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5 great hip-hop albums from 2021 by independent artists

Written by Jacob Ezra

Picture: Lord Apex

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 5 albums that truly stood out to us, all released by independent hip-hop artists.

Lord Apex- ‘Smoke Sessions 3’

UK rapper Lord Apex‘s Smoke Sessions 3 is an atmospheric collection of refreshing boom-bap joints that had us hooked from the get-go. Opening with the cloudy, shimmering “Ssv3”, this album is a laid-back ride full of immersive ambiance. The rapper’s laid-back, hypnotic flow pairs smoothly with the easy-going production to create a mesmerizing listening experience.

Highlight tracks: “Like You Know”, “Say That”

D2x- ‘The Color Blue’

A vivid, eclectic offering from Chicago’s D2x, The Color Blue puts his dynamic, forward-thinking style on full display. He comes through with 13 intriguing, memorable hip-hop cuts that flirt with jazz and dance music. Chock full of personality, The Color Blue showcases the young artist’s potential as an exciting artist in the underground.

Highlight tracks: “Shine”, “Adult Swim”

Camden Malik & Ibn Itaka- ‘Primetime’

Camden Malik & Ibn Itaka came through with one of our favourite albums this year, the evocative, hazy Primetime. Containing some impressive production that pairs fast-paced, bouncy percussion with atmospheric, reverb-drenched samples, as well as some exciting, expressive rhyming from Camden Malik, this is an album that beckons many re-visits to capture its full soundscape.

Highlight tracks: “Po Man”, “Mansion”

Robby Malic- ‘Who’s Robby Malic?’

The debut album from Massachusetts artist Robby Malic, the personal, vibrant Who’s Robby Malic? kicked off his prolific 2021. Containing colourful production and introspective lyricism, this record was in heavy rotation for us this year. In particular, album highlight “Pain” captured us immediately with its highly emotive, sharply-crafted vocals and uplifting production.

Highlight tracks: “Pain”, “All My Life”

Chanelle Kazadi- ‘Make It Work’

A standout project from rising Ohio artist Chanelle Kazadi, Make It Work is a heartfelt, refreshing collection of tracks that showcases Kazadi’s personality at every turn. From the glowing, warm mood of opener “Two Cents” to the powerful sound of closer “Family Matters”, Make It Work stands contains many memorable moments that kept us rewinding.

Highlight tracks: “Two Cents”, “Make It Work”

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