April started off as a month of uncertainty for the hip-hop world and for my own personal blogging ambitions.  In the hip-hop-verse, I had learned through the grapevine that some interesting projects were slated for release, from Ratking’s “So It Goes” to Smoke DZA’s “Dream.Zone.Achieve”.  There were also other mixtapes being touted, especially from GoldLink and Freeway, but I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
April at the personal level has kickstarted my bold, new experiment of consistently listening to new mixtapes and albums that would be released over the course of the month.  And of course, as is typical, a lot of unexpected drops and curious finds lent themselves to a wonderful set of listening experiences pumping through my headphones.  I didn’t foresee downloading a new King Mez album or stumbling across Matt Ford or IshDarr, budding artists from Philadelphia and Milwaukee respectively.Ultimately, April was the month of the South, with my two favorite selections both hailing from below the Mason-Dixon line.  The Kentucky-trio Cunninlynguists and North Carolina’s King Mez put out solid projects that are definitely in my steady rotation.  Read below for my brief reviews of each of their releases.  And continue to the bottom for the full list of albums and mixtapes that I managed to listen to*. Enjoy!

*I will eventually include a monthly, curated mix of songs from many of these same mixtapes since there are a lot of stand out singles from each of the albums listened to.  I’ll be compiling that into a monthly installment aptly entitled “In Steady Curation”.

What To Buy

Cunninlynguists “Strange Journey Volume 3”

 
 
“Everybody claim to have a King’s just cause, most wanna be the King just cauz”
 
Cunninlynguists blew my mind in 2012 when they released “Oneirology“, a concept album based around the mysterious passages and non-linear journeys through dreams.  From ethereal and eery production to intricate and thought-provoking lyrics, the Lexington, Kentucky-based trio kept me continually coming back for more.  That only continued with other songs like “The Gates“, which again showed an incredible talent at story-based concept songs, which I assume led to their knack for concept albums.When I first was referred to Strange Journey Volume 3 by a friend, I have to say I didn’t need much convincing that it would be a solid project.  Similar to Oneirology, there is a little bit of a concept that pulses throughout the songs, as they strap up to navigate failed relationships, commercial hip-hop and their own struggle for greatness, all with their Siri-sounding narrator “Miley 3000”. Kno, Cunninlynguists’ producer, laces his songs with some awesome samples, using 1960s folksy, rock songs as the foundation for a number of tracks that despite my own skepticism, end up really standing out. You can tell throughout the album that Cunninlynguists have never been ones to feel comfortable in the predictable, bouncy beats of the dirty south, and in many ways, choose to operate at the fringes of underground hip-hop.  They discuss themes that aren’t necessarily sexy, don’t openly disparage the other rappers in the game, and usually make observations with verbose lyricism that keeps the audience intently listening.  There are plenty of guest appearances, but many of them being more obscure than their previous albums.  I admit that I have not listened to the other strange journey albums that the group has put out, but this one, for all intensive purposes, is a true gem.  Cop it now!

And if there’s cash leftover…

  • Ratking “So It Goes: Gritty, grimy, sharp, self-deprecating, at times nonsensical–basically all of the adjectives that you’d use to describe both the metaphorical and physical underground– but still an incredibly unique and refreshing listen.  Let the hip-hop trio suck you into a rarely seen and intensely dark underbelly of New York that’s far different than the other hip-hop coming from the boroughs these days.  Purchase It Here.
  • SZA “Z”: A haunting and genuine introspective of the 24 year old artist’s experiences navigating romantic letdowns and heartbreaks.  Think the female version of JMSN with better guest appearances from the likes of Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar.  Purchase It Here.

What To Download:

King Mez “Long Live The King”

Image

“Not too many no morris, man”

I first listened to Raleigh, North Carolina emcee King Mez when I stumbled across a music video for one of his singles entitled “Reign” on Potholes in my Blog. Needless to say, I was blown away.  The lyrical content was beautifully balanced with stellar production (over a Beatles-sample no less) that kept the ol’ noggin, noddin’.  After downloading the rest of his album “My Everlasting Zeal“, it became apparent that Mez is on a quest for a unique and lesser sought-out strand of greatness that rarely manifests itself with other emcees.  After all, who drops a line like “I know I just want that throne/ it aint gonna be the main one/ just long as aint nobody livin’ got the same one.”  Drilling deeper, I managed to also download “King’s Khrysis“, which was on some levels even more impressive to me than “My Everlasting Zeal”.  And such has been my joy listening to King Mez during the last two years.So you can imagine my surprise when out of the clear blue I was perusing Soundcloud and found a ton of new tracks from “Long Live The King”.  “Morris” has probably been the album’s stand-out track, with other tracks like “You Up” also achieving a powerful and haunting resonance for me.  King Mez, apart from having mastered the art of incredible beat production (he now has his own studio in Raleigh), has also matured into a more intellectual, humble leader within the hip-hop world.  He still excels at the craft of storytelling, as witnessed through his tracks discussing romance and major life transitions, but also seems to have evolved in his understanding of his role in the hip-hop game.  King Mez seems to be most effective through his passion, introspection and self-consciousness; if up-and-coming hip-hop music were “Lord of the Flies”, King Mez would probably assume the role of Simon, occupying the space of creative outsider and charismatic artist.  In many ways, Mez also seems to be a product of millennial hip-hop, frequently mentioning his college loans and education, and even his generational position in the game.  Despite these burdens, it’s apparent that King Mez is trying in many ways to be the hip-hop king that rules through an even-handed conscience and knowledge-hungry wisdom.  There are of course filler tracks on the album, but overall, Mez has put together an incredibly solid piece of work on “Long Live The King”, and one that will continue to grow on you.  Truly looking forward to hearing him as he continues to hone his craft.

Download It Here

And if there’s room left on the hard drive…

  • Matt Ford “Dwelling”:  A surprise find for me (again, many thanks Potholes!), Matt Ford hails from the land of Philadelphia hip-hop.  Much like Grande Marshall or Asaad, Ford definitely captures the dark grit of the city, but also seems to do so in a more whimsical way.  His rhymes are constantly changing up, and even the production varies on a significant scale. Definitely worth your time! Download it here.
  • Goldlink “The God Complex:  You’ve probably never heard of Future Bounce, and I know I hadn’t.  But when this DC duo dropped their much anticipated album, I was pleasantly surprised by the fun, raunchy and upbeat nature of the tape.  The rhymes are punchy, the beats are funky, and overall it’s a short but solid listen.  Download it here.

The Full List

Paid Albums
Chuck Inglish Convertibles
Cunninlynguists Strange Journey (Volume 3)
Smoke DZA Dream.Zone.Achieve
Locksmith A Thousand Cuts
Future Honest LP
Gee Watts 199X
Analogic The Booth Shall Set You Free
Bop Alloy Another Day in the Life Of
Ratking So It Goes
SZA Z
Bas Last Winter
Blueprint Respect the Architect
Free Downloads
Rome Fortune Hip, Thighs & Lies
Gold Link The God Complex
Pete Sayke x ThatKidMyself Forever
Leather Corduroy’s This Shit Fuckin Raw
Small Professor & Arcka Hancock
King Mez Long Live The King
Sean Rosati Round 1
Bas Two Weeks Notice
Jetpack Jones Shades of Mary
Stik Figa The Poogey Tape
Matt Ford Dwelling
IshDARR The Better Life
Paris Jones April EP
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