As the dust settles and the last of the May releases have finally hit the shelves and Bandcamp collections of listeners across the world, The Crate Dig presents a look at some of the finest projects of the last thirty-odd days. Featuring rappers and producers from London to Los Angeles, it’s time to run it back to last month’s most fire piff.
Fast Life & Vinyl Villain – Camorra
Fast Life is an emcee that needs little introduction. Since bursting onto the scene with the Fast Life EP in November 2017, the Albanian-born New Yorker has been dropping gem after gem with each subsequent project. For his fifth full length release he linked up with sampler supreme Vinyl Villain to create Camorra, a gritty record inspired by the organized crime syndicate of the same name. In between samples from The Godfather and tracks named after police callsigns, Fast Life narrates street tales that whisk you away on a journey through shifty alleyways, introducing you to an international cast of dope fiends and suppliers. Packed tightly full of elaborate internal rhymes and visceral imagery, the album more than lives up to its violent Italian namesake. All the while, Vinyl Villain’s eerie, hard-hitting production creates an ambiance that further accentuates Fast Life’s ominous raps, culminating in what is almost certainly the emcees best work yet.
Rahiem Supreme – The Man Wears Moschino
If the Devil wears Prada and Hitler wears Hermes, then the Man certainly must wear Moschino. The “man” in this case is none other than D.C. native Rahiem Supreme, a member of the celebrated DMV collective Shaap Records. The Man Wears Moschino sees Rahiem takes inspiration from high fashion labels most embedded in the public consciousness to create a record both luxurious and detail-oriented, much like the brands which feature as song titles on the album. Almost perfectly designed for the hot D.C. summer, tracks like GOLDENGOOSES and MOSCHINO PREMO PT.2 lend themselves perfectly to rooftop smoke seshes and late-night L cruises. Rah’s consistently impeccable ear for beats also means that even though nine different beatmakers laid down beats for the album it still comes out sounding like a cohesive, extremely satisfying album rather than a disjointed collection of songs. While personally Vintage Fendi remains my favorite release of his, objectively it’s hard to argue against this album as being his best and most focused work to date.
SeKwence – FUTURAMA
A clear sign of a great project is its ability to transport a listener to a specific time in their youth, however such a feat is no small task to achieve. On FUTURAMA SeKwence does just that, reminiscing about a simpler time when after school cyphers were a regular occasion, before the realities of bills, life, and self-determination filled up what was once reserved for watching the eponymous show while sharing a blunt with the homies. His gravelly voice might be a barrier to entry for the faint of heart, but those brave enough to take the plunge are rewarded with uniquely introspective bars about youth and coming to terms with moving on into adulthood. There’s a hint of sorrow, a certain longing for days past. At the same time though the record looks hopefully to the future, SeKwence banishing calls from the grim reaper in favor of supporting his friends and dropping dope music. All the while, samples from the cult classic TV series and other childhood media pepper the production landscape curated by talented beatsmiths like Brainorchestra and Isaac LaRue.
Adonis & VHS – Victoria
On one of hip-hop’s most celebrated born days, West Coast assassins Adonis and VHS teamed up to release “Victoria”, a six track project packed with soul-nourishing loops and tight rhymes. Combining Adonis’s street-learned wisdoms with at times somber, at times buoyant samples curated by VHS, the record is unapologetically LA in a way that few West Coast albums are these days. Amidst the poverty, gentrification, crime, and general sense of hopelessness that plagues many of the region’s (and indeed the country’s) communities, “Victoria” chooses to instead look to the future with thoughts of hope while celebrating the roots that have shaped not only the artists, but the city itself. Victory, it concludes, is achievable for all. All that is required is to push forward whilst remembering and paying dues to the conditions that have shaped who you are in the present. (excerpt from the Victoria Review)
Teller Bank$ & Farma Beats – The Damned
Wielding one of the most unique voices in the underground, Des Moine’s Teller Bank$ linked up with Farma Beats to deliver The Damned, a project full of tight wordplay and crunchy loops served up by the London-based producer. After dropping off his “The True and Living” project earlier this year, Teller returns with a seven-track salvo that showcases his versatility and overall skill on the mic. The emcee doesn’t mince words and The Damned doesn’t overstay its welcome, delivering each track in quick succession before fading out, leaving the listener satiated but not bloated. Able to seamlessly transition from somber subject matter on tracks like Exorcise II to summery-sounding joints like Be Happy, the project is as sonically diverse as it is satisfying to listen to. In the words of Farma himself, “When Teller Bank$ raps it’s like his words are forming a beautiful painting, sharp needle-like precision forming lucid images all over the canvas.” An aptly poetic way to describe the Iowa native’s detailed, intricate approach to his craft.
