Global Hip Hop – Best of 2014

Published On February 1, 2015 | By Greg | Australia, Austria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Features, France, News, Nigeria, Scotland, Senegal, South Africa, Sweden, UK

From the thousands of hip hop releases worldwide in 2014, we listened to about 250 of the most popular and recommended ones. With so many great albums, this was an especially tough year. Check the Honorable Mentions for even more great music!

10542008_10152373484371451_503398422538393124_nKeur Gui – Encyclopédie (Senegal) – Keur Gui (rappers Thiat and Kilifeu) are the most fierce political artists I have ever run across. As local performers from Kaolack, Senegal, they have been speaking out against the government and politicians for more than a decade. They were jailed and beaten. Their music was banned. Undeterred, they banded together with other artists and journalists to found Y’en a Marre (“Fed Up”), a new political party organization that helped oust the current president in the 2011 elections. Keur Gui spent months in Washington DC meeting with political leaders and recording this album. The end result is a double LP, the separate discs named “règlements de compte” (Settling) and “opinion publique” (Public Opinion). It is foremost an indictment of Senegal’s economy: power cuts, soaring prices, the selling off of the coast, the accusations of interference of the first lady in the management of public affairs.  The customs of the political class, Senegalese greed and lack of role models for young people are condemned with equal tone. Although it paints a bleak picture, the phenomenal energy of the MCs underscores the message powerfully. Video: Keur Gui – Nothing to Lose

AfrikanBoy-ABCD_artwork-frnt1AfriKan Boy – The ABCD (Nigeria/UK) – AfriKan Boy has been around for a decade, and this is his most mature work to date, musically and lyrically. While the trend back in Lagos is commercial rap ballers, AB draws inspiration from traditional African music (even sampling Fela Kuti on “Hit Em Up”) while maintaining a contemporary appeal (some call it Afro-Grime). His songs explain his experience as an African immigrant in London (like losing his visa) in a witty yet poignant way. Features some wonderful collaborations with Nneka, Dehinde and Birmingham MC Lady Leshurr. Young, Ambitious and Motivated – this is how he describes himself (Y.A.M.) and his indie record label and it’s obvious from the quality of this album. Video: African Boy – Hit Em Up

anatijouxAna Tijoux – Vengo (Chile) – Ana returns with her third solo album (previous work with Chilean group Makiza – check the old school if you don’t know). Since 2010, she has been enshrined as a Latin American hip hop icon. She imagines “a world without class struggle” and rallies for free education and the environment, as well as raps of pro-female and social justice themes. Vengo strayed more into traditional Andean instruments than previous efforts, and to great effect. She shows no signs of slowing down, touring the USA at least twice last year with a live band (and appearing at the Kennedy Center’s One Mic festival in April). Video: Ana Tijoux – Somos Sur (ft. Shadia Mansour)

114460-L-LOHilltop Hoods – Walking Under Stars (Australia) – Hilltop Hoods have been golden ever since their phenomenal 2006 album, The Hard Road. They are rap royalty in Australia, so no surprise that Walking Under the Stars garners such attention (and the 2014 ARIA Award Best Urban Album award). The Adelaide trio’s 7th album is the companion piece to their previous effort Drinking in the Sun, and the two were conceived and recorded at the same time. Insightful and humble, their music perfectly speaks for a generation of Aussie youth, and while appealing and not overly commercial (the sample-based production mixed with live instrumentation is foundation hip hop.) Video: Hilltop Hoods – Cosby Sweater

500x500Ibrahim Maalouf & Oxmo Puccino – Au pays d’Alice (France) Composer/trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf and the esteemed French rapper Oxmo Puccino have put together a project like I’ve never seen before. The album visits the world of Alice in Wonderland backed by the Youth Orchestra from the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Paris. A sort of modern opera, Au pays d’Alice finds Puccino penning one song for each chapter of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel while Maalouf sets the jazz-rock orchestration. Video: Ibrahim Maalouf / Oxmo Puccino – La Porte Bonheur

0002418588_10Joey le Soldat – Burkin bâ (Burkina Faso) – With his second album, Joey le Soldat (the Soldier – named in honor of his rifleman grandfather) presents thumping beats and electro beneath his thundering, deep voice. His tongue travels between Moré (the Mossi language) and French with wit and clever, but sharp criticisms of his society all aimed at educating the youth of his country. Although somewhat militant in his delivery, his intention is to unify. He is authentic, no posing, as you can see in his videos – Joey puts the message first and doesn’t get caught up in materialism. Video: Joey Le Soldat – D.M.D.

