Cyclonious & Chairman Maf : Hostile Leadership


 ‘This is far from basic, it’s high-class science, the mic is my appliance, where I deliver defiance.’

For years now the insightful lyricism Cyclonious pens has been an integral part of UK Hip Hop’s more conscious, politically perceptive side. Never Lose Your Passion was steeped in historical knowledge, Africa brought rejuvenating sun rays alongside Nate and Jalex, and the incendiary verses on Freedom were as anthemic as they were truthful. For his latest mixtape Hostile Leadership, the East-London MC has linked with Cambridge producer Chairman Maf, resulting in nine staggeringly good songs with a revolutionary mentality imbued in every well-worded bar. As Maf loops epic strings on the introductory title cut, Cyclonious fires venom-laced lines at any target unfortunate enough to cross his lyrical scopes, then maintains that high level of verbal dexterity over Magnetic‘s catchy piano chops.

 Escalating horns back righteous rhymes on The Land Of The Strong, while MMA Plus takes a page out of Stic’s book to offer positive words on the transformative power of mental and physical health; Chairman Maf’s ear for melodic sounds makes Never Topple another uplifting listen, followed by a more delicate approach to his production as he layers subtle sounds to accompany Tamarae‘s spiritual scriptures. Soulful samples shift in and out of  the foreground on Constant Pivot, with both Cyclonious and 4orce penning heavy verses around a mantra-like chorus; and Smoke & Mirrors stands out for it’s galvanizing words; ‘The body is a temple, if God made man in his image, then who do you resemble?’

 I replayed Together four times upon first hearing it; it’s not only the best tune on the record but is potentially one of the most important songs you’ll hear this year. Combining Maf’s finest hour musically with Cyc’s deepest bars and masterful, thought-provoking features from Phoenix Da Icefire and Apex Zero; the lyrics challenge paradigms without being confrontational, offer solutions instead of problems, and drop historical knowledge you won’t find on any curriculum.

There’s plenty of solid Hip Hop albums coming out of Britain right now, but very few balance refined intelligence with rugged breaks the way Hostile Leadership does. Enlightening and entertaining in equal measure, the album illustrates exactly why underground music is so vital.

Buy it here.



Rebel Queen: Rebel Rouser


Rebel Queen’s singing voice is as serene as her rhymes are ferocious. The 24 year old self-described evolutionary from Boulder, Colorado, has been writing poetry since age seven, and after influence from her brother’s strong love for Hip Hop, was hitting stages by her late teens. After the sibling’s original crew disbanded, they formed Colorado Operations, and recently released The Real, adding to Rebel Queen’s already solid foundations laid with previous mixtapes. Her music brings balance between pop-structured melodic songwriting and straight-up wrecking the mic with rhymes rooted in integrity. Here’s a small selection from her rhymepad so far.

Eyes demonstrates that equilibrium I mentioned as delicate tones nestle next to hard verses. The chorus is massive, and her second verse amply conveys her capabilities when rhyming with narrative, although the ad-libs could do with sitting lower in the mix. Rebel Rouser finds her dropping heavy line after heavy line with a hunger you can’t manufacture. The organ lines that build on the second verse keep things moving, while her swear-heavy chorus seems overkill at first, by the last repetition I was all ‘fuckit they human faeces‘ right along with her. If she keeps making bangers like this there’s no doubt she’ll be where she wants be in no time.

Closer shows her more sensitive side as her singing voice switches to a sultry tone over a swinging horn sample, whilst those creatively emancipating mainstream leanings shine on Rising To Fall; one of her most infectious tunes so far. As young females with musical talent experience an almost constant bombardment from the blinding lights of commercial exploitation, a positive, strong message of self-respect and musical independence is refreshing to hear; with her tireless work ethic and natural gift for songwriting, the expansion of Rebel Queen’s musical reach beyond Colorado’s borders is inevitable.

Keep up with what she’s releasing by following her @RebelQueenCO, and check out her other tunes here.


