Common’s Latest LP Is The Most “Beautiful” Of Phil’s Picks’ New Rap, Hip-Hop Albums In 2021

Courtesy: Loma Vista

The countdown to the end of 2021 is now at 24 days.  That is still plenty of time to add in some more year-ender lists from any critic out there.  With that in mind, Phil’s Picks has yet another list to offer up.  Today, that list comes in the form of the year’s top new rap and hip-hop albums.  This year brought quite the array of new releases from that realm, too.  Between new music from the late, great DMX to new material from Common, and from Atmosphere and others, rap and hip-hop fans had plenty to cheer about this year.  As with each list from Phil’s Picks, this list features this critic’s Top 10 favorite new albums in said category along with five honorable mention titles, bringing the total to actually 15.  The honorable mention titles, as with every other list, are there because they deserve their own applause, even being just outside the Top 10.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration is Phil’s Picks’ 2021 Top 10 New Rap and Hip-Hop albums.


  1. Common – A Beautiful Revolution Part 2
  2. Adrian Younge – The American Negro
  3. Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
  4. Evidence – Unlearning Volume 1
  5. Atmosphere – Word?
  6. NDN Collective – Landback
  7. DMX – Exodus
  8. DJ Abilities – Phonographic Phoenix
  9. Aesop Rock & Blockhead – Garbology
  10. Shad – TAO
  11. DJ 2-Tone Jones – Contraband From India
  12. Wax Tailor – The Shadow of Their Suns
  13. K.A.A.N. – Long Time No See
  14. Dap The Contract – Powers Volume 2
  15. R.A.P. Ferreira – In The Garden Level Café Of The Scallops Hotel

That’s it for this list, but there is still plenty more to come.  Phil’s Picks still has year-ender lists in the categories of rock, hard rock, country/bluegreass/Americana, new live CDs, and of course the year’s best new albums overall.  That is all before switching over to new DVD and Blu-ray categories, too.  So, stay tuned!

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New Rap, Hip-Hop Albums Prove 2020 Was Not All Bad

Courtesy: Def Jam

Rap and hip-hop fans have had quite a bit to be happy about this year.  That is because over the course of the now fading year, a lot of notable entries have made their way to audiences within the genre.  They have come from independent and well-known acts alike, too.  From the familiar socio-politically charged content featured in Public Enemy’s new album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down, to the lighter yet still engaging content featured in Aesop Rock’s new album Spirit World Field Guide, to the unique hybrid jazz/hip-hop instrumental offering from Analog Players Society, Soundtrack For A Nonexistent Film, and more, this year’s field of new rap and hip-hop records has proven quite diverse and entertaining.  Even Eminem released his own new album (albeit by surprise) in the form of Music to be Murdered By early this year.  Between that record and so many others, this year’s field of new albums was full of interesting, impressive new albums, both mainstream and independent.  Phil’s Picks has kept track of them once again this year and produced a list of the year’s best new product.

As with past years and each list, this collection features the Top 10 new titles in the category, as well as five honorable mentions, for a total of 15 titles.  Here for your consideration is the Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 new Rap & Hip-Hop Albums.


  1. Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?
  2. Run The Jewels – RTJ4
  3. RJD2 – The Fun Ones
  4. Common – A Beautiful Revolution Pt. 1
  5. Jamo Gang – Walking With Lions
  6. Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide
  7. Eminem – Music to be Murdered By
  8. Analog Players Society – Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film
  9. Atmosphere – The Day Before Halloween
  10. GNL Zamba – The Spear
  11. Denzel Curry – Unlocked
  12. Prof – Powderhorn Suites
  13. Busta Rhymes – Extinction Level Event 2
  14. Aesop Rock – Music From The Game Freedom Finger
  15. Black Eyed Peas – Translation

Next up from Phil’s Picks is a listing of the year’s top new jazz and blues albums.  Stay tuned for that.

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Aesop Rock Makes A Strong Case For Critics’ Year-Ender Lists With His New LP

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Rapper Aesop Rock has over the course of hi two decade plus career, become one of the biggest name in the rap and hip-hop community.  That is because from one record to the next, he has consciously taken the road less traveled, giving audiences something new and unique in every release.  His latest album Spirit World Field Guide is no exception to that rule.  This 21-song (yes, 21 songs) album takes listeners on a musical and lyrical journey that few if any other rappers past and present can say they have featured.  That is proven from beginning to end of the 63-minute presentation.  The musical content featured in this record throughout the record’s body supports the noted statements in their own way.  They will be discussed shortly.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s unique is original in its own way, which again is nothing new for Aesop Rock.  This will be addressed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  It will also be discussed later.  All three elements noted here are important in their own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make this record one more of the year’s best new rap and hip-hop albums.

