Boston based rapper Latrell James is a playful poet, and his latest single ‘Tracphone’ (a pay-as-you-go mobile) is the perfect example of this. Likewise, previously heard single ‘Okay’, ‘Today’ and ‘Mona Lisa Bonet’ encompass a similar aesthetic whilst maintaining an element of freshness throughout. On ‘Tracphone’, James’ lackadaisical flow and delivery circumvent the deeper messages that line his wordplay as he raps about the shape shifting landscape in his life.
‘Zebrapojken’ (Zebra Boy in English) is the debut album from Swedish/Gambian rapper Erik Lundin. He has been a part of the Swedish rap scene for over a decade, starting off by rapping in English under the name of Eboi. His first offering in his native tongue of Swedishwas in the form of an EP called ‘Suedi’ in 2015.
The record ‘Zebrapojken’ is a reference to the Swedish word zebrabarn (zebra kids) which means kids that grow up during bad circumstances: their emotional lives are striped because of the vast change of feeling happy and/or sad. The ten track album takes the listeners through a musical journey of emotions and real life scenarios as Erik gives us an insight into his life stories in an easy and melodic way.
His wizardry in writing depicts real life scenarios and emotions of vulnerability and hurt playfully combined with joy and hope of seeing the good in life as well. Erik Lundin is a true songwriter and musician who’s honesty and talent has a great impact and value on Swedish pop culture.
Prince Waly, who makes up half of the group Big Buddha Cheez, is a true storyteller. As he keeps saying: he was bottle-fed to American cinema, something that is ever present when listening to his music. On ‘BO Y Z’, the Montreuil artist pushes the boundaries of his music. Nineties imagery, a cinematic tone and a fantasy of the ubiquitous gangster are the three constants that define his universe. The 9-track record features contributions from various quality guests such as Tengo John, TripleGo, Loveni, Alpha Wann, Enchantée Julia and Feu! Chatterton.
Varnish La Piscine, rapper, producer and member of SuperWak Clique (Di-Meh, Slimka, Makala…) delivers an astounding audio-visual experience in the form of ‘Le Regard qui Tue’. Serving as the follow up to ‘Escape (F + R Prelude)’, which already demonstrated his virtuosity, the Swiss artist returns with a very conceptual project; on funky dark productions he unveils an audio book telling a B-movie-like gangster story taking place in 60’s Monaco starring Varnish’s alias Inspector Sidney Franco. He is joined by rapper Rico Tha Kid playing the journalist Angel de Jesùs and the sensual Bonnie Banane aka Gabrielle Solstice, a criminal who literally kills with her eyes. With this new record, Varnish La Piscine has released one of the most original projects of the year so far.
Seventeen year-old rapper and producer Aaron May proved that he’s one of the most exciting rapper to come out of Houston with ‘Ride’, his powerful debut single from last year. On his latest offering ‘Let Go’, May lays down his clever wordplay over a jazz-inflected, self-produced beat that boasts a killer bass. With just these two singles, Aaron May has proved himself as a refreshing voice in an otherwise saturated landscape.
London outfit 404 are made up of Bathwater, Silvertongue, Eliot, Devenny and Sonny, and their debut single ‘Fearful’ is a blistering affair. A sharp commentary on modern society, the track boasts a fierce and energetic vibe whilst encompassing a raw edge through its songwriting and production. Serving as a perfect introduction to the quintet’s unique sound, ‘Fearful’ marks the first single from their forthcoming debut EP which is out next month.
Rising from the underbelly of Virginia’s dystopian suburbia, Ms Proper experiments with a unique synthesis of sweet talking R&B and filthy mouthed Trap, all at once spouting melodic insults and adlibs of forgiveness in her signature, tender vengeance. Reflected in the blend of fierce low end production and smooth chords from collaborator LA Chase, her song ‘Wicked’ is a slow wind of whispered secrets. This month she drops her latest project ‘The Aquarius Tape’ that addresses everything from old lovers across the spectrum of the zodiac to her moving to Los Angeles with nothing but $5 in her pocket and a ruthless dedication to her pursue her dreams.
