Angel Haze Most folk who copped last year’s King mixtape when it first dropped realised that Angel Haze (facebook / twitter) was a lyricist of promise, so it’s been sweet to see the Michigan-born emcee rise up as one of 2012’s most respected newcomers, signing to Universal Republic in the USA and Island Records in the UK. Clocking in at just six tracks long, her latest mixtape Classick feels more like a mini album. Quality over quantity rules here, with Haze working rich, dexterous and frequently intense raps over instrumentals borrowed from greats (Lupe, Lauryn Hill, Eminem), spinning the master songs’ subject matters to fit her own pysch-plumbed narratives. The stark, grainy video for her Gil Scott Heron-sampling track ‘New York’ seems to have vanished off the internetz, but her super-low-budget latest for the Missy Elliott-sampling ‘Gossip Folks’, which sees a lithe Haze spitting bars from a rooftop with the glow-fly hum of traffic on the hills behind her lighting up the skyline, affirms the arrival of an emcee who can hold her weight with lyrical skills alone – no fancy, budget-blowing production sets needed.
Sasha Go Hard Pitchfork-hyped Chicago emcee Sasha Go Hard (facebook / twitter) would be hard-pressed to match Haze’s skill for lyrical gravitas and eloquence, but there are a few sweet spots to found on her recently released mixtape, Hip Hop V’s Love, the follow-up to July’s Do You Know Who I Am?. A collaboration with rumoured beau I.L Will of Chicago trio M.I.C., it’s a collection of autotune-flecked rap duets nested around twin topics of romantic pleasures and rap game $$$ucess. The cocksure sass of breakout track ‘Why They Mad?‘ is carried through on ‘Money On My Mind’ and ‘I Grind’, but the odes to money-gettin’ come off like filler joints. The better action is to be found on unashamedly romantic cuts such as the R&B-laced ‘Dreamin’, the devoted ‘I Shine’ (“When I shine, he shine”) and the woozy pledge to “bulletproof” romantic commitment of ‘I Can Be’.
Azealia Banks Ms. Banks (facebook / twitter) has been a busy bee this year – signing managers (and dropping them like hotcakes), inking a contract with Universal Music Group, flying to London to headline Shepherd’s Bush Empire (already!) last month – but her debut album, Broke With Expensive Tastes, failed to materialise. Instead she dropped the 1991 EP, four songs jammed with the spitfire, profanity-laced rhymes that Banks has made her hallmark. While fans wait expectantly for the full-length’s slated February 2013 release date to roll round, her latest mixtape Fantasea has given us a shoal of aquatic-themed jams to get busy with, tying in with her recent Mermaid Ball excursions. And, just in, (almost) two videos in one week! Where the September clip for 1991’s classy title track was all warm tones, tailored outfits and choreographed dancers, her latest outing, for Fantasea’s ‘Atlantis’, is more of a bombastic, M.I.A.-esque colour clash that brims with hyper tones, fantasy-themed outfits and Tumblr .gif backdrops. The teaser video for ‘Fierce’, also lifted from Fantasea (though pipped on YouTube as an …Expensive Tastes cut) is a classier affair.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Azealia Banks – Fantasea
THEESatisfaction Stas and Cat of Seattle rap duo THEEsatisfaction (facebook / twitter) released a clutch of imaginative, idiosyncratic mixtapes before the release of their Sub Pop debut full-length, awE naturalE, often paying homage to their musical inspirations (THEESatisfaction Loves Stevie Wonder, THEESatisfaction Loves The Sa-Ra Creative Partners). Their first post-LP release follows suit, with a seven-minute freebie celebrating the soulful, feel-good sounds of platinum-selling R&B vocalist, Anita Baker. End track ‘Cabin Fever Sweet Love’ lifts directly from Baker’s breakout hit, ‘Sweet Love’.
Nitty Scott, MC The slog of touring can grind even the toughest artists down sometimes, with fast food diets and punishing schedules usurping the creative muse; not so our Voice On The Verge alumna Nitty Scott (facebook / twitter). In ‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles’, the Brooklyn-based emcee turns her adventures on the road into a wanderlust-filled rap. Pretty sure we can spot Blighty in some of the footage that makes up the new video, too. Scott had this to say of the track, which is lifted from her August 2012 EP, The Boombox Diaries Vol. 1 [iTunes].
Nicki Minaj ‘The Boys’ is the latest video from Nicki Minaj (facebook / twitter) and comes off the back of some well-publicised spats with a certain ‘American Idol’ co-host. As the footage and audio revealed, Minaj is a force to be reckoned with behind the scenes as well as in the cypher, but while she beefs with one ex-collaborator her creative friendship with Cassie goes from strength to strength. ‘The Boys’ sees Minaj and Cassie team up to lyrically decimate the crybaby men of the title before indulging in a spot of casual arson, gleefully blowtorching a barbershop with a flick of candyfloss-coloured hair. The video should tide fans over nicely ’til the November 19 release of a deluxe ‘Re-Up’ edition of her 2012 album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, but you can also catch Minaj’s three-episode E! Network reality series, ‘Nicki Minaj: My Truth’. Check out the trailer here.
Lady Leshurr Closer to home, Birmingham’s Lady Leshurr (facebook / twitter) dropped her latest mixtape, L YEAH!, back in August. Described by some, rather generously, as the UK’s answer to Nicki Minaj, Leshurr’s accelerated flow and scrappy, engaging rhymes have nevertheless won her major kudos on the UK underground. The faster raps here are neat but Leshurr’s at her best when she slows the mix down: witness the mid-tempo, piano-led numbers and sensitive meditations of the second half (‘Love My Life’, ‘Do You Miss Me?’, ‘Climax’, ‘Depression’). Also keep an ear out for Hackney-born actress Paigey Cakey (of Joe Cornish’s ‘Attack The Block’ and, more recently, BBC1’s ‘Waterloo Road’) guesting a nifty verse on ‘LYFR’.