Rag N Bone Man : Put That Soul On Me

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Rag N Bone Man deserves to be world-renowned; his 2013 collab with Leaf Dog was a heavy fusion of smouldering soul and syrupy vocals, Reuben’s Train was one of last year’s finest tracks, and after airplay from DJ Premier, Mistajam and Zane Lowe; the Rum Committee vocalist continues to scale new musical heights on his latest collaboration. Put That Soul On Me combines his smoked-out songwriting with beats from larger-than-life MC and skilled producer Dirty Dike; who creates a fresh, musically diverse backdrop for Rag N Bone’s urban blues. The introductory title track slinks out the speaker with lazy flute loops, clean shakers and splashy snares;  as Dike’s loose, natural feel allows room for some of the EP’s most memorable vocal patterns, and Rag N Bone’s cadence channels BB King and D.P.G. simultaneously.

Across The Sky wallows in an inebriated haze as Rag N Bone drip-feeds lines, draping words in a slow drawl over minimal horn loops and sparse drums that swing like Questlove on Voodoo; while My Business finds Ronnie Bosh dropping intricate rhymes on an ill jazz flip from his Contact Play affiliate, and after Rag N Bone’s gruff, reflective verses bloom into a huge, catchy chorus; he hits a few final falsetto’s that would have most modern R & B singers struggling. This unexpected release from High Focus is one of the finest you’ll hear this year; an enjoyable listen for anyone into Soul, Blues, Hip Hop or Gospel, from a humble vocalist that could be the UK’s answer to Bilal, and an established emcee that’s becoming a seriously accomplished producer.

Buy it digitally here, and physically here.

Peace.

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Cyclonious & Chairman Maf : Hostile Leadership

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 ‘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.

Peace.

Rebel Queen: Rebel Rouser

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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.

Peace.

Damu The Fudgemunk : Public Assembly

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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.

5/5

Peace.