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.
Ockham’s Blazer – Prison of Gold (Fake Four Inc.) – This is a super cool group of seven musicians including the rapping of PremRock. It’s a very strange sonic landscape and this song in particular kind of sounds like Electro-Ska-Rap I guess? It’s a weird and very welcomed sound.
Denzel Curry – Zatoichi (Loma Vista Recordings) – Denzel keeps straight killing it with these singles! He’s ready to drop an absolute classic with his next album and Zatoichi is another great example of his artistry on display. Plus that breakbeat is so exhilarating.
Elzhi and Georgia Anne Muldrow – Strangeland (Nature Sounds) – What an awesome team up here with one of Detroit’s finest, Elzhi finally getting the type of production he can really let loose on.
Must Listen Albums of February 2022:
Conway the Machine – God Don’t Make Mistakes (Shady Records) – The Griselda Machine keeps chugging away and turning into one of the most interesting collectives in Hip Hop today. This is also Conway’s best album to date full of dark, hard and dusty boom bap production. The album is one of the best released so far this year and has a ton of great features including an excellent one from Lil Wayne.
Saba – Few Good Things (Pivot Gang) – Few Good Things is a great example of how to make really good, mainstream leaning Hip Hop that still will appeal to classicists and indie fans. It’s a hard line to walk but Saba does it with ease, creating some straight up jams as well as more introspective moments with beautiful instrumentation throughout.
Curren$y and The Alchemist – Continuance (Jet Life Recordings) – The Alchemist cannot be stopped and continues to prove why he is one of the most consistent voices in Hip Hop production today. Curren$y is also at the top of his game on top of really interesting production. It’s such a great team up that continues to pay dividends.
Cities Aviv – MAN PLAYS THE HORN (D.O.T.) – Cities Aviv creates the densest of dense Hip Hop, with albums running well over an hour. It’s not an easy undertaking and is not at all accessible but once you get sucked into his world it’s hard to leave and easy to want to revisit. There’s really no one else who is making music quite like Cities Aviv.
mary sue – KISSES OF LIFE (Higher Self) – Shout out to Bandcamp’s monthly Hip Hop feature for introducing me to this super cool rapper from Singapore. Very much a student of MF DOOM and very much in line with the MIKE’s and Earl’s of today’s Hip Hop landscape, this is really cool listen.
KRS-One – I M A M C R U 1 2 (R.A.M.P. ENT) – KRS-One is in the conversation for my favorite rapper of all time. His run in the late 80s/90s with Boogie Down Productions and into his first few solo albums has some of the best lyricism and artistry of all time and the fact that he can stay relevant into 2022 is nothing short of astounding. I M A M C R U 1 2 is a great album for those familiar with KRS as well as the uninitiated.
Chris Crack – Growthfully Developed (New Deal Collectives) – Chris Crack comes through with one of his best albums of the last couple years. The beats are gorgeous and the lyrics are goofy as always. If you’re unfamiliar with Chris this is a great entry way.
Ivy Sole – Candid (Les Fleurs Records) – Ivy Sole is an awesome MC with really cool production. Her artist bio says it best “she loves jazz chords in trap and indie samples in boom bap” and this album totally delivers on that front.
EARTHGANG – GHETTO GODS (Dreamville) – Another inventive and fun mainstream southern Hip Hop album from this group. The songs are catchy the production is bangin’ and the rapping is inventive.
Big K.R.I.T. – Digital Roses Don’t Die (BMG) – K.R.I.T. releases his most soulful album to date, leaning heavily into 70s soul and R&B within a trap lens. At first I wasn’t sure about it but it’s been really growing on me and has some monster JAMS.
Bar None Mixtape: February 2022