Here are my underrated projects of 2016.
Tish Hyman - Dedicated To (EP)
First and foremost, big shout outs to my homey Stu for setting me up with this beauty of a project. I was blown away at this woman's vocals...and then I found out she was an ex-battle rapper from New York. That's when my jaw hit the floor. If you don't know who she is...let me introduce you to her killing it on Sway in the Morning.
The crazy thing in this 7 track EP is that Tish shines both in her lyrical raps and her verbose melodies. I find that there was a perfect balance between her crazy talents discussing the hardened path she has had in her life thus far. While she can spit, it's her singing that is paramount. Immediately she's getting the Lauryn Hill comparisons, but even Tish herself acknowledges it and states shes nowhere near that legendary status. I really wished the project was longer but songs like 'Dreams' featuring Fabolous and Ty Dolla $ign and the intro 'All That I Can Do' with the delicately laid guitar riffs are just beautiful and perfect for a succinct project. Tish Hyman is definitely someone to look out for in the future.
Masta Ace - The Falling Season
Masta Ace. The Legend. 30 years in the rap game and he has not skipped a beat. Dropping his 11th studio album, Masta Ace speaks from the viewpoint of his childhood portrayed as a prequel to the growth that turned Duval Clear into Masta Ace. The project is depicted as a story over the classic Boom Bap production a true MC from Brownsville, Brooklyn is known for. The entire album is a story...24 tracks including skits to keep the story moving...of a young intelligent gifted man growing up in a broken system trying to make his way through high school even when his back is against the wall. But there are SO MANY UNREAL TRACKS on this project. From '3000 Avenue X' with Your Old Droog discussing the difficulties of the school system for disadvantaged youth to 'Young Black Intelligent' touching on the subject of the impossibility for black youth to make it without gang banging or slinging to 'High School Shit' with Torae depicting opposing high school students battling and "Total Recall" featuring the World Famous Supreme Team which resulted into Duval Clear's transition to Masta Ace. But the track 'Story of Me' at the end brings the project to a full circle letting us know the growth Duval Clear has had as Masta Ace after all these years. I appreciate this album because of the self-reflection Masta Ace has had and the way he brings it for us to listen to is nothing but excellent in its execution.
Nyck Caution - Disguise the Limit
Nyck Caution has always been considered a secondary member of Joey Bada$$'s Pro Era. However after this project, Jesus Christ is his lyrical talent never getting questioned. His flow and abrasive style of spitting is immediately in your face from the get-go over some of the most interesting Boom Bap production. The production is centered on the classic New York head bobbing style but mixed into higher than human conciousnesss-esque synths which include intricate guitar riffs and piano lines to electronic bass lines that will make a homey finna rage in the pit. He won me over with the Bret Hart guitar riff right as the beat drops in 'Basin' that has now reached legendary status with me in the gym. The album itself is a reflection of the loss Pro Era felt with Capital Steez and how the entire crew felt after they lost one of their brothers. Nyck Caution then added the loss of his father and how he had to handle these feeling of loss during a time when Pro Era was finally getting recognized. Most people will find that the softer tracks such as 'Just in Case' and 'Holding Back' don't help Nyck since his lyrical talent can be lost over subdued production. However, I feel that these songs best exemplify an individual trying to find how to depict these new emotions felt through grief when all they thought about was grandiose dreams of shining high over fat beats. The Pro Era love is insurmountable in this project, especially in the features with the different members going back and forth in the 2-3 songs that actually have features. The rest of the album is just pure thought from the troubled growing mind of a young humble and hungry MC.
Oddisee - Alwasta (EP)
There are a few artists out there who consistently drop independent projects that don't ever get any consideration or love. Oddisee is one of those artists and this 7 track EP is just one of his many highlights throughout his career. His production is always on point, with a full instrumental jazz-vibe that's upbeat but with impeccable down tempo to keep you in the vibe. This project is perfect for driving. Trust me. I've listened to this project on repeat in the car to the point where my East Indian mother was wondering where these unreal tracks were coming from (she's now an Oddisee fan). Alwasta is Arabic for a social connector - straight from Malcolm Gladwell description of an individual who was full of "curiousity, self-confidence, sociability and energy." This project fully embodies that with tracks depicting social African consciousness in American history. Trust me and listen to this beautiful, self-meditative project.
