June 1st: Elder Orange - "All My Friends Believe in Ghosts"
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It's been a damn strong year for 802 hip hop across the board -- but the instrumental front has been especially hot. We've seen the launch of a new BTV label, Equal Eyes Records, who have dropped two excellent beat tapes: the ILLu & Rico James collaboration "Tired of Waiting for Rappers" and Teece Luvv's low-key manifesto "Semantics." On top of that, Loupo blessed us with his "Vacations EP," a dazzling dive into EDM territory, and the grandmaster Es-K just released his latest LP, "Koan."

Elder Orange is a new name on the scene, an NEK native now operating out of Southern Vermont. "All My Friends Believe In Ghosts" is his debut, and, as he puts it, a "musical declaration of independence." Elder Orange is a multi-instrumentalist with a decade of experience as a (real, actual) studio engineer, and boy howdy, it shows. It's the result of hundreds of hours of recordings, sessions with guest musicians, and a stunning array of gear, vintage and new. It's dropping on June 1st, but there's a preview track up for now -- check out "Homebody" -- and we'll be doing an exclusive stream next week. Stay tuned.

 

Justin Boland
Es-K - "Koan"

A brand new headtrip of an LP from Es-K, surely one of the most accomplished producers our humble state has ever seen. "Koan" finds the blapmaster in rare form, coming off a string of triumphant rap albums (check out "Building Bridges,"  "Urban Couture" and "Rebirth of the Slickest" if you haven't already) -- and now he's looking for new sounds. 

He's also rocking with a new label, NINETOFIVE RECORDS which is ... a pretty appropriate name for a workaholic like Es-K, really. He's also dropped a bonus track, reworking a beat off Urban Couture into an instrumental expedition with John Culbreth on the trumpet and BTV wunderkind Danny Whitney on the keys. The world could use a whole album of this.

Justin Boland
Mister Burns & Jarv on Grind Mode Cypher

From the Kind Of A Big Deal Department: two of the 802's foremost emcees have been featured on the latest Grind Mode Cypher video. For the few folks unfamiliar with GMC, it's a series that showcases top independent talent -- and a serious co-sign / career landmark. 

Jarv also dropped a new track last week on the Leedz compilation album, Eastern Standard. His song is named "Scream" and it's a standout cut on an LP full of big names. This is just the beginning of a big summer blitz, too. 

Justin Boland
May 24th - 4th Thursday Benefit for Johnny Morris
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This Thursday, Winooski's Monkey House will be hosting a massive benefit show for Boomslang producer / DJ / occasional emcee JL, aka Johnny Morris. He's a generous mammal who has been essential to building a scene in central VT, and an enthusiastic supporter of 802 talent.

He's also going through a serious medical crisis right now, so for this month's edition of 3rd Thursday, Anthill Collective is teaming up with the Hustle, Loyalty & Respect team to throw a proper barn-burner of a show. The poster ain't kidding -- the lineup is simply insane. 

On top of that, since Anthill is out here for the culture and Johnny wouldn't have it any other way, there's also going to be the usual Open Cypher at 9 pm sharp. ILLu will be providing the beats. This is a free show, but also -- obviously -- a fund-raiser, bud, so expect to find a lot of uses for spare currency that night. There will even be a bake sale. 

Be there. When Anthill and HLR combine forces, you know it's going to be a hell of a night.

Justin Boland
Saturday - Waking Windows Hip Hop Showcase
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Waking Windows is a Winooski music festival that ... well, it basically grew out of the front door of The Monkey House and turned into something of a phenomenon. 2013 was their breakout year and it's hard to imagine the 802 scene without it now.

It's great to see Vermont hip hop getting represented so strongly this year, too.  Hell, Saturday's showcase is practically a mini-festival unto itself, with a lineup like that. Running from 10 pm until closing, this is a big stage guided tour hosted by Mister Burns. He's had a lot of career high notes in the past year, and this celebration is surely one of 'em. 

DJ for the evening is Mike Fulton, Rhythm Riderz and Anthill Collective will both be in the building representing their respective elements, and you'll be treated to performances by Loupo, 99 Neighbors, Hitmen For Hire, Boomslang, HLR's yung phenom Drive -- and a special performance from Learic and Es-K, debuting new material. Also expect new material from PR DepARTment and Teece Luv.

