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The Witzard's Year In Hip-Hop: 12 Months-worth of Stone Cold Rhymin' Featuring Guilty Simpson, Travi$ Scott, BBNG & Ghostface, Kendrick Lamar, The Lions, Action Bronson & Pusha T (2015 Top 10)

Now, I wouldn't exactly go ahead and bet my life on it, but I'm almost positive the first Hip-Hop album I ever bought with my own money was Will Smith's squeaky clean, parent-approved Big Willie Style (1997) and after that, I believe it was the slightly less embarrassing and arguably, far more genre-shaping Power In Numbers (2002) by recently reformed Los Angeles six-piece Jurassic 5. Hip-Hop, as you well know even if you just remotely follow this very publication, is by far one of my all-time favorite genres, along with Hardcore Punk and Indie Rock. Throughout the five or so years I've been single-handedly running The Witzard, I believe I've done a few of these Best of... or year-end lists (most recently, in 2013). While there were a handful of undoubtedly great Indie Rock, R&B, Punk, etc. albums released throughout the course of 2015, I've decided to compile a Hip-Hop-centric Top 10; with that said, here are a few cross-genre honorable mentions worth a sp…

The Force Awakens: Radiohead Frontman Thom Yorke Unleashes Scrapped James Bond "Spectre" Theme Song on Christmas Morning (self-released)

While they may be a little out of my typical wheelhouse of head-nodding Hip-Hop or fist-clenching Punk Rock, I've always been a casual fan and long-time admirer of Radiohead's rather unique aesthetic and business tactics... name-your-price In Rainbows, Kid A, OK Computer, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, The King of Limbs, Amnesiac, and COM LAG (2plus2isfive). Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and his band mates have seemingly always attempted to employ an underlying Hip-Hop feel and have a mutual respect for the genre as a whole; Philly-bred Tonight Show band The Roots sampled them on Game Theory stand-out "Atonement," as did Kanye, Pharrell & Lupe Fiasco's short-lived super-group Child Rebel Soldier (CRS), and even Portishead founder Geoff Barrow & Katalyst went as far as to revamp "Fitter Happier" on a Guilty Simpson & MED-asssisted Quakers cut. Yorke has even managed to work alongside the mysterious masked villain himself, MF DOOM, on a n…

Fux with The Tux-mas: Mayer Hawthorne & Jake-One Unwrap Tuxedo's Groove-soaked Yuletide Disco-Funk Jam, "Holiday Love" (Amazon Prime)

"Happy Holidays, everyone. All the best Christmas songs were written by Jews, and Chanukah songs suck. This is my favorite Christmas tune, sung over the Vincent Guaraldi instrumental," New-Wop crooner Andrew Mayer "Hawthorne" Cohen wrote in a particularly tongue-in-cheek gentile-slamming 2010 mini-Stones Throw press release accompanying his sparse "Christmas Time Is Here"Peanuts-assisted cover. Just a few mere years later, Hawthorne and his Disco-Funkateer partner-in-crime, Jake-One quietly unveiled their first slice of post-Tuxedo Funk EP era material; a jittery groove-soaked rendition of Paul McCartney & Wings' 1979 Synth-Rock yuletide favorite, "Wonderful Christmastime." Now, just days ahead of the soon forthcoming 2015-16 holiday season, Tuxedo have unwrapped a completely original, retro-futuristic holiday standard titled "Holiday Love." It appears exclusively within Amazon Music's recent holiday-centric compilation, I…

Alex Goose Remixes Madlib & Freddie Gibbs' Piñata & Talks Forthcoming Work with Donnis, Foreign Air & Rodes (The Witzard Interview)

Greenhorn producer, song-writer, and composer Alex Goose has somehow already managed to log studio time with everyone from Weezer to up-and-coming Fool's Gold emcee Donnis and even had an ill-fated opportunity to work on Jay Z's famed Blueprint 3, which miraculously, ended up being one of his earliest career-defining moments; "In the spring of 2009, an A&R affiliated with Roc [Nation] got in contact with me. Shortly after, I had the opportunity to submit various tracks for Jay-Z's long-awaited Blueprint 3 album. Unfortunately, none of them made the final cut... This is what the Blueprint 3 could have been," Goose told okayplayer on the eve of his aptly-titled The Blueprint 3 Outtakes.

