DirtHeadz DirtHeadz Presents: The Movement (Dirthead Productions)
They may never receive the heavy rotation of hip-hop heavyweights like Jay Z or Kanye West, but the Dirtheadz' latest release is about as commercially viable as underground hip-hop can get. The Movement has the high-pitched hooks and unflinching swagger that characterizes so much of popular rap today. But the record amounts to more than music for the masses. The track "No Names With Names" in particular merits critical as well as widespread approbation for its combination of immediate likability and salient flows. Give Kanye's Late Registration a break and check out what the Dirtheadz have to offer.
Flow Nice Listen Closely (World Records Music)
Santa Fe's Flow Nice remind us that there's more to hip-hop than how many bullet wounds you've accumulated. These down-to-earth, forthright emcees remain true to the mold of groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Jurassic Five, who don't hide behind gimmicks and street cred. Instead, Flow Nice lets their seamless samples and smirk-inducing lyrics do the talking. Perhaps most impressively, the requisite vibrato is carried out in a tongue-in-cheek fashion that's refreshing in a genre where everyone and their mom claims to be an ill emcee. To check out the CD, go to worldrecordsmusic.com.
Mad Happy Renegade Geeks (Mutiny Zoo Records)
I've never heard anything quite like Renegade Geeks. Mad Happy's electro-pop/rap is clearly designed for a very select group of people who may or may not actually exist. Is the album original? Absolutely. Listenable? Not for more than a few seconds. Perhaps I'm just a rap conformist who couldn't recognize true artistic genius if it was express mailed to me, but I'm not keen on this album and I doubt that you will be either.