TOP 50 INDIE SOUL/RnB SONGS OF 2014: A RETURN TO CLASS?

2014 SOUL  The Best in Indie RnB/Soul Songs:

 

C-NOVAJULES BORN (VOICES OF BLACK)
          1. AKNU “Owe Me Love” is the sound of a young trio of popped soul artists with
            an energy that transfers to the listener. It’s a defiant piece of punk
            rock growl and incredible pitch-perfection. An undercurrent of mildly
            expressed sexuality is present both in its defiant sound and lyrics
            like: “just give me what i want / problem solved … i want it all / you
            owe me love.” Please do not confuse AKNU with a “boy band.”
          2. THE BLACK OPERA brought us “Beginning of the End” featuring GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW
            in a haunting, gorgeous affair. Taken from TBO’s latest installment THE
            GREAT YEAR, “Beginning” is one of the year’s most-rewarding listens.
          3. RAURY was a rising star when “Cigarette Song” was released. This song proved
            to me that RAURY is more than the hype surrounding him. Until i heard
            “Cigarette Song”, i shrugged him off as fd1a8-raury
            temporary, trendy alt-soul. But RAURY’s self-examination is a bit too
            contagious to be trite. He sings of temporary pleasures, cigarettes and
            commitment-free sex. An acoustic guitar strums carefree summer love
            chords while RAURY promises that “I can’t love you right, but if you
            need a light … I’ll provide it.” RAURY may not have planned it but
            he’s forced us to examine ourselves. And he’s shown us that what we are
            is less than our illusions.
          4. DIZZY DORTCH  is an incredible rising vocalist. “Give Me A Chance”
            is his debut single. His no-frills vocal style and direct lyrics will hopefully rein in a
            new era in American soul music. Hasn’t america been hungry for a new
            soul connoisseur to charm the ladies while confirming to the guys that classic style is important?
            Look at the awkward chic that is today’s fashion code for young males: the angst passing for style is a cynical political statement (not fashion), and
            both R&B and Hip-hop have been infected by it.
            “Give Me A Chance” is unapologetic confidence without pretension.  DIZZY DORTCH is a
            fashion-forward eye-pleasing representative of the new soul: he’s ahead of the game.

          5.  JULES BORN (of Voices of Black) brings us “Missouri Loves Company”, likely to be the favorite song of many who’ve watched Ferguson with despair and anger. Jules’ EP Memorybilia is
            alt-soul with heavy funk injections: the V.O.B. sing as chorus most of
            the time. There are echoes, space music soundscapes perhaps. Voices of Black are always a tremendous resource for artistic intelligence.
             
          6. LAMAR STARZZ released “P.A.M.”
            at the year’s sleepy mid-point. It woke me up. This is the type of song
            STARZZ shines on. Keep the affection, keep the love: LAMAR STARZZ is
            about the sex and the money. Perhaps his strongest, most muscular vocals
            to date.
          7. DONYE’A GOODIN offered the most haunting love song of the year with “I’ll Kill Her”.
            His vocals often evoke PRINCE and in that sense, the material has that
            perverse touch the Purple One perfected. Donye’a sings with something
            simmering just beneath the calm: then in the chorus he reveals a
            possessive nature that characterizes spousal abusers. “If I can’t be
            with you then nobody can.’
          8. DONCHRISTIAN hypnotized the nation with “Odysseus” and the effect lingers. You cannot un-ring a
            bell, or un-fuck a fuck. “I don’t even know when i’m dreaming”, the
            Master of cool, dangerous soul sang. He nearly owned 2014.
          9. JAY STONES is, i have to say it, eclectic. It’s an annoying yet meaningful word.
            STONES has been creating and sharing his spacey-trippy soul for at least
            a couple of years (online anyway). “Can’t Swim”
            is one of 2014’s best soul songs because it features JAY STONES breathy
            tone as he shares a longing with a faraway lover: “No my heart can’t
            swim in the ocean so my love drowns tryna to get to you…” And some of
            us suspect he’s saying more than that.
          10. KEVIN FRANKLIN  “Make It” is Mr. Franklin’s sympathy for a girl from his past who now is
            doing lapdances (& more?) — she’s trying to “make it.” Touching,
            surprisingly sympathetic, it’s a bit of social commentary flowing
            through the story. Which is what makes it such an appealing, timeless
            number.
          11. COMMAND, the Atlanta-based musician, released ‘BLK GRL MRMD” from his flawless album WATERMOUTH. The music is a lilting, reggae-inspired bounce. “Everytime I think about that tail,” COMMAND muses. His music is clean, crisp, pared-down to its bare essentials. If there are mermaids in some distant waters, COMMAND will find them.
          12. RACHAURD THE WRITER “Stranger”
            is a brilliant piece of soul-pop from RICHAURD’s project THEY NOTICE 2.
            Like most of his music, it’s catchy not cloying. And it’s got
            interesting context, as RACHAURD describes being a “stranger” to his
            lady (the couple has a little secret i won’t reveal.) Is RACHAURD making
            a playful commentary on the state of the nation when it comes to
            lovers? Are we strangers to one another each time we wake in a new day?
          13. ANTONIO RAMSEY has been bringing the baby-making music for awhile and “Pheromones”
            is a continuation of AR’s brilliant use of metaphor and innuendo: “Girl
            you are my apple, my peach. I don’t want no simple honey to eat.”
            ANTONIO RAMSEY makes baby-making soul an art unto itself.

            ANTONIO RAMSEY
          14. VOYCE* gave us the chilling (and chilly-wave) “You Don’t Get To Break My Heart”.
            Reluctantly i have to mention TOM KRELL here. Not that VOYCE* sounds
            like a HTDW rip-off, i can hear the echoes of Total Loss maybe. Except
            that VOYCE* isn’t resigned to total loss like KRELL might be. HDTW
            would’ve called the song, perhaps, “You’re Going to Break My Heart Soon
            (Goodbye).”

