Best 25 Left-Field Hip Hop Albums Of 2023: Here are 25 outstanding left-field Hip Hop albums from 2023 that showcase alternative, abstract, industrial, lo-fi, noise, or other experimental influences. These albums defy the conventions of mainstream or traditional Hip Hop, offering a diverse and innovative musical landscape. Derived from our compilations of The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023 and Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2023 – Honorable Mentions, this curated selection presents a range of boundary-pushing Hip Hop releases. Without further ado, here are the best left-field Hip Hop albums of 2023, presented in no particular order.
Do you have a favorite album from this list? Are there any notable albums that should have been included? We invite you to share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments section!
JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown - SCARING THE HOES
JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown, two of the most forward-thinking artists in Hip Hop, have consistently delivered groundbreaking albums that have captivated listeners. Danny Brown’s X X X (2011), Old (2013), and Atrocity Exhibition (2016) are regarded as exceptional works of art, while JPEGMAFIA’s Veteran (2018), All My Heroes Are Cornballs (2019), and LP! (2021) have pushed the boundaries of the genre. With the release of their collaboration album, it comes as no surprise that the project is an exciting endeavor that showcases the dynamic range and creative audacity of both artists.
The combination of Peggy’s abrasive soundscapes and Danny Brown’s erratic flows and lyrical intensity generates frantic energy throughout SCARING THE HOES. While the production occasionally overwhelms their vocals, the rawness of the mixing actually contributes to the feeling of daring experimentation that forms the foundation of the album. The rough mixing appears deliberate, a stylistic choice rather than being perceived as a flaw.
Due to the intense lyrical performances and the distorted noise in some of the instrumentals, deciphering the lyrics can require effort. However, each track is packed with clever wordplay that ranges from funny to thought-provoking to disturbing. Although some moments may be unintelligible, they remain entertaining. As Peggy asks on the opening track, “What kind of rapping is this?!” The answer to that question may take time to fully grasp, but in the future, SCARING THE HOES will surely be acknowledged as a landmark album.
The wild and weird SCARING THE HOES is as a triumph of originality and creativity. It showcases the impressive collaboration between two of Hip Hop’s most intriguing left-field artists and has the potential to become a future classic in the genre.
Lt Headtrip & DOS4GW - Tap On The Glass
Lt. Headtrip, one of the founding members of The Karma Kids collective, teamed up with Melbourne producer DOS4GW to create their first collaborative album, Tap on the Glass. DOS4GW is known for his avant-garde drone soundscapes and has worked with artists like Curly Castro and Armand Hammer. In this album, he brings some of his darkest and most experimental beats to date, creating a dystopian soundscape that looms over the rest of the album.
Tap on the Glass features appearances from Collasoul Structure, SKECH185, Teddy Faley, Samurai Banana, ELUCID, and Christina Pecce. Pecce, in particular, adds an interesting layer to the album as she contrasts Headtrip’s growls with her beautiful, operatic singing on the standout cut “In Somnis Praestigiae”. Samurai Banana provides sharp turntablism, while the verses from ELUCID, SKECH185, Teddy Faley, and Collasoul Structure are gripping.
Headtrip’s low, gruff voice and big personality feed off the energy provided by the production and the features, dropping some of his most unsettling wordplay to date. The dark, loud, and aggressive Tap on the Glass is not for the weak of the heart. The album carries listeners from the dusty styles of raw East Coast rap to the fervor and existential dread of a classic tragedy. It’s enthralling as it is prescient and showcases some of the grittiest, darkest left-field underground Hip Hop of the year.
