Time to accept it—summer’s over. Even though climate change is starting to shift our perception of the season’s charms, we nonetheless all still broadly enjoy these months of warmth and sun. Because you’re reading this, there’s also a high likelihood that cultural consumption plays a part in your appreciation of summer. Whether it’s through attending a courtyard jazz gig, a movie screening in the park or listening to sun-kissed genres like rap, jazz or psych rock, most of us experience life as soundtracked by what we perceive to be appropriate cultural touchstones. (However, if you’re more into juxtaposition, check out this list).
Given that hip-hop, even at its most paranoid or angry, just feels like the definitive summer music genre, we thought now was the perfect time to reflect on some releases you might have missed across the last couple of months. There’s a lot of rap music out there—some good, some bad. We’ve sifted through its depths to bring you six of the best hip-hop albums that flew under the radar this summer.
Real Bad Man & Blu – Bad News
Released: September 1st
Bad News’ copious charm lies in its easy-going affability. A team-up between veteran rapper Blu and the Real Bad Man collective (who’ve put together great tapes over the last few years with the likes of Smoke DZA, Pink Siifu and Boldy James), these eight tracks ooze confidence and charisma. It’s neither challenging nor experimental, just fun boom-bap given a polished contemporary sheen. The C.L. Smooth-featuring “The Golden Rule” is a notable highlight, though the whole brief collection stands tall as the summer’s most vibrant work of traditional hip-hop.
Black Milk – Everybody Good?
Released: July 19th
Effervescence is the name of the game on Everybody’s Good? Its funky textures are laconic and lilting, built on serene keys, Dilla-style beats and a relentlessly-chill demeanor. None of which is to say that Black Milk’s latest lacks ambition or pathos. These 12 tracks plumb soulful depths, driven by its creator’s dextrous vocals and excellent guest stars, including Quelle Chris and Karieem Riggins. The accomplished future-funk vibe is immensely seductive and makes Everybody’s Good? one of the most underrated rap and rap-adjacent releases of this summer.
Lee Scott – There Is a Reason For Everything
Released: May 29th
Lee Scott and his label Blah Records are the best-kept secret in UK hip-hop. Their brand of rap is dark, dirty and very funny, brimming with razor-sharp wit and barely-sublimated menace. Lee Scott’s latest (put out independently rather than via Blah) offers up eight cuts of Scott’s signature murky style. There’s little in the way of surprises, just endless paranoid atmospheres and brilliant bars encapsulated by “It’s Not Cricket”’s “I just need another couple of quid to retire/I skip through the mire in vintage attire.” If you haven’t already, it’s time to enter Scott’s dark but electrifying world.
Fatboi Sharif – Decay
Released: July 21st
While we’re down in the darkness, let’s cast an eye towards Fatboi Sharif’s Decay. The New Jersey MC’s first release on Backwoodz Studioz (the label run by formidable emcee billy woods), Sharif’s latest makes even woods’ darkest moments seem like a sun-kissed jazz-rap joint. A pervasive air of horror hangs over these 17 tracks, all of which are produced by Steel Tipped Dove. Sharif’s warped voice serves as a spectral guide through the industrial-tinged musical abstractions, which never ascend to out-and-out terror, maintaining just a constant air of intense creepy menace. An audacious and accomplished ride.
Chester Watson – fish don’t climb trees
Released: 30th June
Chester Watson first emerged around a decade ago. The now 26-year old has since amassed a solid back catalog of offbeat alt rap. His vocal approach occupies a similar register to Earl Sweatshirt’s, while the production style deployed on his latest fish don’t climb trees recalls Rejjie Snow in a particularly-sedate mood. These eleven tracks are unassuming and calm, atop which Watson’s introspective lyrics pick through the difficult few years that he’s recently experienced. A perfect rap album to soundtrack the encroaching autumn.
DJ Green Lantern – Jazz Dream
Released: 23rd June
There’s nothing autumnal about the breezy Jazz Dream. Dragging us right back to the sunny depths of summer is the latest from DJ Green Lantern – an 18 track odyssey of sample-built instrumental brilliance. Following the recent rise of cookie cutter instrumental beats for ambient Youtube videos, it feels like the true art of instrumental hip-hop has been somewhat diminished. Jazz Dreams serves as a reminder of the elegant intricacies required to make nuanced and compelling instrumental hip-hop albums, ones full of thoughtful samples and a gorgeously textured grain. An album to submerge yourself head first into.
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