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.
Quelle Chris – Alive Ain’t Always Living (Mello Music Group) – What a wonderful introduction to Quelle Chris’s new album Deathfame. Very interesting pick as a lead single but I expect nothing else from Chris as he’s constantly one to play against perceptions. It’s full of beautiful singing, great rapping and emotional lyricism.
Bartees Strange – Cosigns (4AD) – Bartees Strange has blurred the lines between indie rock and hip hop before, but this song is my favorite blend of the two that he’s done. It’s a little bit trap and a little bit rock n’ roll, what more could you ask for?
Theo Croker– JAZZ IS DEAD feat. Gary Bartz & Kassa Overall (Star People Nation) – There’s jazzy hip hop and then there is jazz with hip hop, this new song from trumpeter Theo Croker definitely falls into the latter camp. It’s a really great atmospheric jazz song with fantastic verses from Kassa Overall and Gary Bartz.
Must Listen Albums of April 2022:
Billy Woods – Aethiopes (Backwoodz Studioz) – This is now the hip hop album to beat this year. Billy Woods just won’t stop his winning streak that started over 10 years ago, in fact he only seems to be getting stronger as time goes on. Aethiopes is unlike any hip hop album you’ll hear, not just this year but ever. Full of dense, strange, atmospheric production and Billy Woods signature nonstop rapping with jaw-dropping lyricism. You really have to hear this to believe it.
Vince Staples – RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART (UMG Recordings) – Another artist on a never ending winning streak, Vince Staples delivers yet another W. This one doubles down on the introspection he displayed on last year’s self titled album with an expanded sonic palate that hits hard.
Sadistik and Kno – Bring Me Back When the World is Cured (Compound Interest) – This is the first Sadistik album that I’ve heard and it is so impressive. Sure, it can fall into the “Emo Rap” camp, but in this case it’s definitely not a bad thing. Sadistik’s flow and rhymes are arresting and emotional, but super well crafted. Also, Kno’s production across this album is some of the best production you’ll hear.
redveil – learn 2 swim (redveil) – Another rapper I somehow missed until now, redveil is one that I can’t believe escaped my radar. This album is GREAT and keeps getting better with each listen. I’m excited to see how high this will climb on my list. Great flows, wonderful production and a lot of depth to dig into.
Action Bronson – Cocodrillo Turbo (Loma Vista Recordings) – This is definitely my favorite album from Action Bronson. The production across this is bonkers, as is the rapping, all in the best way possible.
Defcee and Boathouse – For All Debts Public and Private (Closed Sessions) – Over the past couple years I swear just about everytime I heard an awesome feature I’d look to see who it was and saw Defcee’s name. He is ferocious on the mic and he doesn’t lose any steam on this awesome full length album.
Pusha T – It’s Almost Dry (G.O.O.D. Music) – Hot off some beef with McDonald’s, Cocaine’s Dr. Seuss is back! Yes, the subject matter is limited but honestly it doesn’t matter. This album is full of great lines as well as really awesome production from Pharrell and Kanye West.
Dalek – Precipice (Ipecac Recordings) – The densest of dense hip hop, this is not for the faint of heart. There’s so much to dig into here and so much atmosphere that you’ll be transported. Dalek is as dope as ever.
Ockham’s Blazer – Ockham’s Blazer (Fake Four Inc.) – Strange psych jazz band with PremRock on the mic combines for an awesome experience. This is another album unlike anything you’ll hear this year and is best consumed as a whole.
AJ Suede & Small Professor – Hundred Year Darkness (FRMNDS) – Great victory lap from AJ Suede who has already released one of my favorite hip hop albums this year. AJ’s voice and rapping is just so damn good, reminiscent of Method Man without ripping off any style and being true to himself as an artist. This is an album that grows on you over time too.
Bar None Mixtape: April 2022