Words by Brian James
Brian James is a former co-host of the Best Song Ever podcast and contributor to Off Shelf and other music publications. As a lifelong enthusiast, he has been a fan of hip-hop since middle school and now enjoys keeping up with mainstream and underground releases, and diving deep on the sampled and influencing sub-genres.
Denzel Curry – Walkin (Loma Vista Recordings) – Denzel Curry is a super exciting talent who has been honing his skillset for the past several years and Walkin’ finds everything really clicking together. Denzel is just a joy to listen to and showcases his verbal assault style over two different types of beats on this track.
Blu and Fatlip – Gangsta Rap (Guilty By Association) prod by Madlib – Blu has been incredibly prolific as of late and his upcoming album sees him teaming up with the amazing Fatlip from The Pharcyde. Also, throw in Madlib production and this is really a can’t miss track.
Fly Anakin – No Dough (Lex Records) prod by Madlib – Did someone say Madlib production? Here we are again, this time teaming up with underground superstar Fly Anakin. No Dough is just one of several great tracks from Fly Anakin’s upcoming album.
Must Listen Albums of January 2022:
Amber Mark – Three Dimensions Deep (Universal) – I’m actually cheating here because this isn’t really a hip hop album, but whatever, it’s my column I can do what I want. Amber Mark has been releasing hot singles and a couple fantastic EPs over the past five or so years, all building the anticipation for her debut album, Three Dimensions Deep. No lie, this is probably my favorite album since Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and is just full to the brim of amazing, soulful, atmospheric R&B.
Aj Suede and Televangel – Metatron’s Cube (FRMNDS) – This is such an amazing team up from two talents I was previous unfamiliar with. Televangel creates a great, atmospheric universe that recalls classic, dusty boom bap without feeling cliched. AJ Suede’s rapping is laid back but intricate and occasionally reminds me of Method Man, while still carving out his own space. It’s a really great album.
Earl Sweatshirt – SICK! (Warner Records) – Earl’s newest album had to live up to quite a bit of hype. Everyone was excited to see what was next from the somewhat reclusive talent. SICK! lives up to the hype, but in an unexpected way. It’s more “accessible” than what you may expect; but, the artistry is still there and that combination of accessibility and artistry has created a really special album. Even though it’s more accessible doesn’t mean it’s not dense, it’s actually pretty dense and will take repeated listens to really appreciate.
Bloodmoney Perez and Messiah Musik – Second Hand Accounts (FilthyBroke Recordings) – Super dense and murky album full of intricate bars, great features and fantastic production. Second Hand Accounts is not for the faint of heart and will totally appeal to fans of Armand Hammer and other output from Backwoodz Studioz.
Golden Joe and Ozstriker – Interdimensional Cable (Ozstriker) – Interdimensional Cable is the first hip hop album I heard this year and it’s definitely the strangest I’ve heard so far. Everything here is a bit off-kilter and askew, but all comes together in a really great way.
Che Noir – Food For Thought (DMG) – Che Noir goes hard for 35 minutes, barely stopping to catch a breath. This album is just a nonstop assault of varying flows and amazing writing.
Casual and Dead Perry – The Art of Reanimation (Below System Records) – Technically a remix album, Casual (of the Hieroglyphics crew) puts forth a really cool effort with an array of interesting sounds from Dead Perry.
The Musalini and 9th Wonder – The Don & Eye (Jamla Records) – Any album featuring production from the ridiculously talented 9th Wonder (of Little Brother) should be heard and this one is definitely not an exception to the rule.
Bar None Mixtape: January 2022