SKECH185 & Jeff Markey - He Left Nothing For The Swim Back
We love forward-thinking artists who dare to color outside the lines, making music different from what most others are coming up with. He Left Nothing For The Swim Back is such an envelope-pushing piece of music exactly to our liking. It is a collaborative album from rapper SKECH185 and producer Jeff Markey, and it is released on the Backwoodz Studioz – the indie label that has been at the forefront of progressive left-field Hip Hop for two decades now, in many ways taking up the mantle left by Def Jux. billy woods and Armand Hammer are Backwoodz Studioz’s flagship acts of course, but mostly everything that comes out of Backwoodz is excellent. He Left Nothing For The Swim Back is no exception. Jeff Markey’s instrumentals are chaotic and intense and slightly unsettling, perfect companions for SKECH185’s wild and haunting vocals. A bunch of strong features provide the icing on the cake, most notably from Backwoodz VIPs PremRock and billy woods. He Left Nothing For The Swim Back is not an album for the mainstream crowd, but it sure is one for listeners who dig other experimental Hip Hop projects that emerged out of the Backwoodz Studioz recently, or from labels like Def Jux and Anticon further in the past.
Onry Ozzborn - BlvckBeachBoi
Originally from Seattle, Washington, Onry Ozzborn has played a pivotal role in the North-Western alternative Hip Hop scene. Co-founding acts like Grayskul, Dark Time Sunshine, and Oldominion, Onry Ozzborn has established himself as a notable rapper and producer. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with heavyweights such as Aesop Rock, Sleep, Mr. Lif, P.O.S, Slug, and Busdriver, while also consistently releasing solo and group projects since the late 1990s.
Onry Ozzborn’s 2023 solo project, BlvckBeachBoi, showcases dope rhymes over solid beats, all enveloped in a slightly dark and left-field vibe. Noteworthy producers Blockhead, Smoke M2D6, and Rain have contributed their craftsmanship to the album’s instrumentals, while guest artists Aesop Rock, AJ Suede, Pigeon John, DJ King Shameek, Jesse the Tree, and Caleb Bue add their flavor. BlvckBeachBoi is a great listen, a project that should not be overlooked.
MIKE - Burning Desire
MIKE’s Hip Hop roots can be traced back to the dynamic streets of New York City’s underground scene where he became a crucial member of the sLUms collective in 2015. He learned from his peers while developing his own style, combining his reflective lyrics with the vibrant energy of the city. MIKE’s laid-back delivery and thought-provoking questions dive into topics such as grief, family, and identity, all while riding smooth, soulful beats that carve out his unique sound. Although MIKE has been consistent with his half-asleep flow, he also explores different beats and tempos, producing a diverse and dynamic sound.
The self-produced Burning Desire showcases his growth and maturity as both an artist and an individual, standing out against the flashy and loud personas often found in Hip Hop. This album is an intimate affair, with Mike’s verses whispering from the soul as he tackles universal themes with his signature flair.
Burning Desire is MIKE’s most cohesive album to date, with standout tracks such as “plz don’t cut my wings”, “Burning Desire”, “Let’s Have a Ball”, “Golden Hour”, and “African Sex Freak Fantasy” which highlights MIKE’s experimentation with a more aggressive beat and flow. Overall, if you are searching for a Hip Hop album that is authentic, soulful, and powerful, look no further than Burning Desire. This album deserves your attention and appreciation.
B. Cool-Aid - Leather Blvd
Leather Blvd is the third project by B. Cool-Aid, the duo of rapper Pink Siifu and producer Ahwlee, following BRWN (2017) and Syrup (2019). For Leather Blvd, Pink Siifu and Ahwlee took clear inspiration from jazz and classic neo-soul, musical influences that serve as the foundation for what is a hazy, almost meditative, listening experience that is consistent from beginning to end – and not a second too long even if the album has a runtime of over an hour. Pink Siifu’s raspy and sometimes quasi-whispered delivery works smoothly with the warm and immersive production, and guests like Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets, Liv.E, Jimetta Rose, Quelle Chris, Big Rube, and Denmark Vessey (among many others) appear to add vocal variation to the songs. Some of the tracks on Leather Blvd exceed the 5-minute mark (“We Good At Leather Tht Leather This” is the longest track at 9 minutes) – so this album might provide somewhat of a challenge for the short attention span people who have gotten used to the 25-minute projects we see so many of these days. We love the stretched-out feel of Leather Blvd though, Ahwlee’s perfectly produced soundscapes simply couldn’t be rushed and thankfully they aren’t. GUMBO’! (2021) was the last Pink Siifu winner, Leather Blvd is even better.
