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).
- TADAR released “Zero to a God (freestyle)” earlier in the year and immediately i heard a masterpiece. TADAR has 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.
- 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it one time”, i hear “Dear white america: your privilege, and sadistic “right” to torture, demoralize Black people has been revoked.”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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- De’WAYNE JACKSON is still true to the spirit of his message in “Letter To You”, a tribute to his father. It’s direct, 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.”
- 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.
- 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 the 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- MICK JENKINS gives a hard-as-ice performance in “Martyrs”, ensuring his place in hip-hop history as an influential & intellectual voice for the masses. From his highly acclaimed THE WATER[s].
- 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.
- 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 anything — 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- THE DROPOUT packed so many refined tracks on STAY SMOOVE, but “Anything” and “Criminal” are orchestrated like chess games. JAHRIDDLA joins THE DROPOUT
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 refreshing 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 that 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- THE DROPOUT featuring JAY STONES
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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).