Six years later, Alex Goose has unleashed his next "solo" project under the creative umbrella of my former interview subject, Egon's Now-Again re-issue and found records imprint. Egon recruited Goose, who has recently produced radio-friendly hits "Thank God f…

G.O.O.D. Music President Pusha T Unleashes Puff Daddy-produced Hula Dancer-rattling "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" Ahead of King Push: Darkest Before Dawn (The Prelude)

"How many times, Pusha T, did producers say to you, "come to the studio right now or we're gonna give this beat to Jay Z?" Nardwuar The Human Serviette politely asked Pusha T during a 2013 post-Canadian show interview. "Well, one time.. and that was for the "Grindin'" beat and that was Pharrell Williams... and he's supposed to be my best friend. Right? But this guy actually threatened to give the "Grindin'" beat to Jay Z, if I did not come to the studio right then and right there. I actually came, and I'm glad he did because that record was groundbreakin' for me, Pusha T exuberantly quipped. One 1/2 of early 2000's Virginia Beach-bred Coke Rap phenoms, Clipse, Pusha T – otherwise known as the newly-elected President of Kanye's re-launched label, G.O.O.D. Music – is gearing up to unleash his long-rumored 2-part King Push album; part one, titled Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude features production work from a lengt…

Saturday Night Live Presents: Chance The Rapper, R. Kelly, Jeremih & Purity Ring Beatsmith Corin Roddick's "Somewhere In Paradise" (chanceraps.com self-released)

"Just premiered "Somewhere In Paradise" [featuring] @Jeremih & @rkelly on @nbcsnl. Go get it for FREE at chanceraps.com," @chancetherapper exuberantly Tweeted just mere minutes after his hyper-energetic Saturday Night Live debut; reportedly the first performance of its kind for a 100% unsigned independent artist during SNL's 40-year tenure. "Thanks so much to Chris [Hemsworth], the entire SNL cast, Lorne Michaels, and Phil Hynes for a great week. Hope to be back soon," Chance continued following Hemsworth's closing credits sign-off. Founder and creator of Chicago-based Hip-Hop publication Fake Shore Drive, Andrew Barber shared a list of "every rapper to play SNL in 40 years," which includes major label-backed heavyweights like Run-D.M.C. Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Beastie Boys, OutKast, Pharrell/N*E*R*D, Nicki Minaj, and Kanye. "From the moment Chance stepped onstage for his first performance on SNL, it was clear the audience was in f…

Ray St. Ray, The Singing Cab Driver Presents: "WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH" from Forthcoming Concept Album, FUTUREMAN vs. THE WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH

"It started out as an attempt to write an early Bob Dylan kind of song, but as I wrote it, I heard Tom Waits in my head. It ended up sounding like a cover of Talking Heads covering Waits and Dylan, I think," Ray St. Ray somewhat unsurely wrote in a batch of exclusive emailed pull-quotes sent directly to The Witzard; although, it's a rather bold, yet befitting description of The Singing Cab Driver's zany Cabaret-leaning "WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH." "Over the last 40 years, our future was stolen by corporate interests. Now, too many people are on the wrong side of enough. I feel strongly about this. It's what my concept album, FUTUREMAN vs. THE WRONG SIDE OF ENOUGH is about," Ray's email passionately continued. I initially heard about the infamous Singing Cab Driver a few months ago through my friend, crate-digger extraordinaire, and Now-Again Records founder, Egon. He spoke of one particularly interesting Madlib-accompanied late night Chicago c…

Charles Bradley & The Budos Band Deliver a Riveting, Hyper-emotive Soul-Funk Rendition of Black Sabbath's "Changes" (Dunham/Daptone Records)

Daptone Records' own revered Soul-Funk crooner The Screamin' Eagle of Soul, better known as 67-year-old Charles Bradley, a former James Brown impersonator who once went by "Black Velvet," is hearing up to unleash his third studio album this upcoming April 1st, 2016, Changes. Bradley's Menahan Street Band, The Budos Band, and The Bullets-assisted album is the proper follow-up to 2013's Victim of Love, and his debut No Time for Dreaming two short years prior, Changes takes its name and overall running theme from a similarly-titled Black Sabbath Vol. 4 track, which Daptone exclusively released as a Record Store Day 7-inch back in 2013. Interestingly enough, Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach's recently-premiered Psych-Rock side project The Arcs features three rotating members of The Menahan Street BandNick Movshon, Homer Steinweiss, and El Michels Affair founder Leon Michels – who spearheaded a retro-futuristic Funk-leaning sound, which undoubtedly influenc…

Top Shelf Premium Vintage Presents: Your Old Droog & DJ J Hart's 1990's-reminiscent "Off Top Freestyle" (Your Old Droog Records)