billy woods & Kenny Segal - Maps
“Maps is the new album from NYC rapper billy woods and LA producer Kenny Segal, their first full collaboration since 2019’s Hiding Places. Four years after that landmark record, the duo has reunited with a vengeance. Maps is a story of the road, or roads, taken and untaken; of living the dream and dreaming of another life. It is an album about trying to find your way home, after making your home wherever you lay your head.
“Kenny and I made more songs together before Hiding Places than we did after,” woods says. “I think we only collaborated once over the last four years and although we didn’t talk about it, I think we wanted to let that energy build again. Neither of us wanted to make Hiding Places 2. We needed to go on other journeys, artistic and otherwise, to come back and do something fresh.”
Produced in full by Kenny Segal, Maps features Danny Brown, ELUCID (Armand Hammer), Shabaka Hutchins, Sam Herring (Future Islands), Quelle Chris, Aesop Rock, Benjamin Booker, and ShrapKnel. Segal moves effortlessly through styles but everything is underpinned with deep basslines and mean drums laid down like railroad tracks. Weaving between poignant memoirs, deadpan humor, and incandescent bursts of surrealism, Maps cements both artists’ place amongst the best of their time.”
billy woods’ Armand Hammer partner, ELUCID, posed an interesting question upon the release of Maps: “Why is every billy woods album his best one?” This question is pertinent because it speaks to the consistency and quality of woods’ music – since the reboot of his career with the release of his monumental History Will Absolve Me album in 2012, woods has continued to impress with a string of exceptional solo and Armand Hammer releases.
On Maps, billy woods takes listeners on a road trip that depicts the ups and downs of touring, from the people and places to the food and the smells to the weariness of constant travel and performing. Meanwhile, Kenny Segal uses his often chaotic and dark atmosphere of boom-bap and jazz fusion to provide an immaculate supportive vision, creating a framework that allows woods’ complex wordplay to shine to the max. Expectations were high after Hiding Places, and expectations were met, and then some – the duo achieved a remarkable feat by producing something that is precisely what you might have anticipated and entirely novel simultaneously. With Maps, billy woods continues to redefine the possibilities of experimental underground Hip Hop – Maps is just another triumph for one of Hip Hop’s most innovative artists.
Deleteeglitch - Creature Of Habit
Deleteeglitch is an artist from Tampa, Florida and his Creature Of Habit is a must-listen for fans of abstract and experimental Hip Hop. The beats on Creature Of Habit are chaotic, wild, and at times abrasive, and clearly the focus of this project – where usually music serves as the backdrop for vocals, it seems it’s the other way around here. Deleteeglitch’s monotonously delivered stream-of-consciousness rhyming (and that of guests like Sleep Sinatra, Breezy Montclair, and Ghais Guevara) mostly gets ‘swallowed’ by his self-produced wall-of-noise instrumentals, and that’s OK in this case. Creature Of Habit is a challenging listen without a doubt, but an oddly captivating one.
Granuja & Jam Baxter - De Las Sombras
British emcee Jam Baxter, now based amidst Mexico City’s decay, cultivates a new existence, blending his surroundings into his art. With a balcony adorned with rare succulents, a notepad for lizard spotting, and a flea market typewriter, he crafted an album that transcends borders. Collaborating with Columbian rapper Granuja, who traded Medellín’s chaos for the hills of La Ceja, De las Sombras unfolds as a gothic, haunting spiral. Their cross-cultural exchange results in an album unified by doom. Life and death clash in a thick concoction, expertly soundtracked by haunting musical compositions. De las Sombras serves as an OST for supernatural flirtations, encapsulated by the castle on its artwork.
