With the release of albums like D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah” and Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” 2015 has shown it still pays to make multi-layered, nerd-out-friendly projects. A little over halfway through the year, here are 10 Northwest releases worth listening to, not just all the way through, but on repeat and often:
Rasheed Jamal manages to deliver an album that both slaps throughout while touching on subjects like politics, materialism, the mistreatment of Black women, and the passing of his father with the depth that few artists can display.
This project plays out like a comic book on record. While far from the first to infuse a heavy dose of anime into his music, Fountaine does it in a way that’s undeniably fresh.
The things Load B gets stuck in my head often make me question myself. Listen to “Andrew Dice Clay Sculptures” and “Grey Poupon” a few times and you’ll see what I mean. Of course, there’s a reason why. The beats are tough, Milc and Brill rap their asses off, and the “Snortlandia” skits are hilarious.
“Gentrify” on its own is worth the price of admission (Arguably the single of the year out of the Northwest). Sometimes it’s easy to take HANIf for granted because of the high bar he has set for himself, but 12-inch Vinyls is another strong addition to the catalogue.
Nacho Picasso makes great grow-on-you music. With Stoned & Dethroned, like previous projects, you hear something new on every listen. The dark, spacey soundscape provided by Blue Sky Black Death once again serves as a great match for Nacho’s even darker rhymes.
It may not be fair, but Jarv Dee had me at the Ivan Van Sertima sample. This is one of those albums where, if you’re not paying attention, it might sound like just another rude record that knocks anywhere and doesn’t do much beyond that. Yet, political messages and motifs, as well as satire, permeate the album. Much like fellow Moor Gang member Nacho Picasso, Jarv Dee delivers a project that will have you hearing something new on each listen.
The high points aren’t as high as the highs on the first installment but this is still a more than worthy successor. Raz Simone’s gravel-voiced tales and his passion behind the mic make it nearly impossible to resist engulfing yourself in the album.
Labeling Theory Hazit doesn’t do his versatility justice but for the sake of brevity, he makes Christian hip-hop for people who don’t think they like Christian hip-hop. Full of introspection and vivid storytelling, The Fall of the Light Bearer is great for putting on your headphones and getting lost in the experience.
This is just a fun album. Put it on. Groove.
The Lifesavas are known worldwide and yet, you don’t see them in a lot of these top 10 conversations. Crooked Straights is a loud statement that the Northwest legends are still a force to be reckoned with. Showing he can more than hold his own solo, Vursatyl puts on a clinic with styles, wit, and an ability to cover a lot of ground in 10 tracks.