          15. VON TAE’ released “Natural Born Sinner” as the second single from his hit album MY OWN RELIGION. “Sinner” is a declaration of independence. VON TAE’ sings with
            muscle and energy so that yes, you believe his declaration. It’s also
            an affirmation of the singer’s humanity (“i’m hear to say it loud: i’m
            imperfect and i’m proud.”). A bit of a throwback to “My Prerogative”
            perhaps, but there could certainly be worse comparisons than to a funky
            pop hit from Bobby Brown’s earliest and most-celebrated solo days. VON
            TAE’ can make you dance, make you think, and hopefully you’re already
            smiling when you’re dancing. If so he’s done his job.
          16. C-NOVA could easily be a gospel singer. “Let’s Play” is a nice piece of slow-grind, quiet storm music. With just enough innuendo to keep it interesting.  
          17. KEVIN COSSOM gives his fans a real treat: “FTOB”
            is a mid-tempo track, with COSSOM sounding at the top of his game. “I
            just want you, fuck them other bitches” is his pledge of devotion to
            just one lady. It may or may not be a first-time sentiment for KEVIN
            COSSOM in a song. But it is refreshing.
             
          18. KEVIN FRANKLIN released a gem called “Da Da Da”. He sings that “She’s so beautiful it
            don’t make no sense”. FRANKLIN then sees an
            “opportunity … to be in unity”, his aim is to make it official over a
            slow dubstep-style background. KEVIN FRANKLIN has a voice that sounds
            “plain’ (no offense). It’s a voice that one could imagine sounds the
            same when he’s speaking.
          19. CORI SIMS started 2014 off right with the much-anticipated (and teased) “Hush”.
            CORI SIMS hasn’t altered his successful formula of club- or
            bedroom-friendly songs, they still drip in machismo. “Hush” reveals that
            CORI SIMS aims higher than boy-band status. And his vocals attest to
            the fact that he could be the Next __fill in the blank___.  
          20. BRIK.LIAM takes an interesting look at individuality in “ahoarder’sprayer” from the comforting, uneasy album MR. LIAM’S NEIGHBORHOOD.
          21. STEVEN CHRISTOPHER
            tells his girl to do just one thing: “Breathe.” Over a repetitive
            guitar sample, CHRISTOPHER promises her that he is going to go so far
            for her. His vocals are muscular and convincing in their devotion ot a
            loved one. “If you can’t find the words, it’s okay .. i’ll take your
            breathe and Ima give it back.” STEVEN CHRISTOPHER is definitely a name
            to watch in RnB music.
          22. JAY DEUCE released “Runway” sometime around summer in ’14. Hype combined with
            DEUCE’s generally accepted likeability, and “Runway” became a local and
            national cult hit. “Runway” echoes the early mainstream soul when
            “mainstream” meant nothing negative. Race music, as it was called, was
            mainstream by necessity. JAY DEUCE’s
            incredible falsetto reminds us that
            off-putting eccentricities have nothing to do with the soul tradition.
          23. LAMAR JAY is having a party in “Caught Up”. He’s invited his whole team, and he “only hit it once, got a n_a caught up …she got the whole team
            caught up.” It’s not one-sided, LAMAR JAY notes that “ever since i laid
            the pipe she given up the brains.” 
          24. JOSEPH JACKSON gave the year’s best, understated & underrated performance in  “Take Me”.
            Its poignant plea to the Gods couldn’t be simpler: “take me from
            this earth” — his vocals tug at your heart. 
          25. KRISTOPHER DE’SEAN “Good Ole Days” is a smooth piece of nostalgia for day when they read books,”didn’t have a Kindle.” Lines such as you think your mom’s gonna
            be mean and “she turns to you with a bowl of ice cream” are worth it,
            though i’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t sit in awe of DE’SEAN’s
            vocal prowess. 
          26. MISHON in “No Flex Zone” MISHON makes his message clear:  “wirh a voice like this, them panties gonna stay wet.”
          27. LANCE SOMERVILLE (DR. SOMERVILLE)
            released “F.U.” a few months ago and it is

            LANCE SOMERVILLE

            sheer RnB perfection. DR.SOMERVILLE’s voice is all its own, i cannot even think of a singer who
            sounds remotely like DR. SOMERVILLE. And there was no song like “F.U.”
            in 2014.

          28. SHALIEK
            shares his magic, shine with the possibilities “Dance in the Rain”
            presents to him and his lover. It’s of course from SHALIEK’s acclaimed,
            Award-nominated album “BLOOD SWEAT TEARS.” 
          29. DON JAYE
            gives us the tense, moody composition “Lost in Love” which presents a
            simple, yet frustrating question: “If we fell in love, why are things so
            complicated? If we fell in love, why are we so underrated?” Lovers are
            devalued, according to the protagonist o this song. The song is a
            microscosm of the human condition: we don’t get along all the time, and
            all of us on the planet would never get along. Interesting how DON JAYE
            expresses almost shame for being in love, looking around and thinking
            the question: Am i devalued? There’s no answer to that question, but
            there are about a billion answers, ever-changing.
          30. JAY ‘QUAY “Friends with Benefits (F.W.B.)”
            is classic JAY ‘QUAY. It’s up there with his 2013 hit “Imagine Me.”
            Everyone appreciates classy soul, we appreciate JAY ‘QUAY as well.
          31. JAKE & PAPA made the world smile when they released ATHENA’s EROTICA. “Fuck My Soul”
            was at least part of the reason: the vocals are about as sensual as
            they could get without actually performing the act. JAKE & PAPA are
            brilliant musicians, singers, and writers. “Fuck My Soul” took
            sensuality further than i’d ever heard. When they sang “let me fuck you
            til you feel my soul’ the words alone would mean nothing: JAKE &
            PAPA make it a virtual act through their music.