Justin Boland
VIDEO: "GHOUL" - Sam.

A brand new video from Sam Paulino, and it's definitely one of the best produced we've seen so far this year. This is, in fact, slick as hell. It's also a sign of things to come -- there's a big extended crew at work behind the scenes here, prepping for summer. 

In related news, Sam. x HANKNATIVE have rolled out a new name for that collective: 99 Neighbors, along with a proper new website, too. Expect a lot of new music and more heavyweight visuals. 

Justin Boland
"ILLiterature" - Mind's Eye Tribe
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There were a few delays prior to the release of this latest project from Mind's Eye Tribe, but it's easy to see why: this "EP" grew into a whole damn album. MET is a mostly 802 crew of spitters, in the vein of Demigodz or Army of the Pharaohs, mostly orchestrated by JynxINC emcee / prouducer Eyedos. The other core members are Stresselbee of Epidemiks, Trono of Self PortraitAdemus, iMHi, J-Zila, RuffNek and Trips. Finally, Brattleboro artist Capa 3 rounds out the lineup in a big way -- in addition to spitting, he produced the opening and closing cuts (as DJ Hakal) and even did the cover art (as Zeke Parker. Nice work, Zeke.)  ILLiterature is their second project, hot on the heels of their 2017 debut. 

Just like their first album, ILLiterature makes it clear that MET is way more than "that crew Eyedos has." Sure, he's both prolific and gifted, but he's also playing a supporting role here. Almost everyone in the posse is a multi-talented operator with experience in the game, and it shows. 

Everything kicks off like it should: with an atmospheric intro cut setting the tone, a banging crew anthem laying out the manifesto, and then a monster of a posse cut -- "MET Cypher" is a serious piece of work. It kicks off with a burner of a sixteen from Sa-Roc, one of the best recent additions to the Rhymesayers roster. The track is a 1:1 map of the whole MET business plan -- they're aiming squarely for underground legitimacy, for the recognition of the rappers they respect.

With a crew as big and diverse as Mind's Eye Tribe, that pantheon spans pretty damn far, obviously. But the aesthetic is always raw skills over industry "success." The other big feature on this LP is Swollen Members legend Madchild, one of Canada's most truly unhinged exports in recent decades. He's also a shrewd artist-capitalist who understood how to build a movement since the start of his career. Madchild has a global network, Battle Axe Warriors, which often gets written about as a "fan club" -- but any artist reading this should take a half hour to get familiar. "It does't matter if you guys don't get it," he says on track six, "what matters is that I do, and where this is headed."

Throughout the LP, the MET crew spits a lot of (hilarious) venom about The Industry -- the fake stars, the shitty music, the hidden agendas -- but this is also a pragmatic stance. "Blowing up" is like winning the lottery, a one-time achievement that's not sustainable. What MET is looking to do is build a real fanbase and own that shit. That might be small business, compared to whatever DJ Khaled and G-Eazy are hustling this fiscal quarter, but it's also a business that lasts. They will never have to chase trends, get sponsors, or answer to anyone but themselves.

...which is good, since they're hardcore boom bap purists who do eight minute tracks. ILLiterature is an utterly uncompromising album. Whether that's too much or fucking awesome will depend on your taste as a listener, but there is definitely a huge, devoted and global audience out there for this kind of rap. Quite a few of them are right here in Vermont. This is a soundtrack for backwoods burn turns, bonfires populated by heavy drinkers, house parties that end in fights. Or, you know, getting pumped at the gym or something.

MET have left fans and new listeners with a lot to unpack here, but for those who can't get enough, there is new solo material on the way this year from Ademus, Stresselbee, and Eyedos. Meanwhile, keep ILLiterature in rotation.

 

Justin Boland
The Craziest Weekend of 2018 ... So Far
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Today, of course, is Friday the 13th, so Happy Vorhees Day to those of you who celebrate. 

Last night at the Middle East in Boston, Mister Burns and Jarv kicked off their Preceding the Warmth tour with underground godfather Masta Ace. Last night also marked the beginning of perhaps the most packed weekend of Vermont Hip Hop News I think I've ever seen. What follows is an attempted summary.