Aesop Rock - Integrated Tech Solutions
Integrated Tech Solutions is Aesop Rock’s tenth album, where he skillfully utilizes corporate jargon to dissect a parasitic worldview. The album’s ingenious, abstract, and esoteric weirdness breaks conventional norms, showcasing Aesop’s mastery of the craft. Departing from his previous loner-centric themes, Integrated Tech Solutions explores new aesthetic realms, focusing on technology and everyday life experiences.
The storytelling tracks infused with humor and non-sequiturs contribute to an album that feels like a genuine extension of Aesop’s interests. Integrated Tech Solutions presents Aesop Rock at his funniest, weaving absurd anecdotes and remarkable production into a cohesive whole. The album’s robotic and industrial instrumentals, while accessible, add a fresh dimension to Aesop’s impeccable flow, with him navigating away from the excessive wordplay that characterized some of his earlier work. The album’s synthesis of Aesop’s beats and live instrumentation pays homage to his Def Jux and Labor Days (2001) roots without mere imitation.
Throughout the album, Aesop showcases his storytelling prowess, reaching new heights with tracks like the standout “Aggressive Steven.” While some beats resemble his previous work, the wacky production and open lyricism, as seen in “Vititus,” elevate the listening experience. Notable tracks such as “Living Curfew,” “Kyanite Toothpick,” and “Black Snow” stand out with exceptional features from the likes of billy woods, Hanni El Khatib, Lealani, Rob Sonic, and Nikki Jean.
The synthesis of Aesop’s near-perfect flow with some of his best beats results in a sonic masterwork. Aesop Rock adds another feather to his cap with this exceptional release.
AJ Suede & Televangel - Parthian Shots
Parthian Shots is AJ Suede and Televangel’s second collaborative album, following last year’s Metatron’s Cube. Metatron’s Cube ended up in the top 40 of our best of 2022 list, and Parthian Shots is just as good as its predecessor. Televangel can always be relied upon to deliver a robust set of immaculately produced moody instrumentals – on this album a little less edgy than on Metatron’s Cube, but once again a perfect fit for AJ Suede’s smooth stream-of-consciousness flows. Parthian Shots has appearances from Onry Ozzborn, Rich Jones, Old Grape God, Milc, Nacho Picasso, Mr. Muthaf*ckin Exquire (“PBS Kids” is one of the album’s highlights), and Bruiser Wolf to help round out what is an abstract Hip Hop tour-de-force and another AJ Suede must-listen.
Onoe Caponoe - Concrete Fantasia
London-based psychedelic rap enigma Onoe Caponoe’s fifth studio album Concrete Fantasia continues his strong run. The career-defining Surf or Die (2019) remains his best album as far as we are concerned, but Concrete Fantasia comes close enough. It definitely is more accessible than his fourth full-length Invisible War (2020), which is a wonderful album in its own right, but probably too intense and unsettling to appeal to anyone but the most undaunted alt-rap listeners. The fact that Concrete Fantasia is easier to digest than Invisible War is, doesn’t mean it is an easy listen – there are always experimental edges to Onoe Caponoe’s music and this album is no exception. Like his previous albums, Concrete Fantasia demands attention and commitment – because of its runtime of close to an hour but also because there’s a lot to unpack, Onoe Caponoe’s instrumentals and content are too layered to take in casually. Not for everybody maybe, but fans of abstract and experimental Hip Hop will likely love Concrete Fantasia.
Fatboi Sharif & Steel Tipped Dove - Decay
Backwoodz Studioz has been at the forefront of experimental, left-field Hip Hop since the 2010s, with the elusive billy woods as the figurehead. This collaboration between Fatboi Sharif and Steel Tipped Dove is another Backwoodz hit, the third released in 2023, after billy woods and Kenny Segal’s Maps and SKECH185 and Jeff Markey’s He Left Nothing For The Swim Back.