          32. KEITH CORBETT  the song “Black (Couldn’t Be Alone)” is from his critically-acclaimed ______BLACK
            Album. MR. CORBETT sings with such a heartache that it feels like an
            existential pain, the worst kind. He uses technology to help the despair
            sound as bleak as it is. A highly textured song from one of our best
            indie soul singers. If you don’t have ____BLACK yet, you will have a new obsession once you download it.
          33. KEVIN COSSOM spits, sings about half each on “Tell Me Something”. KEVIN COSSOM reminds his homie that “you ain’t doin the right thing.” Ladies love KEVIN COSSOM. Especially
            when he spits and sings in the same song. “Tell Me Something” is
            another son like that. KEVIN’s vocals are top-shelf.
          34. MIKE DE’COLE has a voice you immediately recognize. It is a pure voice, one that
            communicates with purpose. On “Good Moaning” his purpose is clear: a
            little breakfast-time moaning and sighing. The song sounds  like a lost
            classic from who-knows-when? De’Cole’s process isn’t grab-bag songwriting or producing.  “Good
            Moaning” probably wouldn’t have been recorded by any of today’s
            chart-toppers; it’s not traphouse nor is it sleaze. So there is a
            mystery to Mr. De’Cole’s methods. Thankfully enough of us recognized a
            truly unique and top-shelf class act in MIKE De’COLE. I urge every
            soul-music fan to download His EP So It Was Written.
          35. BANDIT GANG MARCO with TEAM TWIN  teamed up to cover Pleasure P.’s “Get Chu Wet” with
            results that rival the original. Marco is a natural for a mid-tempo
            strip and stick song like this. Team Twin hold their own, surprising
            alot of music fans at how adept they are in rhyming everything from the
            softcore of “Get Chu Wet” to innocent teenage love songs. Marco,
            prolific as ever, gave us a few real gems this year. “Get Chu Wet” is
            one of them — a classic he’ll likely be remembered for rather than its
            originator. A testament to Bandit Gang Marco’s mass cult appeal.
          36. DESMOND DENNIS has one of those pitch-perfect, male-angel voices so intimate, so sincere that even a break-up song like. “It Ain’t Worth It” becomes not pretty, but that gorgeous tenor softens the blow considerably. Another winner for the SJ3 singer.
          37. KAMERON CORVET released DARKER THAN GRAY album
            this year to much-anticipation. The critics received it well. It’s got
            themes that can be difficult to conjoin with pop/soul music: emotional
            pain games within a relationship. “Round of It”
            is about a man who can’t break away from a girl, he keeps falling
            victim when she gives him “another round of it.” Of course he’s free to
            “move miles away” as he contemplates. He also could simply say “No” the
            next time she brings another “round of it.” It’s interesting the man
            should suggest that he’s trapped.
          38. DAY’QUIROUS DEZIRE YOUNG is
            a respected young singer-songwriter from Kentucky who scored big fan
            points with the softcore stimulation of “Up & Down”. Dezire’s vocals
            were made for the mild, slightly-provocative sex romp song and He went
            one better with another song on this list. Dezire takes us back to some
            of the steamier sex-lite songs of the 1980s. We thank him for that.
          39. DESMOND DENNIS has a great year turning cover songs into his own. “Long Distance” is possibly one of DESMOND’s greatest performances because He expresses
            longing with a kind of grace that our drama-hungry culture finds
            distatesful. The lyrics tell of the longing, of how difficult it
            is living far from your lover. And though the song doesn’t end in
            breakup, DESMOND’s vocals are the cue. Hopeful though he may be, ugly
            realism confounds us, disrupts our plans. DESMOND DENNIS, a class act in
            popular music.
          40. DAY’QUIROUS DEZIRE YOUNG is
            as promised back on the list with the steamy lust romp “Throw.” Despite
            using the word “hoes” about 20 times, Dezire describes his predicament
            like being caught in a crowded zoo. Or maybe i’m overthinking the song.
            “Throw” does continue Dezire’s reputation as an heir to the sexiest RnB
            like Joe, Tyrese, or Jaay Quay. Dezire has that gift of getting the lady
            naked, at least in theory, and for softcore soul “Throw” is just about
            top-shelf.
          41. KAMERON CORVET‘s  “No Love Allowed” is a resignation to the idea that intimacy’s not a possibility with one
            who’s got another. There is no joy in Kameron’s voice when he sings that
            there’s “no love allowed”.  His falsetto betrays an intensity of
            feeling for someone out of reach on a moral level, yet physically too
            close in “a dangerous game[they’re] playing.” DARKER THE GRAY is the
            album. Kameron Corvet scans most of the emotional spectrum and, as in
            “No Love Allowed,” doesn’t always find a favorable feeling.
          42. TAYLOR MALLORY made a lot of good, positive noise when He released His album earlier this year. “Your Beauty is a Problem” might
            be one reason. Of course Taylor’s voice was enough to get people to
            listen. The depth of songs like “Your Beauty” is an added bonus: the
            story of a woman who’s unaware of her beauty. It’s a gorgeous song that
            reminds me of George Nook’s “Homely Girl.”
             
          43. SJ3 are without question the most dynamic, versatile “boy band”, forgive the term, making music. And with Desmond DennisTone Stith on vocals, and KT‘s fresh rhymes, SJ3 have the tools to keep the dynamic spirit alive with songs like this year’s hit “Cali Girl.” Obviously not a song of depth, it’s an energetic song tailor-made for summer. And of course SJ3 were the trio to pull it off.   
          44. DECARLO released “Working Hard” earlier
            in the year, somehow got slept on. It’s an infectious single, DeCarlo’s
            an above-average vocalist. The song is all about that hustle, has a pop
            feel to it but ultimately it’s got a funky appeal.
             