Jamal Gasol – No Joy Without Pain 3
Recruiting producers Kil and Quis Star to lay down the loops for the third installment of his No Joy Without Pain series, Jamal Gasol delivers a deeply personal record about the struggles he’s had to overcome to land in the position he is today. The Niagara Falls spitter comes equipped with refreshingly bare honesty, a rarity in a rap game saturated with artists that front more than they tell the truth. Despite coming a long way since giving up the dope game, Jamal never forgets where he came from, choosing to drop this final installment in the series on the day he officially got off probation for the case he speaks about on Art of Timing. At the same time he doesn’t forget those unfortunate enough not to share his fate, remembers the people that have lost their life or their freedom to the streets. Simultaneously, he reminisces about a game that has lost its honesty, the closing moments of the record dedicated to a skit decrying the rise in snitching by those who seem closest to you. Already on the forefront of the upstate renaissance that’s gripped the lyrical underground in recent years, No Joy Without Pain 3 firmly solidifies Jamal as one of the region’s premier representatives.
G. Fisher & Kidd Called Quest – BXROC
Bronx native G. Fisher and Rochester’s Kidd Called Quest combine forces on BXROC, one of the most East Coast-sounding records to be released in recent memory. With a style somewhat reminiscent of The Heatmakerz, Kidd Called Quest crafts his penetrating baselines and choral samples into beats that stand tall among the countless mediocre loops that’ve been put out in recent years. G. Fisher spits thoughtful lyrics about the trials and tribulations that go hand-in-hand with living in the hood. It isn’t pretty or sweet-sounding, but neither is street life. The emcee spits about the good, the bad, and of course the ugly aspects of hustling, reminding listeners that he isn’t one to be stepped to either on the block or on their mic. Blending the two artists together, the end result is a classic New York album with a modern twist that still sounds raw enough for even the oldest of old heads.
Mooch & Futurewave – Boss Sauce
Reaching out just over the US-Canada border, Rochester’s Mooch and Toronto beatmaker Futurewave link up to deliver Boss Sauce, a tribute to the world-famous condiment and an allusion to the ‘sauce’ possessed in spades by the talented upstate emcee. Mooch takes you on a journey through his city, telling stories about serving weight, settling scores, dealing with junkies, and other situations likely familiar to those who’ve lived through similar experiences. Fellow Da Cloth member Rigz is a frequent presence on the tape, featuring on over half of the tracks, while Toronto natives Daniel Son and Saipher Soze also make several appearances each. Sometimes minimalistic and other times at the forefront of the track, Futurewave’s production accents Mooch’s storytelling perfectly, switching from minimalistic to imposing depending on the content of his raps. Remember, if you’re ever making Mooch a steak sandwich, under no circumstances should you put mustard on it. Don’t forget extra Boss Sauce or the Dutchies either.
WateRR & Ty Farris – Bulls vs Pistons
Celebrating a classic East Coast basketball rivalry, Windy City native WateRR and Motor City’s Ty Farris link up to drop a collaborative project that celebrates the matchup between their local Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons. Detroit and Chicago have a lot in common, both being north-midwestern industrial cities affected by the loss of manufacturing and wealth in the latter half of the 20th century. Likewise Ty and WateRR share many similarities in their subject matter, perfectly complementing each other as they drop verses about tribulations of coming up in a street environment. Mirroring Jordan and Thomas’s legendary rivalry on the basketball court, each rapper tries to outdo the other track after track, resulting in 10 songs packed dense with gritty bars and storytelling. And though the Pistons still hold the edge when it comes to the playoff head-to-head, you’ll be hard pressed to pick out who’s better among the two talented emcees.
Camouflauge Monk – ラストリアルニッガ 2
Two years after blessing the catalog of listeners worldwide with his album ラストリアルニッガ, Camoflauge Monk returns with a second installment loaded with even doper instrumentals. One of the scene’s premier beatmakers, Monk’s tireless work ethic has seen him collaborate with pretty much every notable name in the underground, winning the hearts of even the coldest hip-hop purists in the process. With over 80 beats to choose from for this project, the Buffalo native enlisted the help of none other than underground superfan and endless source of hip-hop knowledge Fadeaway Barber to curate the content of the record. Unlike the first installment however, ラストリアルニッガ 2 features a smorgasbord of both stand-alone instrumentals and beats with emcees on them. Hus Kingpin, ANKHLEJOHN, B.A. Badd, DNTE, Jamal Gasol, and more lay down verses over Monk’s glistening production, each carefully selected and crafted to fit with the overall opulent feel of the album.