Over the past few years, the New Jersey rapper Fatboi Sharif has made a name for himself with a vivid, disorienting, utterly unique sound. On his new album Decay, he joins forces with Steel Tipped Dove, a veteran New York producer known for his work with Armanda Hammer and R.A.P. Ferreira, among others. The haunting soundscapes Steel Tipped Dove produced for Decay are among the best he ever did, providing the perfect backdrops for Fatboi Sharif’s unsettling vocal performances.
Fatboi Sharif’s abstract mutterings will take some deciphering, but the feeling of disquiet that permeates the album is awesome. His mordant lyrics are delivered in a stretched-out, theatrical mutter that favors eerie, experimental, minor-key productions. Sharif is playful and charismatic, but he’s also driven to make music that makes you feel weird.
The left-field Decay offers a delicious slice of psychedelic horrorcore, surreal but thoroughly captivating. There are no guest-rappers on the album; the whole record is nothing but Fatboi Sharif rapping in jagged, unpredictable cadences over Steel Tipped Dove’s flickering, evocative tracks. This is one of many excellent projects Steel Tipped Dove’s name is attached to this year, and it elevates Fatboi Sharif to the next level.
Declaime & Theory Hazit - Rocketman
Declaime, also known as Dudley Perkins, is a rapper, singer, and producer from Oxnard, California. Theory Hazit is a rapper and producer from Winchester, Kentucky. Both are known for operating in Hip Hop’s left field, so these two seem like an ideal match for a collaborative album. Rocketman delivers on its promise: Declaime’s slightly off-the-wall rhyming style synergizes perfectly with Theory Hazit’s quirky beats. It’s not for everybody, but adventurous Hip Hop listeners who are willing to give Rocketman the time and attention it deserves will find plenty to enjoy.
Lone Wolf Son Of Cosmos - Thunder Dog
Thunderdog from producer/rapper Lone Wolf Son Of Cosmos is a strange one. Atypical in more ways than one, the most obvious is the way it is composed – there are 15 tracks, almost all around 5 minutes long, bucking the trend we see these days of short songs and short albums that cater to the attention deficit crowd. The sound is different from most other albums out today too, both the instrumentals and the vocals are kind of slow and monotonous from the first to the last track, coming off almost like one long song. Though this may not sound exactly inviting, it works here – this is a beautiful piece of music as far as we’re concerned. Lone Wolf Son Of Cosmos’s stream-of-consciousness slow-flow rhymes are perfectly synched with his hypnotic and dreamlike beats, making for an almost meditative listening experience you’ll find yourself returning to again and again.
Moka Only - In And Of Itself
Moka Only is a multi-talented artist based in Vancouver, British Columbia. With a nearly three-decades-long career, he has left an indelible mark on the Canadian music scene. Initially part of the renowned rap group Swollen Members for five years, Moka Only embarked on a primarily solo journey from 2005 onwards, releasing over 50 (!) solo projects and collaborating with an array of notable artists, including J Dilla, MF Doom, Kool Keith, and Del The Funky Homosapien, among others.
Moka Only’s music is a delightful fusion of Hip Hop with genres such as jazz and soul. Renowned for his smooth and laid-back flow, he always comes with witty and introspective lyrics that usually touch upon love, relationships, and personal growth themes. In And Of Itself showcases Moka Only’s signature style and musicianship. The seventeen-track project, entirely self-produced, seamlessly combines his smooth flows with dusty beats, which will captivate listeners from start to finish.
TMFSE & Shape - Naked Brunch
For Naked Brunch, New Jersey rapper TMFSE (The Man From Somewhere Else) teamed up with producer Shape, also from New Jersey. Naked Brunch is one of the rawest and bleakest albums you will listen to this year. TMSFE’s introspective lyrics are intensely personal, delving deep into his inner feelings, fears, and troublesome life experiences. Shape’s abstract instrumentals match the mood set by TMSFE’s lyrics – this album is a great example of how expertly produced music can enhance the impact of lyrical content. The cathartic Naked Brunch is not an easy listen, but it impresses because it feels pure and genuine – and also because the dark production is dope as f.
