The Taste Test: Best Hip Hop Of The Week

As you may be aware, the hip hop genre has a non-stop influx of music released each week, and it’s very difficult to determine what’s worth your precious time. To help you out, The Taste Test is a new series here at TST where our team of experts finds the best material released each week in a variety of categories. Our criteria is simple: the music has to be good and/or memorable.

Best Album: Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music (purchase on iTunes)

Released on Adult Swim’s record label, Williams Street, R.A.P. (Rebellious African People) Music pairs an unlikely duo – Atlanta emcee Killer Mike and the production of New York City underground icon El-P. Both artists are known for their energetic musical output, so while their union was unexpected, it all made sense once people heard each released track. The music showcases the duo’s thorough understanding of each others’ respective styles; this results in an album that can be embraced by the streets, the backpackers and even Pitchfork. Mike pens songs like they’re his last, hitting subjects such as the Reagan Era, fear of mortality, oppression and escapism, which makes R.A.P. Music his most personal piece to date. -Mark Noisiri

Honorable Mention: Thee Tom Hardy – Guerrilla Broadcast (listen/download)

Slick-talking Durham, NC emcee Thee Tom Hardy returns from his two-year hiatus with this excellent free album. Though no longer under 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records, Hardy has refined his style to stand on his own. The formula has always been great lyrics over great beats, and there is no shortage of that with Guerrilla Broadcast. -Mark Noisiri

Best Single: ANTHM ft. Blu – “Polaris” (listen)

Last week, Ab-Soul stole our hearts with “Book Of Soul,” and this week Manhattan rapper ANTHM annihilates all competition with “Polaris.” This was my introduction to ANTHM, and by the end of his first verse I was sold. His talent as a wordsmith is simply undeniable. If you need any more reason to check out this incredible single, West Coast lyricist Blu delivers one of his strongest offerings I’ve heard in quite some time. He literally raps with the hunger of a homeless man. The smooth RJK production is the bow that ties this gift together. If “Polaris” is any indication of how ANTHM’s Joy & Pain album will sound, then I expect it to come with a bottle of sunblock. Expect J&P sometime around the second week of June. -Travis Phillips

Honorable Mention: Childish Gambino – “We Ain’t Them” (listen)

When actor/comedian Donald Glover steps into the studio, his rap/producer alter-ego Childish Gambino surfaces and, over time, has come to be one of the most talked about growing sensations. The bigger your name gets the more mud is slung in your direction. I think that’s what brought upon the inspiration behind Gambino’s latest release, entitled “We Ain’t Them.” The song was released moments after an interesting twitter rant that was anything but funny. The song itself is more honest than the usual punch-line wittiness and, even though he rambles on various topics, there’s a lot of venting going on. One of the most shocking lines was “back of my mind though, I hope the show gets cancelled,” in reference to 30 Rock, the Grammy winning comedy series for which Donald writes. The track is a nice addition to your growing Childish Gambino playlist. -Travis Phillips

Best Production: Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music (produced by El-P) (listen)

The element that separates a producer from a beat maker is that the producer goes that extra mile to understand and build with the artist’s sound. We cannot stress how much El-P accomplishes this with his production on R.A.P. Music. Killer Mike even admitted on twitter that El-P helped him find his true sound. If you were to tell any hip hop head that Killer Mike was going to do an album with El-P, they would look at you as if you were crazy, but the combination proves to be one of the prime examples of an organic emcee/producer chemistry. -Mark Noisiri

Honorable Mention: Oddisee – Odd Renditions EP (produced by Oddisee) (listen/download)

Maryland producer/emcee Oddisee served up a very nice EP this week filled with impressive re-workings of tracks by Bon Iver, Metronomy, Marvin Gaye and K-Os. The sample selection skills are on point and mesh with Oddisee’s lyricism very well. -Mark Noisiri

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