• A pale kid calamity artist

    El-P, 'Cancer for Cure' (Fat Possum)

    El-P occupies a singular perch. The Brooklyn rapper-producer has never sounded quite like anyone else, not even in the late 1990s, when the Sasquatch thumps and xylophone flows of his Company Flow crew birthed a generation of similar-minded travelers, spawned the hugely successful independent label Definitive Jux, and briefly transformed the hip-hop underground into a land of no-wave art-jazz and super-scientifical theorizing. Now, ten years after Def Jukies last ruled the indie circuit (and two years after the label went dormant), the new generation whines about living in the suburbs, doing prescription drugs, and drinking sizzurp while molesting white girls, all while begging Jay-Z to cosign them. Meanwhile, the man who declared himself "independent as fuck" swims against the tide. I mean, what can you even compare Cancer for Cure to… Nine Inch Nails?

  • Blockhead, 'Interludes After Midnight' (Ninja Tune)

    He’ll "Meet You at Tower Records" with jazz licks, blunted breaks. Just don’t call it trip-hop.

  • Lushlife, 'Plateau Vision' (Western Vinyl)

    Philly artist drops more names than the Game and cold-crushes golden-age rap into melancholy chillwave.

  • Quantic & Alice Russell With the Combo Barbaro, 'Look Around the Corner' (Tru Thoughts)

    A Colombian jazz band and Russell’s raspy vocals freshen this polyglot salsa-soul stew.

  • Quakers

    Portishead's Geoff Barrow Spills on Quakers Rap Project

    If you're anxiously waiting for the next Portishead album… then keep waiting. Producer and spokesperson Geoff Barrow is too distracted working on about a million other things: There's his Invada label, home to enigmatic chanteuse Anika and sludgegazers Though Forms; there's his post-rock band Beak>, who are due for a sophomore album this year; and Drokk, an homage to the comic book hero Judge Dredd. Then there is Quakers, an ensemble featuring Australian beatmaker Ashley "Katalyst" Anderson and longtime Portishead engineer Stuart "7Stu7" Matthews. (Barrow, for his part, uses the alias "Fuzzface.") Quakers aims to shake the foundations of indie hip-hop with a rolling cast of MCs from durable vets like dead prez and Bootie Brown of the Pharcyde to new jacks like Synato Watts and FC the Truth.

  • De La Soul's Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present, 'First Serve' (Duck Down Music)

    French duo 2&4’s middling beats can’t dim De La’s corny-yet-sweet-natured rap parody.

  • DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles, 'The Kolexxxion' (Gracie Productions)

    Bumpy’s tales of “the Gang Starr Bus” and bitchmade MCs save an hour of drab boom-bap.

  • Iron Solomon, 'Monster' (Duck Down)

    This is the new indie-rap normal: Orchestra strings, synths, a children’s choir, anxious dreams of pop glory.

  • Quakers, 'Quakers' (Stones Throw)

    Geoff Barrow-helmed project is Portishead-meets-Dilla-meets-Madlib-meets-Alchemist... plus a lot of indie rappers.

  • Serengeti, 'Kenny Dennis EP' (Anticon)

    The Chi-town jokester fronts like an early '90s knucklehead, beefs with Shaq Fu, sounds like Funkdoobiest.

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