81cQgrCHbML__SL1425_Krudas Cubensi – Poderosxs (Cuba) – Austin-based Cuban duo Krudas Cubensi (Las Krudas) provide “New Caribbean Feminist” anthems. Founders of an all female hip hop collective in Havana nearly a decade ago, Krudas were founded on  challenging the racism, sexism, inequality, heterosexism in Cuban society. Their commentary holds true for much of American culture as well. (In 2014, they also teamed up with Invincible and Climbing PoeTree on the outstanding EP called Outerspaces Crew.) Video: Krudas Cubensi – Mi cuerpo es mio

okmalumkoolkat-holy-oxygen-affine-recordsMC Okmalumkoolkat – Holy Oxygen EP (South Africa/Austria) (Prod by Cid Rim & The Clonious) – This is the first release from South African MC Okmalumkoolkat. He flows effortlessly between English, Africaans and Zulu over brilliant tracks mixing jazz and kwaito (South African house music) by Austrian producers Cid Rim and The Colonious. This is the vision of future global collaborative hip hop. Download:


a3459781894_10Yarah Bravo – Love Is The Movement (Sweden/UK) – Known as one part of One Self (with DJ Vadim), the daughter of  Chilean and Brazilian freedom fighters who grew up in Sweden is like an overdose of hip hop soul. Her chill rapping style light signing is hypnotic. Quite simply, this current London resident, is brilliant. The production is catchy but futuristic, while at other times reminiscent of that best of 1990s hip hop. Love is the Movement is an ear pleasing release you won’t get tired of. Download:

51kCFom51cLYoung Fathers – Dead (Scotland) – This Scottish trio is pushing the boundaries of hip hop, alternative with pop sensibilities (in a good way).  They sing, rap and produce all of their music. Far from party music, it’s often dark and heavy, needing to sit down and listen. The Guardian put it well:  “Young Fathers have quietly constructed a strange and intoxicating musical universe that feels entirely their own, while no one else was paying attention.” The album won the 2014 Mercury Prize. Video: Young Fathers – Get Up


Honorable Mention:
Ayoba – Yeufou mak (Senegal)
Blitz the Ambassador – Afropolitan Dreams (Ghana/USA)
Delta – Pyramid Schemes (Australia)
Five Steez – These Kingston Times EP (Jamaica)
Fliptrix – Polyhymnia (UK)
Gagle – VG+ (Japan)
L-Fresh the Lion – One (Australia)
La Dame Blanche – Piratas (Cuba/France)
Looptroop Rockers – Naked Swedes (Sweden)
O.S.T.R. & Marco Polo – Kartagina (Poland/Canada)
SiriusMc – Проект Зворотній Відлік (Ukraine)
Smellington Piff – Notice of Eviction (UK)

Many thanks to all my friends who submitted their choices for best of 2014. Here are the selections that they sent me.

Andrew Bridge (Nomadic Wax intern, world traveler)
Chill bump – Ego Trip (France/UK)
Badbadnotgood – III (Canada)

Oyvind Holen (Norwegian hip hop writer, historian)
The critics’ choice – Store P: Regnmannen
The peoples’ choice – OnklP & De fjerne slektningene: Slekta II
The cult favourite – Shitrich: Makka Nykinen
The newcomer – Kaveh: Sannheten sårer
The future hope – Mats Dawg: Daogen EP
The Dark Horse – Handerre Linni: 1000 tak

Duncan Sodala (Zambian hip hop artist, promoter)
The Holstar – God, Life, City, Time EP (Zambia)
Chaa – Delta 93 EP (Zambia)

