The Underground Report kicked off its first edition of the year by reflecting on some underappreciated work from 2018. Now, it’s time to focus on the dope music dropping in 2019.

With all of the first quarter releases in the books, I’ve selected a trio of projects worthy of recognition. And for avid readers of the Report, some of the names should be familiar.

All three of these projects clock in at about 30 minutes or less too, so catching up won’t require a major time investment.

Tuamie & Fly Anakin – Emergency Raps Vol. 4

Virginia’s Mutant Academy has joined the likes of Griselda Records as Hip Hop’s current flagbearers for boom-bap rap. The collective runs deep with artists well versed in the style, and Tuamie leads the charge as one of their main producers. While his work can be found throughout the Academy’s discography, his Emergency Raps series is his own showcase that pairs him with a different rapper on each volume.

Vol. 4’s co-star is Fly Anakin, who excels atop Tuamie’s soulful samples and hard-hitting drums. The project is filled with punchy, brief cuts that hover around the two-minute mark and allow Anakin to solely focus on spitting slick rhymes. He also crafts some noteworthy hooks on the more extensive cuts (“Karl Kani”) and goes bar-for-bar with some of his collaborators (“Splinters” featuring Ankhlejohn & al.divino). But above all else, Anakin and Tuamie’s chemistry is what makes this project work so well. Emergency Raps Vol. 4 is a prime example of a rapper and producer completely in sync.

Alfred Banks – Road To A Rolex

Alfred Banks seems poised for a breakthrough. While others from his hometown of New Orleans have inked major label deals, Banks has been focused on his independent grind and it’s worked out well. He starred in a Volkswagen commercial and recently wrapped up a tour opening for the increasingly popular Tank & The Bangas. Still, Banks hasn’t reached that undeniable status where his name becomes synonymous with New Orleans Hip Hop.

His new EP, Road To A Rolex, hones in on his aspirations for something greater. Banks is proudly operating in the underground scene and even explains how it’s benefited him on “Expansion.” But years of establishing his bona fides have him ready for new heights — something he makes abundantly clear on “Shoulder Chip” and “My Time.”

The project is a dramatic departure from his last LP, 2017’s The Beautiful, which was a concept album about his brother’s suicide. I highly recommend listening to the album and this new EP to get a true sense of Banks’ versatility. Road To A Rolex is entertaining but only a small portion of what he and his go-to producer CZA are capable of in the studio.

Trizz – The Basement

The West Coast is seemingly overflowing with talent, but one artist for Report readers to keep their eyes (and ears) on is Trizz. The SoCal rhymer has worked with everyone from Brotha Lynch Hung to CunninLynguists, but he’s really hit his stride in recent years.

Trizz’s first release of 2019, The Basement, is a companion piece to last summer’s The Attic. The Basement is compelling on its own though, not requiring any previous reference point to enjoy. It’s also much darker than its predecessor with cuts that could feel at home in a horror movie.

The opener, “Thanos,” is among Trizz’s finest creations with its ominous production and relentless rhymes. The title track is also effective at shaping the project’s sinister vibe, giving The Basement a strong beginning with a satisfying end.