Two months ago, I looked at a few 2015 hip-hop albums that I expected would be worth paying attention to. One of them, Joey Bada$$’s B4.Da.$$, came out yesterday and has already earned high praise from Anthony Fantano and Consequence of Sound, along with a moderate reception from Rolling Stone and Slant. As we wait for the new albums from A$AP Rocky, Mike G, Denzel Curry, Freddie Gibbs and D12 (LOL), I’d like to share a few more albums that I’m looking forward to in 2015.
8. Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Four Albums
Although I’m placing this last on the list, new Agoraphobic Nosebleed material is one of the things I’m most excited for in life. This is also one of the bands that frustrates their fans the most. The lineup changes (welcome to the band, John Jarvis! Still missing Carl Schultz though), one-off releases from individual members, side-projects that get more attention than ANb and (usually) useless social media feeds (thanks for all the updates about discounts at Relapse.com!) try the patience of the most loyal fans.
After releasing Agorapocalypse back in 2009, seven years after their magnum opus Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope came out, the band slowed their output. That same year saw splits with Crom and The Endless Blockade, and since then they’ve put out splits with ANS and Despise You as well as a couple Christmas themed flexis for Decibel. The addition of talented Katherine Katz, frontwoman of beloved and sadly defunct sludge trio Salome, along with a move towards a sound more influenced by thrashcore, put the band on a new track. Then the track ran out.
It would be one thing if the band was more forthcoming about their future plans, but Agoraphobic Nosebleed is notoriously weaselly and deceptive. While it is a great thing indeed that the band is performing at this year’s Maryland Deathfest, there is still the unresolved matter of the four full-length albums that we were promised back in 2013. In this day and age it’s easy to forget about these kinds of things, and obviously artists aren’t accountable for following through on their creations. This could easily have blown over and been just another crazy claim from a band that no one cares about. Then, 13 months ago, those four full-lengths were reaffirmed.
Scott Hull is considered the big cheese behind Agoraphobic Nosebleed, but he doesn’t personally run their social media and, from the consistently inadequate trickle of band news, I don’t even know when the other members saw him last. Yet, if he’s willing to make a commitment as big as playing Maryland Deathfest, I’d hope that he would be also willing to, ya know, MAKE SHIT HAPPEN.
His decision to make Pig Destroyer a higher priority than Agoraphobic Nosebleed isn’t a matter I can contest. There are probably people who want him to do more with Japanese Torture Comedy Hour, which has basically become Jay Randall’s thing (and after DMT, it felt like ANb was going the same way). What Hull and the other members of the group do with their time is none of my business. If four albums, or even just one, are released this year, I will be happy, but as time pushes on, my hope is running out.
7. Yndi Halda
Many of the comments I just made about new Agoraphobic Nosebleed music apply to new Yndi Halda music as well. These UK lads made waves with Enjoy Eternal Bliss back in 2006, and after years of studied listens and solemn contemplation it holds up as one of the greatest post-rock albums of all time . Since then, there hasn’t been any new music from the group, but in 2012 they began hitting the studio to record their long awaited follow-up.
When I saw James Vella over the summer, he was reading short stories at Cafe Oto in London. The proximity we shared was moving; I felt humbled to be hearing him read, and occupying that space with him was an amazing experience. He is a nice guy, and his O Rosa label and A Lily side-project are worthy of his time and energy. Now that Yndi Halda are wrapping up recording their new album, it shouldn’t be too long before it’s released, and I genuinely look forward to hearing it.
6. Toro Y Moi – What For? (April 7th, Carpark Records)
Chaz Bundick is more than just a Donald Glover look-a-like. He kicks ass as Toro Y Moi, the chillwave poster boy that taught the world to love again. He’s had a solid and consistent career, and recently has been devoting time to his Les Sins project, but I’m not going to get into that because it doesn’t interest me and I don’t care.
What For? does interest me, and unlike the previous two projects on this list, it has a release date: April 7th. It’ll be out on Carpark Records and a song from it has already been released in the form of “Empty Nesters,” an upbeat tune with organic sounding instruments. It makes me excited for what is to come, and you should be excited too. Revisit his “French” remix and get ready.
5. 2 Chainz, Cap 1, Skooly and Fresh (AKA Short Dawg) – TRU: The Real University (January 27th, digital download)
2 Chainz released one of my favorite mixtapes of 2014, the lush and luscious Freebase EP. Darwin might have been mistaken when he suggested that evolution is a gradual process, because 2 Chainz improved significantly almost overnight. Based On A TRU Story came across as a label-engineered, soulless machination with no spirit or originality. Songs like the nauseatingly misogynistic “Yuck” (specifically on the part of that foul deviant Lil Wayne, whose chorus is so ignorant and uninformed that after hearing it I really did hope he’d die in a sizzurp coma) and aggravatingly inauthentic “Birthday Song” (written by four people and produced by six, this unredeemably bad song is as far distanced from the individual creative process as Proxima Centauri is distanced from Gliese 832) clogged my ear toilets so bad that the plunger snapped when I tried to loosen the blockage.