Trishes (Radio host, writer, producer, Vienna, Austria)
MC Okmalumkoolkat – Holy Oxygen EP (South Africa/Austria) (Prod by Cid Rim & The Clonious)
Fozhowi & Drk Poet – Alligatorman (Austria)
Laima & Def Ill – WeenA2 (Austria)

Adrienne Stanley (Kpop Music Writer)
Epik High – Shoebox (Korea)
Various Artists – Illionaire Records presents 11:11 (Korea)

Carol O’Connor (Rhyme-N-Reason Foundation)
Teddy Yo – Prisoner (Ethiopia)

DJ 5th Wurld (Atlanta)
Joey le Soldat – Burkin Bâ (Burkina Faso)
Rocky Marsiano – Meu Kamba (Portuguese producer who chopped Angolan, Cape Verdian, and Mozambican music) Aero Manyelo – Herbs Abroad (South Africa)
Tchobari – Kwatsiru (Angola)
Diamond District – March On Washington (Oddisee’s Sudanese roots apply)

Terence Kumpf (Doctoral candidate of American Studies, Dortmund, Germany)
Sookee – Lila Samt (Purple Velvet) (Berlin, Germany)
Tick Tick Boom – Herzschlag (Germany)
Edgar Wasser – Tourette-Syndrom EP (Germany)

Dj Nio – Zero Plastica / Nomadic Wax
Ana Tijoux f. Shadia Mansour “Somos Sur” (Chile/Palestine)
Various Artists – Mongolian Bling Soundtrack (Mongolia)
Murubutu “Gli Ammutinati Del Bouncin’ Ovvero Mirabolanti Avventure Di Uomini E Mari” (Italy)
FunkyLure & Marco G “Tuttoeniente” (Italy)
Various Artists – “Dc2Dk” (Senegal/USA)
Kubus “Kick Snare Snicker” (Netherlands)
Esa a.k.a. El Prez “Perle Rare” (Italy)
Mr Billy “Welcome to my Paradise” (Mauritius)
Primo & Tormento “El Micro de oro” (Italy)
Kokayi “Track a day” (USA)

Vitali (Russian hip hop artist/writer)
SiriusMc – Проект Зворотній Відлік (Ukraine)
Zeman – Коска (Belarus)
Записки Неизвестного – Движение сердца (Russia)
Uyama Hiroto – Freedom Of The Son (Japan)
Yumi Haruka – Tosui (Japan)
Soulkast – Memento Mori (France)
Ibrahim Maalouf & Oxmo Puccino – Au pays d’Alice (France)
Hilltop Hoods – Walking Under Stars (Australia)
O.S.T.R. & Marco Polo – Kartagina (Poland/Canada)
Alcapa – Le son de vie (France)
Samy Deluxe – Männlich (Germany)
Soprano – Cosmopolitanie (France)

Jorgito Fink (Global Astro Liner radio show, Germany)

m-flo – Future Is Wow (Japan)
Ana Tijoux – Vengo (Chile)
Gagle – VG+ (Japan)
La Dame Blanche – Piratas (Cuba/France)
Afrikan Boy – The AB CD (Nigeria/UK)
Blitz the Ambassador – Afropolitan Dreams (Ghana/USA)
Yarah Bravo – Love Is The Movement (UK)
Looptroop Rockers – Naked Swedes (Sweden)
DJ Mitsu The Beats – Celebration of Jay (Japan)
MC Melodee – CrunchTime EP (Netherlands)

Msia Clark (editor of African Hip Hop and Social Change)
Blitz the Ambassador – Afropolitan Dreams (Ghana/USA)
Devour Ke Lenyora -We’re Almost There EP (South Africa)
Gigi Lamayne – Color of Reign (South Africa)

Naboth Rizla (Writer, Zimbabwe)
Cal_Vin – Perfect Balance (Zimbabwe)
Amiz – Dreams of August (Zimbabwe)
Naboth RIZLA – Trace Elements mixtape (Zimbabwe)
Holstar – God.Life.City.Time EP (Zambia)
POY – Blood Money Jacob (Zimbabwe)
Chaa – Delta 93 EP (Zambia)
Touch – Still mixtape (Botswana)