          45. DAY26 are back a Gem called “Bullsh*t”. On its surface it’s another tale of jealousy & suspicion. But DAY26
            bring their own special intensity to the tale. Here’s hoping their here
            to stay (again) because they’ve never sounded better (or sexier, right,
            ladies?) 
          46. KINGSTON HAUGHTON Kingston’s latest is “Bow Down”,
            and  it’s raised his status up one level, he’s a Boss: “Recognize the
            presence of a Real N*_*.” Kingston has developed a sound which has his
            own identifiable swag-appeal. If there were swag zip codes Kingston
            would have his own, — at least if the music he creates is accurate.
          47. KEVIN FRANKLIN an Acclaimed young, upcoming Artist from Chicago brought perhaps the best mood-piece of 2014: “Fade Away”. With a nice smooth intro that stretches into Mr. Franklin’s vocals —
            the timeless feel emphasizes his pleas (“can’t let it fade away.”).
            KEVIN FRANKLIN has succeeded above & beyond many of his older peers,
            and if “Fade Away” is not on Best-Of lists then i’m starting a riot. Or
            maybe just angry tweets & emails will do.
          48. DAY26 “Make It to the Bed” is more of what DAY26 do best: They tease with the
            foreplay, then the man fills every orifice he can fill. Yes, some of
            DAY26  best work are misogynistic. But the melodies, the harmonies and
            how perfectly natural the Men sound as they dig in.
          49. MNEK  His elegant vocals, mild-double entendres lift the already-gorgeous “In Your Clouds” to new heights. The song is a celebration of 1970s funk ala Earth Wind
            & Fire and showcased by the classical midnight-soul of MNEK’s
            vocals. Britain’s Got Soul.
          50. QUA L’AMAR follows his debut with “Good Girls”, a catchy and sunny disco-tinged longing for the girls in the title.
            L’AMAR is apparently tired of sexing a different girl each night (maybe
            they were “good girls” until he stained their names). Here’s hoping we
            get to hear from QUA L’AMAR more frequently.

THE MINDS THAT MATTERED IN 2014: TA-NEHISI COATES

 FIRST INSTALLMENT OF AN ONGOING LOOK AT

THE INTELLECTUALS AND LEADERS WHO SHAPED SOCIETY IN 2014.

  1.  TA-NEHISI COATES author of “The Case for Reparations”

2014 was the Year of Ferguson and its progressively damning and damned timeline, the results of which have given life to an incredible resurgence of democratic-optimism among many of the Afrikan-americans marching; my pessimism though is not unwarranted. Of course Trayvon Martin was murdered in 2012 by a citizen who was ultimately acquitted (i see nothing useful about mentioning the murderer’s name). The names and faces of Black men, too horrifically young most of them, are too varied, too numerous to list here.

I am hopeful about one thing: that the Marches of 2014 last long enough, well into ’15 through ’16 and take cues from the occupy movement, so that some modicum of social change does happen.

Recently i watched a lecture circa the late 1990s given by esteemed expert in Afrocentric ideology, DR. MOLEFI K. ASANTE. He was speaking of Zimbabwe and of President Mugabe’s huge land transfers from the white minority to the Black majority. It was of course Zimbabwe’s Reparations for its Black citizens who lost a great deal of themselves to the power hungry racist minority.

And so i was compelled to re-read TA-NEHISI COATES’ “A Case for Reparations.”

Related to the social injustices Black males and females receive in this country, too alarmingly often from law enforcement, is the issue of Reparations. As for my nominee for 2014’s Best and Brightest Intellectual, who else but MR. TA-NEHISI COATES could deserve such an honor? Let me re-envision that last statement by rejecting my own idea that MR. COATES should feel honored by my pronouncement. The readers of the Atlantic monthly, we are the honored ones. Not only was “A Case for Reparations” brilliant, signature TA-NEHISI COATES prose, it was the most compelling piece on Reparations that i’ve seen within the folds of a mainstream zine or newspaper.

I of course opened this blog post by mentioning Ferguson, Missouri. It is not a town i had ever heard anyone in my small-town midwestern extended family ever mention. Which may be an extra little reason why the scenes horrify many of us more than, say, the Los Angeles Rebellion of 1994.

TA-NEHISI COATES wrote of the injustices inlicted upon people who are no longer on this earth. He spoke to the cliched argument that always has its hand raised as if in a traveling cicus school i suppose. That’s the argument that all the victims are dead. Interestingly enough, i do not think any judge in that New York district would have simply dissolved court, saying “I have to concur with MR. MADOFF about his dead victims.”

Amidst the spotlight placed on Ferguson however TA-NEHISI COATES may have employed some ass-kicking strategy: that is, kick the dog’s asses to wake em up and get em moving. Reparations has largely seemed taboo in this country. I once assisted in the production and distribution of a small paper newsletter about Reparations in which convicted Blackmen (or any so-called P.O.W. or political prisoner) were invited to submit essays, even fiction and poetry i believe. That was from 1999 until 2002.

Here in the center of our second decade in the 2000’s with conscious hip-hop no longer being obscured by the society’s general materialism and squander. The two it appears can be played in the same queue without much controversy. JAY ELECTRONICA is a friend to the Nation of Gods and Earths — i presume that if hip-hop artists were tested prior to getting signed, they would overwhelmingly be aware at the very least of the now-iconic phrase “The Blackman is God.”

Do African-centered or Pro-Black progressives being the mainstream say anything about Black america’s chances of ever receiving Reparations? No. In my years on earth i have learned one thing: I cannot predict the future. (Well, i’ve learned two things: I cannot tell anyone what anyone else is thinking). other than that my superhero powers are intact, and i think TA-NEHISI has brilliantly with scientiic precision brought the issue back for the nation to look at through a new, young generation o Black and brown and “mixed” students.

TA-NEHISI, this was definitely the year of you. Congratulates to your readers who perhaps for the first time in their lives are taking a deep breathe, looking within and finding more than a few kernels of truth in your essays about Reparations — and i’m referring to your white readers as well as your African-american readers. Tomorrow is not a “thing” we can grasp with our fingers, it is not something any of us can predict. TA-NEHISI COATES may have at the very least (though i maintain that he’s done more than simply advanced the cause by a few degrees) brought the Reparations issue into the mainstream. The issue it appears now is a LEGITIMATE issue that people can discuss without feeling a threat of being ostracized or put on some government-watch list.

