As you may be aware, the hip hop genre has a non-stop influx of music released each week, and its 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 find 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: El-P – Cancer for Cure (Purchase on iTunes)
After producing what we believed was the previous best album of the week (Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music), El-P follows up like a one-two punch with his new solo album Cancer for Cure, released on Fat Possum Records. Known for long time hiatuses between projects (though he has nothing on Dr. Dre’s track record), this is the first El-P album released since 2007′s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Despite the time in between, El-P proves to the world that he was born to do this music and actually sounds more invigorated than in any of his previous work. Having gone through the disbanding of his record label, Definitive Jux, and the passing of his good friend Camu Tao (due to cancer), El-P either sounds like he has found a brand new inspiration or has delved into an even crazier state of mind to create this brilliant album full of genre-bending production and the progressive lyricism he’s known for. We don’t know when we will hear another solo El-P record, so hold on to Cancer for Cure for as long as possible. -Mark Noisiri
Honorable Mention: Tabi Bonney – The Endless Summer (listen/download)
With the majority of records being either mediocre or obviously released for the sake of relevance, one of this week’s diamonds in the rough is the free album by Washington, D.C. emcee Tabi Bonney. The Endless Summer is an effort between Bonney and legendary hip hop producer Ski Beatz (Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents II”, Camp-Lo’s “Luchini”), who display some excellent emcee/producer chemistry. Ski tries out many different production styles on this album, and Bonney’s Slick Rick-esque sound blends nicely every time. Definitely a great introductory Summer soundtrack. -Mark Noisiri
Best Single: Lupe Fiasco – “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)” (listen)
Lupe Fiasco has finally redeemed himself in the eyes of the hip hop community with his latest single “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free).” He leaves the dubstep to Diplo and rhymes impressively over a sample rendition of Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce over You (T.R.O.Y.).” Even though it’s currently shadowed by nonsense, hopefully when the smoke clears we all can acknowledge the return of Lupe Fiasco as a lyricist. His wordplay is sharp, and his message is conveyed perfectly. I think the only way to truly describe Lupe’s re-emerging is much like Simba coming back to pride rock after all the years of being away. He’s stronger, wiser and prepared to take the throne. I hope this get you excited for Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, because I know I am. -Travis Phillips
Honorable Mention: Terrace Martin ft. Snoop Dogg & Teedra Moses – “We Fly” (listen)
Terrace Martin can bring together talent like no other. He does just this with the first single, titled “We Fly,” off his upcoming 3Chord Ford. The Los Angeles producer/rapper grabs the California OG Snoop Dogg and the talented songstress Teedra Moses for a flawless first look at what he’s been preparing. “We Fly” offers the kind of listening pleasure that goes beyond just a catchy hook and big name features, it’s more of a completed infusion of hip hop, R&B and jazz with a sprinkle of West Coast charm.
Best Production: El-P - Cancer for Cure (produced by El-P)
Yes. Once again the man named Jaime “El-Producto” Meline takes our best production spot for the 3rd consecutive week! More than just an effective strategy to completely rule the month of May, the production on Cancer for Cure is really a testament to El-P’s individuality in the hip hop scene. It’s very hard not to use the words “dystopian” and “apocalyptic” to describe his sound, but on C4C, this gritty yet Steampunk-esque backdrop creates its own sonic narrative that fits perfectly with El-P’s choppy and heavily imagery-based lyricism. Over the years, he has carved out his own lane that very few people, if none, could replicate. -Mark Noisiri
Honorable Mention: Suff Daddy – Suff Sells (produced by Suff Daddy) (listen/purchase)
Hailing from Germany, producer Suff Daddy went for the kill this week with this double LP Suff Sells. Containing some of the most soulful, funky and banging beats to date, Suff Sells is a must have for all jazzy hip hop instrumental enthusiasts. -Mark Noisiri
Best Feature: El-P ft. Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire & Danny Brown – “Oh Hail No” (listen)
El-P has dominated The Taste Test every week so far by consistently releasing incredible music. He also seems to only work with the illest artists around and that explains why Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire & Danny Brown appear on “Oh Hail No” off El’s Cancer for Cure album. With this line up, you should expect nothing but raw, unapologetic, lyrical insanity, and that’s exactly what is delivered. Danny Brown’s infamous wittiness, eXquire with the flow of the year and El-P’s lyrical bombs makes “Oh Hail No” one big explosion. -Travis Phillips
Honorable Mention: David Banner ft. Big K.R.I.T – “Believe” (listen)
The soulful sampling of Jodeci fills your ears the moment you press play on David Banners “Believe.” Featuring one of the best southern artists of the new generation, Big K.R.I.T, we see both Mississippi emcees paying homage to their home-state, cleverly giving life to Mississippi and discussing her as if she was a woman or love interest. This is one of the many standout records on David Banner’s latest free album release Sex, Drugs & Video Games. -Travis Phillips
Best Artwork: Picnictyme – Sea Monsters (listen to the single “Horizons”)
Dallas, TX producer Picnictyme recently released the artwork to his forthcoming album Sea Monsters, which appropriately consists of a cryptic yet alluring drawing of a winged mermaid creature. In a world full of album covers with artists mean-mugging the camera and doing the Birdman hand-rub, this is quite the refreshing piece of art that says a lot without showing much. -Mark Noisiri
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