Damu The Fudgemunk : Public Assembly


Redefinition Records co-owner and prolific Washington-based producer Damu The Fudgemunk never fails to bring the heat, and with a sound that passionately embraces Hip Hop’s roots yet always brings something new to the table, his latest LP is no exception. Re-mastered by veteran producer K-Def, Public Assembly merges previously unreleased songs with hard to find versions of his more popular tracks, and although the vinyl release was originally intended to coincide with the WFMU record fair in New York, with a street date of July 8th; the label are shipping orders online right now.

Hole Up comes draped in the 90’s sound, with vibraphone lines flowing over lazy horns and a song structure that holds more in common with free jazz than it does your average boom-bap-beatsmith; furthering Damu’s recent move beyond linear song progression to form meandering, musically progressive sections over rugged breaks.Truly Get Yours treads the line between subtlety and heavy-handedness with agility; while his Wings Remix of the Union & Elzhi track stands out for it’s dusted drum hits, and Madvillain Revision takes Madlib’s original to smooth new plains; replacing the goofy charm of the DOOM version with echoing horns, melodic vocals and a bubbling crescendo that had me reciting Guru lyrics.

Streamline is one of his freshest instrumentals so far; with so many serene sample choices you’d think every chop came off the same record; while Overthrone showcases his skill for layering complimentary sounds, as he cuts classic rhymes into this hazy blend that smoothly transitions into the lounging ballroom jazz of Same Beat. His 2010 Supply For Demand LP provides the OG mix of Bright Side, continuing the chilled vibes with complimentary chord changes and constantly inventive snare hits; leaving Yes We Can to close this dope compilation with a shuffling hi-hat pattern amid infectious vocal cuts and winding sax lines. Unsurprisingly, Public Assembly is rock solid from start to finish, serving as a perfect introduction for the newcomer, and a handy re-issue for the vinyl-eager Redef completist.

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Get the brown or black vinyl editions here, or the digital download here.



Awon & Dephlow : Dephacation


Virginia-based emcees Awon & Dephlow destroy eleven dope beats from Portland producer Phoniks; who’s heavy hitting boom-bap steez reminds of Marco Polo’s modern take on Premo and Large Pro. Nearly every track is straight underground realness, with choruses that give the DJ his props as he contorts classic rap samples between rhymes with a clear respect for the culture. Once the intro sets the tone; the title track begins with ill samples to create that traditional tone, before Phonik’s neat, Babu-style string chops elevate Real Hip Hop with quality lyricism that reflects the Knowledge Of Self that influenced so many influential 90’s artists, and some choice words for industry rappers;‘Wearing women’s clothes, got the nerve to say you kill it with ya tapered hipster jeans talkin bout you pays the scrilla, emasculated game, need some hair on your facial, keep that molly out your nasal, I’m here to replace you.’

Step Up swaps the heavy attack for chilled tones and mellow rhymes, with Drake, Kendrick, and Future in the lyrical rifle sights on this stand out track, as the emcee’s place integrity over celebrity; while Introducing utilizes Big L and Mobb Deep cuts over a brash brass beat that stomps. As F Draper takes over the boards for a dope guest instrumental on Lights Off, the MC’s rhyme styles take the album down a less credible path. Why’d you’d make five songs about real Hip Hop then imitate the mainstream delivery of the rappers you were just dissing is beyond me, even with the chilled beat, the track’s rendered damn-near unlistenable if you don’t rate that ubiquitous staccato style that has kids thinking lyricism is stilted bars about snapbacks. You Can Run sets things back on course with a return to the quality rhymes the pair exhibited earlier; before the slow burning soul groove of Sucka Free sees Phoniks select alternate chops from a well-worn sample source.

After a shaky middle, the trio somewhat regain their flow with The War Room,You Know My Name and a Sucka Free remix, that takes the tune back to the smoother side of the 90’s and close the album off strongIf you’re guna make a shit-related LP with three grown men crapping on the cover you better make sure it’s not shit, and with Dephacation the trio achieved that. Despite the quality dropping for a minute at the half way mark, and Awon’s positive bars occasionally clashing against Dephlow’s derogatory rhymes, the album still serves up a slice of raw Hip Hop that’s well worth checking out for fans of the golden era sound.

Get the album digitally or on wax here.