Hemlock Ernst & Height Keech - The Fall Collection
Hemlock Ernst, the rap alter ego of Samuel T. Herring, renowned as the frontman for Baltimore’s indie synth-rock band Future Islands, collaborates with Baltimore rapper and producer Height Keech for The Fall Collection. Following the success of Hemlock Ernst’s 2019 joint venture with Kenny Segal, Back At The House, The Fall Collection is another formidable album.
Attempts by rock singers who try to rap are more often miss than hit, but Hemlock Ernst pulls it off again, owing much to the dope instrumentals crafted by Height Keech. The hard-hitting drums provide an ideal canvas for Hemlock Ernst’s raspy and soulful delivery, whether he’s spitting verses or singing hooks. The chemistry between the two artists is palpable, emerging as a defining strength of the album.
Cohesiveness is a hallmark of The Fall Collection, featuring 14 tracks exclusively produced by Height Keech and vocals solely delivered by Hemlock Ernst, except for a standout feature by billy woods on “Inherit My Speech.” Absent are additional features or distractions, contributing to the album’s tight and focused nature. With its finely tuned blend of production and vocals, The Fall Collection rightfully earns its place on this list.
Danny Brown - Quaranta
Danny Brown, known for pushing the boundaries of experimental Hip Hop, has garnered a diverse fanbase with his unfiltered and unorthodox expression of emotions. With each new album release, anticipation runs high among fans eager to hear his unique style. Quaranta was particularly anticipated, especially with Danny proclaiming it as a sequel to his breakthrough album X X X (2011). However, listeners will quickly realize that Quaranta is different from what they expected. Contrary to the anticipation of a high-energy and unhinged album, Quaranta showcases Danny’s most lowkey endeavor yet, demonstrating his maturity, introspection, and wisdom as he fearlessly confronts his demons and navigates the conflict between his two personas.
The album’s production, while toning down the lyrical and thematic intensity, maintains Danny’s mind-bending style. Although the beats may not reach the off-the-wall nature of his previous works like X X X, Old (2013), and Atrocity Exhibition (2016), they remain diverse, unhinged, lush, and, most importantly, unpredictable. The tracklist offers a broad spectrum of instrumentals and moods, ranging from the raw guitar solo on “Quaranta,” to the overwhelming sinister synths on “Dark Sword Angel,” and the soothing keys of “Celibate.” This versatility keeps listeners on their toes throughout the album.
Quaranta caters to every fan of Danny’s music, striking a balance between tracks like “Dark Sword Angel,” “Jenn’s Terrific Vacation,” and “Tantor” for those who loved his more chaotic days, and introspective tracks like “Down Wit It,” “Hanami,” and “Quaranta” for those who appreciate his lowkey conscious side. The album feels like a culmination of Danny’s past, a reflection that stays true to himself.
Danny’s performances on Quaranta are impeccable, evidencing a battle between his druggy ego and his more grounded self. While he maintains his iconic yelp on some songs, his normal voice dominates, possibly symbolizing a new era for him. The passion and dynamism in his performances, from the insane rapping on “Dark Sword Angel” to the vulnerability on “Down Wit It,” highlight his artistic range.
Thematically, Quaranta is Danny’s most introspective album, delving into past addictions, mental health struggles, challenging adolescence and adulthood, traumas, and even love. While the second half of the album may not match the intensity of the first, with some forgettable moments, the overall experience remains strong. Danny’s maturity shines through as he enters middle age, offering engaging lyrics and head-nodding beats, further solidifying his position as one of modern rap’s finest.
