• Plan B, 'Ill Manors (Music From And Inspired By the Original Motion Picture)' (WMG)

    Recently released U.K. film Ill Manors is an orgy of heroin shooting galleries, illegal immigrant women enslaved by Russian mobsters, a young bwoy doing his first murders, a cracked-out prostitute pimped for a cell phone, and an infant baby sold for cash and, in a climactic scene, thrown out an apartment window. What caused all this madness? These lost souls are products of broken homes and refugees of foster care. What they need, apparently, are responsible mummies and daddies. Rapper/producer Ben Drew not only directed and wrote the screenplay for this East London council estate drama, but recorded its soundtrack under his alias, Plan B. Despite achieving two No. 1 albums in his native Britain (including this one), he hasn't inspired the sort of American cult following that Mike "the Streets" Skinner engendered with his 2002 debut, Original Pirate Material.

  • Masta Ace, 'Ma_Doom: Son of Yvonne' (Fat Beats)

    He raids MF Doom’s spice rack for old beats, but they add no zest to his golden age hip-hop memories.

  • Aesop Rock, 'Skelethon' (Rhymesayers)

    With Kimya Dawson in tow and beat poems about Converse and haircuts, Aes Rock is the hip rap-dad you never had.

  • Visioneers, 'Hipology' (BBE)

    Marc Mac’s nu-jazz versions of classic hip-hop breaks (like "Apache") is catnip for easy listening aesthetes.

  • Open Mike Eagle, '4NML HSPTL' (Fake Four)

    The world hates backpackers; what’s a sardonically funny L.A. MC to do — at least Danny Brown likes him.

  • Del the Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought, 'Attractive Sin' (Parallel Thought Ltd.)

    Del's freestyling and shitting on "microwave rap"; who needs hooks anyway?

  • Oddisee, 'People Hear What They See' (Mello Music Group)

    The D.C. producer raps more than last year’s gem Odd Seasons; sounds both inspired and clumsy.

  • Big K.R.I.T., 'Live From the Underground' (Island Def Jam)

    Big K.R.I.T.'s Dirty South classicism is a gift and a curse. For all his bellicosity — celebrating "Country Shit" and rubber-band men and eating collard greens — he simply isn't as amorally opportunistic as, say, Gucci Mane, who probably would rap about selling china white to grade-school kids if it netted him more downloads. For K.R.I.T., the Mississippi rapper's love for Southern hip-hop's pioneers is as much professorial as it is personal, and he tends to package his songs in a sociological context that helpfully canonizes his heroes while explaining their world to cultural tourists. He's what was once called a "conscious rapper," and that quality has helped him win fans in unlikely places — last week, the ever-so-tasteful NPR hosted an advance stream of his major-label debut, Live from the Underground, a rare event for a rap record.

  • Doseone, 'G is for Deep' (Anticon)

    Doseone’s "singing" project is like his speed-raps: Laptop funk, synth washes, and elliptical, heartfelt poesy.

  • Cadence Weapon, 'Hope in Dirt City' (Upper Class)

    The Alberta rapper evokes the Last Poets' "Mean Machine," mocks weed carriers, struggles to care.

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