The Mouse Outfit ft. Dubbul O, Sparkz & Ellis Meade
Holy hell, but The Mouse Outfit's third full-length album 'Jagged Tooth Crook' is one of the finest of the year thus far, and this lead off single displays exactly why: astonishing, sharp musicianship makes the beats, bass, keys and everything else snap together with a fluid tightness that's glorious, while guest spots from Dubbul-O and Sparkz keep your mind racing with imagery and intrigue. This isn't hip-hop that's placeable in any existing scene or lineage, although if it does draw a comparison, it's with fellow Manc maniacs Levelz in terms of sheer excitement and joy. Stoopidly smart and totally fresh.
'Acrylic & Oil'
What a stunning display by Notts veteran Juga-Naut this is: crushing high art with the heartfelt to create something unique in rap at the moment, a track you want to hear again for the words, and not just the beat. I'm nowhere near decoding this yet, but it's something extremely special, helped by the full fat production and sheer sense of compelling intent that drives it along from the first moment. From an EP ('Stolen Art') that threatens to swallow up your summer. Check the video for the full effect. You will surrender immediately.
The sound that will not die in hip-hop isn't Autotune, or even boombap — it's horrorcore. I'm hearing it everywhere at the moment, and it can't just be down to '90s nostalgia. Partly I think it's down to the times we're in BEING so horrific, partly I think it's a thirst for the dark and disturbing coming from the explosion of interest in genre fiction and horror films in the past decade. Either way, 'Epicenter' is horrorcore to the max, spooky spirals of Goblin funk undercutting an atmosphere so doomed, it's like a Shaw Brothers production. Guest spots from Inspektah Deck and Raekwon keep things deliciously dank throughout. Better than you might have hoped.
Son Of Sam
'Fighting Talk '
Tea Sea Records
Wow — a proper hip-hop single release — with remixes! In a world of early leaks and 'high-impact' tracks, this is a great tune from a great album (2017's 'Cinder Hill': get it if you haven't), released properly, with remixes from Tom Caruana and Blaise B that are utterly fantastic, spinning the hypnotically headnodic original into dub and jazz shapes that repay repeated listens. Son Of Sam deserve all the credit they've got in the last year, but I hope this is the LAST single from 'Cinder Hill' and that they're working on a new album. If you missed out, this is your last chance to see sense.
'Lunch Meat EP '
If you've been fucking with Al The Chemist for a while now (and why the hell would you not have been?), you'll know that pretty much anything he lends his hand to is going to be essential. Somehow though, the 'Lunch Meat EP' manages to be even more essential than that, blessed as it is with cameos from Westside Gunn, Conway, Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, Styles P and Benny The Butcher, and also just a stronger sense of purpose and attitude than anything the Alchemist has done since 'Israeli Salad'. He's clearly thrilled by the new breed of MCs currently making US hip-hop so exciting, and that thrill and focus makes every track here (particularly 'Massacre') radiate with venom and verve. Utterly unmissable.
'Plush Seats '
Mello Music Group
So much great instrumental hip-hop out there at the moment (check out Remulak's 'Night Sessions' and Kuartz's 'Kuartz FM' both on Village Live for two prime examples), but currently floating my boat the most is 'Plush Seats' from Calvin Valentine. Killer beats, great cuts, gorgeously warped soul textures and a sheer joy in the impact of hip-hop sonics that's irresistible and infectious. This is like the twisted ideas of an Ivy Lab or Gantz given a big phat dose of Valium and told to chill the fuck out. Clear a space, you'll want to sleep when you fall over from dancing.
Cult Of The Damned
You see, the further you sink into the Blah world, into its fetid depths of mental decay and chemical derangement, the more you think everyone is feeling this stuff on a daily basis. I've just snapped back and realised I've never written about Cult Of The Damned before, so am duty bound to tell you firstly that they are Bisk, Lee Scott, Salar, Stinkin Slumrok and Black Josh; secondly, that their new 'Part Deux: Brick Pelican Posse Crew Gang Syndicate' album is so good it should be contraband, and that this single sounds like nothing else out there. Comparisons could only distract you. Seek this music out and drown in it. The absolute STATE of it. The art.
Not QUITE the hip-hop remake of Eddie Kendricks' 'My People Hold On' that we've all been waiting for (c'mon I can't be the ONLY one?), but DAMN CLOSE, and as such, utterly fantastic. Producer Ras G unleashes a pre-griot Pangaea rumble of haunted drums so ancient they carry their own bass frequency, buzzing insect noises and shrieks, rhymes from the absolute top of this Richmond VA don's dome and a cumulative effect as jarringly ancient-futurist as Jeru's 'Come Clean' or Pusha T's 'Numbers On The Board'. Get crushed immediately.
Westside Gunn & Mr. Green
Conway's 'Blakk Tape' is filling the gap in our Griselda Gang addiction at the moment, and so should this: the most dazzlingly strange track from WG & MG's 'Flygod Is Good . . . All The Time' set, Green layering up strangely haunted string loops over a murderously heavy beat, Gunn pitching his verbals somewhere between horror and hysteria. When the beat slows to a crawl and Gunn carries on at full-pelt, you'll feel your brain oozing out your ears. Superb.