2015 was a good year for hip-hop. It will never be what it was, but I think the quality rebounded significantly. Though we saw new albums from Dr.Dre, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, I’m not referring to the Top 40 artists. I’m thinking more of the grimy struggle music. Queens Bridge. Boot Camp. Early Terror Squad. You ain’t supposed to dance to this. This is theme music. Lines that give you the chills when you hear ’em. Soul samples and the boom bap. Collaboration. So much of the best 90’s “underground” hip-hop came from large groups(see Wu-Tang Clan). That’s what’s been missing in this millennium. We’ve been sold a lot of mediocre solo projects from otherwise legendary artists. The last few years though have seen numerous groups reunited in the studio, like Onyx, CNN w/ Tragedy Khadafi, and Jedi Mind w/Stoupe. Duck Down Records has bolstered their already mighty roster with KRS-One, Statik Selektah, Black Rob and Ed O.G. I’ve also been fortunate enough to stumble upon “DJ Modesty’s Real Hip-Hop Show” podcast. He mixes new tracks by the rappers I’ve mentioned, plus comes correct with songs by off-the-radar rookies. One of the songs from the show that really stuck with me was “Revolution” by A.C.E.(A Criminal Entity). Looking into the album, I found out it was produced by Tonedeff, who was featured on the Game Over Compilations, collaboration hip-hop albums using mostly video game samples(see Super Brooklyn). I then found a long trail of recent songs by those artist that are so damn underground that I, a fan, can’t even find it without extensive searches. I decided to start at the source, the A.C.E.(A Criminal Entity) album. There wasn’t much info on the internet about him but he seems to be from New Jersey. His voice has more than a passing resemblance to Saigon. He tends to wax prophetic like Saigon as well, but neither of those are bad things. The whole album feels familiar, actually. There’s a few tracks that have spacey vibes like early Heltah Skeltah or Biggie. He has some darker tracks like Big Pun or B-side NAS. Tonedeff’s production is straight out of 90’s New York, even the instrumental interludes are solid beats. This helps make it a very cohesive album. While there are a handful of songs like “Revolution” “Life On The Line” “Antithesis” and “New Beginning” that will definitely stay in my rotation, none of the album seems like filler. If you like anything you’ve heard and need some new, REAL hip-hop I would seriously suggest this album.
Bonus Track: A.C.E. - Fear and Loathing