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Remember, remember the 5th November, gunpowder, treason and plot.

Actually scratch that. This month, remember the birth of the Universal Zulu Nation instead: unity, peace and hip hop. To celebrate the 42nd Anniversary of the birth of the collective, the UK branch of the global movement have put together an incredible line up for a day of events at Leeds City Museum. Incorporating all the elements, there’ll be DJ’s, MC’s, b-boys and girls, film screenings, workshops and an amazing panel for a Q & A. And when I say amazing, that’s what I mean. Akala and Talib Kweli, no less, will be appearing alongside some of our local heroes and heroines of hip hop. Massive respect is due to all of the team who’ve pulled this one together. Can’t wait. Get down early, because it’s going to be RAMMED. (The party runs from 10-4)
And whilst you’re getting yourself ready, bang up the volume on this month’s selection of tracks – a pretty diverse bunch of tunes so there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Edgar Sekloka – Encore

This is a first; reviewing a hip hop artist who isn’t rapping in English. But way back when, I was introduced to the idea via the fantastic Urban Species album, Listen which featured contributions from MC Solaar. It’s a different way of hearing hip hop for me, because lyricism is generally the first thing that hooks me. I don’t speak French so I don’t know what he’s on about. Instead, here I’m drawn to the tone, cadence and flow and an appreciation of the MC’s musicality. The track’s produced by Guts, whose 2007 album Le Bienherureux was on almost constant repeat when I bought it. That release was on Wax On records, an offshoot of Nightmares on Wax. This track puts me in mind of NoW and Talkin’ Loud, a definite jazz sensibility. One for the head-nodders.

Boca 45 ft. The Good People – People are you Ready?

Another little trip down memory lane here with some familiar names. Boca 45’s first album Pitch Sounds, was out in 2004 on the (much missed) Grand Central label, and was one of the classiest contributions to the whole big beat genre. Remember that Leisure All Stars track “A Lot to Say”? (If you’re the person who nicked my 12” of that, maybe now’s the time to repent your sins and give it back please). The MC’s on that were NYC’s Good People, Emskee and The Saint. They’re masters of the old school flow. Here, Boca 45 sticks to his B-Boy roots and serves up a platter that would be guaranteed floor filler at any party worth being at.

Amy True – Question Authority

If you bought Akala’s album, Knowledge is Power, earlier this year then you’ll be familiar with Amy True already. This is her first solo release since 2014’s single, Supersonic. Great to have a longer solo release from the London singer and MC. She’s a talented MC and singer, who writes intelligent and explicitly conscious lyrics. There’s a couple of stand-out tracks: Falling and Get Out Ghetto are unmissable.

Awon & Phoniks – Knowledge of Self

I can’t see that there’s a single hip hop fan out there who won’t love this album which is available as a name your price download on their Bandcamp page. It hits every point on the check list. Head-nodding beats? Tick. Great use of horn samples? Tick. Mellifluous MC’s? Tick. Lyrical dexterity? Tick. As the title suggests, this is a thoughtful album that rewards repeat listens. Just go and give them some money for it.

Apollo Brown – Money (featuring Masta Ace and Wordsworth)

So last month was the first in forever that didn’t feature a release from Mello Music Group. That was only because the LP from heavyweight Apollo Brown came a little too late for the review. Normal service is resumed. Now, I don’t love every single track on this album. Probably because some of the guests aren’t my bag. But this is a winner.

Words by Vicky T