• THEESatisfaction, 'awE naturalE' (Sub Pop)

    Seattle bohos chop future-soul beats to fragments while paying tribute to their inner Goddess.

  • Gift of Gab, 'The Next Logical Progression' (Quannum)

    Bay Area icon’s blue-collar tales prove that being an aging “conscious” rapper ain’t bad.

  • The Darkmonk, 'True Underlord' (Metal Face)

    One of MF Doom’s notorious Doombots time-warps to the '90s NYC underground for lo-fi beats, clumsy raps.

  • Brother Ali, 'The Bite Marked Heart' (Rhymesayers)

    Backpack stalwart moralizes on rap-star sex, dissects a bad marriage. Don’t worry, it’s just a demo.

  • Chiddy Bang, 'Breakfast' (Virgin)

    The Philly duo refines fame-obsessed mall-rap with sugary pop, heartfelt lyrics and, sadly, forgettable songs.

  • BBU, 'Bell Hooks' (Mishka)

    Forget Chicago juke: This year’s about killing billionaires, Nirvana/Ultramagnetic loops, and clowning white folks.

  • Busdriver, 'Beaus$Eros' (Fake Four)

    Weird electro-ballads and tongue-twister raps increasingly leave harsh taste. But “Picking Band Names” is funny.

  • Mobb Deep, 'Black Cocaine EP' (Infamous/RED)

    For their first release in five years, New York's signature superthug rap duo — Queensbridge natives Prodigy and Havoc — offer a 20-minute appetizer that's short, sharp, and impressively tart. Freshly freed from incarceration (on a gun-possession charge), Prodigy sounds unusually reflective, at least by his standards. "I did my little bid... my rage is unchanged," he raps on the Nas-assisted "Get It Forever," his anger simmering under bleak gangster-funk loops and a cold-hearted, stentorian flow. He does give out pounds to relative new jacks — "Classic like Biggie, but we fresh like Minaj is," he boasts on the title track (produced by Alchemist). Meanwhile, Havoc promises that he'll "light that motherfucker up like Christmas / And have you leaking that eggnog liquid." Just in time for the holidays.

  • Childish Gambino, 'Camp' (Glass Note)

    Childish Gambino, 'Camp' (Glass Note)

    Childish Gambino's Camp is a bit of a mess. It veers wildly from poignant emotions to maudlin histrionics, often in the same song. On penultimate track"That Power," the rapper encourages Freaks and Geeks comparisons with a poem about serenading his childhood crush at the end of summer camp, that annual ritual of pubescent awkwardness, only to be mocked by her and her friends. It will have you recoiling in sympathetic embarrassment and reaching for the Kleenex at the same time. "I wish I could say this is a story about how I got on the bus a boy and got off a man, more cynical, hardened, mature, and shit," he says.

  • Lateef the Truthspeaker, 'Firewire' (Quannum Projects)

    Lateef the Truthspeaker, 'Firewire' (Quannum Projects)

    Lateef's solo debut feels like an afterthought ?following two decades of collaborations with Quannum homies Lyrics Born (as Latyrx), Chief Xcel (as the underrated Maroons), and DJ Shadow ("Mashin on the Motorway"). Firewire is chaotically sequenced, like the Bay Area rapper scoured his hard drive for usable material without checking whether the songs actually blended together logically. So the album depends ?entirely on Lateef's outsize talents: He sings and raps with equal skill, and earns the spotlight with optimistic electro-pop forays ("So Sexy," "Testimony"). Meanwhile, the unabashed pop-rock of "Only Thought" and "Left Alone" suggests he actually may love Greg Kihn as much as Too Short.

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