It’s 2022. The world’s still on fire. The old institutions are collapsing. Reality is broken. Our social, cultural, and technological fabric is fracturing at a speed that seems to be constantly accelerating. Hold on tight, or you’re going to get left behind.
Parts of culture seem determined to isolate themselves in the past. Nostalgia is a big industry right now, and it’s draining the life out of many cultural sectors. However, hip-hop has remained remarkably immune to this kind of backward thinking. The genre has long possessed accelerationist tendencies, so as the world has sped up, hip-hop has happily joined in with the pacy madness.
This month’s installment of Hip-Hop Matters features copious thrills that will help cut through a little of the craziness. It features the collaboration of two old masters on a bold, vital new work, the thrilling return of a UK drill star, and a mysterious collective project that unnervingly invokes the terror of social unrest. Earl Sweatshirt dropped his best album yet, while Hook blew our minds with the release of her volatile fourth full-length.
Several albums, not included here, were a little underwhelming. Token’s toothless major label debut failed to leave much of an impression, nor did Cordae’s shallow and dull latest. Generally, this was a strong month in this wild genre and what follows are the very best.
Earl Sweatshirt – SICK! [Warner]
Perhaps its creator’s finest (half) hour, SICK! wholly reaffirms Earl Sweatshirt’s position at the forefront of contemporary experimental hip-hop. Whereas previous full-length Some Rap Songs was a taut, claustrophobic affair, SICK! sees Earl spread his wings and indulge in myriad different moods and forms. These ten tracks are varied and unique and held together by their creator’s masterful rhymes. Highlights include the beatless, emotive “God Laughs” and the Armand Hammer-featuring “Tabula Rasa”. It’s an early contender for the hip-hop album of the year.
Jam Baxter – Fetch the Poison [Blah Records]
Jam Baxter is on white-hot form right now. Since his move to Blah Records, the UK rapper has become an all-around darker and more electrifying prospect. His latest full-length Fetch the Poison is a dank, claustrophobic affair, riddled with its creators’ trademark atmospherics, macabre imagery, and barely sublimated aggression. Numerous tracks here rank among Jam Baxter’s best, such as the moody “Blink Twice For Yes”, the sinister “Flickers on the Fourth Floor”, and the effortless drill of “Every Pool of Stagnant Water”. More new Jam Baxter releases can’t come fast enough.
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien & Kool Keith Present FNKPMPN – Subatomic [Threshold Recordings]
The first album of the year and it’s a good one: two legends collaborating on a dark, oddball rap album. Exclusively produced by Kool Keith and featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien’s vocals on all of its 12 tracks, Subatomic harks back to two of its creators finest works – Dr. Octagonecologyst and Deltron 3030 – but places those off-kilter vibes into the context of dystopian 2022. Keith’s harsh, metallic textures sync up nicely with Del’s sleazy flow in what is hopefully just the first of many more collaborative albums.
Che Noir – Food For Thought [DMG]
Che Noir’s productive few years of mini albums, mixtapes, and collaborations have culminated in Food For Thought – the Buffalo, New York rapper’s finest work to date. The record is concise, fully fleshed out, and possesses a sound that’s recognizable yet never feels dated. Noir’s bars are sharp and honest, mirroring the elegant but rugged East Coast-style production, of which Noir herself handled much. Several tracks are also genuinely poignant, highlighted by the introspective closer “Communion”. A highlight of this month’s hip-hop releases.