2019 is shaping up to be another great year for Hip Hop. Like most major Hip Hop outlets, here at HHGA we are guilty of focusing (too?) much of our attention on Hip Hop released in the USA. With this first article in a new series, we are planning to remedy our lack of attention for Hip Hop released in other countries.
Hip Hop culture spread like wild-fire across the globe not long after it originated in the Bronx. As early as the mid to late 1980s pioneering artists in lots of different countries were doing shows and dropping Hip Hop albums. In later articles we will focus on dope non-American Hip Hop albums from earlier years/decades, for this list we have selected nine excellent Hip Hop albums released in 2019.
Let’s get in to – if you have suggestions for albums you feel need to be included in future articles, do not hesitate to let us know!
The Lost & Found - Alternate Ending (Nigeria)
Boogey and PayBac, collectively known as The Lost and Found are two of Nigeria’s finest wordsmiths, and with Alternate Ending they dropped an album with international allure that definitely deserves your attention – it doesn’t even matter if you feel more at home with traditional sounding boom-bap or if you dig newer Hip Hop styles – this album has something for everybody and manages to sound entirely cohesive at the same time.
On Alternate Ending Boogey and PayBac take the listener on a journey through music business perils by recounting personal experiences about personal growth and success while navigating the unforgiving Nigerian music industry. Musically well-rounded, sound production and lyrics with substance – plus Boogey and PayBac both have great flows and rap abilities to match – this is a project that will hold your attention from start to finish.
Dave – PSYCHODRAMA (UK)
Dave is a 20-year-old talent from London in the UK, and with PSYCHODRAMA he has dropped an incredible debut album. PSYCHODRAMA plays like a kind of a cathartic therapy session, with Dave exploring issues like family, relationships, identity and life in general. The whole album is great, but be sure to check out “Lesley”, a gripping 11-minute tour-de-force that depicts an abusive relationship and its shattering fallout in harrowing detail.
This album is all about Dave’s personal insights – the intricate, autobiographical themes and subject matter make this an album to sit down and really listen to. Because of its raw emotional content PSYCHODRAMA is not an easy listen, but it doesn’t have to be – there’s more than enough fluff music out there, this is music with substance. PSYCHODRAMA is an album that will grow on you with multiple listens – check it out now if you haven’t already.
Yugen Blakrok - Anima Mysterium (South Africa)
Yugen Blackrock is a female emcee from South Africa, who stepped on the international scene with a high-profile appearance on the Black Panther movie soundtrack. Anima Mysterium is her second album and one that should be her international breakthrough. Dark, brooding and atmospheric beats, with Yugen Blakrok’s abstract lyrics laced with mysticism and sci-fi-like subject matter – this album will not be for everyone, certainly not for the mainstream rap listener. But for those who are a little more adventurous in their Hip Hop tastes, Anima Mysterium will be a quick favorite.
Little Simz - Grey Area (UK)
UK’s Little Simz dropped a true gem with Grey Area. Grey Area is her third album after the release of four mixtapes and five EPs, and her debut album A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons (2015) and her second studio album Stillness in Wonderland (2016). Grey Area is her best effort yet, and a career-defining one. Nice and tight at ten tracks, Grey Area is utterly consistent and cohesive: all killer and no filler. Smooth, atmospheric production, poetically beautiful lyrics, and great flow and delivery. This is an excellent album that should appeal to any and all Hip Hop listeners.
Juga-Naut & Giallo Point - Back To The Grill Again (UK)
Back To The Grill Again (The album title is an obvious play on MC Serch’s 1992 posse cut, the album opens with a sample from that classic song) is a collaborative album from Juga-Naut & Giallo Point, two of the UK’s leading underground Hip-Hop artists. Giallo Point has been active in the UK Hip Hop scene for decades, but he really is on a roll this year – in addition to this album he dropped equally excellent projects with French-American emcee Napolean Da Legend (Coup D’etat 2) and with Long Island’s SmooVth (Portrait Of A Pimp).
Back To The Grill Again features dope rhymes by Nottingham emcee Juga-Naut and smooth production and cuts by Giallo Point, this album succeeds in taking you back to the essence of Hip Hop without leaving you in the past. This is quality Hip Hop, just one of many great albums to come out of the UK this year.
Seba Kaapstad - Thina (South Africa / Swaziland / Germany)
OK, so the title of this article is 1/9 misleading… as this project can not be categorized as a Hip Hop album. Seba Kaapstad’s sophomore album Thina is a genre-bending masterpiece, meshing the crew’s influences such as R&B, Hip Hop, neo-soul, and jazz, blurring the lines between the genres – neo-soul is perhaps the best tag if you feel the need to pigeonhole it.
