Kai Fortyfive - Silky Joints, Vol. 2

Commercially, Long Island Rap Records' 2021 was all about Kai Fortyfive. It's fitting then that I cap the year with a post on his latest, Silky Joints, Vol. 2, the sequel to the EP that put me onto Kai's music to begin with. Truthfully one of the things that hit me hardest about SLUGSMOKE&MIRRORS when I first heard it was how different it was than Silky, that a rapper/producer who made that could also make this. I'm not saying I like one style more than the other {adlib: not at all}. Quite the opposite: I most appreciate that Kai does both so adeptly it breaks down boundaries in a way that recalls the Duke Ellington quote, "There are simply two kinds of music, good and bad." As for Vol. 2, it's every bit as sophisticated as the comma in its title. Play it for your lover as the ball drops. (And hit Kai on IG for CDs.)


Hus Kingpin - The Firm

In the The Last Dance, they say that Jordan was playing at such a level during the mid-90s it was as if he wasn't competing with his opponents, just with himself. Another way to look at it would be that he wasn't even playing in the same game as everyone else on the court, never mind the same league. I'd liken it to Sacha Baron Cohen's performance in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He so embodies and elevates the character of Jean Girard, it's as if he's acting in an entirely different film. People get so hung up on stats and lists, they assume this kind of transcendence must be tied entirely to skill, but consider that it may very well be as much a product of self-image. Hus Kingpin's songs of late — the entire winning streak that was his 2021 output, really — sound like the musings of a poet writing from, of, in and for an entirely different form and paradigm than every other rapper. How ironic then that his latest (sixth, seventh, who can keep count at this point?) project released in 2021 is named for and conceptualized around a group of other rappers. I get it though. The Winners are a supergroup unto themselves. SmooVth and Sageinfinite's verses on "Affirmative Action" and Rozewood's on "Cayman Islands" leave no doubt about that. Buy [me] everything on wavo3000.com.

Fun fact: for who knows how long, everything on Hus's Bandcamp is name your price.


The Chopstars & Busta Rhymes - The Coming (ChopNotSlop Remix)

Over a million people bought each of Busta Rhymes' first two solo albums, yet they remain two of the most underappreciated rap records of all time. That's how dope Busta Rhymes is. Even two million sales can't begin to explain the brilliance, the inventiveness, the unprecedentedness. Chopstar DJ Surrup breaks it down nice and slow for those who still haven't caught on.

Charlés - Progress 4

No matter how mature one grows as a musician and songwriter, a rapper's rapper can always come back to just ripping instrumentals. If Charlés fka Charles DaBeast showcased his versatility on last month's Thoughts That Roam 2, this month he proves that development hasn't dulled his fundamentals a bit. Progress 4 finds Charlés returning to a mixtape series whose last installment came over seven years ago, and more than living up to the title's promise. It's not just progress; it's evolution.


Nomad Carlos - Element of Surprise

Nomad Carlos raps hit like Y2K-era Flash animations killed time in Junior year journalism class, sometimes crudely but always effectively. At their best, as in Element of Surprise, they murder details, provocatively telling stories from heretofore unseen angles, even when talking shit, e.g., "It's crazy how one line could truly speak volumes / While rappers' artwork stay better than they albums / Make good for a coaster for my fam to crush weed on / While blasting Undertaker's theme song."  Said high school journalism teacher Mr. Kravitz wrote and self-published a memoir. Nomad Carlos wrote, performed and self-published a proper LP, as in a vinyl record album (RIP Phil Schaap).

Often Spaced - Black Summer

South Shore boatfolks fly kleptocrat flags in polluted channels, sinking. The stench of low tide creeps like climate change, that is, until it's on you. Then, time is no longer factor, it's everything. A Tweet this morning called Don't Look Up a documentary. True story and perfect timing, like Black Summer dropping Friday, August 13. Often Spaced is only 16 – ABSURD. Long Island prevails.  
"I feel hopeless at the macro level," said evolutionary anthropologist Paul Hooper in an interview published this year by Nautilus (also in August, as it happens). "But still I feel like there's untapped creative potential in determining the nature of our own society. Everything in this model works because of social action, because one strategy imposes constraints on the whole rest of the society, and then the society changes. We see radical, enormous shifts in social norms and institutions through history. I know that we haven't explored all of the possibility space yet. If we could tap that potential, and we could make egalitarianism truly a self-perpetuating cultural unit that also preserves itself, then it'll stay around. It'll be a new kind of society. The math points to those possibilities, so I'm not entirely pessimistic. There's amazing untapped potential that comes down to face-to-face relationships that endure over time."