Those expecting a return to the intensity of his Atrocity Exhibition magnum opus may be disappointed. However, they should be able to appreciate the transparent chill, and emotional nature of the album, acknowledging Danny’s ability to adapt and rap over diverse beats. In essence, Quaranta is a great project from one of the most uncompromising, creatively brilliant, and unique rappers of his generation. It represents Danny’s humanity at its core, marking a significant point in his discography.
Akai Solo - Verticality/Singularity
Akai Solo followed 2022’s excellent Spirit Roaming with two new albums, Only The Strong Remain and Verticality///Singularity in 2023. The former album is available exclusively on the new Break All Records website, while the latter is also on Bandcamp. Producers on the projects include Earl Sweatshirt, Nicholas Craven, Wavy Bagels, Roper Williams, August Fannon, TwentyFifthNight, and Pepper Adams.
While we still consider Spirit Roaming his best work, this Akai Solo double header undeniably showcases his evolution as an artist. While continuing to embrace a distinct left-field style, it also demonstrates a newfound accessibility compared to his earlier releases.
Alaska & Steel Tipped Dove - The Structural Dynamics Of Flow
Atom Family alumni Alaska’s The Structural Dynamics Of Flow marks one of his most accessible works yet. The album features a diverse range of tracks, each carefully crafted by producer Steel Tipped Dove, who is on a hot streak in 2023. Fresh from his Backwoodz Studioz debut with Call Me When You’re Outside, Steel Tipped Dove delivers a jazzy and hazy production on The Structural Dynamics Of Flow. The beats effortlessly transition between ambient loops and classic boom-bap, perfect backdrops for Alaska’s bars. His lyrical content covers a variety of topics, ranging from current trends to more obscure themes, all filtered through his unique perspective and delivered with sharp precision. Overall, The Structural Dynamics Of Flow is a great album that will especially appeal to fans of Hip Hop with a slight left-field touch.
AWOL One - Scribbleface
AWOL One is a veteran emcee/producer from the Los Angeles underground, known for a long string of solo albums and his work as part of groups such as The Chemikillz, Three-Eyed Cowz, The Shape Shifters, and The Cloaks. AWOL One’s music is always edgy and firmly left-field, and Scribbleface is no exception – in fact, this album crosses genre boundaries constantly. Truthfully, it’s hard to stick any specific genre label on this album – we get plenty of dope Hip Hop beats throughout the album’s nineteen tracks, but there are industrial sounds all over the album too, plus electronic, punk, and rock influences, and singing as well as rapping – all of it sometimes on one single track.
We, for one, love forward-thinkers like AWOL One – and then even for us, his music can be hit-or-miss. Scribbleface is a winner though, one of AWOL One’s best-rounded and most enjoyable projects in a while. Fans of middle-of-the-road, straightforward Hip Hop may want to give Scribbleface a miss – but more adventurous listeners with an appreciation for envelope-pushing experimental Hip Hop will find a lot to enjoy here.
Day Tripper - What A Time To Be DEAD
Day Tripper is an artist from Atlanta, active as a solo artist and as half of the alt-Hip Hop duo The Difference Machine. The Difference Machine released a strong project – Unmasking The Spirit Fakers – last year, one of the best left-field Hip Hop albums of 2022, and part of our best-of-the-year list too. What A Time To Be DEAD is a Day Tripper solo project, and it’s just as good as last year’s The Difference Machine album. It’s not as dense and hard-edged as Unmasking The Spirit Fakers, but the album’s psychedelic instrumentals are equally engaging. Day Tripper’s bars and flows are great too, his stream-of-consciousness rhymes perfectly gel with the appealing musical backdrops. What A Time To Be DEAD is a layered piece of music, an album that gets better with each and every listen.
Raw Poetic & Damu The Fudgemunk - Away Back In
Away Back In is a remarkable and celestial blend of Hip Hop, jazz, and garage rock by rapper Jason Moore, known as Raw Poetic. The album is produced by Damu the Fudgemunk and features the guitar work of P-Fritz. The album opens with the lead single, “Ease Side,” which reignites and revitalizes the jazz elements of Moore’s recent work. P-Fritz’s smooth guitar riffs and bass lines lay the foundation for Moore to dissect the emotions of a carefree relationship.
