Kojey Radical
KOJEY RADICAL / Photo: Jerusha Rose / Courtesy of Atlantic Records

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

This month’s best hip-hop traverses the spectrum with the return of a legendary group, a dreamy jazz-rap collaboration, a UK drill upstart, and industrial rap metal.

Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk – Laminated Skies [Def Pressé]

Another experimental but more wistful affair, Laminated Skies, is gentle, friendly, and subtly profound. Damu the Fudgemunk’s production is vibrant and colorful, blending live guitars, warm synths, and delicate drums into a beautifully hazy brew. Raw Poetic’s lyrics are similarly tranquil and dreamy. Cosmic imagery sits next to romantic declarations on tracks like “Guide” and “Sunny Water”, while “Ralph Ellison” channels the themes of the titular author’s The Invisible Man. A free-spirited jazz influence pervades Laminated Skies’ tone, seemingly channeled via Raw Poetic’s uncle and free jazz pioneer Archie Shepp. That provides these ten tracks with depths of feeling, swathes of heart and soul that reflect the effortless collaboration emanating from Laminated Skies.

Cypress Hill – Back in Black [BMG]

Given that they’ve been together for well over three decades, Cypress Hill have a surprisingly consistent back catalog. Back In Black adds to their canon without the skills of frequent producer DJ Muggs, instead employing the talents of Slum Village and J Dilla collaborator Black Milk. His work is a little more straightforward, lacking Muggs’ iconic eerie psychedelia. However, B-Real and Sen Dog offer ample reminders of Cypress Hill’s brilliance. The usual references to weed, hood life, and the shady powers-that-be dominate Back in Black, all delivered via the group’s usual gusto and charisma. Cypress Hill’s schtick should have gotten boring by now, but on Back in Black the veterans are as astute and entertaining as ever.

ArrDee – Pier Pressure [Island Records]

Drill is everywhere in the UK right now. The latest young star in the genre is Brighton’s ArrDee, a 19-year old who’s ascended the UK charts several times over the last year. His debut mixtape Pier Pressure is a confident and commanding collection – 14 tracks that eschew drill’s penchant for cold violence in place of sharp, youthful exuberance. Party anthems “No Biggie” and “Oliver Twist” are examples of ArrDee’s playful side, while tracks like “Late Night Driving” and “Early Hours” reveal layers of earnest emotions. ArrDee’s infectious confidence and blatant talent guarantee that Pier Pressure is just the start of his journey.

Denzel Curry – Melt My Eyez See Your Future [Loma Vista Recordings]

Denzel Curry has rapidly turned into one of the most beloved rappers in hip-hop. Since his 2018 breakthrough Ta13oo, the Floridian has been on a remarkable hot streak. His lively and acutely modern brand of hip-hop is bent into new shapes on Melt My Eyez See Your Future, culminating in Curry’s most complex and boundary-pushing project yet. From the jazzy “Angelz” to the heavy “Sanjuro” to the thoughtful “Mental”, Curry pulls off just about everything that he turns his hand to. It’s not his most focused or concise release, but it is undoubtedly the most ambitious artistic statement released by this burgeoning genius.