Bronze Nazareth & Roc Marciano - Ekphrasis

Bronze Nazareth is perhaps best known for his production work, and that makes sense; his credits behind the board include the lion's share of the seminal Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture compilation and full albums for Willie the Kid and Canibus among others, as well as "that one track" for seemingly every third underground rap act of note from the past two decades. The irony here is that the Bronzeman has also been spitting some of the deadliest darts to blowgun out of the Wu encampment since he linked up with Cilvaringz and RZA in the early '00s. His 2006 debut full-length, The Great Migration remains an unheralded masterpiece, and he was murdering mics even before that if you go back to 2003's "Sinuhe's Impasse" or his early days rapping alongside late brother Kevlaar 7 as a duo called Unknown. Point being: if you don't know him as a rapper, it'd behoove you to get familiar.

Roc Marciano's reputation as a mold-breaking rapper/producer is at this point concrete. However, to date, the beats he has done for others aren't nearly as well known as those he's kept for himself. And that's not to say he hasn't been spreading the love. On the contrary, even before lacing albums for Stove God Cooks and Flee Lord, Roc had already built a respectable body of production work, including projects for Muja Messiah and The Planets among others. Nonetheless, when someone refers to "the Roc joint" on so-and-so's album, nine times out of 10, they're talking about a song he rapped on, not one he produced. Indeed, nearly all of Bronze Nazareth's collaborations with Roc Marciano heretofore featured the latter rapping over the former, and there are several, including "Think Differently," "Capos (Bronzed)" and "Avalon" (the one exception I can find is "Seal of Approval" off Messiah's Saran Rap).

Ekphrasis makes sense for a number of reasons, not least of which is it provides means for two parallel, yet in many ways opposite, artistic tracks to unanticipatedly coalesce. But beyond the logistics of the collaboration, this album also works in a purely musical sense. In other words, even if you didn't know that Bronze also makes beats and that Roc also raps, the former's vocals and latter's music pair seamlessly here. One gets the sense that the two artists really and truly hear one another, allowing for each of them to bring out in the other something the rest of us might not otherwise get the chance to experience. Right from the jump, "Crazy Horse" sees Bronze Nazareth giving intimate details about his mindset following the death of his brother, how the fragility gave way to an opening of lyrical floodgates. The effect of this introspection renders the beat's minimal loop darkly psychedelic. By the time we get to "Kettle Black," Roc's returning the favor, finding in Bronze's Jesus Feet persona the slick-tongued twang of a Motor City hustler archetype. 

There are so many ways to interpret this album, and from the title you can tell that's part of the point, but one shouldn't mistake this as music made only for headphones and solitary nighttime drives. That room for interpretation also provides space for moving about, with fantastic acoustics and many points of entry.


Lungs/LoneSword - The Birth of LoneSword

There are eight million stories in the naked city, and The Birth Of LoneSword contains multitudes. Various characters pass in and out of frame. Loops explode. Societies collapse. Many-faced plugs facilitate all. Lungs/LoneSword has been on one throughout 2021, and it's all been leading up to this project, his first for Purple Tape Pedigree, which has also issued releases from fellow Tase Gripper AKAI SOLO and has more from the Wrong Island camp in the works.


Hardcore - Take It from the Top / A Different Groove / High Time (Maxi-Single)

Back in April, I shared what little info I could gather on a group called Hardcore, who released two singles on NuBeat Recores. In writing about the first, 1987's We Got It All / The Power of Rhyme, produced and mixed by Prince Paul, I mentioned that the second single also involved a Long Island legend. In this case, 1988's Take It from the Top / A Different Groove / High Time maxi-single was mixed by none other than Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad. As it happens, Shocklee's isn't the only recognizable name associated with this release, as the back cover lists the group's manager as Lumumba Carson, who would soon after become known as Professor X of the X-Clan. In fact, you can even hear Carson saying "vanglorious ...  protected by the red, the black and the green" on each track (and if I'm not mistaken, that's him standing in the back right on the cover). As for the music itself, all three tracks are in keeping with the whole "hardcore" hip-hop angle. The first, "Take It from the Top," was even included on Priority Records' Hard Rap compilation, a project that featured gangsta rap pioneers Ice-T and N.W.A. along with the likes of MC Hammer and Kid 'N Play. Beyond that, there's not much to say. Cooley High raps about rocking parties and taking down rival MCs, and Double B scratches on every chorus. It's dope.


L.A.D.S. - Four What?

L.A.D.S. is the quartet of Boston's Lu Chin Chen, Binghamton's Awful P, Brentwood's DaMarco and Lindenhurst's Stryke. Those whose LI rap scene credentials go back a bit might recall the latter from his involvement with another group, Mic Shine (with MC Artifakt and DJ Spyncere), or All Business Records or numerous other associations. You also might remember DaMarco as Spectah from his group with Stryke, Double S. Regardless, the four have dropped two EPs inside of about six months, following up their debut, The FourWarning, with their latest, Four What? That one's below. Weathered but not worn, bullhorned bars abound.