Czarface featuring Action Bronson - "It's Raw"
I'm going to say something very predictable about this track. With Action Bronson on the cut with Inspectah Deck, given Bronson's vocal similarities to Ghostface Killah, it feels like a Wu-Tang track. I know I know, such an easy observation, but what can you do really? The song has an interesting dynamic within its cast of characters. This Czarface supergroup of 7L & Esoteric and Deck makes for a solid combination of boom-bap and the obscure. Throwing Bronson's grimy street witticisms and cheeky punchlines into the mix on "It's Raw" turns this into a multi-dimensional party. If that doesn't remind you of the glory days of the Wu then I don't know what will. - Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
Blue Sky Black Death & Deniro Farrar - "Just In Case The World Ends"
Blue Sky Black Death's projects are released in a way that mirrors the producers' sounds: emerging from the ether and staying in the shadows. Before word of mouth kicks in, some internet rabbit hole diving is required to discover the duo's latest work as they forsake the typical promotional pummeling of the YMCMB and MMG mixtapes. The new Cliff of Death EP with Deniro Farrar pairs up the North Carolina emcee's evocative and raw street tales with ethereal B.S.B.D. instrumentals that match Farrar's subject matter. There's that swampy evil sound that boosts the threats in "Danger" and the spacey eve-of-the-apocalypse vibe heard on Cliff's opener which got itself a video this week. Directed by Anthony Supreme "Just In Case The World Ends" - which reminds me of Killarmy's "Swinging Swords" on L.S.D. - proves that D.I.Y. can slay big budget by focusing on cinematography - like the blown out pink and yellow sun spots of the forest scenes - and storyline - the twist that Deniro and his partner are actually in a state-side warzone of drugs and duffel bags rather than one overseas fighting for freedom. The video ends with the lead character set up and the definition of greed acting as a "moral of this story" outro rarely seen in a Hip Hop video. The same messages for change appear throughout the album in all of Farrar's descriptions of violence. This makes Cliff Of Death even stronger lyrically than one of my favorite albums of 2012, Blue Sky Black Death and Nacho Picasso's Exalted. Don't sleep on either. - Michael Sheehan
Jarren Benton, Dizzy Wright, Hopsin, SwizZz & DJ Hoppa - "Funk Volume 2013"
Whether "Stranded On Death Row," "The Symphony" or "Bring It On," every meaningful label in Hip Hop needs those trumpets blowing for an artist-by-artist roster posse cut. Although little may be known of Funk Volume's inner-workings, the label is poised to diversify in 2013. In this newly-released video, Hopsin, who's been F.V.'s flagship artist for years is joined by Decatur's Jarren Benton, Vegas' Dizzy Wright and SoCal's SwizZz. This cut meshes the many styles and combines the collective hunger of the guerilla label that seemingly has the ability to run with any major label's output and commercial success, without the resources at its disposal. Moreover, there's an artist on Funk Volume that appeals to nearly every niche and subsect of Hip Hop, evident on this quartet - all with a desire to share personal truths and take risks. 2011 saw Mac Miller bowl the charts over from an indie. 2012 followed suit with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. My money's on the casino table that Funk Volume has it in 2013, and perhaps with more than one project/artist. - Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)