Flowers bloom once but the plant lives on. BOATS II: Me Time was a step in the right direction, seeing the artist formerly known as Tity Boi working with more sophisticated deliveries and rhyme styles over superior beats. Then, when Freebase came out, the game changed. The comments on the mixtape’s What.cd page are overwhelmingly positive: “Awesome beats, ridiculous rapping…2 Chainz at his finest,” writes user friedfingertips. “May be the best material coming from 2 chainz actually” says SkinnyPuppy; “Haven’t liked the previous albums, but this shit is sick!” writes splinter89. Standout tracks like “Trap Back,” with it’s dynamic flow, witty wordplay, bizarre beat and peculiar Step Brothers sample, or “Crib In My Closet,” a club banger with stellar verses from 2 Chainz and featured guests Rick Ross and A$AP Rocky, made the mixtape a marvelous success. Now a mysterious 24 track rerelease has appeared courtesy of Qobuz, and the timing couldn’t be better.
TRU: The Real University comes out in six short days, and is a collaboration with Cap 1, Skooly and Fresh (AKA Short Dawg). I don’t care enough about Skooly or Fresh at this point to bother checking them out, but over the weekend I listened to all six of Cap 1’s mixtapes available on Datpiff. They’re not great. His most recent, Bird Bath, came out just over a week ago, and after one listen I’d say it’s his best work yet (although the Clock Werk collaboration with OJ da Juiceman has some redeeming qualities too). I will admit that the horrid album art makes me concerned, but judging from the recently released “Keep It 100,” this mixtape won’t be all bad.
4. Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful (March 24th, Atlantic Records and Vice Records)
For a long time I thought I disliked Action Bronson. I had only heard a few things from him, guest verses on songs like “1 Train” and his contribution to Rosenberg’s New York Renaissance mixtape, for example. His Ghostface sounding voice and tendency to talk about food all the time irritated me. It was only in the past six months or so that I listened to all of his releases several times, enjoying each listen more than the last, discovering the nuance and precision he commands and the nimbleness of his mind as he spits verse. I was amazed.
I may be late to the Bronson game, but not as late as all the fans he’ll acquire after dying of a heart attack in mid-2018. The wide vocabulary at his disposal, his multi-syllabic rhyme schemes and his impeccable delivery make him one of the most talented rappers in hip-hop today. I’m also a big fan of his fixation with Asian women. This former chef from Flushing has put himself on the map in a big, portly, rotund, adipose way. Listen to “Easy Rider” and “Actin’ Crazy” and climb aboard the hype train.
3. Black Sheep Wall – I’m Going To Kill Myself (January 27th, Season of Mist)
Here’s another one you won’t have to wait long for as it will be released next week. When snarky fuckheads ask “what’s the heaviest band?” they demonstrate to me that they don’t know Black Sheep Wall. I Am God Songs: relentless, pummeling, violent. No Matter Where It Ends: faster, filthier, fuck your bone spurs. It Begins Again: whoa, what? That’ll leave you gaping, let me tell you. It also has a piano song.
2. Juicy J – Pure THC: The Hustle Continues (Kemosabe Records and Columbia Records)
“It’s Juicy J
You know it is
Cause all my verses
Sound like this.”
Who would’ve thunk that Three Six Mafia castaway Juicy J would be one of the most played rappers in 2014? After making guest appearances on every song he possibly could in 2013, Juicy J reestablished relevance and respect with Stay Trippy, the album which spawned viral hit song “Bandz A Make Her Dance.” Of the dozens of songs he was featured on in that year, such as Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” few were any good. Last year he shifted gears, getting with more heavy hitters and appearing on big name songs like A$AP Rocky’s “Multiply” and the radio jams “I Don’t Mind” and “She Knows.” Given how much time he spends writing and recording, it’s hard to believe he finds a chance to do any of the things he sings about.
So says Ugly Frank, member of Tacoma hip-hop group ILLFIGHTYOU. His Bobby Hill EP came out last year, earning a nod from myself and many others in the community. It followed 2013’s self-titled debut mixtape from the group, a front-to-back success weaving between hard-hitting trap and gritty boom-bap. Each song’s lyrics, written and spat by Frank and colleagues Khris P and EvergreenOne, are smart and catchy, sticking inside you like swallowed gum (RIP to Shanice Clark). Unlike some rap groups, all three members of ILLFIGHTYOU are skillful and competent, and the mixtape presented a clear progression from members’ earlier releases like Mines Really Tho and Yes.
The group has released new merchandise through a joint effort with eTc Tacoma, and the results are gorgeous. Recently they’ve been selling out shows as their name spreads across the country and the world. It’s fair to think that ILLFIGHTYOU represent some of what’s best in hip-hop today, melding different styles and seemingly having a lot of fun. Stay looking out for new music from them and I’ll see you at the lot.