Aesop Rock’s latest album Spirit World Field Guide is a presentation that will appeal to rap and hip-hop fans across the board.  That is because it is another record that shows the rapper – Ian Matthias Bavitz – is not one to rest easy on his laurels.  The record’s musical content is just one way in which the noted statements are supported.  The arrangements are not the typical bass-heavy compositions that are so commonplace in so much mainstream rap and hip-hop.  That is of course nothing new for Bavitz.  Longtime fans will agree that he has always strived to push the envelope with his musical creations and keep things fresh.  Case in point of that effort and its success is in the song ‘Sleeper Car.’  The song opens with a brief but ominous organ arrangement.  That arrangement gives way quickly to an old-school hip-hop beat that is accompanied by a variety of electronics and keyboards that must be heard in order to be understood and appreciated.  The sampling that couples with the other noted items makes for such an infectious groove that will leave listeners hugely impressed.  ‘Pizza Alley’ is another unique musical addition to Spirit World Field Guide.  The use of the tambourine and keyboards gives the song a sort of vintage rock feel.  Its transition to the more modern hip-hop approach that makes up the second half of the song is so smooth and makes the song even more engaging and entertaining.  The dichotomy of the electronics and bass in ‘Fixed and Dilated’ is another interesting musical composition featured in this record.  The keyboards and electronics here are so ethereal and subtle.  Set alongside the song’s bass line and its vintage hip-hop beat, the whole makes for such a unique work in its own right.  When it is considered along with the rest of the record’s musical content, the picture painted by that whole is a rich, vivid landscape that once again proves Aesop Rock’s originally and creativity in his attention to musical detail.  The appeal that the album’s musical content brings audiences is just one part of what makes the record so engaging and entertaining.  Its lyrical content is just as original as its musical compositions.

The lyrical content that is featured in Aesop Rock’s latest album is unique in that it is completely unlike anything else that any rapper out there today has presented and is presenting.  Case in point is one of the album’s late entries, ‘Fixed and Dilated.’  The song comes across like a re-telling of the classic book and movie, The Exorcist.  That is evidenced as the song makes note of the “2 pupils/All he say is “Ian’s Not Here/Pitch it down a octave/I’ma take this opportunity piss and vomit lava/White the neck is lazy susan-ing.”  The rest of the song lyrically stays in line with this, which in whole stays in line with the theme of the album’s title.  It is obviously a rarely if ever traveled road for any of Aesop Rock’s contemporaries in the rap and hip-hop community.  ‘Dog at the Door’ also follows the theme of the album’s title. It features someone in their house who hears a sound outside the house.  The subject wonders if the sound came from a cat, or if “it’s probably a trap.”  The subject even goes so far as to say, “I realize think that I am off the deep end/I’ll say that it’s a lovely night regardless of the BS.”  The whole thing stands out with its wintertime ghost story.  Again, this is something that Aesop Rock’s counterparts in the hip-hop and rap communities are rarely if ever touching in terms of lyrical content.  In other words, it’s another way in which he is taking that road less traveled once more here.  Aesop Rock goes in a completely different direction in ‘1 to 10.’  Apparently, if the lyrics are to be interpreted right, this song is just about someone dealing with back pains, of all things.  It even opens with Aesop Rock rapping, “Bad back, bad back,  bad back/One half zig/While the other half zag/Stand too long and the whole s*** hunch.”  He even makes mention of going to see a doctor at one point in the song, with the doctor asking about how the intensity of the pain.  It is just a random lyrical topic, that if it is meant as a metaphor for something else, is still unique in its own right.  Once more, here audiences have an example of just how original the lyrical content is from Aesop Rock on his latest album.  When it is considered with the rest of the album’s lyrical content, the whole of that material makes for just as much engagement and entertainment as the album’s musical content.  The two sides together make the album well worth hearing by themselves.  Of course they are only a portion of what audiences will appreciate.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements. 

The sequencing of Aesop Rock’s new album is extremely important, considering that the record runs 21 songs deep and just over an hour in time.  Considering that depth and length, a lot of attention had to be paid to the sequencing, so as to make sure the energy remained stable and that the songs’ lyrical content did not lose listeners.  From one song to the next, the energy remains stable even as the stylistic approach changes.  That change of styles in itself keeps things interesting for listeners.  Even when the stylistic change brings about a slower song, the energy is still stable.  Simply put, the album’s sequencing ensures in its own right.  When it is considered along with the album’s overall content, the album in whole leaves no doubt as to its place in this year’s field of new rap and  hip-hop albums.

