Between the packages that turn up on my Jamaica Plain doorstep and the envelopes that stuff my Phoenix mailbox, I have enough music to start a mixtape spot in Downtown Crossing. I try to entertain every effort — I'd even contend that no rap critic in America listens to more albums than I do — but it's impossible to keep my ears pressed against the entire hip-hop spectrum, and I can hardly click a keyboard every time a track excites me. So this super-duper on-line exclusive is a rad opportunity for me to glorify a long list of expected heaters (and to bring back the word "rad"). As I always caution when I sift through and evaluate hundreds of CDs so you don't have to: please don't complain about "the state of rap music" until you've quit that childish Lil' Wayne habit and downloaded every album I recommend here. Why don't you start with the new DOOMmasterpiece, Born like This (out March 31 on Lex)?
DRIVEN Revere native M-Dot is one of the most poised MCs with the most to say around Boston.
In Massachusetts, North Shore noisemaker M-DOT is finally slated to drop his solo debut, Musically Driven over Time (EMS Productions, date TBA). If this Revere native's name rings familiar, it's because he's clocked more than 200 shows in the past year alone, and because I've been heavily propping him. He's one of the most poised MCs with the most to say around Boston, and it doesn't hurt that cats like Edo G, 7L, and Krumbsnatcha are jumping on the project.
Why does MR. LIF deserve his own paragraph in this stellar round-up when he left Boston for Philadelphia? For one, the shorter Perceptionist left the Def Jux albatross behind this time and made an album sonically reminiscent of his Brick Records work. For two, the City of Brotherly Love (and a whole lot of gang shootings) has done a lot of good for the Boston rapper most likely to be labeled as "cerebral." I Heard It Today (Bloodbot Tactical, April 21) is the Economist to the last Nas album's Time magazine. That's right, America — some hip-hop artists are capable of identifying things other than the obvious.
Also be pumped about monSTAPLEx by RADIx (Pro Talent, April 14). I first dug these dudes when they were passing out budget CD-R singles with photocopied inserts; then I invested in Quite Nyce and Seek's impeccable ping-pong rhymes on their first disc, The Staple, and I've since defended them to numerous lazy Boston MCs, DJs, and producers who can't stand the idea that the duo have made it out of Massachusetts.
As I check my watch, I see it's about time to stay tuned for the third installment of SINGAPORE KANE's Welcome to Singapore series (Team Shug, date TBA). Kane — a Big Shug protégé for three years now — is probably the most commercial talent in the Bean. And by that I mean he's one cat who can hang with Jadakiss and Hova, not a lame dude who might accidentally score some cornball hit about Moët chugging.
Although he can't be considered local anymore, Southie slugger SLAINE will be the most anticipated Bostonian this season, with a DVD titled Behind the 8-Ball and his A Brand You Can Trust group banger with House of Pain revival unit LA COKA NOSTRA (Suburban Noize, date TBA). If that's not enough to numb you, consider that homeboy has the lead single — "Alison James" — off Jedi Mind Tricks recluse beat genius STOUPE's debut solo outing, Decalogue (Babygrande, March 31).
Surveying the north and through foreign waters for a moment before drifting west: rumor has it that wicked and weird Canadian eclecticist BUCK 65 is tuning up Bike for Three (Anticon, May 26); meanwhile, Toronto pop savant K-OS is preparing wet aural-gasms for Yes! (EMI, March 31), LADY SOVEREIGN is piecing together Jigsaw (Midget Records, April 14), and I'm running out of witty puns. Glitch-hop heads who enjoy accumulating wicked interesting but virtually unpronounceable discs that will likely never be played more than once might also get amped for Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian from PREFUSE 73 (Warp, April 14).
Moving to the left side: I put my dough on Detroit rapper FINALE. Even with clear home-town influences — and beats from the likes of Black Milk and J Dilla — he's not one of those Midwestern MCs who values sound over substance. The Detroit solo beast rhymes more like Tonedeff and Oktober Zero than Fat Ray or Royce da 5'9" — which may explain why this flow aficionado has been steadily bumping Finale's A Pipe Dream and a Promise (Interdependent Media, May 5).
Although I hardly care for most West Coast fare, there are some artists — Planet Asia, Murs, B-Real, Del, Sick Jacken, and Evidence, for starters — who keep me spun. Since his excellent 2008 disc, Show You the World, Living Legend the GROUCH has joined that club, and I'm anticipating his Say G&E (Legendary Music, April 7) smorgasbord with co-defendant Eligh. And, of course, my favorite Alkaholik, Tash, is back on his own for the first time in nearly a decade with Control Freek (Amalgam Digital, April 27).