Wu-Tang Clan – A Better Tomorow

The latest Wu-Tang record defies expectations, featuring even weirder experiments and hooks than the polarizing 8 Diagrams. Still, it should please at least some hardcore fans.

Joey Bada$$ – “No. 99″ (prod. Statik Selektah)

What makes Joey Bada$$ such an interesting MC at the moment is, not surprisingly, his combination of youth and talent. This combination leaves us with a technically gifted rapper who is currently at the most crucial moment in his career. While he certainly deserves to succeed, there is always a chance that that simply doesn’t happen–if you think he isn’t smart enough to know this, diagram his internal rhymes and ask yourself that question again. The result? Joey is a with a highly skilled artist earnestly putting over 100 percent effort into everything that he does. On “No. 99,” Bada$$ doesn’t make it sound easy. He’s consciously making what he’s doing sound as difficult as possible. At the midway point, he swaps 90′s style New York delivery for off the wall Jah inspired rapping akin to Kendrick Lamar’s recent style. All the while, he treats the beat as merely a suggestion for the ways his words should play with the time signature. Similarly, the 90′s Boom bap intertwines with the more modern bassline lurching behind it. We end up with a microcosm of Joey Bada$$ himself: reverent and irreverent at once. Yet all the while, he’s unbelievably entertaining while he’s making his statements.

- Garrett Cottingham

A$AP Ferg – Ferg Forever

Ferg Forever is one of the most off-the-wall mixtapes I’ve heard this year.

Blockhead – Bells and Whistles

A catalog as wide and definitive as that of producer Blockhead is most definitely one to be lauded and respected. Having worked with the likes of emcees like Murs and Aesop Rock as well as with labels including Defnitive Jux and Rhymesayers is unquestionably nothing to sneeze at. So it should come as no surprise that his latest solo project, Bells and Whistles, remains in the vain of a soundscape that’s pleasantly ominous, windswept and spacious–while also dense, free-flowing and heroically diverse. The sound selections and production choices by Blockhead are nothing if not strategically challenging and chilling. The background sampled voices on tracks like “You’ll Get Over It” and “On The Back Of A Golden Dolphin” add an air of tense mystery to Blockhead’s beautifully blighted production. He throws in everything but the kitchen sink that will take any unfamiliar listeners’ ears on a musical whirlwind: tribal drums, maracas and hand claps, movie sound effects samples, old school R&B melodies and voices, classical big band pianos, deep computerized synthesizers, off-kilter strong instruments. Further, Blockhead literally creates songs within songs, as he effortlessly transitions from one sample to the next without batting an eye, and expects the listener to keep up. And although Bells and Whistles does unfortunately begin to wane in certain areas, it’s a body of work that deserves several start-to-finish listens to grasp the whole of Blockhead’s grand pursuit of creating some of the most wide-ranging and nonconformist Hip Hop production.

- Ron Grant

Ghostface Killah – “The Battlefield” ft. Kool G Rap, AZ & Tre Williams

Following up his impressive collaborative concept album with Adrian Younge last year, Twelve Reasons To Die, Ghostface Killah is ready to drop another full-length this December titled 36 Seasons. It’s another concept album, which is fine by me, and details a story of revenge.

“The Battlefield” is the second track to get released from this thing–here’s the first–and it features verses from Kool G Rap and AZ. There’s a sweet hook on this thing that’s sung by Tre Williams, too. The track puts us right in the middle of the album’s storyline, introducing us to an unhappy Ghostface Killah reacting to his old neighborhood going to hell after a 9-year hiatus spent somewhere else.

The track’s instrumental has a head-bobbing rhythm, some righteous piano chords, and a driving guitar lead, too. While the lyrical content leaves a lot of questions about the storyline of the album, it’s certainly a good cliffhanger for now.

Look for 36 Seasons via Tommy Boy on December 9th.

A$AP Ferg – “This Side” ft. YG

A$AP Mob‘s resident Trap Lord A$AP Ferg comes through with a new single featuring West Coast up-and-comer YG. I think it’s safe to assume we’re gonna have an album cycle soon, but I can’t say this track here has gotten me excited for it.

For one, YG doesn’t do the track any favors. Without a catchy hook and a DJ Mustard beat, he’s rendered completely uninteresting. He’s like a hype man whose part went on too long. I don’t mind Ferg’s verses at all, which are loaded with personality and his typically wild inflections–especially on the last verse. However, the hook here is a real dud. The fact the beat redundantly hangs around the same melody during the chorus doesn’t exactly make the transition from the verse exciting either.

All in all, it’s a pretty underwhelming introduction to Ferg’s next project. Hopefully, his future material is more explosive. Check a review for Ferg’s last album right here.

Big Ups – “Not Today”

The lovable noise rockers over at Big Ups are teaming up with fellow Brooklynites Washer for a split 7″, due out November 18 via Exploding in Sound. Last week we shared the first track from Big Ups’ side, “Rash,” and now you can hear their second scathing offering, “Not Today,” above. Happy listening!

Parquet Courts and PC Worship – “Fell into the Wrong Crowd”

Can’t say I was expecting this: an 11-minute collaborative live recording from PC Worship and the New York post-punks over at Parquet Courts. Isn’t it “Parkay Quarts” now? Who knows? I certainly don’t know if the song at all works, especially with its disgustingly distorted vocal, but I’ll give it credit for being an interesting, left-field turn at the very least. Granted, it’s not nearly as profound as anything off that other garage rock/post-punk surprise from earlier this year.

Parkay Quarts has a new album on the way called Content Nausea. It’s out November 11 via What’s Your Rupture? and doesn’t feature this track. It’ll be the band’s second album this year, after Sunbathing Animal, whose review you’ll find below:

Joey Bada$$ – “Christ Conscious” (prod. Basquiat)

New York rapper and Pro Era member Joey Bada$$ drops the 2nd single from his forthcoming album, B4.DA.$$. With the great beat, and the increased aggression on all of Joey’s flows lately, I’m dying to hear this album. Not totally sure when that’s dropping, though. Why, Joey, why?!?!?! We can’t wait any longer!

Check out a video for this track below, and scope a review of Joey’s 1999 tape here.

Your Old Droog – “Hoodie Weather” ft. Prodigy

Your Old Droog! This dude’s a brooklyn rapper who’s been making the rounds on the Internet since this past summer, and his hype was based mostly off of the rumor that he was Nas. People were even upping the pitch of tracks on his lone EP just to try to prove to themselves that this was true. Now, I understand why people were feeling this way; I mean, he does sound a lot like Nas. Even my dude Apathy was fooled.

But now that this whole mess has been put to rest, Droog is just another rapper from New York. However, that’s no reason to count him out–especially after the release of the song embedded above. Not only does this song boast a stellar feature from Prodigy of Mobb Deep, but Droog hits upon a song topic that’s close to the heart of anyone from the North East: hoodie weather.

With leaves changing and temperatures dropping, “Hoodie Weather” is the perfect soundtrack for the fall. With his deep, grime-caked voice, Droog pens a sluggishly blissful hook that can go toe-to-toe with some of hip hop’s most classic summer anthems. Lyrically, Droog is on point, and addresses everything from germophobia to friends.

All I can say right now is keep it up, and I’m looking forward to whatever’s dropping next. Despite the disappointment I’m sure some felt after realizing Droog wasn’t Nas, the fact that he can write such a great tune and get a nod from a vet like Prodigy is proof enough he’s worthy of our attention for at least a little longer.