Alright, it’s time for round two of the levelheaded hip-hop section. Once again, we’re offering this section as a chance to catch up on some of the hip-hop releases of the recent months but again we stress that this certainly isn’t all of them out there!

The Boston based Mr. Lif was featured here last month with his Emergency Rations EP and he’s certainly busy because we just received his latest full-length ‘I Phantom’ which will be released September 3rd. Released on the phenomenal Definitive Jux label, this album features production by El-P on six of the tunes as well as producers Lif, Edan, Fakts One, and Insight as well as a load of additional cohorts from Aesop Rock, El-P, Akrobatk, Insight, Jean Grae, and more on mic duties. You haven’t heard socio-political hip-hop like this in a long long while and Mr. Lif offers an intelligent and slamming critique of a post 9/11 world and goes where few would dare, stressing the need for more politically conscious artists like Mr. Lif. He’s releasing a lot of material these days with the help of Def Jux as well as winning the Boston Music Awards four times now. I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more from him in the coming years.

Minneapolis based duo Atmosphere (producer Ant and Slug as MC) have been getting a lot of press lately and are developing quite the following and if you listen to their new album “God Loves Ugly”, you may or then again, may not join in.It’s a good record but at times Atmosphere’s Slug starts with a little crotch-grabbing and adding some of the machismo cock talk that has rotted hip-hop over the years. On the good side, there are still some great songs on the album. Slug’s lyrics at times can be a honest reflection of a life many can relate with but the production on the album good of taken a more interesting approach. I’m split down the middle.

I must admit, everytime I saw those old episodes of Fresh Prince where Jazzy Jeff made his little appearances, I wondered what we was up to nowadays. I wondered if he was jealous of Will’s fame, or went off to pursue something else. Perhaps I just wasn’t very well connected but I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that wondered the same. Well, everything was brought to light this month! BBE Records and Rapster are releasing the debut full-length “The Magnificent” from DJ Jazzy Jeff in August. Apparently, if you didn’t have a clue like I didn’t, Jeff stared A Touch of Jazz, which is a large musical production facility with a number of producers and have been more then busy writing TV theme songs, producing Will Smith’s solo albums, and working with artists like MC Lyte, Kenny Latimore, Michael Jackson, and um.....Darius Rucker of um....Hootie and the Blowfish. Yes, while I’m sure this sounds like a great biz venture, it does make you wonder what on earth this album is going to sound like. I don’t like Hootie, most TV themes, Willenium or whatever, and especially not Michael J’s new material!! Never fear, the album, it actually pretty damn good and reminds me of the golden 93’ era. The production isn’t ground-breaking but wicked regardless and my god, the guest line-up is simply amazing. Everyone from Jill Scott, ?uestlove, J-Live, Freddie Foxx, Raheim, Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men, Pauly Yamz, Baby Blak, and plenty more. The finest element is Jazzy Jeff pulling together a lot of urban styles aside from hip-hop like soul, r’n’b, spoken word and deep house! Jazzy Jeff should of done this a long time ago but it does sound like he’s been a bit busy.

On the instrumental side of things, more Def Jux news! If you didn’t already check it out, RJD2 has released his solo album and and much respect for Def Jux for branching out on this one. RJD2 started off a while back producing tracks for MHz and the Fondle Em label before gaining the interest of El-P to work on a compilation and some Cannibal Ox tunes. His first solo album, “Dead Ringer, is one hell of a solo album that is dirty and dusty and musically vast without trying to sound like the next DJ Shadow or El-P. It’s certainly not just for hip-hop heads either being that I found myself being to shake a little ass to many of the tracks. Can’t wait to hear where he goes next.

On the other side of the ocean, Rae&Christian’s acclaimed Grand Central label has just released the second album from Fingathing. i have to be honest, I helped on press for this one but what the hell...The duo Peter Parker and Sneaky are one part ex-DMC champ tablist and one part classically trained musician. They are back with their trademark and funny as hell humor that combines hip-hop drum programming, heavy turntable workouts with beautiful acoustic bass and string compositions. You can look for the first part of the album to stay in line with the last release but towards the middle the duo seems to go off to some other strange land being that it gets heavy and abstract like large scale finger costumes and Mexican wrestling contests. I mean, just check out the site I’m not just plugging it. It really is a must see.

In the world on non-english rap albums, the Trikont label has released a phenomenal compilation but poorly titled “Africa Raps” which is a collection of hip-hop from Sengegal, Mali, Gambia that until this release could only be found in the music cassette shops of those countries. The disc also comes with a vey informative booklet discussing the music scene, political climate, and background of these artists. The hip-hop scene there is so massive and packed full of major talent. The disc represents the variety of different styles and even though I have no idea what they’re saying, the vibe is universal. After hearing an album like this, it’s upsetting that these artists are so overlooked in the world and especially the U.S markets. While the U.S. labels and Mr. Diddy shell out the cookie-cutter money makers, artists and labels around the world are working hard to gain some well deserved attention. -JH

If you missed last month's LHHIPHOP, don't even trip.

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