Let's just go ahead and be completely frank here, Jewish-America's biggest "claim to fame," if you will, is undoubtedly either Frat-Rap turned Conscious Hip-Hop posse, Beastie Boys or Adam Sandler's slightly-dated four-part "Chanukah Song" series; until the fateful second night of Hanukkah 2015... when Broooklyn-bred Ukrainian-American emcee Your Old Droog (Russian for "friend") unleashed his latest haphazardly-released non-album loosie, "Off Top Freestyle." Recorded in collaboration with Lower East Side vintage clothing store and quasi-recording studio @topshelfpremium, DJ J Hart-produced "Off Top" was filmed directly onto VHS tape at what would appear to be a retrofitted replica 1990's Modell's; "somehow, Your Old Droog managed to walk through a Modell's fitting room and ride a time warp back to the Clinton years when we were all playing Number Munchers, watching Snick, and eating 3-D Doritos," okay…

Yahoo Music Premiers Former Chester French Frontman D.A. Wallach's Soft Rock-leaning "Long Way Down" Hang Gliding Adventure (Harvest Records)

"That image just came to me as a bit of a non [sequitur]. I was imagining being camping with a girl who had underestimated the amount of kerosene to bring. Just a sliver of the sort of forgiveness and empathy one must have in a relationship," prolific singer-songwriter D.A. Wallach recently explained during an emailed interview for this very publication on the eve of his proper debut record, Time Machine; with the specific song fragment in question being "Long Way Down'"s poetically-worded non sequitur, "girl, if we run outta kerosene, don't say I never told ya... might be embarrassing, but I'm still here to hold ya." Time Machine is, quite frankly, without a shadow of doubt, amongst the most note-worthy albums released throughout 2015, alongside a rather unlikely cast of characters including Detroit-bred emcee Guilty Simpson, Action Bronson, Run The Jewels, Mark Ronson, and Stones Throw's premier Reggae act, The Lions. Nearly three year…

DJ Zane Lowe & Stones Throw Present: Anderson .Paak & Knxwledge's Nxworries Silky Smooth, G-Funk-leaning "Link Up" (Beats 1 World Record)

Heralded as a greenhorn rapper-producer project that's "shaping up to be easily the best thing on Stones Throw in [recent] years," despite the fact that they only have a mere two released tracks under their belt; Nxworries (pronounced: No Worries) have managed to hone in a unique sound that could characteristically be best described as the missing link between George Clinton's ground-breaking Parliament-Funkadelic and N.W.A. & Snoop Dogg's G-Funk sub-genre of 1990's West Coast Hip-Hop that Clinton himself unknowingly helped inspire. Once distilled down to its R&B-leaning Hip-Hop core, Nxworries is essentially a sparse Jaylib-indebted "2 turntables and a microphone"-style project consisting of New Jersey-bred beatsmith Knxwledge and Dr. Dre's latest protégé, LA crooner Anderson .Paak. "He was a big part of me finding a sound that I was looking for and a tone that people are more familiar with now... when I started working with [Knx]

Underground Emcees Homeboy Sandman & Aesop Rock Partner Up to Generously Spread "Lice" EP Across The World (Stones Throw/Rhymesayers)

Earlier this fine post-Thanksgiving Weekend morning, whilst I was at Boscov's getting my new suit pants tailored, I had a sudden burst of creativity in the form of a clever one-liner to start a tentative review of Animal Collective's cringe-worthy mess of a new single, "FloriDada:" "There's an age-old music industry joke that goes something along the lines of, "if Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke recorded the sounds of himself sh*tting or farting into a mic backed by the band's music, people would likely still buy it.'" But rather than give those talent-less Art-Rock Three Stooges any more unnecessary spotlight, I've instead decided to review veteran underground emcees Homeboy Sandman & Aesop Rock's far more noteworthy surprise-released Cyber Monday FREE EP, Lice. "You're probably scratching your head right now wondering why this EP is called Lice... The truth is, [Aesop Rock] and I always have all these ideas crawling ar…

Erykah Badu & Dallas-bred Producer Zach Witness Surprise Release Phone-themed "But You Caint Use My Phone" Mixtape (CONTROL FREAQ RECORDS)

