Hip Hop

The God Box (CD)

“Hip-hop hasn’t changed. I think the environment has and hip-hop is just a reflection of that,” says rapper David Banner. And he makes it clear that hip-hop has a place in America's current political climate. Following his excellent mixtape Before The Box, The God Box has been in the works for years. After being delayed multiple times, it's finally here. Tying it in with a lecture series he's been doing across the country, David Banner rejects the worst habits of mediocre hip-hop and makes an album that embraces deep thought, political ideology, and black identity. It rejects the stereotypes that have formed around the biggest hits of modern rap and embraces a socio-political message that seemed to be radiating from the genre in the mid-2000s. The album's first single, "Who Want It" featuring Black Thought of the Roots and the trio Watch the Duck, is an angry, loud manifesto and letter to 2017. The fact this album took so many years makes sense as it explodes with energy and rawness from the first bang of the first track. It's only a taste of The God Box; an album ready to be a cry to arms for the socially conscious and the open minded. It's not just what hip-hop needs, but what music needs.

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All The Beauty In This Whole Life (CD)

It's been five years since Brother Ali released his last album, Mourning In America And Dreaming In Color, and his latest record, All the Beauty In this Whole Life, couldn't have come at a better time. With the country's cultural and political climate as it is, Brother Ali's soulful, insightful lyrics and delivery are a much needed salve. "Own Light (What Hearts Are For)" is full of the emotional desperation many of us must be feeling in 2017, but it is also hopeful and motivational in a way that doesn't patronize or sugar coat. Atmosphere's Anthony "Ant" Davis' production on "Never Learn" creates a dazed, crawling funk with subtle percussive touches and cool R&B rhythm guitar. Brother Ali starts with a vulnerable, introspective chorus, full of rumination and hurt, but quickly switches to the vocal dominance of his powerful, kinetic verses. The tone of Ali's music shows that while he may possess a confidence and faith that keeps him pushing forward, he too is not without pain and confusion.

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A7PHA (CD)

A7PHA consists of Doseone and Mestizo, who both have extensive catalogs in the alt-rap genre. Their new self-titled Anticon release is more on the dark and experimental side, and fuses hip hop with gothic vibes and abstract rhythms. It is far different from the rhythm and flow of their previous solo releases, but its unique sound gives them the opportunity to appeal to a whole new audience.

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All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (CD)

Joey Bada$$'s sophomore release still keeps him in place as the bridge from the golden era of hip hop to the new age. He picks up where he left off lyrically, but on this effort his topics include America's current status and the powers that be. It's the variety of beats and the delivery of his message that pull you in to listen and feel where he's coming from. Just as the albums before this one, B4.Da.$$ and 1999, All-Amerikkkan Badass is a record that will stay in your rotation without being retired anytime soon. Standout songs: "Rockabye Baby," "Legendary," "For My People," and "Babylon."

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Born Like This (LP)

This classic MF Doom album from 2009 is amazing as it stands, but it has been reissued with bonus tracks and two remixes of the J Dilla produced "Gazzillion Ear" by Jniero Jarel, a frequent Doom collaborator, as well as Thom Yorke of Radiohead. If you're already a fan of MF Doom, you already know that this album is full of animated sounds and flavors, as well as thick beats and top notch rhymes by the elusive emcee. "Lightworks" is another well known J Dilla production, and "Still Dope" introduced many to the impressive lyrical stylings of Empress Stahhr. If you didn't own it when it came out 8 years ago, now would be a great time to get familiar with it and add it to your collection.

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Stoney (CD)

Post Malone’s debut album, Stoney, is nothing short of a true listening pleasure all throughout. Malone began to garner major attention with the release of his song entitled “White Iverson,” which is on the album as well.This breakout song led to the eventual production and release of this album, which has skyrocketed Malone into the spotlight of the rap world.

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Headnod Suite (CD)

Headnod Suite, Karriem Riggins’ second album for Stones Throw, is lush, gorgeous, and bursting with life. The tracks are contemporary but timeless, jumping from dreamy summer soul vibes to glitch-hop rhythms. The hip-hop producer and jazz drummer has worked with Common (who makes an appearance on this LP), Kaytranada, and The Roots; fans of these artists will likely dig Riggins’ latest. No matter what the season, Headnod Suite will bring some summer into your life.

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The Mountain Will Fall (CD)

On The Mountain Will Fall, DJ Shadow’s first album in five years, the groundbreaking hip-hop/electronica producer proves he’s still one of the most forward-thinking artists in the game. The atmospheric, instrumental title track opens the album with dreamy, futuristic vibes before launching into the funk-inflected “Nobody Speak,” which features Run the Jewels. German ambient/modern classical composer and producer Nils Frahm makes an appearance on “Bergschrund,” where spaced out washes of sound meet hyperactive textures and beats. The LP finds Shadow pushing the limits even further on his own original compositions, but of course half the fun is guest appearances from the previously mentioned artists, as well as avant grade electro dude Bleep Bloop, bass-heavy experimentalist G. Jones, and bright young UK jazz trumpeter Matthew Halsall.

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Body Wash (CD)

Los Angeles producer Mndsgn creates beats that are so perfectly low-fi, fuzzy, stoned, and drippy it makes you wish hip hop was always this chill. It's the perfect blend of Zapp & Roger boogie beats and the chill, neo-funk vocals of Toro y Moi. Finally stepping away from the realm of pure instrumentals, Body Wash introduces Mndsgn's spacey vocals that are so smooth and relaxed, it can easily slip you into a trance. It's simultaneously nostalgic and modern, with digitized vocals, ancient drum samples, and bubbling synths. But it's also a total rejection of the computerized, ultra clear productions of today's hip hop. It's experimental, crazy, and beautiful and it will get you moving. From the opening bop of "Cosmic Productions" the sci-fi, anime weirdness pops up with music that gives images of neon colors, large glass windows covered in reflections, and old Toyota Celicas. "Use Ya Mnd (Twentyfourseven)" almost sounds like a deep soundtrack cut from the '80s or even a song from an ancient interactive CD-ROM. The smooth synths don't belong in this era and sound so jarring and refreshing, especially as they embrace all their electronic crunch. "Ya Own Way" plays like a track from a '90s Sega arcade racing game. The funky bass rhythms over the new agey, soft rhythms are simultaneously haunting, but feel perfect against imaginary imagery of low-polygon cars driving in the night. Light up a joint and sit in a soft chair: this album is a trip like no other.

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Yes Lawd! (CD)

On Yes Lawd!, Anderson .Paak and Knxwledge’s debut LP as NxWorries, the duo have crafted a sublime modern soul/funk record. With soaring strings, gritty vocals, and ultra cool cinematic flourishes that sound like the soundtrack to a forgotten Blaxploitation flick, the album manages to sound both super contemporary and like a bona fide classic. Despite its October release date, this is a definite summer record, essential for backyard BBQs, driving with the windows down, and sitting around the pool. .Paak himself has called the collaboration “my best work” and it’s definitely something special; let’s hope these two continue to make beautiful music together.

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