With the first quarter of the year just about over, most are reflecting upon early 2021 and viewing it with a toxic lens; where are the major name releases? Why has everyone’s output been so slow? These are understandable questions, but that does not mean this year is fully barren. This post aims to shine light on some of the under-the-radar projects this year that are packing serious fire, designed to find something that matches your taste. Buckle in.
DJ Muggs & Rome Streetz, Death & the Magician
Rome Streetz had already been in the game with a number of projects up to this point, but when he teamed up with legendary producer DJ Muggs (of Cypress Hill fame), he was bound to generate attention. This collaboration knows no limits; it is not afraid to go left-field with its sound and structure, but Rome manages to maneuver the haunting terrain comfortably.
As part of the modern underground movement, it is natural to hear a lot of lyrical focus and some abstract, yet elegant beats. This album hits those marks to an excellent standard, bound to age as one of this year’s finest – yet most underrated – releases.
Check out if:
– You’re a fan of artists such as and similar to Freddie Gibbs or Griselda
– You want to hear a great rapping performance
– You want an experience with a darker tone
Recommended Track: “Stone Cold Soul”
BoomBaptist, Elaquent, & Juicy the Emissary, Komfort Food
This year has been fruitful in instrumental hip-hop so far, only proving the scene’s long-term quality. This work right here – delivered from three of the underground’s most ambitious producers at the moment – updates the smooth and soulful essence of classic beat tapes; most notably that of the legendary J Dilla’s Donuts.
While it definitely manages to create its own identity, this album can’t help but be beautifully tributary. Remakes of classic Dilla beats are scattered throughout, whether based in his solo career (look forward to a remake of the classic “Gobstopper“) or infamous collaborations (“Stakes Is High” gets respect too!). Any hip-hop head will appreciate this quick treat of 27-minute instrumentals.
Check out if:
– You’re a fan of J Dilla and/or his associates (Common, De La Soul, etc.)
– You want something easy on the ears (i.e. for relaxation or studying)
– You gravitate towards the boom bap sound
Recommended Track: “Komfort Food”
Jim Jones & Harry Fraud, The Fraud Department
Here comes yet another promising veteran display; this time, it’s starring Dipset member Jim Jones. Backed by the prolific Harry Fraud – who has been having one hell of a recent run himself – this album’s sound is modernized and crisp.
Jim Jones takes no missteps in any fashion, whether he’s slinging bars or touching on serious concepts. The balance between fast-paced bangers (“Aunt Viola”) and triumphant grooves (“Say A Prayer”) is as natural as it can be, providing a versatile platform that remains harmonious. This is recommended for those of you with a mainstream preference; it would blend in on the radio with ease.
Check out if:
– You need high-energy bangers; even trap songs
– You don’t mind an introspective cut here and there
– You need a short and sweet album
Recommended Track: “Three Cuts”
Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim, Tha YOD Fahim
Both Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim are names to embrace in the household from now on. Whether it be the former’s low-key strengthening following (mostly resulting from speculations that he was a Nas alter-ego) or the latter’s unbelievable output in the past few years, one thing can be agreed upon; the two bring fire to the booth, and twice as much when they collaborate.
This project screams consistency, with an array of nicely-produced tracks that give both rappers the opportunity to flow like madmen. Their styles shine in the light, both in a singular and complementary fashion. Considering this is in fact already their second collaboration this year (their album “Tha Wolf on Wall St.” is also worth playing), it is the earliest indicator of what is about to be a fruitful run for both artists.
Check out if:
– You want an album filled to the brim with bars
– You want to hear exciting – and natural – chemistry
– You’re a fan of the modern underground scene
Recommended Track: “Slam Dunk Contest”
YUNGMORPHEUS & ewonee, Thumbing Thru Foliage
Of course, the year does not go without its experimental releases. Reminiscent of the lo-fi, muddy sound of recent underground artists in the “sLUms” movement, this project embodies a more unorthodox, risk-taking sector of the west coast.
With strong underlying themes of social criticism and black empowerment, the project is densely packed and cryptic. If you’re into layered lyrics, this is the one for you; even if not, it is grounded and soothing in its sound. One of the most interesting experiences to emerge thus far, for sure.
Check out if:
– You’re a fan of artists such as and similar to Earl Sweatshirt or Mach-Hommy
– You have an ear for soulful beats
– You enjoy a focus on songwriting
Recommended Track: “Sovereignty”
With those recommendations put out there, hopefully you found something that suits your style. Digging for the gems of each year is always exciting, and a great way to hold yourself over while waiting for your favorites to show out. Expand that yearly knowledge!