Marlon Morales aka Lil Supa is a Venezuelan rapper/producer who has quickly become one of the greatest exports of Latin American hip hop. After years of groundbreaking releases, collaborations, presentations and tours around the world, Lil Supa embarks on his most ambitious project, an audiovisual album composed of thirteen video clips titled ‘SERIO’. Throughout the record Supa exchanges roles with Lou Fresco, his alter ego, who incarnates the role of the protagonist, director and writer of this masterpiece. Film, photography, design and art direction are some of the creative fields that Morales had to explore to faithfully reflect his thoughts and feelings about his career, travel and experiences in ‘SERIO’.
In a short space of time, Aden x Asme have introduced themselves into the Swedish rap community with a bang and have quickly shown why they’re one of the most exciting artists to come out of Sweden. Even though they rap in Swedish, their digital success with millions of streams on Youtube and Spotify has led them to an audience that spans the world with songs like ‘Kasse’, ‘jet ft Mo’ and ‘skiner’. They’ve worked with Afro B and Dun D (UK) along with producers like Ceefigz who’s produced for rising British artists like Fredo, Sneakbo, Yxng Bane and D Block Europe. The duo’s latest single ‘Favela’ is produced by the iconic Swedish producer Masse Salazar and encompasses the pair’s smooth flow as they work their magic across the spirited beat.
South London trio 2U4U comprise of rappers Cal and My Rugema along with producer Ranbir, who together, create jazz-inflected Hip-Hop tracks that boast clever storytelling with sophisticated instrumentation. Last summer saw the release of their incredible debut full length project ‘Butter’, an eight track exploration of past romances, experiences, family, religion, identity and everything else in between. From the bombastic production on debut single ‘Kings of Africa (Tell Me)’ to the sparkling atmospherics of openers ‘Gurl’ and ‘Home’, ‘Butter’ marries an amalgam of influences that intertwine classic Hip Hop beats with jazz and neo-soul inflections to soundtrack their insightful narratives.
Intentionally acclaimed duo The Reminders offer an eclectic blend of beats born from hip-hop’s classic era with soulful vocals and funk filled bass lines, founded upon a lyrical focus toward fiercely positive, empowering poetry. Their high energy shows weave wild dance breaks with anthemic choruses and reggae drops in a unique collage of shamelessly openhearted, self expression and a diverse style that is entirely their own. Married in life as well as partners in music, The Reminders, who’re comprised of Brussels-born Big Samir and Queens-born Aja Black, purposefully share their personal stories to inspire people to transcend any separation that might exist between the artists and their audiences, reminding their listeners that we are one family. This is wonderfully embodied in their brilliant track ‘I Remember’ which is lifted from their ‘Born Champions’ album.
South London artist Yxng Jynn steps up to the plate with his debut solo single. After attracting attention this year for production credits and features with NOTAROLEMODEL and Reservoir & 237 affiliates Kish! & Virgil Hawkins, the gifted rapper & producer takes the limelight for himself on “Ghostride”. A tripped-out, g-funk infused trap effort with irresistible energy, the track will no doubt soon live up to its self-proclaimed billing as a ‘certified hood classic’.
Lillebittebock is a unique Danish artist breaking the conventions of hip-hop. With a breakthrough song about the suicide of his father when he was just 12 years old, the dark themes in the lyrics are accompanied by hyper-melodic, endorphin-filled beats. “Fortabt” (meaning “lost” in Danish), the rapper’s newest track, is a melancholy, emotive effort with a prominent guitar riff, describing the feeling of being caught in-between phases.
Born parallel to the 2016 US presidential election in response to xenophobic declarations and actions against Latin immigrants, Tulengua identify themselves as “a bilingual hip hop supergroup from both sides of the most crossed border in the world”. Tulengua seeks to demonstrate how Mexicans and North-Americans, Spanish and English speakers, can be combined through the universal language of music to reflect the beauty of the neighbouring countries and dissolve political, geographical, linguistic and racial boundaries.