***NEW*** LIMITLESS SOUNDZ RELEASES ALBUM ON JANUARY 22, 2015

I’ve just sobered up. One of my favorite hip-hop artists, LIMITLESS SOUNDZ, has been posting for weeks probably about his debut album release date. Here i am, 2 days from the date: how did i miss it?
LIMITLESS SOUNDZ has titled the album “LEGEND IN THE MAKING” (if i’ve read correctly). This is fucking huge! Congratulations to LS.

SO WAVY IN 2014: THE 50 BEST INDIE HIP-HOP SINGLES

Best Indie or small-label Hip-hop singles of 2014 (note: a few maynot have been released as singles per se, but represent the Artist at his/her best).

This list is probably late enough so that everyone’s tired of 2014: and i won’t have to suffer anyone’s criticism
Dropout2
TADAR

  1. TADAR released “Zero to a God (freestyle)” earlier in the year and immediately i heard a masterpiece. TADAR TADARGodhas for the second year in a row, to my mind, released one of two or three of the year’s Best Hip-hop singles. Last year the year’s undeniably Best overall was just as our hearts told us: “Trayvon to God Be the Glory”. This time, “Zero to the God” just gets in your mind, changes you. TADAR is a powerful, righteous hip-hop prophet and poet. There’s no exaggerating here; TADAR is a spiritual “spitter”, listen closely and you’ll feel TADAR’s essence.
  2. LIL B former member of THE PACK, released this lyrical coup d’etat “No Black Person Is Ugly” over the summer.  It’s a deceptively simple title for a song with meaning beyond subjective beauty. LIL B is one of the most prolific artists out there — he makes plenty of hits, plenty of misses. He’s a one-man experimentation lab. “No Black Person Is Ugly” is no experiment though: LIL B is sternly stabbing at the heart of racism white supremacy. Even more subtly, LIL B has formally started demolishing “white-privilege.” If it’s impossible for there to be an ugly Black person, it’s equally unlikely that the other race (the oppressors) can show any signs of beauty. In short, “To be beautiful is NOT a white-privilege.” When LIL B spits “don’t say it one time”, i hear “Dear white america: your privilege, and sadistic “right” to torture, demoralize Black people has been revoked.” It’s possibly the most important song of the decade. And the visual shows an unusually serious, stern LIL B. whose eyes say the era of a white-defined world is over. Brilliance on so many levels.
  3. LIMITLESS SOUNDZ x LORD AV surprised and brought spontaneous joy to me at year’s end with the
    explosive, righteous “Fallen Clouds”. These two intellectual giants have worked together before — on LORD AV’s RISE OF A REBEL. LIMITLESS SOUNDZ is directly in-your-face here, you can almost smell the breath and feel the spitting. Which is only to say that in the past, LIMITLESS has tended to marry abstract rhymes with conscious themes. Here, LS and LORD AV are, as defenders of the defenseless, direct in their conscious message. LORD AV and LIMITLESS SOUNDZ have struck at racism white supremacy, all the injustices with it in “Fallen Clouds”. It is one of the most important conscious hip-hop compositions of the year.
  4. UNITED FRONT FEATURING TAHIR RBG bring the power full-on, weak hearts and minds beware. “The Hate That Hate Produced” is perhaps the most confrontational piece of music of 2014. This is, many old headz will inform anyone who’ll listen, the true original purpose of hip-hop: liberation and freedom. Which includes freedom of speech, yet the Southern Poverty Law Center has at least 1 similar hip-hop artist on their “hate group” list. “The Hate That Hate Produced” is a stirring, unnerving political statement about race and race relations in the 21st century (“moral persuasion doesn’t work with caucasians”). It’s booming, explosive social commentary that tames even “Fear of a Black Planet” — no offense to CHUCK D.
  5. DAVID ELLIS warns  “don’t tell me not to jump to conclusions, it’s Genocide, when the police be
    catching bodies like they juggling humans.”  The unapologetically Black DAVID ELLIS (creative genius of AFROGANDA) is brilliant, passionate, enraged in “For Being Black”. It’s a harsh and heavy indictment of cops, the american judicial system and the legacy of slavery. ELLIS spits venom at “coward bigot pricks” for the shared suffering of Black people everywhere: “you beat my mother, you raped my sister, my life don’t matter to you, i’m just a n__a.” At the song’s close he tries but fails to hold back his tears
    about the murder of TRAYVON MARTIN “for being Black, for being fucking Black.” It’s impossible NOT to cry again with MR. ELLIS.
  6. De’WAYNE JACKSON is still true to the spirit of his message in “Letter To You”, a tribute to his father. It’s dewaynejackson_whoishedirect, not sentimental, and it’s one of his tightest compositions to date. JACKSON is one helluva poet: the rhyme scheme is complex but not experimental. Seeing his father in despair sounds unbearable to son, so he wrote a song for him: “I hope that you like this, it took me 20 minutes to write this.”
  7. HURT EVERYBODY  released  “Treat Me Caucasian”
    a “controversial” track about white privilege: including the privilege
    NOT to be shot with a bag of skittles in your hand.  Economic injustice is at the heart of it all. MICK JENKINS & SUPA BWE
    dont so much spit, they roar like lions all the slogans that symbolize racial inequality (“Come off the benefits … un-triple all of our sentences, treat me caucasian. i need the premium rates … give me a loan with no sin attached. give me that privilege … Come off them
    benefits, treat me caucasian.”) The people who need to hear MICK JENKINS’ rage and maybe experience a taste of Black Non-privilege for a month or so won’t hear ’em doe.