First off, Mister Burns and Jarv will be bringing their circus through Rusty Nail Stage this evening in Stowe. This will be an 802 celebration, featuring Jibba "The Gent," Drive and Wool See, and hosted by DJ Mike Fulton. Be there.

Meanwhile, Es-K and Loupo are headed down to Boston for the grand finals of the Master of the Machines tournament at Sonia. This is a serious production battle, and it's being judged by some of the very best -- like Detroit's own Apollo Brown. Earlier today, Loupo also dropped a brand new project, his Vacations EP. It's another impressive stylistic turn from a talented young artist. 

Finally, Atlanta firebrand emcee Quanstar will be bringing his Rebuilding Greenwood Tour through Harvest Brewing in Bennington. He'll be rocking a special set with a full-on live band consisting of several members of The NEKTones, a soul-R&B-funk-jazz outfit that's set to make a lot of noise this summer.  

Thing is, though: that's just tonight. Tomorrow will be even more hectic. 

Boston emcee / producer Louis Mackey will be making a rare live appearance at Bennington's Masonic Hall, opening up for The NEKTones with beatsmith / koan aficionado Dr. Quandary. Mackey is fresh off the release of his dusty, crushing debut LP, AVGVSTVS, and there will be physical copies on sale. Quandary dropped a brand new EP just this morning, Cemetery Hands, which is dark & brilliant. Also, obviously, The NEKTones are going to tear the roof off of that ... uh, basement. (It is a very tastefully decorated and comfortable basement, I assure you.)

In Burlington, the place to be on Saturday night is Social Club & Lounge for the Always Staying Tru mixtape release / performance party. There will be a gang of talent in the building we don't get to see enough of, and the format should make for a fast-moving, fun evening.

Here's where things get interesting. On Saturday, April 14th, we've also got some of the Vermont scene's hardest workers making moves out of state. In fact, we've got Mass, New Hampshire and Connecticut covered. This seems like a damn significant milestone.

The Preceding The Warmth tour will head to Holyoke, MA to bless Waterfront Tavern. An already top notch bill will get a world class upgrade, too: Sadat X will be joining them. Over in the 603, JynxINC will be at the Shaskeen Pub in Manchester, opening for Apathy & Celph Titled, the original Demigodz. Meanwhile, the Hustle, Loyalty & Respect crew will be headed to Waterbury, CT to rock the Starz With Barz Reunion at T Jay's Bar and Grill.

Oh, yeah -- and B-Boy Wish of Rhythm Riderz crew / Break Room will be representing Vermont in the BORN 2 GET DOWN battle at the Zorba Music Hall in Lowell, MA. He was invited to be one of the "Underdog Top 8" competitors and will be up against dancers from around New England. Starts at noon and runs all day. 

Props to everyone involved, and props to the many artists not mentioned here who are hustling equally hard. This Summer is clearly going to be something special. 

Justin Boland
VIDEO: "Like Water" - Yung Breeze

A fresh music video from Yung Breeze, "Like Water" is a cut off his latest mixtape, Golden Era 3. This cat is a problem in the classic sense - he sings his own hooks, he's got bars for weeks, and he's building a real following.

The video was shot by Bar None The Best, who have been honing their music video game since last year. Rutland residents may recognize a spot or two. 

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: Hip Hop Shows in April
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If this lineup is any indication ... Summer 2018 should be completely insane. Here's the facts so far:

April 6 - Possibly Human, Jarv and Mister Burns at Club Metronome. This is a freebie celebration with an all killer, no filler lineup. 9 pm. 21+. FREE.

April 7 - Mics and Strikes at Champlain LanesAnother installment of the rap & bowling series -- a weird tradition, sure, but it's a blast. This features Philly G and Baylen, the rappers from Viva La Hop, as well as sets from Jarv and a special live band performance from Mister Burns. 8:30 pm. Free show, all ages, $15 gets you two (2) hours of bowling.

April 7 - One Year Anniversary Bash with Judah Priest at Social Club & Lounge. Lineup includes 144,000 Chosen Few, Zu Bullies and Mooch Brown. 9 pm. 21+. $5 adv / $10 door / Ladies Free.