"I'm writing all the time, but recently I got the bug back. When it comes, it comes, and I can't force it, but... I got it back with "Hotline Bling" and all the other things I've been experimenting with," Erykah Badu recently told Noisey concerning her five-year gap between New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of The Ankh) and just-released But You Caint Use My Phone; a clever allusion to Badu's own widely-acclaimed 1997 Live single "Tyrone," in which she famously laments, "you need to call Tyrone... but ya can't use my phone." "HOT LINE BLING BUT U CAINT USE MY PHONE MIX" (now re-titled "Cell U Lar Device") was initially conceived as an impromptu birthday present for a friend of Erykah Badu's with assistance from Dallas-area producer Zach Witness, better known locally as one White Chocolate. "When I thought about doing the "Hotline Bling" remix, I thought about him. And the same week, he came t…

Foo Fighters Unveil 5-song, Career-spanning Saint Cecilia EP Recorded Throughout Austin Hotel as a "Thank You" to Everlong Fans (Roswell Records)

"The Saint Cecilia Hotel, named after the patroness saint of music, is known as "a lush retreat from the world." And, believe me, that it is! 14 rooms and a small bar, it's tucked away in the trees within a bustling, Austin neighborhood. As our van pulled up in the wee hours of September 30th, 2015, I was struck with a rather impulsive idea: to record some songs on our days off to give to the world as a "thank you" for the last 2 years," Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl wrote in a heart-felt hand-penned letter on the heels of their 5-song Saint Cecilia EP. "Though there's a world-class recording studio just on the other side of the fence (Arlyn Studios), the hotel manager, Jenny offered that we record in the hotel... by 6pm the nest day, the office was transformed into a control room and the bar was littered with microphones and cables. Amps were in the kitchen. Drums in front of the fire place. Instant studio, courtesy of the legendary Kevi…

BADBADNOTGOOD Unleash 2 Improv Jazz Soundcloud Loosies, "Here and Now" & "Timewave Zero;" Tease Unreleased Sam Herring-assisted Material (Innovative Leisure)

"DROPPING SOME NEW TRACKS IN THE [MORNING] JUST TO SAY, "HEY WE'RE WORKING ON NEW TUNES JUST EXPLORING AND FINDING... THANKS FOR THE LOVE AS ALWAYS," @badbadnotgood cryptically Tweeted late Thursday night; on the heels of their latest impending non-album double-header, "Here and Now" and "Timewave Zero."okayplayer's own skilled wordsmith Michael Eric Gonik fittingly described "Timewave Zero" as a "full-sprint psychedelic jazz & rock romp built over a dizzying shuffle and lurking, murky organs." Gonik then continued to describe the slightly more subdued, college slam poetry bar-leaning "Here and Now" as "[ramping] up the reverie with a sampledelic treatment that could double as a lost Sun-Ra outing with a more straightforward groove." While they've previously reinterpreted everyone from Ol' Dirty Bastard to Kanye's favorite London-bred crooner James Blake, BBNG's recent Innovative Le…

Miike Snow Recruit Run The Jewels to Help Transform Soulful Marlena Shaw-sampling "Heart Is Full" Into a Blistering Rap Ballad (Downtown Records)

"When we heard that [Run The Jewels] were fans and down to get on this beat, I was super excited... but cautiously so. I knew this was the type of beat that they could just eat for breakfast; but I was hoping that the whole thing wouldn't come off sounding too retro. I was at Emile Haynie's house when the email with the mix came through and so, we stopped what we were doing to throw it up on the speakers," 1/3 of self-described "three-headed band with one man name" Andrew Wyatt recently wrote in an email sent to The FADER. Miike Snow is a world-renown Swedish-AmericanIndie/Synthpop band consisting of Wyatt along with Christian Karlsson & Pontus Winnberg, who together function as songwriting and production duo Bloodshy & Avant; they've collectively produced chart-topping hits for everyone from Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas to Britney Spears (including "Toxic" and "Piece of Me"). Although, Hip-Hop isn't exactly as far of…

Los Angeles-based Family Band The Rebel Light Unleash The Beach Boys & Shins-leaning "Strangers" (Bandcamp, self-released)

"'Strangers" was definitely inspired by our time living in California. We wanted it to sound like how California feels to us... portray that image of quintessential California, which sometimes can simply be that girl in a sundress with that pretty California smile," LA-based Indie Pop trio The Rebel Light previously told The Line of Best Fit. Brothers Alan & Jarrett Stell and their cousin Brandon Cooke have already been compared to the likes of The Shins, Grizzly Bear, The Beach Boys, Todd Rundgren, Ariel Pink, The Doors, and The 5th Dimension during their brief tenure. The Rebel Light's latest self-released single, "Strangers" "was recorded at home, with the vocals being laid down in the bathroom and the drum parts recorded in a wood shed," according to UK-based Clash magazine. It would appear as though The Rebel Light have managed to garner a considerable following across the pond, ironically, wherein many of the sun-drenched 1960-70…