  8. MICHAEL X just released this bold, daring piece of life-affirming Poetry in September: it’s called “New Rulers”. Michael X whose INSPIRATION series are classic pieces of assertive self-determination, “New Rulers” features MichaelXthe quite impressive rhyming of young students proudly accepting their future roles as rulers. The children make the song poignant, as one child declares to the “old rulers” that they gotta have patience. There’s Michael X doing an acapella duet with a child asserting that he’s “doing everything he can, to be the very best,” adding that he can’t worry about the rest. Self-determination of the 2 young rhymers is there, not as strong obviously as Michael X’s. But this song presents a new paradigm of sorts. These children rhyme with strength and a clear knowledge of self, it appears. Nothing corny orcute when the kids rhyme, there’s a solid foundation on which they stand tall and proud. Michael X should be extremely proud of these new rulers.  bryant stewart
  9. BRYANT STEWART is a multi-talented intellectual hip-hop artist whose “American Dream” is a summary of how America treats or mistreats young African-american males. STEWART isn’t hopeful, and considering the  circumstances who could be optimistic. “They don’t love my heartbeat,” he concludes toward the end.
  10. YUNG D’ROK is masterful in this instant classic, “Jesus, Farrakhan, Tupac”. It’s got that bounce of PROFESSOR GRIFF 1990’s style. D’ROK has power on the mic and, as part of SALAAM NATION, is part of a new movement of N.O.I. artists, which is a gift to both to the Art and Society.
  11. THE DROPOUT at twenty years old released his 7th album in 2014. Called STAY SMOOVE 2014 it’s another gem by THE DROPOUT. There’s not a boring or unsure moment here. Picking the best piece isn’t really the point now, is it? It’s mandatory to choose one track to represent this remarkably textured and diverse album. “Truth” is a great showcase of DROPOUT’s Poetry for the uninitiated. It is also a menacing story of that toxic paper called cash (“if y’all **** hot, wait til i unthaw”). DROPOUT speaks to the greed in a verse near the song’s end that is both a clever and chilling metaphor about the inhuman greed of the hustle: “I ain’t even in my prime, cause i’m the one. If y’all broke ***** knew anything about numbers, y’all would know number one can’t be a prime number. Heh heh.” Stick around for the 50 second piece (“Wrong”) that follows “Truth”, and listen to THE DROPOUT spit venom from inside his angry echo-chamber that borders on homicidal dreaming. DROPOUT ends the piece by, we assume, passing out.
  12. RIC WILSON stays topical, “If I Was White” a track about white privilege. WILSON imagines the scenarios: no danger from cops, no profiling. He also asks  “what if I was human? what if Black was human?” WILSON doesn’t spit with the rage his colleague DAVID ELLIS uses on “Fot Being Black”. Instead he uses a confused compassion, asking “Why?” It’s the sound of innocence dying.
  13. KASGO THE RULER exclaims in “The Message That’s Undesired”:
    ” I remember everything that these crackers did! … We are the product
    of what entrapment is …” KASGO ends the song mocking a frightened member of the white ruling class, who fears that Blacks have enough knowledge to break the back of the powers-that-be. “How are we gonna
    rule the world?” KASGO squeals, mocking the old guard. It’s a Black-power song whose message is quite certainly “undesired” by the oppressor: So sad for them. It’s a message that’s only getting stronger and through hip-hop the ignorance is exposed and the education is undiluted Black/Afrikan truth.
  14. MICK JENKINS gives a hard-as-ice performance in “Martyrs”, ensuring his place in hip-hop history as an MickJenkinsinfluential & intellectual voice for the masses. From his highly acclaimed THE WATER[s].
  15. ASTRONAUT FLOOD released “War” probably with the FBI watching closely. This composition is revolution all by itself: “fuck the slave-master … i should give him a noose”. Conscious hip-hop is fearless, it’s attracting people who wouldn’t have listened ten-15 years ago. And it is only growing stronger. There is no way to stop this kind of energy: Justice eventually prevails and “War” is a reminder to the world of that fact.
  16. THE DROPOUT and JAY STONES released a four-track collab called SAGA OF TWO COMETS. It contained a piece called “Let’s Walk.” I hate to use the word “gorgeous” for TheDropoutanything — but DROPOUT is as always in top-form here (it’s the young man’s 8th release). JAY STONES is perfect counterpoint in what can only be called a gorgeous piece of work.  JAY STONES of course has a falsetto that’s sometimes vulnerable, but often is impatient and harsh. Here, JAY balances it in “Hxrrxrland”. And THE DROPOUT, let’s face it, isn’t a rapper. DROPOUT is a proper Poet. In “Let’s Walk” DROPOUT would made the bard jealous. SAGA is flawless. Something we all could foresee because both THE DROPOUT and JAY STONES are eclectic, unpredictable, human, inhuman, sensual and often fill with emotional violence. DROPOUT bemoans being stuck on this earth, content at least that even tho she has no wings, he has his angel. THE DROPOUT is spectacular.
  17. DORIAN EMMANUEL is a member of the collective POWER LEAKS, they make music with members of SALAAM NATION.  “Gladiators” is a powerful war cry, the metaphor between Black artists and Black slaves is clear.
  18. PELL released the debut album FLOATING WHILE DREAMING to much acclaim. “Runaway”, the heart-tugging single about a lost friend, is an instant classic. PELL promises his friend: “I’ll be there not a minute late.” Homelessness of the heart seems as relevant as not having shelter. An implicit promise to get back together is clearly tentative. PELL sings about a future together after they’ve washed their problems away. He sounds hopeful for both himself and his friend. But not very believable.
  19. De’WAYNE JACKSON is a hitmaker, credits like “Metaphors” and this one, “Who is He” featuring DONNIE HUSTON. Unlike the gray-skies in “Bike & A Dream”, this one has a sunny melody, bright bounce to it. The first half is De’WayneWavy positive, laughing with friends, even silly (a line about Jim Carrey in LIAR LIAR). His momentum slows a bit as he admits he tries to hide his pain. “You can’t see the passion in my eyes.”  You can almost hear the tears in his voice for a moment. “Who Is He” is De’Wayne_wavy’s late introduction. It peeks in the dark corners and the lit ones, giving us a hint  that De’WAYNE JACKSON, whoever he is, has like the rest of us an uphill downhill life.
