Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. This week, I’ve been exploring a range of underground rap releases as well as diving into the catalogues of Sade and Slum Village. I’ve been rediscovering so much incredible music, so here are a handful of my favourites.
Dell Nellson – Charlotte’s Unfortunate Death (2023) [Hip Hop]
Charlotte’s Unfortunate Death is the debut album from Dell Nellson, an energetic MC whose free-flowing and animated delivery is contrasted by his dark, often brutally violent sense of lyricism. In only eight tracks and twenty-four minutes, the album explores so many different sounds and ideas, with an ever-changing soundscape brought together by Dell’s relentless performance, rapping as if he never has to breathe. Thanks to his frequent work as a poet, Nellson has an elegant pen which allows him to articulate despairing themes of death and violence with grace. To suggest one of my favourite tracks would be pointless because the album flows seamlessly as a cohesive body of work, so instead of recommending a standout song, I implore you to listen to this brief but excellent rap album.
Slum Village – Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 2 (2000) [Jazz Rap]
I had the pleasure of seeing Slum Village live this week, and hearing classic tracks from Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 2 performed in person has made me love the album even more. With beats supplied by J Dilla, the record is immaculately produced, with hypnotic drum patterns, intricately chopped and rearranged samples, and funky basslines which give the project the same jazzy vibrancy as Tribe’s Beats, Rhymes & Life. Beyond the production, T3 and Baatin have amazing chemistry on the mic. While their lyrics may not always be the most complex or innovative, their unwavering energy and toolbox of flows complement Dilla’s slick style and never get old across the album’s twenty tracks. Each feature breathes new life into the album and keeps it engaging, with D’Angelo, Q-Tip, and Busta Rhymes being among my favourite guests present. Overall, Fan-Tas-Tic, Vol. 2 is another masterpiece from Dilla, and one of many highlights from the year 2000.
Something I Love
Machine Girl – Wlfgrl (2014) [Footwork]
One of the most explosive albums in the footwork scene, Wlfgrl encapsulates and perfects everything great about the genre. The sparkling synthesisers weaving in and out of the thunder of drums capture the same hyperactive energy as acid house, but the constantly evolving rhythms and changing percussion separate it from any house music. The album is a quickfire run of electronic explosions, with the distorted vocal samples, deafening batter of drums and screaming synths making for an unforgettable listen. To articulate the many intricacies of Wlfgrl’s sound would take a thousand words, but there is no better way to appreciate its complexity than to listen yourself.