Rapsody - Crown
The Carolinas are shining in hip hop these days. All the artists coming out of Carolina are definitely woke AF and Rapsody is leading the way. Upon the announcement of joining Roc Nation, Rapsody dropped this surprise 10 track EP staying consistent with her roots over production from the usual suspects of Nottz and 9th Wonder. While no stranger to the game, she's definitely being getting some recent shine from notable co-signs of Kendrick Lamar, Anderson.Paak and others. People who've been following her since her Kooley High days know she is definitely one of the best emerging artists in the game even though she's been here for a minute. However, Crown dropped at a point to definitely let you know what is up.
Rapsody puts herself in a position where she is surrounded by beats but somehow is able to shine through in a manner of trying to connect to those who listen to music with actual meaning versus typical bravado raps. She touches on everything in this album from the point of view of a woke black female. But she does it with such lyrical dexterity that makes every hip hop head witness. Discussing everything afflicted to the youth of 2016 over perfection. I can not do this EP justice. The great writers at HipHopDX penned the most perfect review which can be read here. I have literally gone to all of my hip hop friends and told them to spin this album. Probably one of my top 5 of 2016...
ScienZe - Good Food
I am a massive fan of ScienZe. If you love projects that bring nothing but good vibes, this is your s***. This 13 track project is laced with nothing but smooth soulful boom bap expected from any Brooklyn native. However, it is his poetic imagery that comes through in his raps that make you really appreciate this project. On a whole, ScienZe is the definition of underrated. The inspiration of this project comes from food, to which he explained in an interview with Mass Appeal:
“It all started with a track I recorded about two years back titled ‘Apples & Oranges’,” he said. “The track was a one-off allowing me to get my lyrical chops off. My album Ella dropped a couple months before, and it felt good to just rap without focusing on song structure and progressive storylines. The title ‘Apples & Oranges’ is simply used to compare my style and music to anyone else’s in the rap game. ‘We’re as different as apples & f*cking oranges, don’t call me underground, don’t call me conscious.’ This one song, like many other project beginnings, sparked the food theme. With help it then grew into a dope concept album. Good Food is now music that is good for any diet. It’s necessary.”Every track is meticulously crafted to bring together food with topics such as love, self-identification, and tales of modern America. It takes talent to be able to craft stories but to take artforms and amalgamate them with food creates this fusion of artisanal cuisine for the soul and mind that should not be ignored but shared at your next potluck.
Ab-Soul - D.W.T.W.
Shut up. The Black Lip Pastor Speaks. Ab-Soul needs no introduction. 1/4 of Black Hippy alongside the living legends Q, Rock and K. Dot. But Ab-Soul is the YMF (Young Mind F***). This album is exactly that. Upon initial listen, you can not appreciate the layers of each of the songs crafted in this project. It takes special minds to be able to unlock the messages being delivered by TDE's lyrical shaman. After multiple spins, this album is the truth. 16 tracks over some of the darkest production to date deliver one of the most profound and lyrical proficient projects from Ab-Soul. With many connotations to deep thought and mindfulness alongside debates on religion, politics and history, it takes multiple listens to realize the underlying tone of the feminine. The album celebrates the female but Ab-Soul is able to portray these ideals over the dark beats that is his style. But the beauty of it comes from how confusing and abstract Ab-Soul's thoughts are. You realize that even after multiple listens, it begs the question whether Ab-Soul is messing with us or with himself with his confounding and perplexing lyrics. But oh man...some of these lines are just savage...
"And we don’t speak on sexism much as we really should/The black man could vote before the woman could / You singin’ hymns in church, I’m lookin’ for the her’s/In 66 books in the Bible, they ain’t let a lady say one word/Hillary Clinton is out somewhere/Tryin’ to get ahead in the Senate/I’m getting head and I’m sinnin"
At the end of the day, this project deserves your attention. Sit back and open your third eye...