  20. THE DROPOUT packed so many refined tracks on STAY SMOOVE, but “Anything” and “Criminal” are orchestrated like chess games. JAHRIDDLA joins THE DROPOUT
  21. CORBIN BUTLER recent release “Colorism” showcases MR. BUTLER’s vocals at their best. It’s also a conscious track about unifying Black people, and avoiding copying the racism that
    is a european specialty. CORBIN BUTLER is underrated to my mind. He’s actually one of the best writers and lyricists on the scene. 2015 is CORBIN BUTLER’s year.
  22. JOSH WELLS CULTUR3 is an up-and-coming singer/rapper, songwriter & producer from NYC. “Fire (Worries)” is a minimalistic composition that i His productions are simple and straightforward, yet memorable. “Fire” is an abstract  little puzzle.
  23. GERALD G was unknown to me until i heard “Church.” He’s a Big Player in Austin, TX, and it’s no wonder why. “Church” is first and foremost a showcase for his flow. The man sounds like Texas,
    but his style is original, so no comparisons comin his way. The song is interesting as hell: GERALD wishes he could walk just like Jesus, he wants to take over Texas and get a plaque made to celebrate his penis.
    When he talks to God in the song, he reminds the Big Guy that he’s not a pharaoh but to make him a Moses monster. The repetitive synth goes well with GERALD’s intensity. The meaning of the song, well, it’s up for
    interpretation.
  24. LUL BEAR in “All That” spits about sex, choice of orifice, and giving facials to anonymous women (whom he blames for being careless and spilling his slop). Still, LUL BEAR forces you to make repeat listen to his orgiastic hip-hop party. It’s all about the BEAR’s laid-back unmistakable flow, lower tones that say “i don’t give a fuck” and sound like a monster when things get messy — like when she gets her face too close and all that.
  25. SHABAZZ PALACES released this gem “They Come In Gold” over the summer. SHABAZZ are geniuses. The album LESE MAJESTY lives up to the promise that BLACK UP gave for hip-hop. And then some. Some may call it avant-garde or experimental — it is not what you call it. “They
    Come In Gold” is all about how feel it.
  26. VIC BRE is a skilled hip-hop artist whose “I’m Rare”is the bravado that 1980’s hip-hop was all about. It’s VicBrerefreshing to hear an artist’s new twist on that classic rap theme. Vic Bre makes it sound like an effortless exercise, as if he were there with #KoolMoeDee, #BigDaddyKane, and all the other originators. Vic Bre has done his homework. Unless he woke up early.
  27. POWER CIRCLE are bold, majestic, hypnotic on “HOORAH”. It’s a war chant, a chant of independence, dignity — all the ideals that amerikkka has denied African-americans. POWER CIRCLE clear things up.
  28. YOUNG GWUALLA  has a near-classic with “GrizzleyWayyzVol1” In a surprisingly delicate composition, GWUALLA pays tribute to hard-working independent ladies whom he applauds for keeping the right track. “Grizzley” has a poignancy that most tracks with these themes lack. Young Gwualla is a young artist whose eyes are on the prize.
  29.  KEEPIN IT KOOLEY  dropped a certified classic with “Walking with the Gods”. MICHAEL COOLEY presents a poignant picture of a drug-abuser (“I’ve been workin so hard, so hard”). COOLEY is a lyricist i could listen to as he read a catalog — his flow is as he himself knows one of the best in the indie
    scene today.
  30. SUPERDAVE HOUDINI is the busiest man in Hollywood, in the bed, and in the rap studio. I’m
    assuming. “Cruisin” is not from his CAPTAIN Q project but from the upcoming DETOX MIXTAPE. SUPERDAVE is so prolific that he had to be included in this list.  SuperdaveHoudini And “Cruisin” is well-designed hip-hop. SUPERDAVE is joined by YUNG DICK in this late 1980s styled tale about anonymous sex all around the world with SUPERDAVE’s never-fail comic misogyny and some truly serious rough sex. SUPERDAVE HOUDINI is a photographer, fashion mogul, comedian, actor, unconfirmed sex-addict, and of course skilled hip-hop artist. It’s interesting both to hear his music and to see how many projects he can juggle at once. If you thought SUPERDAVE HOUDINI was just a silly moniker, you were dead wrong. SUPERDAVE must be a human version of New York City, there’s no way a man could have so many careers and get any sleep.
  31. SHAKEED feels “Overlooked” and i have to agree with the underrated, skilled young hip-hop artist. It’s not a self-piteous song though. I think SHAKEED speaks for the majority of the lonely and lost human species.
  32. GOLD BONES raised eyebrows (not new) with “That’s Life”. GOLD BONES is attracted to white girls or he wants to humiliate their fathers. Both, i think, i never heard BONES say he LOVES white girls. BONES wants to fuck all the white girls. And hustle the hell outta them. It’s subversive as hell (unless he Loves the white girls).
  33. DVLLEN (Diallo Gama) has a track “Cloud 10 (freewrite)” which is unconventional (whatever that means) & wholly original — oh, is that what it means? His rhyme scheme is a bit like jazz with its
    atonal thing: DVLLEN plays with the tempo, reveals a few layers of horror, exits with hope. Some will scoff. Others will recognize a new kind of gem.
  34. ELIJAH LeFLORE x K.I.D. “312 GOD/How bout Now” is an incredible collab. K.I.D. was the Real
    thing when “Chris Tucker” came out. It’s true now that he’s officially a part of NU WORLD. This medley
    is like a meteor hitting earth through the first two-thirds. “How bout Now” is a quiet serenade.
  35. TADAR is on fire on the classic “Triple Darkness” and like every one of his compositions, i can feel a spiritual change or awakening. More intense each time i listen. TADAR is a Prophet, Philosopher, Poet — i’m not sure. He defines himself, i’m just always thankful to be enlightened by the young God’s words, flow and general
    aura within his music. Next year, TADAR will wield some power that today we can’t even imagine.
  36. K.I.D. release his first single “Chris Tucker”early in the year to much-hype and fanfare — some dismissed as novelty though. Since then K.I.D. has proven he’s no novelty, even joining theNuWorld group (AK-47).
