We’ve entered the senth month of the year, which means half of 2013 has already blown by. While you may see best of the year so-far lists pop up here and there, we thought it’d be more interesting to highlight the releases that you might not have noticed yet. With a torrent of music getting released every day, it’s easy to lose track, but these records really deserved more recognition. Recognition that TRU didn’t even give. Yet. We’re taking a page from the late, great king of pop and start with the man in the mirror. Here are the 5 most undeservedly slept-on albums from the first half of 2013.
Ugly Heroes – Ugly Heroes
Apollo Brown has been on quite a streak for a year or two. Doing albums with OC, Guilty Simpson and Ghostface Killah practically guarantees attention, but his latest project with relatively unknown rappers Red Pill and Verbal Kent has flown under a lot of radars. Under the guise of ‘Ugly Heroes’ (because the everyday heroes they spin tales of are not of the Hollywood variety), the two wordsmiths trade rhymes about the everyday struggle over Apollo’s organic loops. There’s no flash, no stadium raps and no parade of brand names, just blue collar anthems set to beats by a great producer who came up on boombap and never let it go. Forget Jeezy, this is recession rap, and it has a soul too.
Jasiri X – Ascension
You can always count on Jasiri X to add some much needed vitriol to current events. Never once to mince words, the politically active rapper makes sure he’s as fully informed as possible about a given subject, before he slaps the status quo in the face with a diatribe that never loses sight of the nod factor. On Ascension however, Jasiri attempts to broaden his legacy and creates a barch of songs that are less strongly tied to the moment, and can stand on their own legs without contemporary context. It’s an admirable and understandable effort, but he still sounds best on songs that carry a specific theme, like when he focuses his thoughts on rap’s preoccupation with youth and how it hold the culture back on ’21 Forever’. Lucky for us, there’s plenty topical material to be found. Be thankful Jasiri X will never stop raging against the machine.
Nametag & Nameless - For Namesake
Something must be in the Detroit water. Wether we’re talking soul music, rattling rock tunes, or some of the best hip-hop in the world, Detroit keeps innovating on a scale more larger, richer, and famous cities can rarely come close too. It boggles the mind that an act like Nametag & Nameless is still so, well, nameless, when they already have such a fully formed sound on their debut album. Full of kinetic, energetically chopped beats, they create a sound that’s instantly recognizable for its Detroit soul while simultaneously daring to scour the edges of that framework. The chops are hard and abrupt and the hooks often have a repetitive scheme that demands attention rather than turning hypnotic. They’re no slouches lyrically either, reinventing the term “club track” on ‘How It Get’ to great effect. Shortly put; this shit knocks.
Marco Polo- Newport Authority 2
It’s all too easy to pass on Newport Authority 2 as the next part in a slew of free projects released everyday. Paradoxically, the lack of a price tag seems to acyually have worked against this one rather for it that way. Curated from tracks that couldn’t make the cut on any of Marco Polo’s upcoming retail projects, this is a far cry from a simple leftovers mixtape. Held back by sample clearance issues, the tracks found here could’ve not only easily made the producer’s next compilation, none of them would’ve sounded out of place on the albums of the artists involved (and what a guest list it is) either. What you have here is a batch of tracks created in the vein of the 1990s, freed from legal restrictions by the technology of the 2000s. You should’ve been able to pay some bucks for this, so don’t let the fact that it’s free deceive you. It even includes an Artifacts reunion!
blu – NoYork
In a severe case of Illmatic-syndrome, blu’s debut album Below The Heavens has haunted blu’s career ever since. Even relinking with Exile, teh producer he created that album with, couldn’t meet the expectations put upon him by his early fans. NoYork was once purported to be his major label debut, but probably left the suits jarred with its relentless unorthodoxy. Bootlegging and spreading the record himself, his ardent fans have known for years it is a shining jewel in blu’s perplexing discography. Sure, NoYork sounds nothing like Below The Heavens, but it’s a fearless work from a creative mind reinventing himself by diving headfirst into an intoxicating mass of electronic glitches and bass. Plus, he’s still a great emcee, and the unpredictability of the rhythms found here only further underscore that. Now that it’s finally officially and widely available, adventurous listeners have no excuse to sleep on it any longer.