BEST HIP-HOP The Best Hip-Hop on Bandcamp, March 2024 By Phillip Mlynar · March 28, 2024

March’s round-up of the best new hip-hop releases includes an Ann Arbor producer’s back-to-basics beat tape experiment, a Jersey City spitter’s wry take on modern life, and the latest from a Philadelphia crew of metaphor monsters. We also highlight an upbeat project inspired by a couple of De La Soul albums.


ZWAARD opens with Antipop Consortium founder Beans requesting his cremated ashes be pressed into a vinyl record so that the MC can, “die as I lived—creatively.” This demand kicks off four minutes of frenetic braggadocio in which Beans wholly eviscerates inferior rappers with their “idiot idioms and your need for approval” over clattering congas and zooming synths. After this high-octane start, Beans proceeds to rampage through the rest of ZWAARD with a lyrical performance laced with supreme God-MC bragging and scathing nuggets of political commentary. Producer Sasu Ripatti tailors his trademark electro-dub experiments to create a synth-swaddled support system, making ZWAARD simultaneously rooted in vibrant, early ’80s electro as well as some futuristic, yet-to-be-discovered musical galaxy.

Chuck Strangers
A Forsaken Lover’s Plea

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Cassette, Compact Disc (CD)

Originally a behind-the-boards presence during the early ‘10s emergence of Joey Bada$$ and Capital Steez’s Pro Era collective, Chuck Strangers has since relocated from New York to Los Angeles and steadily shored up his credentials as a soloist. On A Forsaken Lover’s Plea, Strangers supplements his own engagingly mid-tempo, soul-based production with additional beat work from a cast headed up by Alchemist, Animoss, and Graymatter. The result is an album steeped in nostalgia that compares a failed romance with an artist’s relationship to hip-hop. “Where the hell we go wrong?/ I gave you truth and devotion/ My wine glass filled,” Strangers raps during the title track, before accepting emotional decay: “You know my heart is broken/ Now we acting out.” Imbuing the album with a sense of personal heritage, the choice of guest MCs harks back to Strangers’s breakthrough days, with Joey Bada$$ appearing on the sultry, psych-y “Polish Jazz,” World’s Fair member Remy Banks passing through “Too Afraid To Dance,” and Erick The Architect resurrecting the Beast Coast mentality on the piano-draped “Flatbush N*****.”


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Taking time out from collecting private press comic books, Ann Arbor producer Dabrye returns to instrumental hip-hop beat science with Super-Cassette. The album harkens back to the basic elements of the beat tape, complete with an origin story involving Dabrye playing around with an old cassette from high school and a Casio SK-1 keyboard. “The Most Deliciousest” captures the producer’s ability to combine thumping boom-bap drums with faint infusions of melody; “Toiler On The Creek” ventures into electronic film soundtrack territory with a series of synth blips and burps; and “Bug Copped Village Gini” explores negative production space, and is inspired by the search for a revered type of Armenian wine that’s stored in monasteries.

HIM LO presents 67th Infantry ft. Clever 1 & Grand Scheme
Stampede of Equestrianz

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

The cover of Stampede Of Equestrianz depicts members of Philadelphia crew Grilchy Party clad in Polo attire and toting a small arsenal of artillery while riding horses into battle. That aggressive and animated image aptly conveys the tone of the album, which is powered by the trio of Him-Lo, Clever 1, and Grand Scheme, who fire off brawny, threat-laden bars over beats that exude mid-tempo melodic menace. “Dark Alley AzzWhippinz” makes good on the track’s titular promise, as Giallo Point’s one-two combination of angular piano and thudding kicks inspire a violent tirade from the MC aimed at those content to trade in “slouch raps.” Bolstering the squad’s commitment to the classic tenets of the culture, the project’s sole guest spot is given to graff artist ENEM, who helps stand guard on “Philly Shell Defense” alongside the 67th Inf’s “verified monsters of the metaphor.”

MIKE & Tony Seltzer

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

Tony Seltzer’s production on Pinball has a metallic zest and electronic spark that brings out the pricklier side to fellow New Yorker MIKE’s normally introspective lyrics. “I want big ice like Antarctica/ I’m beefing like I’m Shug,” raps the MC on “Two Door,” before bragging about slipping contraband goods through LaGuardia airport. Later, Bun B’s name and reputation becomes a prompt for the tempo-warping “Underground Kingz,” the title track breezes along with cascading splodges of synths, and Niontay helps conclude the album with the graceful “2k24 Tour.” File Pinball as a refreshing pivot that confidently wanders from MIKE’s standard comfort zone.

