Written by Jacob Ezra
With 2021 coming to a close, we look back at the independent music scene as one positive takeaway from a year of confusion and volatility. With many strong releases this year, we had trouble narrowing down a definitive list, but here are Roundhouse Music’s selections of 10 songs that truly stood out to us, all released by independent hip-hop artists.
Rx Papi & Gud- “N.L.M.B.”
A highlight track off Rx Papi & Gud’s refreshing project Foreign Exchange, “N.L.M.B.” encapsulates the record’s forward-thinking, expressive sound. With an bold, icy instrumental influenced by cloud rap, and exciting, bracing flows from Rx Papi, this is a highly memorable cut.
LORD JAH-MONTE OGBON- “Where are you?, Pt. 2”
Containing a smooth, addictive instrumental cloaked in nostalgic warmth, “Where are you?, Pt. 2” is another strong offering in the growing catalogue of eclectic rapper LORD JAH-MONTE OGBON. With clever, memorable lyrics spun into fresh, creative patterns, “Where are you?, Pt.2” has been in heavy rotation for us this year.
John Robinson- “Heavy Ghetto” (ft. Eloh Kush & Blu)
On “Heavy Ghetto”, glitchy, immersive production from Blu pairs beautifully with John Robinson & Eloh Kush‘s dynamic flows to create a stimulating listening experience. The trio share an undeniable chemistry here, lending itself to a track that feels highly cohesive, yet also excitingly chaotic.
Fatboyshaun & Trox- “Timmy Chans”
One of our favourites from the latter half of this year, “Timmy Chans” is an elegant, charismatic cut from rapper Fatboyshaun and producer Trox. Here, a glowing, raw instrumental containing swirling guitars and heavy drums creates a strong foundation for Fatboyshaun’s lively flows, keeping the listener on their toes throughout.
Lonely Guest, Tricky & Kway- “On a Move”
Forward-thinking UK artist collective Lonely Guest‘s “On a Move”, featuring Tricky and Kway, is an infectious, atmospheric track that had us hooked from the get-go. With enticingly crisp flows and a shimmering, minimalistic instrumental, this cut provides a welcomingly refreshing sound.
New York-based Deca‘s “Sleepwalker” is an evocative instrumental hip-hop offering that effectively captures a mood of nostalgic beauty. With warm, laid-back guitars and textural percussion, this beat inspires one to replay memories from their life when listening. “Sleepwalker” appears Deca’s recent project, the vivid, reflective Source Material.
YL- “In The Air”
New York rapper YL had a highly prolific 2021, releasing 4 strong solo projects including the forward-thinking SODA CLUB and the glitchy IT NEVER ENTERED MY MIND. Despite having so many tracks to choose for this list from YL in 2021, “In The Air” stood out for its breezy production and reflective, memorable rhymes. With swirling vocal samples that play out hypnotically and lyrics that beckon multiple re-listens, “In The Air” makes a good case for one of our favourites this year.
Visual 9- “On bro”
Ohio artist Visual 9‘s “On bro” pairs a sentimental instrumental with thought-provoking, focused rhyming to create a track chock full of personality. The instrumental for “On bro” is sublime, centred around organic keys playing out in a memorable melody as subtly glitchy drums riding out beneath. Moreover, Visual 9’s rhymes are engaging and his lyrics refreshingly personal and sharply crafted, making for an engaging listening experience overall.
“STEPHEN” is a hypnotic, energizing banger from Vancouver, Canada’s Prado, pairing an adrenaline-fuelled instrumental with sharply-crafted melodies and smooth flows. A cut off her strong 2021 EP PRADO MONROE, this is a release that offers a powerful sound and heavy replay value.
Bungalow Collect- “Clutch”
Genre-blending New York group Bungalow Collect‘s “Clutch” is a spacey, exciting track that stood out for its futuristic sound and dynamic vocals. Here, the group’s members Rshad, Apollo J, Marcus Isiah, and Zay Suav trade effortlessly charismatic verses, displaying the group’s natural chemistry and sharp songwriting ability.