Aesop Rock’s new album Spirit World Field Guide is yet another uniquely engaging and entertaining offering from the veteran artist.  That is proven in part through its musical content, which takes listeners down a musical path that is unlike almost everything out there today.  The record’s content is unique in its own right to say the very least.  It is something that longtime audiences will appreciate just as much as those looking for an alternative to the run of the mill rap records’ content.  The sequencing of that collective content puts the finishing touch to the album, ensuring even more, listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  All things considered, Spirit World Field Guide proves itself to be among this year’s top new rap and hip-hop albums.

More information on Aesop Rock’s new album is available along with all of his latest news at:



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More EP Than LP, Aesop Rock’s New Record Is Worth An Occasional Listen At Best

Courtesy: Rhymesayers

When Nintendo first released its now timeless video game “Super Mario Brothers” way back in the 1980s, that game and its soundtrack were groundbreaking.  In the decades since its release, they have become timeless.  At the same time, so much has changed about the connection between video games and their soundtracks.  Largely gone are the midi files that made up soundtracks for the games and in their places are songs from some of the most well-known recording artists in the industry.  From racing games, to fighting games and more, video games and the music industry have become increasingly entwined with one another.  Aesop Rock’s latest album Freedom Finger (Music From The Game) shows just how connected music and video games have become throughout the decades.  Aesop Rock’s new album is in fact a collection of songs that he crafted for the video game, which is available through the Nintendo Switch.  The record is labeled an album despite only boasting three new full-length songs, which are themselves accompanied by an instrumental of each composition.  This is both a positive and a negative for this presentation, and will be discussed here.  The four other original instrumentals that accompany the three original full-length songs are positives and negatives in their own right, and will also be addressed here.  Keeping all of this in mind, the album proves itself worth at least one listen, but is hardly the year’s top new rap/hip-hop record.

Aesop Rock’s latest album Freedom Finger (Music From The Game) is an intriguing new offering from the veteran rap artist, who has been making beats and rhymes for more than 25 years.  That is because it is a record who musical content all comes from the soundtrack of a video game.  Clocking in at a brief 23 minutes, the 10-track record features only three brand new full-length songs, which serve as the record’s first, second and third songs respectively.  The songs are actually engaging and entertaining thanks to their combined musical and lyrical content.  ‘Play Dead,’ which opens the record immediately lends itself to works from the likes of Busta Rhymes thanks to the beats and Aesop Rock’s own vocal delivery style and sound.  The infectious beats and electronics incorporated into the song add to the composition’s entertainment.  Aesop Rock (a.k.a. Ian Bavitz) presents lyrical content along with that musical content that is engaging and entertaining in its own right.  He even goes so far as to make a direct mention of the game in one verse, stating, “Fuel up and I steamroll/You better moonwalk when that screen scroll/I feed castaways/To these gamma rays/And my handshake is all sleeper hold/Ease in and get heave-hoed/With no easy mode and no foul play/Bounty hunters get found out/Power up or get outpaced.”  The mentions of the power up, the easy mode and screen scroll are clearly all direct references to the game, in which the song is featured.  The rest of the song’s two verses come across as a commentary of sorts, and that, coupled with the aforementioned musical arrangement, makes this song a strong start for the record.

‘KOWP’ maintains the engagement and entertainment established through the record’s opener.  The song’s musical arrangement is another old school hip-hop style work complete with sampling, scratches and pure, infectious beats.  Those elements are complimented through Bavitz’s vocal delivery style, making the song’s musical element that much more enjoyable.  The song’s lyrical content adds its own interest to the work, with Bavitz presenting what can be essentially considered one of those braggadocious works that finds the rapper pumping his chest so to speak.  That’s evident in all three of the song’s verses.  It’s not exactly what one might consider memorable, but is still enjoyable with the occasional listen.

‘Drums on the Wheel’ is the last of the album’s full-length original songs, and is another entertaining work in its own right thanks to its musical arrangement.  It takes some old school rap and hip-hop elements and mixes them with more modern elements to make the whole its own infectious beat heavy work that audiences are sure to enjoy.  One can only assume in listening through the lyrics that they are directly connected to the game rather than being anything substantive.  Either way, the delivery of the lyrics and the very layout of said lyrics makes for its own share of interest.  Simply put, it’s something that audiences have to hear for themselves in order to appreciate.

Now once these three songs are done, the album repeats the songs in exact order, except sans lyrics.  All three songs’ arrangements are presented following their full-length presentations.  The arrangements are enjoyable in their own right, but the problem here is that they are just that, instrumentals.  Considering copyright laws, etc. their only use is for listening.  That is unless some other artist out there wants to legally sample them by paying royalties.  In other words, the instrumentals that accompany the record’s only three full-length originals are essentially just an extra.  Such works are typically saved as extras for singles, so to that end, it makes this record seem that much more like it was just released for the sake of fulfilling contractual obligations.  Keeping this in mind, it would have made more sense for Aesop Rock to just release this as an EP instead of trying to call it an album, when there is so little original material.

