Hip Hop

Radio Silence (CD)

Radio Silence has to be one of Talib Kweli’s finest efforts in recent memory. Smart, uplifting, and seriously groovy, it’s the perfect combination of Kweli’s lyrical prowess and radio-friendly indie rap. Of course, there are some serious power players on this latest release (Rick Ross, for one, appears on the single “Heads Up Eyes Open”), which adds to the fun but never dims Kweli’s shine. He’s a national treasure and this album does an excellent job of showcasing the way he uses insightful lyrics and catchy melodies to pack a punch.

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The Iceberg (CD)

Washington, D.C. based rapper Oddisee has been prolifically releasing material since 2008, and The Iceberg marks his 11th album in that span. Explicitly political and topical, Oddisee shies away from any frivolous hip-hop clichés to rail against heavy topics like racism, sexism, and hypocrisy in this ultra-contentious day and age. This is the ugly reflection of 2017 America, with Oddisee more than happy to hold the mirror. An accomplished producer as well, Oddisee crafts a sound that seamlessly combines programmed beats with live band instrumentation, creating a dynamic atmosphere that brings a sense of buoyancy to the often weighty subject matter at hand. Forget the tired “conscious rap” tag; The Iceberg is the sound of a gifted MC simply telling it like it is.

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1992 Deluxe (CD)

Princess Nokia’s acclaimed underground debut 1992 Deluxe has been remastered and expanded to reach an even larger audience — which the NYC-based rapper proves she’s definitely worthy of. The beats are hard and hypnotic, Nokia’s flow is smart, sassy, and insightful. She’s tough. She’s street smart. She’s proud of who she is — and she wants you to feel the same way, too. That’s what makes this album so special: lots of bangers, to be sure, but there’s also a lot of heart behind the dance floor fillers. Princess Nokia is one-of-a-kind and our world is better for having her in it.

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Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (CD)

Underground wordsmith pens a tribute to his old Chicago housing project on his sixth studio LP, the poetically titled Brick Body Kids Still Daydream. Starting with the subdued and soulful “Legendary Iron Hood,” Open Mike Eagle guides us through this rough and tumble environment without bluster or boasting, but arms himself instead with a laid-back and frequently humorous flow. The beats combine dusty samples with an affection for spacey, dubby synth noises; achieving an almost hypnotic effect when paired with Eagle’s laconic raps. Yet despite the low-key atmosphere, this album is enlivened by power of his wit and vivid imagination. Open Mike Eagle is the smart kid in the back of the class, quiet yet loaded with wisecracks. Listen to that dude, you'll be better off for it.

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Trial By Fire (CD)

After a two year absence since his last release, a troubled period of time that found the loss of a close friend, a cancelled tour, and a brief stint in a psych ward allegedly forced by a former manager, Yelawolf emerges triumphant with Trial by Fire, his most ambitious project yet. Though it’s an overused cliché at this point, Yelawolf is one of the few rappers out there who can truly lay claim to having a style all their own. Country, hip-hop, rock, pop, and blues are all meshed together into a sound that exists outside of any comfortable genre tag. Take the song “Punk,” which features the unlikely combo of Juicy J and Travis Barker as guest artists. Beginning at a breakneck pace courtesy of an oompah beat from Barker’s drums, the song melds slide guitars and Yelawolf’s lyrical acrobatics before switching gears into a pseudo-trap beat that finds Juicy J sounding right at home, that indelible Triple 6 swagger fully intact. Landing somewhere between Everlast and Kid Rock on a spectrum of closest contemporaries (the heavy tone of the former mixed with the boisterousness of the latter), Yelawolf is not interested in chasing current hip-hop trends or anything else that doesn’t involve him doin’ the southern rap thang his own way. Haters be damned.

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