But even if Thina is not a straight-up Hip Hop album, we sneaked it on this list anyway, for two reasons: first off because this album has that hard to define Hip Hop vibe, if not sonically than at least in spirit – reminiscent that way of other genre-bending gems like Lauryn Hill’s classic The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill or more recently Anderson .Paak’s Malibu.
The second reason for including it here is simply that this is an excellent album that deserves widespread attention. The album was released on May 29 of this year through the fantastic Mello Music Group label, the album’s description on the label’s website gives a fitting description of Seba Kaapstad and of Thina:
Seba Kaapstad is a multi-national neo-soul quartet comprised of a South African, a Swazi, and two Germans. They summon the most powerful manifestation of creativity: music that represents an idea. Their Mello Music debut album, Thina, takes its name from the Zulu word for “us.” It is a gorgeous halo of soul, encompassing several continents worth of sound, and obliterating the notion of genre. It is divined by artists whose lineage is riven with trauma and suffering. But like their ancestors, they endured. And only in this futuristic present could they reconcile the perseverance and turmoil of the past, using music to inspire unity and heal.
They conjure beatific grooves that radiate with alluvial soul, celestial jazz, electronic experimentation and the polyrhythmic essence of Africa. It is marrow music, what digs beneath your bones, seeping into your bloodstream and inner visions. You hear flashes of the greats: Badu, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Jill Scott, and the Things Fall Apart-era Roots. You might even hear the ethereal float of Frank Ocean or the glowing bliss of Flying Lotus and Thundercat. But like all stellar quartets, Seba Kaapstad is indivisible and made stronger by the sum of their parts.
All music lovers will want to check out this album – go do it now and thank us later:
Seven Spherez – BoomBap x Timbo Boots (UK)
Seven Spherez are a Hip Hop duo from Manchester consisting of producer Dr. G and Emcee Ghost One. Following the equally excellent Boombap & Baseball Bats which was released in the beginning this year, the duo wasted no time and quickly dropped BoomBap x Timbo Boots album, the second edition in the BoomBap Trilogy. Dope beats, scratches, and samples lay an excellent foundation for Dr. G and Ghost One to spit their bars over.
“Dirty Timbos”, “88”, “Faded” and “Diesel Powered” are some of the highlights but the album is consistent as hell. The only complaint about this album is that almost all tracks are too short – all of them around two-and-a-half minutes long, seemingly catering to today’s trend of short songs for people with short attention spans. Other than that, everything about this project breathes late ’80s or early ’90s – so for those heads nostalgic for the Hip Hop of those days, this is an album not to be missed.
Datkid & Leaf Dog - Confessions Of A Crud Lord (UK)
Bristol emcee DatKid teams up with underground heavyweight producer/emcee Leaf Dog to come correct with DatKid’s third full-length album and the duo’s first collaborative album, Confessions Of A Crud Lord.
Confessions Of A Crud Lord is unflinching in its lyrical content – self-aggrandizing, misogynistic, violent – sometimes to the point of caricature. Even if the lyrics are sometimes cringe-worthy juvenile, DatKid can spit – verbal dexterity, confident flows, and dope wordplay from start to finish, even if the “I will say whatever I want and I don’t give a f***” attitude can get a bit tiring. Just don’t go in expecting substance and astute introspection like Little Simz and Dave brought to the table with their 2019 albums, and you’ll be in for a fine time – especially because Leaf Dog’s soundscapes are excellent: gritty boom-bap beat patterns all the way through. With features from American counterparts Roc Marci, Conway, and Westside Gunn this album is gutter to the max, but in a good way.
Nadia Nakia - Nadia Naked (South Africa)
Where Yugen Blakrok’s Anima Mysterium – the other entry from South Africa featured on this list – will appeal more to listeners with an acquired taste, Nadia Nakia’s long-awaited debut record Nadia Naked is the most main-stream friendly album on this list, despite the explicitness of the lyrics.
There a few tracks on this album Nicki Minaj would wish to have had on one of her albums, other songs have more of a true Hip Hop feel. On “Big Pun“, Nadia Nakai embodies the legendary Big Punisher, on “Rap Bitches“, Nadia Nakai honors Nipsey Hussle‘s “Rap N*****”. “On The Block” arguably is the most straight-forward Hip Hop track on Nadia Naked, but from the intro to the outro Nadia Nakia proves she can spit bars with the best of them. Furthermore, production on the album is truly excellent – you can just feel the attention and love that went into the creation of this project.
Just like mainstream rap listeners will find Yugen Blakrok’s album hard to get into, Nadia Nakia may turn off Hip Hop purists at first glance. Give it a chance though – this really is a quality project.
Stream or Download Nadia Naked