While the lack of extensive full-length content is clearly a detriment to the record’s presentation, it doesn’t make the album a presentation not worth hearing.  There are four other original instrumentals featured along with the three full-length instrumentals in the form of ‘Rat Skull,’ ‘Snowmobile,’ ‘Twice Fried’ and ‘Frozen Caveman.’  These original works are interesting in their own right, and add a little bit of engagement and entertainment to the record.  Each work features its own unique, infectious, modern arrangement.  ‘Snowmobile’ for instance is a keyboard-driven work whose beats compliment it well.  ‘Twice Fried’ meanwhile is more melodic in its approach.  ‘Frozen Cavement features its own unique old/new school hybrid sound and ‘Rat Skull’ boasts a bit of a rock approach with its hip-hop element.  All four arrangements, again, are unique in their own way, and serve as starting points for those who want to legally do sampling, but are worth little else, considering that none of the works even breaks the 30 second mark.  Each arrangement is so brief that it seems like it begins and ends in the blink of an eye.  If the arrangements had been longer, maybe they would have been more engaging, but being so short, they just don’t really do much, if anything, to enhance the listening experience.  Keeping this in mind, these original instrumentals are entertaining, but aren’t at the same time.  To that end, these extremely brief arrangements are entertaining, but add little at best entertainment value to this recording.  What this means is that these arrangements, when considered with the original full-length songs, make Aesop Rock’s new album worth at least an occasional listen at best.

Aesop Rock’s new album Freedom Finger (Music From The Game) is an intriguing new offering from the veteran rap artist.  That is because despite being called an album, it really only presents three original full-length songs.  The four very brief instrumentals that round out the record’s second half barely even add up to the length of a regular-length song.  They are at least a little engaging and entertaining, despite being so brief.  The problem is that being instrumentals and so brief, they are useful for little more than listening unless someone is willing to pay the royalties to use them for sampling.  The same applies for the instrumentals that accompany the original full-length songs also featured in the record.  All things considered, Freedom Finger (Music From The Game) proves to be entertaining, but sadly leaves one wanting for far more in the worst possible way.  To that end, it is enjoyable, but is anything but the year’s best new hip-hop/rap album.  More information on Aesop Rock’s new album is available along with all of his latest news at:









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FK5 Puts The “Pressure” On Its Counterparts With Its Latest LP

Courtesy: Fort Knox Five Recordings

Courtesy: Fort Knox Five Recordings

Music lovers of all kinds have seen so many great new records this year.  From rock to country to jazz, blues and so many genres in-between the musical universe has spawned countless enjoyable records.  One of the genres that Phil’s Picks hasn’t yet touched on this year is that of rap and hip-hop.

The rap and hip-hop community has collectively spawned just as many outstanding new albums as acts from every other genre across the musical universe.  De La Soul returned this year with its new record And The Anonymous Nobody.  DJ Shadow also returned with its own enjoyable album in the form of The Mountain Will Fall.  If that isn’t enough for fans, Fort Knox Five also put out a new album in a 20-song remix album titled Pressurize The Cabin Re-Mixes.  The record tops Phil’s Picks list of top new rap and hip-hop albums this year.  It’s like having two remix albums in one yet is still its own brand new collection of songs.

There is just not enough space for it all, but this critic tried to present the most outstanding new albums deserving of credit even in this realm.  Keeping this in mind, Phil’s Picks has picked out quite the field of new rap and hip-hop albums this year to pay attention to.

As a reminder, the list features the Phil’s Picks Top 10 new rap and hip-hop albums with five honorable mentions for a total of 15 new notable albums.  Without any further ado, here for you is Phil’s Picks 2016 Top 10 New Rap and Hip-Hop Albums list.




  1. Fort Knox FivePressurize The Cabin Re-Mixes


  1. Atmosphere – Fishing Blues


  1. Will Magid Alligator Spacewalk


  1. De La SoulAnd The Anonymous Nobody


  1. Royce Da 5’9”Layers


  1. Mr. LifDon’t Look Down


  1. A Tribe Called QuestWe Got It From HereThank You


  1. DJ ShadowThe Mountain Will Fall


  1. Aesop RockThe Impossible Kid


  1. CommonBlack America Again


  1. Chance The RapperColoring Book


  1. Macklemore & Ryan LewisThis Unruly Mess I’ve Made


  1. Kevin GatesIslah


  1. Drake Views


  1. Get Open/I AmI Am Open




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