All the profits from their latest record ‘Baja Funk’ were donated to an immigrant rights organisation. With lyrics denoting awakening and conscience, the protest tone is evident, yet they maintain a message of hope and positivity; the band’s aim is to recover the humanity that unites people instead of dividing them, using music as medicine to heal the world of hatred and excessive division.
Smokey The Ghost has been a pioneer in the Indian hip-hop scene for the past 15 years. A socially conscious artist from Bangalore, Smokey has been involved in all aspects of the culture, from participating in rap battles to rendering his voice for commercial movies and giving due importance to collaborations. His raps emerge out of his observation and tackle various social issues; ‘Her Name Is?’ is a concept mixtape to be heard in sequential order, hailing from a personal experience that led to the realisation of the dishonourable oppression faced in various subtle forms by women on a regular basis. While the tracks form a coherent theme, the production is an amalgamation of the work of different producers based on different ideas emerging from the same concept of abuse of female identity.
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France’s Ash is a mysterious figure. Notoriously elusive, his scarce interviews can be counted on the fingers of one hand, as he would rather express himself through his music. The Strasbourg rapper has a confident and intriguing voice and a distinctive brand of melancholy poetry. On ‘Score’, he abandons the “Kidd” he used to be as he nonchalantly delivers a smooth, detached effort.
HAON celebrated the release of his debut project last month, encapsulating the development of a talented newcomer with huge potential. The winner of Korean hip-hop TV competition “High School Rapper Season 2”, the 18-year-old demonstrated ambitious determination and a youthful spirit to impress audiences across the nation, and has transitioned from amateur to professional rapper with ease. His first EP ‘TRAVEL: NOAH’ alludes to the biblical figure of Noah (also conveniently HAON’s name spelled backwards), as he describes his journey across seven songs. On the titular opening track, HAON delivers his mischievous vocals over a Latin-infused melody, holding his own as he ably exchanges verses with elite Korean stars Jay Park and Hoody.
Brussels trio L’Or du Commun are gathering momentum. “Sur ma vie”, the second effort from their forthcoming album ‘Sapiens’ scheduled to release this fall, sees Loxley, Primero and Swing deliver an inspirational message of manifesting ambitions and achieving success. The Belgian group is steadily developing their sound, with lively flows, sharp bars and an uninhibited sense of humour that will no doubt give them the keys to their own success.
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Murkage Dave’s long-awaited debut album has been well worth the wait. Across 14 tracks, the east Londoner fuses soulful golden era RnB with UK grime and garage sounds in allusion to his origins as a successful DJ, as bumping percussion and warm strings draw comparisons to long-time collaborator Mike Skinner and The Streets. Driven by his distinctive socially aware witty lyricism, Dave’s gentle crooning melodies are delivered in hushed tones like reflective asides muttered from the back of the night bus home from the club, as his melancholic introspections channel the loneliness of a hedonistic life on the road between events into a muted morning-after mood that is sombre yet refreshingly honest throughout, leaving a surprisingly uplifting afterglow.
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Mumbai-based MC and producer Tienas is a breath of fresh air in the city’s hip-hop community. Bringing to the forefront a Nujabes-inspired sound that hasn’t been seen before in a region dominated by ‘gully rap’, Tienas’ ability to craft together complex narratives on fluctuating, chaotic beats has earmarked him as one of the most interesting new artists to emerge on the Indian independent music scene this year. His debut mixtape ‘Unavailable’ is a brazen showcase of his mercurial talent, oscillating between old school, chaotic hip-hop beats and a future-soul sound that showcases his songwriting ability. The project was released to widespread critical acclaim, and a show-stopping performance at the Azadi Records Roster Showcase has ramped up anticipation for his debut full-length album, scheduled for release next year.