Promising you more rabbit than the Easter bunny, away we go with Lil Jon – remember when he owned the world’s dancefloors? Forget your Harlem Shakes or Cha Cha Slides, he’s hatching a tour using the power of Zumba, so we can all get physical. Mumford and Sons have expressed an interest in picking up the mic, though you’d hope they’ve half an eye on the first of April. Gucci Mane changed his name to the ugly-looking Guwop for about ten seconds until a Twitter backlash had him backtracking. The Sugababes (mark 1, or should that be mark 5) had a stab at Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Swimming Pools’. Then there’s this; though it’s got nothing on Uncle Phil constantly chucking Jazz out the door.
Let’s get down to business with Cappo, who duels with Sam Zircon on the ‘Un:Programmable Raw’ EP across five tracks of pleasant drowsiness, high noon showdowns and boom-bap going into battle, the Notts champ blessing all with his usual meandering mannerisms and making verbal dead ends meet. Ty’s ‘A Kick Snare and An Idea’? A classy three-way of engaging conversation and warming sways to send the snow scurrying. Marz’ ‘Marz Attacks’ EP puts very listenable, big hooked beats from Brighton to Estuary English lyricists, while Harry Love gives Telemachus’ ‘Scarecrows’ a bong-watered, hoodlum funk remix lead by Roc Marciano, ahead of TM’s forthcoming album ‘In the Evening’.
Joker Starr’s Jones Brothers project wrings the neck of an eager/anxious loop stammer from Crossbone T to own ‘Mayweather Floyd’, with an easygoing mix from Soliheen; if you’re by way of Bandcamp, have a butchers at Joker’s now online ‘Northborough Estate Project’ from 2009 for extra credit. After that, do what we did and stumble across ‘Great Defeat’, the best of diligent, darkside dabblers BloodLeech. And as we’ve looped back to Nottingham, Cappo and Nappa’s funk boogie ‘Red Hot’ is a blue touch paper lit for incoming LP ‘Rebelbase.’
Ghostface Killah’s ‘Enemies All Around Me’ is snuff flick suspicion, suspense, sleuthing and shooting like a man with the golden tongue, and just as shifty when looking for something to go down is Danny Brown’s Paul White-produced ‘Street Lights’ - chunkier than a special edition KitKat and dripping with drama and dissent. A double of stirring soul food stories from Black Milk rings the calendar for ‘Sunday’s Best/Monday’s Worst’; Tyler the Creator’s ‘Domo23’ is code for an entertaining/screwball slab of slapped together trap; and go surf for Drake’s chest-beater ‘5am in Toronto’ to hear Aubrey with his end up.
The Demigodz have always thrown uppercuts to evacuate your molars and a wicked punchline patter to make you grin through the pain of a shattered jaw. Now a sextet of Apathy, Celph Titled, Ryu, Esoteric, Blacastan and Motive, the prize ‘Killmatic’ LP will have you unpacking the gumshield for an hour’s worth of box clever boom-bap (chopping up the Rocky theme tune as way of introduction, before ‘Can’t Fool Me’ knocks seven bells out of the basics), hot samples (even getting away with a Technotronic cameo) and show-n-prove mic snatches reeling off round after round of battle zingers. “Hardcore hip-hop fans, this is what they hope for” - that, and Ill Bill’s ‘The Grimy Awards’ hurtling from the opposing corner.
No holds barred street pounders fed special case episodes of clammy paranoia and one gentle giant moment, Bill stays wearing his rock/metal influences on his sleeve while Large Professor, Pete Rock, Ayatollah and El-P have his back on the boards. It’s a set-trashing ceremony for the Non Phixion man to reign in blood. Talking of which, Non Phixion’s ‘I Shot Reagan’ will debut as a Record Store Day, 7-inch special, ahead of ‘The Future is Now’ LP getting the maximum bells and whistles treatment. Public Enemy also have the re-issuers on their case with a 25th Anniversary Vinyl Collection – all their Def Jam LPs in one whopper of a bundle.
Setting off swirling soul circles that’ll straddle and nuzzle at your headphones is GQ’s great ‘Death Threats and Love Notes’, though 9th Wonder’s Oakland charge keeps the verbals dry and defiant. That same mix applies to Talib Kweli’s ‘Prisoner of Conscious’. If you regarded ‘Gutter Rainbows’ as a straight-talking saviour (the two albums crossed over in the studio), TK’s latest will similarly sit on your shoulder, full of dreamy soul lilts (Oh No a recurring contributor) with no word wasted or out of place. The lasting Brooklyn spokesman tightens the screw when necessary, and confidently springs unexpected collaborations with Busta Rhymes and Nelly. As a UK voice standing up tall (well they couldn’t do anything else with a name like that), Dizraeli and The Small Gods bring it live, urgently jazzy and with a folk lineage, taking on social awareness and everyman relationships and interactions with the world on ‘Moving in the Dark’. See if they can sock it to you at the tailend of their current tour.
For mixtapes that are hotter than a tray of seasonally crossed buns, look for Medline’s ‘Inspiration Information’ for funk originals sourcing classic rap cues, the Frenchman ticking off EPMD, Black Moon, The Beatnuts, Funkdoobiest and loads of other golden coated nuggets. Harry Fraud’s Southern-skimmed, NY-rooted ‘Adrift’ positions itself to one side as French Montana, Wiz Khalifa, Kool G Rap and Mac Miller shout ‘cover me’. As big a puller of names is star serving Bangladesh, whose ‘Ponzi Scheme’ enlists 2 Chainz, Jadakiss and Trinidad James for trap that’s gritty and gaudy, abreast of R&B breakouts and a rework of ‘My Sharona’. The cult of Akira the Don continues with ‘ATD29’ sleepwalking through rhymes/losing it over pick n mix beats while blagging appearances from grime spitters Footsie and Big Narstie. Videos to enjoy Easter eggs to: welcome to Confz’ state of mind, another Murs DIY classic, vegging out with Asher Roth in NYC, high rollin’ with Earl Sweatshirt, Chuck D and Brother Ali speaking out, Havoc showing haters the exit, and Big KRIT asking James Blake what’s the frequency.
Words by Matt Oliver