hip-hop matters
Photo: EARL SWEATSHIRT / Courtesy of Orienteer

Hip-Hop Matters: The Best Hip-Hop of January 2022

January’s best hip-hop features two old masters on a bold new work, the thrilling return of a UK drill star, and a mysterious collective project that unnervingly invokes the terror of social unrest.

Digdat – Pain Built [Columbia]

Digdat - Pain Built

Following a quiet 2021, UK drill star Digdat returns with a low-key but high-impact new mixtape. Pain Built is as short, sharp, and cold as a paring knife. The production is sparse and eerie, typically futuristic but free of ornamentation and rife with pauses that cut abruptly through the muscular rhythms. It’s a night-time wander through a deserted city, with danger lurking around every corner. While it’s great to have Digdat back, given that he’s featured on some modern classics (including Kenny Allstar’s “Friday”), here’s hoping that Pain Built is just the beginning of his reemergence.

Another Crown Heights Riot

Various Artists – Another Crown Heights Riot [Bankai Fam]

A project from New York’s enigmatic Bankai Fam collective and executive produced by Shanks the Rap Martyr, Another Crown Heights Riot is as incendiary, exhilarating, and chilling as being caught up in the titular riot. Featuring a melange of eclectic voices that spit like rap ghosts from the ether, the album is themed around a commemoration of 30 years since the Crown Heights riots and features an extensive range of rappers from the Brooklyn neighborhood. Tracks “The Crime Heights Riot”, “Fuck a Hook”, and “Boiling Point” are deeply unsettling, addressing the state of contemporary urban America with clarity and precision. It’s a project well worth checking out for those who like their hip-hop raw and tension-fueled.

Hook – From, Hook [Unknown]

Hook’s fourth full-length album is a wild ride. Across From, Hook the Riverside, California native’s tone veers frantically, from violent (“PUNISHER”) to sexually charged (“where’s the racks !?!?!!”) to contemplative (“honesty”). Although Hook’s voice remains commanding and confident, these 14 bold tracks continuously fluctuate in mood, even when displaying her impressive singing abilities. The frequently-experimental production similarly swings from bass-heavy to dreamlike, often combining the two. From, Hook is a hell of a ride, one you’ll be reluctant to stop taking.

DJ Muggs & Rigz – Gold [Soul Assassins Music]

DJ Muggs and Rigz Gold

In case you didn’t already know – DJ Muggs won 2021. Last year, the veteran producer and Cypress Hill member released seven high-quality full-lengths featuring the underground rap talents of CRIMEAPPLE, Rome-Streetz, Flee Lord, and numerous others. His prolific streak continues in 2022 with Gold – a collaboration with the Rochester MC Rigz. Rigz’s work is consistently solid; however, Muggs is the real star here. His production is full-bodied and eclectic, rife with textured samples and muscular beats. Here’s hoping that Muggs’ hot streak continues long into the future.

tha wolf

Your Old Droog & Tha God Fahim – Tha Wolf on Wall St 2: The American Dream [Fat Beats]

A short and focused follow-up to their previous Tha Wolf on Wall Street collaboration, Your Old Droog and Tha God Fahim’s latest mini-album is the newest work of excellence to have emerged from the crisscrossing careers of these prolific rappers. Tha Wolf On Wall Street St 2: The American Dream comprises eight remarkably calm and delicate tracks that find their creators operating in an incredibly restrained mode. The samples are jazzy and string-based, the rhythms light and effervescent. It’s a hugely likable record, another installment in a series shaping up to be a considerable success.