It’s a new year and the Underground Report is back to make sure HipHopDX readers don’t miss out on some gems from the end of 2017. Before the 2018 releases start overflowing and occupying all your listening time, check out these seven tracks that flew under the radar.
Chris Dave & The Drumhedz – Destiny N Stereo f. Elzhi, Phonte & Eric Roberson
Every time Elzhi and Phonte have collaborated, they’ve produced gold. So, it should come as no shock that they did it again on Chris Dave’s “Destiny N Stereo.” The horn-heavy production alone is irresistible and bolstered by the contributions of two of the elite lyricists from the past 15 years. Elzhi and Phonte are like veteran ballplayers, taking rookies to school with their expertise on the lyrical court. “Destiny N Stereo” will send you on a trip down memory lane, prompting any Elzhi or Phonte fan to revisit their classic collaborations “Hiding Place” and “Not Here Anymore.”
MC Paul Barman – Happy Holidays
MC Paul Barman is an enigma. If you weren’t heavily into independent Hip Hop in the 2000s, his name holds no weight. But Barman is a perennial pick for “your favorite underground rapper’s favorite underground rapper” despite his very limited discography, working with quite a few legends — Prince Paul, Masta Ace, Del The Funky Homosapien and DOOM to name a few — during his unique career. After staying quiet on the solo front for eight years except for some stray guest verses, Barman returned in December with “Happy Holidays” produced by hitmaker Mark Ronson. The song doesn’t even last two minutes but displays why he’s held in such high regard. The track was released by indie powerhouse Mello Music Group, so maybe there’s hope of him releasing another album.
Max Minelli – Angels With Broken Wings
Baton Rouge’s national stars can be counted on one hand. Young Bleed, Boosie Badazz, Webbie, Kevin Gates and most recently YoungBoy Never Broke Again are the only acts (so far) to truly sustain mainstream recognition for any significant amount of time. But the city’s been bubbling with talent for years, none greater than Max Minelli. It’s a crime that Minelli hasn’t had that breakthrough moment yet because he’s been the best rapper in the city for almost two decades. He’s keenly aware of never receiving his just due, as heard on the excellent “Angels With Broken Wings” from his late December release The Max Tape. This standout cut is just one of the heartfelt gems from his latest project and a great example of why he’s affectionately referred to as Max Pain.
Franco$ & Clyde Shankle – Grime
I’ve made no secret about my affinity for Down 2 Earth, featuring them in the first edition of the Underground Report. The group’s Fair Share LP rightly earned a nod in DX’s Most Slept-On Albums of 2017, but they also have some intriguing side projects. One such project arrived in early December when D2E member Clyde Shankle teamed up with Oakland’s Franco$ for an 11-track release titled Fables. The whole record is worthy of a spin, but “Grime” is a must-listen cut. Shankle and Franco$ are on point with the rhymes, buoyed by an intoxicating beat from Wax Roof.
Matt McGhee – Travail
The DMV has, in recent years, emerged as a talent-rich hub for Hip Hop. D.C., Maryland and Virginia have gone from having a small presence to regularly making waves on a national level. With that in mind, it’s always smart to keep an eye on the region’s emerging artists. Matt McGhee immediately stands out on the scene due to his ability to rap and produce. The dual threat’s skills are on full display in his “Travail” single, which features deft rhymes and a beat that’ll have you head-nodding within seconds. Add this cut to his standout collaborations with Chaz French and Soulection’s Lakim, and you’ve got a potential breakout star in 2018.
Bobby Bucher & Chase Moore – Nosebleeds
Chase Moore has quietly become one of the most consistent producers on the independent scene. The veteran beatmaker’s been at it for years, gotten unconventional publicity (for a producer) by crafting beats for the popular Team Backpack cyphers and contributed to the recent battle rap showcase, Non Perishables. He’s also got a group of impressive artists he regularly produces for in Illmaculate, Sahtyre and Bobby Bucher. The latter and Moore linked up for a project, Chopper Read, in December that I’m glad I didn’t skip during the flood of year-end releases. The nine-track effort shows a surprising amount of versatility, but it’s at its best when the two stick to the basics. “Nosebleeds” is an example of this with a soulful sample and straightforward rhymes that are more than effective.
Estee Nack & Fly Anakin – Escape To New York
Fans who believe no rappers are staying true to the Golden Era just aren’t looking hard enough. There’s a wide array of MCs who aren’t trying to keep up with what’s hot and sticking to traditional styles. Fly Anakin of the Mutant Academy collective and Estee Nack of Tragic Allies are two of these like-minded artists who collaborated on “Escape To New York.” The song title is fitting, with a dusty sample from the crates that’s straight out of the classic New York Hip Hop playbook. Anakin and Nack are from Virginia and Massachusetts, respectively, but it’s clear they grew up on a heavy dose of NYC rap. Those looking for a fresh dose of that sound can stop their search and keep an eye on these two.