Moore and P-Fritz’s artistic symbiosis is evident throughout Away Back In. Moore’s ability to melodically narrate everyday experiences in the intricate tapestry of modern existence harmonizes uniquely with P-Fritz’s consistent capacity to craft musical panoramas that complement these narratives.
The lyrics oscillate between sung and spoken, taking listeners on a dark and melodious journey. In “Bird’s Eye,” an exploration of tumultuous moments in the twilight of time, the guitars cascade into overdrive, fashioning an eerie resonance. Meanwhile, “Sometime After Midnight” probes the essence of racism in the American context.
Despite the thematic complexity, threads of hope persist, evident in tracks like the spirited “The Dank-ish,” and the eponymous piece “A Way Back In,” a song commemorating the extensive history and camaraderie shared by Moore and P-Fritz. The album’s closure, “Human Kindness,” orchestrates an unlikely fusion of folk-style guitar and Hip Hop, presenting the listener with a remarkably optimistic perspective on human nature.
Away Back In is an engaging and soul-infused opus unlike anything else released in 2023. It is an imperative auditory experience for enthusiasts of innovative Hip Hop and jazz aficionados.
Armand Hammer - We Buy Diabetic Test Strips
Armand Hammer, the New York duo composed of ELUCID and billy woods, has released the best Hip Hop album of the year with their latest, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips – released under Backwoodz Studioz, the label almost singlehandedly responsible for rescuing the Hip Hop year 2023 from mediocrity. This album is a vibe, giving you a taste of the duo’s lyrical genius, taste for experimental beats, and a sound that’s pure Armand Hammer.
The producers on this joint are a wild mix—JPEGMAFIA, Child Actor, Pudge, Preservation, DJ Haram, August Fanon, El-P, Steel Tipped Dove, Messiah Musik, Kenny Segal, Willie Green, Black Noi$e, Jeff Markey, Elucid, and Sebb Bash contribute beats. It could’ve been a mess, but no, these beats come together in a mix that’s both cohesive and out there, showcasing Armand Hammer’s knack for riding different vibes. The album’s got an impressive array of guests too, including Moor Mother and Pink Siifu.
We Buy Diabetic Test Strips is one of Armand Hammer’s best, and that’s saying a lot with Paraffin (2018) and Haram (2021) in the conversation. No skips on the tracklist here. Check the opening track, “Landlines”, setting the mood with its eerie atmosphere. ELUCID and woods drop cryptic and introspective rhymes, diving into memory, nostalgia, and the ticking clock. Then hit up “Switchboard”, a more upbeat joint with a bouncy beat and catchy hook. The lyrics stay deep, though, as the duo breaks down tech’s role in our lives.
Standout tracks include “Trauma Mic” (featuring Pink Siifu and produced by DJ Haram), a sonic assault with a banging beat and distorted guitars. ELUCID and woods spit raw and visceral bars, facing their personal demons and the world’s injustices, and “The Gods Must Be Crazy” (produced by El-P), a chaotic and unpredictable ride, with El-P’s signature production providing the perfect backdrop for the duo’s mind-bending lyrics.
Armand Hammer keeps it real throughout the album with their trademark bars, unorthodox flows, and thought-provoking lyrics. They cover everything from age and history to politics, hitting you with refreshing and challenging perspectives. The beats match the gritty tales of modern living, swinging between harsh industrial beats and dreamy interludes. Armand Hammer’s been doing their thing for a decade, and We Buy Diabetic Test Strips only solidifies their spot in the underground Hip Hop scene. It’s a bold and commanding LP that captures Armand Hammer’s journey while pushing boundaries. With a rich tapestry of lyrics and a diverse sound palette, Armand Hammer keeps owning the game in the underground Hip Hop world.