Posted inArts & Culture

Psalm One

On her Rhymesayers debut, The Death of Frequent Flyer, local MC Psalm One demonstrates a remarkable fluidity–she changes moods like they were clothes, though her easygoing swagger is recognizable no matter the outfit. On “Rapper Girls” she decapitates female MCs with lines like “Never be more than that girl who raps good for a girl […]

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Mr. Lif

Mr. Lif’s congested, sandpapery voice and El-P’s cataclysmic production both commit aggravated assault on the eardrums, and on Lif’s new Mo’ Mega (Def Jux) they make an intimidating pair. This time El-P backs off from his customary otherworldly density, trying sparser, more industrial textures–steely electric guitars, jittery percussion, corroded keyboard sounds–that if anything make his […]

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Murs

Of all the one-MC-one-producer collaborations I’ve heard in recent years–MF Doom and Danger Mouse, Aceyalone and Rjd2, Common and Kanye–Murs and 9th Wonder have the most natural chemistry. On the new Murray’s Revenge (Record Collection), their second full-length, 9th’s lilting, soul-driven beats set a mellow mood that lets Murs’s confrontational, self-revelatory rhymes pull you in […]

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Asamov

I gave this Florida crew’s debut, And Now . . . (6 Hole), the number-eight spot on my 2005 top-ten list, but I should’ve put it higher up–maybe even above Kanye and all his Grammys. It’s the best feel-good hip-hop to come out in the past couple years–less a get-up-and-shake-it record than the kind of […]

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Dilated Peoples

In the PR for 20/20 (ABB/Capitol), MC and producer Evidence says the Dilated Peoples approached the new album like they were making a bunch of 12-inches: “We weren’t worried about how it was going to connect and if we had two love songs and one party song,” he explains. Thank the Lord. Given that the […]

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GZA & DJ Muggs

The best moments on the new Grandmasters (Angeles Records), a collaboration between GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan and Cypress Hill producer DJ Muggs, are like flashbacks to when I was a pimply teenager listening to Liquid Swords too loud and driving too fast. Muggs does his best impersonation of RZA circa 1995, looping single-word samples […]

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Peanut Butter Wolf

For me, listening to a Peanut Butter Wolf mix is like eating at an Indian buffet: everything’s delicious, but half the time I have no idea what it is. (Doubly embarrassing, since I’m not just a music writer but part Indian too.) In fairness, Wolf doesn’t exactly make it easy to follow along–his recent holiday […]

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MF Doom

Last year this uberprolific underground MC (aka King Geedorah, aka Viktor Vaughn, aka Metal Fingers) collaborated with producer Madlib for Madvillainy, a dusty, disheveled masterpiece. This fall he and producer Danger Mouse released their highly anticipated debut as Dangerdoom, The Mouse and the Mask (Epitaph), a playful tangle peppered with skits by characters from Cartoon […]

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Blackalicious

Listening to Gift of Gab rhyme on Blackalicious’s 1999 EP, A2G, was like watching someone juggle flaming chain saws: he spewed a seemingly endless supply of offbeat images with the kind of speed, breath control, and stamina that made me wonder if his lungs weren’t transplanted from an elephant. To match that energy, Chief Xcel […]

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Cage

I’m sure lots of people thought hell would freeze over before this sick ‘n’ twisted New York MC went straight. It must be snowing in the underworld right now, because the erstwhile Chris Palko has ditched the drugs, and on the new Hell’s Winter (Definitive Jux) he’s dropped the viciously misogynistic lyrics too. His cartoonishly […]

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Lyrics Born, Pigeon John

Most MCs are all about asserting their alpha-male status, but PIGEON JOHN is content to be an omega male. He’s a relentlessly self-deprecating dork, and really he barely even qualifies as a rapper: on Pigeon John Sings the Blues (Basement) he croons more than raps, about the sad state of his Toyota Tercel, his love […]