Hip Hop

E.S.P. (CD)

Twenty-seven years in the game, the Green-Eyed Bandit hasn't let the punches come through. Nearly ten years since his last album, E.S.P. (short for Erick Sermon's Perception) is classic, pre-synthesized hip-hop straight from New York. Funky, brassy and borderline cheesy samples smoothly loop over old school flows that give this long-awaited album the smooth, vintage sheen that has been ignored since the days when Wu-Tang's Killa Beez ran the scene. To just give it that perfect veneer, the final touch is throwing in special guests like Redman, Method Man, Mary J. Blige and Too Short. If you're nostalgic for when New York was the prime scene of hip-hop, E.S.P. might convince you again that the east coast is the best coast.

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Evermore: The Art Of Duality (CD)

Coming from the Beast Coast collective that's previously given us Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$, The Underachievers are more psychedelic, spacey and druggy than their musical partners. Going into a totally opposite direction of P-funk nostalgia or tinny, ultra-produced beats, Evermore opts to use new age flourishes to create something more disorienting, stranger, and a lot more interesting. Split into two parts, Phase I is the yogi influence side, but Phase II is the dark layer underneath all the head-trip beats and a reminder that The Underachievers are still two guys who grew up in Flatbush. Under the tutelage of Flying Lotus, The Underachievers sophomore album is continuing to prove that 2015 is the year of spiritual black America in music along with Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, D'Angelo's The Black Messiah, and Kamasi Washington's The Epic.

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Persona (CD)
Mello Music Group’s unparalleled roster of independent emcees and producers gets rounded up on this raw, blistering comp, featuring appearances from Kool Keith, Oddisee, Oh No, L’Orange and more. Read more
Look What This World Did To Us (CD)

Red Pill produces his own soulful beats, spits verses that are by turns introspective, existential and misanthropic, and never fails to capture your attention on his riveting debut for Mello Music.

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808s & Dark Grapes III (CD)

The official follow-up to 2012's critically acclaimed Bossalinis & Fooliyones is the Oakland hip hop duo’s finest work to date, a psych-leaning alt-rap masterwork.

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Blade Of The Ronin (CD)

Blade of the Ronin, the long-awaited follow-up to the Harlem duo's debut, The Cold Vein, solidifies the return of Cannibal Ox to the underground hip-hop scene. Having been nearly 15 years since a Can Ox release (barring a live record and 3 song sampler) rappers Vast Aire and Vordul Mega haven’t missed a beat. The duo approach the reunion of sorts with their trademark lyrical innovation and insight fully intact. In fact on paper the only missing part of the equation that made for their critically acclaimed debut would be the production of EL-P. But instead of lamenting that loss Blade of the Ronin moves forward in a similarly lush fashion without retracing steps. Largely produced by Bill Cosmiq the sound is fresh, futuristic, and hardcore. All elements that made the duo spark in the early 2000s. Cosmiq has accomplished no small feat creating the foundation for the duo's triumphant return. Featuring guest appearances from MF Doom, U-God, Artifacts and more, Blade of the Ronin is as exalted a return of the underground hip hop duo that one could ask for.

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Words Paint Pictures (CD)

With that excellent, soulful boom bap production by Apollo Brown, Big Pooh’s newest joint sounds like a commentary on the current state of mainstream Hip Hop, as well as a reaction to the many atrocities happening on the streets of America.

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Run the Jewels 2 (CD)

Run The Jewels, the super talented hip-hop power duo of El-P and Killer Mike, outdid themselves in 2014 with their anticipated follow up to last year's excellent self-titled debut on Fool's Gold. For the all killer no filler sequel, released via Nas' newly launched Mass Appeal Records and simply entitled RTJ2 or Run The Jewels 2, they turn up the sonic and lyrical assault with an in your face album that is as much rock as it is hip-hop and, while only eleven songs deep, it satisfies on every level, leaving listeners longing for more. If only for the pitch-perfect second single and best song on the album "Oh My Darling Don’t Cry," this album would be worth buying but everything on here kicks ass. As E-Lit at Amoeba Berkeley noted, Run The Jewels is better than anything either El-P or Killer Mike have done individually up to this point in their respective careers - and they've each done some amazing work! RTJ2's select featured guests include Zack de la Rocha, Travis Barker, Diane Coffee, and BOOTS.

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Adrian Younge Presents Twelve Reasons To Die II (CD)

Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah and producer Adrian Younge deliver the second installment of their cinematic Twelve Reasons to Die series, and it's got more drama than your average summer blockbuster. A combination of voiceovers and lyrical content tell the story of black New York gangster Lester Kane, with Shakespearian levels of vengeance, star-crossed lovers, evocations of violence and resurrection. Raekwon provides the voice of Kane as Ghostface and others, including Vince Staples, Bilal, RZA, Lyrics Born and Scarub, provide the narration. None of this would matter if the music itself wasn't as strong as it is. There's a full dedication to telling these stories, which can be a bit familiar, that comes through in the venomous spit on tracks like the Staples-starring "Get the Money" and creative cadences on "Death's Invitation." Composer Adrian Younge's score, full of horror movie organs, Blaxploitation basslines and Spaghetti Western orchestral touches, is as fun to get lost in as the script. Taken together, the Twelve Reasons to Die albums succeed as concept albums because of their easy-to-follow, singular subject matter and that the music doesn't suffer as a result of a weighty plot. Now someone call up Quentin Tarantino and let's get this thing made into a movie.

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