that there was some specific romantic figure in L'Orange's life that inspired The Orchid Days. So I asked the artist was there a specific girl in mind as he recorded the album? "Of course there's a girl. I'm a poet," he replied adding. "Since that's not a satisfying answer I'll tell you something I haven't told anyone yet- she's on the album cover." [above left]