Extra Phish

Extra Phish pairs Portland MC Milc and beat merchant TELEVANGEL, both of whom are in a gleefully abstract state of mind. On “Thirty Three 3’s,” Milc embraces his conceptual side, building the track around the literary device “The Rule of Three” over a sax refrain that sounds like it’s ushering in a day of reckoning. “Mackerel” rants at false rap propheteers over a bed of smoldering bass; the funkily-askew “Searching For Bobby Fischer” weaves in an always appreciated Camp Lo reference; and “Landlocked” invites Skech185 to wax philosophical and observe how “some take out loans to own homes in purgatory.” Bringing the album a heady climax, “The Last Fish” combines a reference to the tingling sensation of Sichuan peppercorns with Milc’s globetrotting ambitions over a standout TELEVANGEL production of shimmering vibes and positively pulsating kicks.

Moses Rockwell & Plain Old Mike
Regular Henry Sessions

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A large part of the inspiration to record Regular Henry Sessions came from Rochester MC Moses Rockwell and Milwaukee rapper and producer Plain Old Mike’s desire to pay homage to their favorite De La Soul albums. (Respectively, their picks are De La Soul Is Dead and Buhloone Mindstate.) Favoring low-slung funk loops topped with reassuringly weathered drum sounds, there’s a simultaneously goofy and booksmart nature to the duo’s bottomless stash of quips, brags, and off-kilter asides. On “Raise Hell,” the MCs proudly brandish “handfuls of old dad jokes,” while “Gas Station Sushi” is a foray into culinary consumerist climes: “Whole Foods dreams and Spindrift wishes/ Day old gas station sushi is delicious/ Market rate’s too high to sleep with the fishes/ Cut coupons like it’s my business.” Regular Henry Sessions ends with the sort of lyrical levity and positive mindset that defined peak-era De La Soul on “Gorman’s Lament,” where reassuring mantra offers encouragement to keep the faith: “Things fall apart then fall into place.”

NAHreally & The Expert

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP

Released via the Netherlands-based Rucksack Records, BLIP pairs the MC prowess of Jersey City spitter NAHreally with the tuneful beats of Dublin producer The Expert. With his wry outlook on life, NAHreally coasts through the album, offering thoughts and asides about the world around him. “You can find me by the palm trees/ Testing out some brand new rhyme schemes/ Uh, placeholder for line three/ Come to my shows, I’m happy to help you find seats,” he raps over rolling bass and languid sitar on “Bubble Wrap.” Lyrical support comes from Atlanta MC Dillon, who riffs on a classic Wu-Tang industry complaint on the smoldering “Push Pressure Points.” Elsewhere, Hemlock Ernst, delves into dawn-and dusk-visions on the lilting “Movement & Light” and Open Mike Eagle blesses the beat-shifting “Breaking Down In Real Time” with a nugget that encapsulates the entire BLIP experience: “What’s it all for? To record our experience/ Why so serious? Get over, please stay curious.”

OneShotOnce & DRIVEBY

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6WD depicts the New Jersey double act of MC OneShotOnce and experimental beatmaker DRIVEBY journeying through an apocalyptic landscape against a backing track of stripped-down sonics. “Bunch of broken spokes could have spoke up/ But rather be broke like a cracked yolk,” OneShotOne vents on opener “CRYING MONEY AWARD,” spewing vitriol over a cascading piano and flickering synths. “Rappers beat down so bad you wonder if it’s crack smoke/ I’d rather crack the pepper on a smoked salmon/ Can’t build if there’s no planning/ There’s no such thing as a galaxy with no planets.” Features come courtesy of fellow Garden State rapper Fatboi Sharif, who brings his characteristic gravitas to the spectral “GRAVEL DESCRIPTION” and rapid-fire raconteur Lungs, who threatens to “punch the ground and make the protons excite” over nervy spy-movie strings on “RUNS W ICE.” Further cementing 6WD’s Jersey bona fides, beatmaker Roper Williams notches co-production credits on the release’s opening and closing salvos.

Shabazz Palaces
Exotic Birds Of Prey

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Intended as a companion piece to last year’s luminous Robed In Rareness, Exotic Birds Of Prey continues to document Ishmael Butler‘s adventures as an astral traveling hip-hop shaman plotting a course to new musical and spiritual lands. There’s a deeply inclusive feel to Butler’s latest project, with a series of guest vocalists who bring lyrical light to the mission. The warp-speed hi-hats and forbidding synths of “Exotic BOP” prompt Purple Tape Nate to offer commentary about smartphones organizing human thoughts; Butler’s alias Lavarr The Starr glides through the unabashedly ‘80s electro workout “Take Me To Your Leader”; and Stas THEE Boss joins Irene Barber on the interstellar P-funk bass of “Angela.” In the project’s most daring moment, “Synth Dirt” finds a reverb-saturated Butler checking into a cosmic open mic night that exists between the fabric of various mental realms, and features characters like an electric-acoustic steel guitar player who’s been zapped in from Berlin.

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