Beats, Rhymes & Junior Mints: Your Old Droog Waxes Poetic About Kramer, Art Vandelay & Keith Hernandez On "Basketball & Seinfeld" Over Abelard's Mouth Jazz-sampling "SEINWAVE2000"

"Burst through the door, son I'm Kramerin'. Who wrote a gorgeous stanza? It's not you, it's me like George Costanza," grizzly-voiced Ukrainian-American emcee Your Old Droog ferociously rhymes on his latest self-described "stupid" Soundcloud loosie, "Basketball & Seinfeld." Not long after uploading his "SEINWAVE2000"-sampling track, Droog himself annotated a portion of its expectedly ingenious Seinfeld and basketball-centric rhyme schemes at Rap Genius: "I used to smoke [funny cigarettes] and just watch Seinfeld re-runs. Or being h*gh out [of] my mind at the crib and watching ESPN Classic and old Bulls Finals series against The Blazers." "Basketball & Seinfeld" was reportedly produced by Your Old Droog and manipulates a sample lifted from Abelard's original composition "SEINWAVE2000," which in turn, makes use of a sample pulled from Jonathan Wolff's infamous Mouth Jazz-delivered Seinf…

"It's like if Joy Division, The Strokes & Dr. Dre made an album together..." Chicago's HXLT aka Hollywood Holt - "Live to Death" (G.O.O.D. Music)

"I used to have tons of songs in my head, but since I couldn't play anything well and I didn't know how to use programs [so] I was never able to make them," Chicago emcee and former Cool Kids affiliate Hollywood Holt writes within his rather compelling Facebook Bio section. Now better known as simply HXLT (pronounced: "Holt"), the former club-friendly rapper has returned with the lead-off single from his as-yet-untitled G.O.O.D. Music debut; "Holt's manager told Billboard at the time of his singing that "it's like if Joy Division, The Strokes, and Dr. Dre made an album together."' Judging by "Live to Death," it would appear as though HXLT has somehow already managed to master the whole Psych/Punk Rock-leaning brand of Alt. Hip-Hop that Kanye's former protégé Kid Cudi has spent the past five or so odd years aimlessly trying to hone and perfect. Although, prior to unleashing "Live to Death" last week, HXLT&#…

G.O.O.D. Music President Pusha T Unleashes Previously Vaulted Drake & Meek Mill Freestyle, "R.I.C.O." On Dr. Dre's The Pharmacy (Beats 1)

"I'm the poster child for alleged drug dealers. These n***as mention my name with their little rumors and their little jewelers. That's no threat, that's no sweat," former Virginia Beach drug dealer and Clipse emcee Pusha T ferociously rhymes on his latest solo single; a Dr. Dre-sanctioned freestyle over Meek Mill's "R.I.C.O," which notoriously kick-started Mill and Drake's ghostwriter allegation-slinging beef. For the record, whether he in fact endorses and makes use of ghostwriters or not, Drake's rapid-released double-header"Back to Back" and "Charged Up" absolutely slayed and effectively obliterated Meek Mill's abysmal retaliation diss, "Wanna Know." "Real money ain't shy. No, lay it out... get a tan on it. They say numbers don't lie. Well, dope boy, put your bands on it," Kanye's "Runaway" protégé poignantly rhymes elsewhere on "R.I.C.O," which Dr. Dre premiere…

Puff Daddy & The Family Liberate Triumphant Les Sins & Chromatics-sampling Return-to-form, "MMM" In Honor of Diddy's 46th Birthday (Bad Boy Records)

"Before, I used to make records when I made music... then, I decided to make culture. And as I got older, I decided I'm going to make fashion. Ladies and gentlemen, listen and watch some fashion," rapper-producer and mogul Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy preached to an audience full of industry insiders, rappers, producers, record execs, and socialites Tuesday night at an impromptu listening party. The matter at hand: Puffy's first project since Last Train to Paris (2010), MMM – short for Money Makin' Mitch, a self-described "sonic motion picture." Puff Daddy & The Family's long-rumored proper return-to-form, MMM appears to be a precursor to Combs' apparent final album, No Way Out II. Diddy's initial hustler's ambition-leaning concept behind MMM was first brainstormed during an evening of "Netflix and Ciroc & lemonade," in which he and his lady finally got around to watching Dame Dash's cult classic Shakespearean Hop-Hop…