Hip Hop has reached new levels of popularity. But that doesn’t mean it’s all good. The Listener’s Guide to Hip Hop is a weekly column devoted to bringing you only the best, from independent and underground to the worthwhile pop and instrumental. We’ll show you how to get the most out of your hip hop every week right here at the Listener’s Guide to Hip Hop.


Graffiti alley, Toronto


Party With Villains EP cover art

If you’re looking for feel good hip hop, Zilla Rocca is not for you. This Philadelphia native grew up in the midst of intense gang wars in South Philly, and decades later, he’s making art about it. Rocca just recently released his latest EP, ‘Party With Villains,’ a record chalk full of homages to 80s gangster life and 90s/00s basketball thugs (i.e. Allen Iverson). “Clay Davis,” produced by Small Professor and featuring Has-Lo & Curly Castro, epitomizes the EP, combining old school deep bass, kick drum and high hat hip hop with a contemporary voice. If you’re looking for a true underground artist to get behind, look no further. The album can be streamed and downloaded through bandcamp here. In fact, it’s pay what you want with no minimum. I wouldn’t suggest downloading it for free, but hey, this country is all about freedom so do what you want.




We featured Guante & Big Cats‘ track, “To Young Leaders,” in our Song section. I would’ve been satisfied with leaving it at that, giving you a preview of what’s to come from this up and coming artist. But then I heard the album, and realized, I couldn’t just leave it at that. I had to feature ‘You Better Weaponize’ for our album. Passion, artistry, substance, consciousness, and playfulness run rampant throughout this Strange Famous Records release. Guante’s spoken word poetry roots run deep through cuts like “Lightning” and “Underground Sex Party.” To be straight, choruses are not his strong suit, but hey, it’s poetry, so who cares? ‘You Better Weaponize is available here through bandcamp for $10 and if you’re still not sure you can stream every track first.





It’s been a busy year for Murs, having just released an album with Fashawn in September. But that’s not it for his 2012. Murs & 9th Wonder will release their latest full length album, the fourth together, Tuesday, November 13th. It will reportedly be their last; as such, the album is titled ‘The Final Adventure.’ The duo recently put out the video for the track “Funeral for a Killer,” and it’s probably their darkest yet. The song, an analysis of the paradoxes of gang life, the struggles of posthumously celebrating the life of a man who is a murderer himself, sure warrants a video with appropriate intensity, and they really delivered. Between the black and white, the inside the coffin shots, and the full facial make up, we feel the pain inherent in the lyrics. You’re not gonna dance to this, but it should make you think… and that’s not a bad thing.



Because that was pretty dark (my honest apologies for this overly morose post), I’ll give you two videos this week. There are a couple videos like this one floating around, but this one made me laugh. On his latest tour, Aesop Rock has made a habit out of having supporting artists shave the head of an audience member while he raps his song “Racing Stripes,” a song about getting funky hair cuts because, after all, dude, it grows back. In this one, instrumental hip hop artist, Edison plays barber. The audio sucks, yes, but the haircut is hilarious. Enjoy.


Most fall/winter tours have already been announced and there’s rarely too much drama in independent hip hop, but a few things that have come up lately that should be of note: P.O.S., who has been featured here before, recently had to cancel his tour in promotion of his latest album, because serious health issues. He apparently has been struggling with Kidney problems for a long time now (though you’d never know it from the energy he puts into his albums and performances) and doctors have finally told him to press the pause button. Because independent hip hop doesn’t exactly come with a premium health insurance plan, a website has been started to raise funds for a kidney transplant and follow up procedures. To donate or to watch the video in which Stef (painfully) explains it all, click here.


Independent Maine rapper Spose had a pretty big hit a few years back with the catchy tune, “I’m Awesome,” and since then has struggle to catch any kind of magic in a bottle. He’s turned down offers from major record labels and has been a major advocate of keeping it indie. Unfortunately, there’s not alot of money in that, and so he’s asking for donations to make some (good) videos and spread the word for some upcoming mixtapes. I’m aware I’m going to get alot of flack for this because Spose and alot of “frat boy hip hop” has many critics out there, but I’m doing it anyway. Is it great art? Eh. Is it powerful? Eh. Is game changing? Not particularly. But there’s something to be said for a completely independent artist who deliberately chooses to not sell out to a major label, and the passion and pure love he puts into his music can give it its own power. So click here to check out his kickstarter site, watch the video, and donate if you feel so inclined.

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