  37. JGRXXN  released “Schema Gawd” and i’m sure he frightened the neighbors. But there’s no avoiding it: “Schema Gawd” has to be played at FULL VOLUME. JGRXXN is a menacing figure, not a bad thing. He’s got a flow tjgrxxnhat is dangerous, and “Schema Gawd” is about JGRXXN exerting his control. It’s
    trap-style, horrorcore or whatever label fits — but it’s the best of its kind. And JGRXXN is the best of his kind. The menace is deep and real.
  38. YGTUT released his namesake single “TUT” earlier in the year. TUT is at his best while JUNIA-T’s production is the high-quality work he always does with TUT. “TUT” is about the dilemmas that come with being a king, with what sounds like porno theme music as the backing track. Now, all these months later we know TUT is going straight to the top.
  39. BLACK ZEUS  His track “Keep It Quiet” is an exercise in tempo change. JUPE is a former spitter in the
    Proletarians but He will probably shoot me for mentioning that because — hell, He’s always been JUPE, nobody cares who some lame backup players are. That was still PLANET JUPE era. He is one of the best, most
    versatile hip-hop poets today — that first tempo change is almost immediate (about 30 seconds in) and JUPE holds on. This is the rawest PLANET JUPE track i’ve heard: elements of punk rock and industrial give
    it a maniacal machine feel. It was made for JUPE. He sounds better as a solo artist — or maybe it feels better to see His name on the music. I never could figure out what the other Proletarian did but he clearly
    didn’t add a noticeable thing to the music. “Keep It Quiet” is frenetic, like a series of spasms so i’d be wary of getting suffocated if i saw JUPE live. Certainly He’s one of the most energetic MCs out there. And
    we, His fans and supporters, love every minute of it.
  40. PRINCE EA  feat. SHA STIMULI in “Effortless” a brilliant collaboration between two muscular, socially conscious voices defining the title of the track. Both poets are speaking in tongues, for all i know.The PRINCE and STIMULI should do this again. Often.
  41. 20 VISION From their Ratchet & Classy album, 20 Vision’s “Do Yo Job” is the usual misogyny we expect from 20 Vision, along with their classic funky sound. No-one’s surprised that D. Starz
    wants his girl to “do her job”, which includes rubbin his back (&
    other places), doing his hair, in general serving her man. “Let me see
    you do yo job like a 9 to 5” is a line that explains it all. Despite its
    misogyny, 20 VISION is bonafied funkin sex music. D. Starz and team do it better than most.
  42. TWIN TWIN (THING’ 1) are brothers who were discovered by Bandit Gang Marco. “Drop That Yeet” is a
    funky number that people expected to be boy-band fodder for the ’14.
    But those people jumped the gun: Twin Twin spit like pros and the
    Atlanta drawl, which is now en vogue, works especially well for these 2
    young men. If TWIN TWIN don’t break out like, say, MB, it will be our
    loss.
  43. THE DROPOUT featuring JAY STONES
  44. ALLAN KINGDOM of the new breed of D.I.Y. hip-hop artists, does the jokey-misogyny so well in “Work Me Over” it’s almost easy to forgive it. Almost. While KINGDOM does have craftier,
    less sexist material, “Work Me Over” has such an experimental edge that
    it was impossible to overlook it. ALLAN KINGDOM’s comic edge even
    balances on what sounds like a wink and a nod to an S&M joke. Still,
    KINGDOM’s a clever hip-hop poet. I just hope He doesn’t ruin the clever
    with cynical self-indulgement.
  45. De’WAYNE JACKSON — The single “Bike & A Dream” contains
    a heavy dose of angst and not much else. What saves it is De’WayneWavy
    ability to convey sensitivity as both a freedom and a crutch. “God heal
    the pain,” JACKSON pleads. Convincingly.
  46. AYBEE OMARI offers an outstretched arm, or heart, in “Zion’s Daughter”. Omari is the compassionate hip-hop artist, if you’d like. AYBEE OMARI stands out in a genre that is either politically riled up or
    sexually riled: grace and tolerance don’t always fit into hip-hop’s niches. “Zion’s Daughter” is a simple story of remembering a person flirting with tragedy, self-degradation — and the not-knowing of how
    their story ended. From AYBEE OMARI’s phenomenal #RAPISDEEPPOETRYISDEEPER.
  47. ChrisP ..TheHouse  shows off his magnificent flow in “In & Out” , one of only 2 songs he’s posted online. “In & Out” is a world of paranoia, the rhyming is frenetic, impatient (“i want yo bitch face
    where my belt be.”). There’s a certain sadness to it, the desperation and dysfunctional sex. ChrisP describes a world we thankfully aren’t all aware of. Life’s impatient pace makes “In & Out” universal.
  48. SLIM GUERILLA knows how to tell a story; “SweetGroove” ends right at the perfect point. SLIM GUERILLA’s flow is impossible not to recognize. With its menacing overtones SLIM’s voice is one of underground hip-hop’s finest.
  49. 20 VISION compares sex with cannibalism in “Lick It”,a tantalizing track about fellatio, eating pussy & making nasty sex wherever & whenever He wants it. It’s more classic “fuck” music by 20 VISION.
  50. GALAXY GOD  has one of the strongest voices of the young hip-hop artists. The song  “Bring Dem Choppaz” is a catchy tale of horror in the city. Galaxy God is a fearless lion in the wartorn city he spits about. His versatility is one of his main attractions: Changing flow from song to song, it’s like He’s giving a        Galaxy God
    new shade to a different lyrical environment. Galaxy God, young like Lil Wayne in Hot Boys, seems like He’ll take a different route to stardom. For one, He’s transforming trap-music into a whole new breed of hip-hop.
  51. FATHER asks the eternal question in “Why Can’t I Cry $$$”. Which is “why can’t he cry money, instead of tears.” FATHER of course specializes in the trippy psychedelic trap or witch house that keep KEMET DANK and RUBEN SLIKK busy. “Why” is a great showcase for FATHER’s exceptional, deceptive, low-pitch talking-style of spitting. His cynicism mixes well with the orgiastic spirit of FATHER compositions. Oh yeah and: Father Ain’t Shit. (I think that’s what you say at the end of a FATHER review).