It’s the height of summer, and the best hip-hop has appropriately unleashed plenty of heat. The albums included in this month’s column feature a wide range of styles and sounds, with a particular focus on fluid, experimental releases by younger talents. Two futuristic cuts from Ghais Guevara and quinn are especially spellbinding, as are the latest albums from genre leaders Joey Bada$$ and Westside Gunn. A brilliant new album from Moor Mother once again features, as does Lloyd Banks, continuing his successful recent comeback. More experimentalists and a certain queen of pop also feature, rounding off a great month in the genre. We hope you find plenty here to enjoy.
Moor Mother – Jazz Codes [ANTI- Records]
This column loves everything Moor Mother-related. It was only a month ago her visceral 700 Bliss album Nothing to Declare dropped; however, she’s already returned with a solo full-length, the serene, mystical Jazz Codes. Whereas Moor Mother’s previous work has erred towards an abrasive and confrontational tone, Jazz Codes is a gorgeous exercise in tranquil hip-hop infused with the resplendent, cosmic vibes of free jazz. Highlights such as the AKAI Solo-featuring “Rap Jasm” and the hauntological centerpiece “Meditation Rag” are completely beguiling and take Moor Mother’s aesthetic in a new direction.
Joey Bada$$ – 2000 [Columbia]
Hip-hop loves a sequel. Legends like Nas, Mobb Deep, and Raekwon have all released sequels to classic albums, with varying degrees of success. Joey Bada$$‘s 2000 is the latest entry into this lineage. Unlike some of his peers, the New Yorker’s follow-up to his revered debut 1999 is an overall success. Joey is as charismatic and wise as ever, particularly on the emotive closing tracks “Survivors Guilt” and “Written in the Stars”. Some uninspired production lets a few songs down, particularly compared to stellar work done by many of Bada$$’s East Coast peers. Nonetheless, 2000 is a solid return, elevated by its creator’s effortless vocal abilities.
Lloyd Banks – The Course of the Inevitable 2 [Money By Any Means / EMPIRE]
Former G-Unit member Lloyd Banks surprised everyone with last year’s excellent The Course of the Inevitable – his first full-length in 11 years. He’s now struck while the iron’s hot and released a sequel that doubles down on the qualities that made that comeback successful. Banks has smartly adopted the gritty boom-bap aesthetic in vogue courtesy of the Griselda collective, two of whose members appear here. The tonal range on display is hugely impressive. From the dark head-nodder “Menace” to the mournful “Dead Roses” to the club banger “Fell in Love”, The Course of the Inevitable 2 adds up to a full-bodied and satisfying collection.
Wu-Lu – LOGGERHEAD [Warp Records]
There are a lot of discussions right now about post-genre music. Internet culture has collapsed stylistic boundaries, generating music that blends different forms into new alchemical creations. London’s Wu-Lu is an especially strong example of this trend. His debut for the esteemed Warp Records, LOGGERHEAD, is a wild fusion that journeys through disparate styles such as hip-hop, punk, grunge, and drum ‘n’ bass. Tracks like “Blame” and “Ten” feature what could be considered rapping, but of the most unorthodox kind. Better reference points would be the moody experimentalism of Ghostpoet or the uncategorizable Sleaford Mods. It’s a compelling and unique album that pushes hip-hop to its furthest edges.
Beyoncé – RENAISSANCE [Parkwood Entertainment]
A Beyoncé album is a little different from this column’s usual coverage. However, the brilliant Renaissance is among the most hip-hop-leaning albums in her esteemed discography. The queen’s rapping skills have always been somewhat underrated (check out “APESHIT” from The Carters album for incendiary proof). In her dance-infused latest, Beyoncé offers compelling glimpses of these talents. The Hit-Boy-produced “THIQUE” is a muscular banger, while “AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM” features a rapid-fire flow that flicks between controlled rapping and its creator’s iconic singing. One of the most vibrantly alive collections that Beyoncé has ever released.
Ghais Guevara – There Will Be No Super-Slave [1137054 Records]
A bold and eclectic album, There Will Be No Super Slave is traditional conscious rap infused with internet-age experimentalism. Packed full of samples and a dense production style, Ghais Guevara’s fifth full-length in four years is a heady combination. The young rapper adds a layer of intrigue to his ambition with lyrics that broach some rousing, if occasionally half-baked, anti-establishment ideas. Guevara’s perspective never settles – one minute he’s a Black communist, the next a conspiratorial libertarian. He fires off scattershot truth bombs, coming across like a Gen Z Immortal Technique on tracks like “Mimicry of the Settlers” and “C.R.B.” Some of his musings are a little eyebrow-raising, however, others are undeniably potent. It’s a unique and provocative album.
The Koreatown Oddity – ISTHISFORREAL? [Stones Throw]
Stand-up comedian-turned-rapper the Koreatown Oddity is a unique taste but one that becomes increasingly addictive the more you indulge in it. The off-kilter ISTHISFORREAL? takes time and patience. Its ironic tone is undercut by intricate narrative threads and serious racial and artistic identity musings. This playful, postmodern air of unreality begins from the first track, where the Koreatown Oddity announces that he’s a British man adopting an American accent. Following this, the whole thing only becomes even more uncoupled from reality. It’s not its creator’s most compelling work, but it’s a fascinating artifact nonetheless.
Westside Gunn – Peace “Fly” God [Griselda Records]
Since 2017, Griselda Records have released a new album every 47 days. This remarkable back catalog is leaden with quality, the latest of which comes from label co-founder Westside Gunn. The mixtape’s ten tracks are pared-down and focused, apparently recorded in just two days. That makes Peace “Fly” God an incredibly sharp and immediate proposition. It doesn’t do anything unexpected, but three tracks produced by Madlib are excellent, especially the evocative “Horses on Sunset”. The best Griselda cuts are rife with smoky, viscous atmospheres, and Peace “Fly” God features plenty of tracks in this mold. A minor but consistently-solid entry into this extensive pantheon.
quinn – quinn [DeadAir]
Quinn has had a short but fascinating journey to fame. The former hyperpop musician rose to fame in 2020 before deleting all of their music from Soundcloud and releasing last year’s uncategorizable debut drive-by lullabies. Given that quinn is still just 17 years old, this is some journey. Quinn’s latest release, quinn, is a little more of a familiar hip-hop album in that there are beats (“two door tiffany”) and bars (“american freestyle”). However, quinn spends most of the album deconstructing rap music, blowing its possibilities wide open. Much of the music here is strange and indescribable but deserves to be heard as an example of one of the ways that younger generations are interpreting the hip-hop genre.