April 12 - Masta Ace & Mister Burns at Middle East, Boston MA. Kickoff for the tour at rap mecca The Middle East. 

April 13 - Masta Ace & Mister Burns at Rusty Nail Stage. Mister Burns brings his Preceding The Warmth tour with Masta Ace and Jarv through Stowe with a gang of local talent. DJ Mike Fulton will host the evening, introducing openers Drive, Jibba "The Gent" and one man rap band Wool See. 8:30 pm. 21+. $14 adv / $18 door. 

April 13 - Quanstar w / live band at Harvest Brewing, Bennington. ATL rapper / entrepreneur Quanstar will be coming through for a special appearance with a live band consisting of NEKtones members. Harvest Brewing is a comfortable space with great sound and they're in for a treat. 8 pm. 21+. FREE SHOW.

April 13 - Es-K & Loupo @ Master of the Machines Finals at Sonia, Boston MA. Five-time BTV heavyweight tag team champions Es-K and Loupo will be representing the 802 and looking for a new belt at this huge event. The competition is top notch and the judges are Apollo Brown (!!!), Beat Butcha and Shawn J Period. DJ Manipulator will be hosting and spinning. 9 pm. 18+. $18 adv / $20 door.

April 14 - Always Stayin' True Mixtape Release / Live Performance at Social Club & Lounge. A cool idea: make a mixtape for your show, then perform your mixtape live. An evening of exclusive material and they'll be handing out free copies. This is dope. 10 pm. 21+. $3.

April 14 - Louis Mackey & Dr. Quandary / The NEKtones at Basement Music Series, Bennington. Some Boston hip hop and some Vermont ... well, future funk vintage R&B acid jazz? Soul music over Pete Rock drums? They're complicated but they cook, too. The NEKtones are out of hibernation and testing out new material alongside their favorite rap collaborators.  7 pm. All Ages. $15 adv / $18 door / $10 students.

April 14 - JynxINC opening for Apathy & Celph Titled at The Shaskeen Pub in Manchester NH. This will, obviously, be "a non-stop bars" kinda affair. Two legends of the underground are back on the road, and Apathy is absolutely at the top of his game right now, coming off a barrage of incredible LPs, most recently The Widow's Son. 8 pm. $20. 

April 14 - Masta Ace & Mister Burns w / Sadat X at Waterfront Tavern, Holyoke MA. Sadat X is one of the greatest to ever do it, and he's been back in a big way lately, dropping new material and killer guest spots. 9 pm. 21+. $15 adv / $20 door.

April 14 - Starz With Barz Reunion Madness at T Jay's Bar and Grill, Waterbury CT. The Hustle, Loyalty and Respect team will be representing in a big way down South on a Saturday night. Fresh off the Masta Ace show at Rusty Nail Stage, Jibba "The Gent" and Drive will be headed to Connecticut along with BioZone and Modest to rock sets at this party. 10 pm. 18+. $5.

April 15 - Rhythm Riderz at BORN 2 GET DOWN, Lowell, MA. Huge breakdancing extravaganza, promises to be insane. 

April 15 - Masta Ace & Mister Burns at The Hive, Keene, NH. Adeem and MF Shaleem will be performing as well. 8:30 pm. All Ages. $15.

April 16 - Speaking in Tongues at Light Club Lamp Shop. Mycelium MC is convening his team for another evening of improvised, instrumental hip hop. Radio Bean's slick extension is a perfect venue for this, should be a great night. 9:30 pm. All Ages. $3-5 Suggested Donation.

April 17 - Masta Ace & Mister Burns at Stella Blues, New Haven, CT. A packed lineup in what is sure to be a packed venue, also features Sketch Tha Cataclysm, who puts on a damn fine set. Pickle Godfather DJ Mo Niklz will be spinning all night. 9 pm. 21+. $15.

April 19 - 3rd Thursdays at The Monkey House. No word yet but this is always a guaranteed good time and an essential hub for the whole scene. Props to Anthill Collective. 

April 20 - Cut Chemist at Higher Ground. A living grandmaster is coming through Chittenden to show & prove once again; we are all lucky mammals to live in such a generous world. 8 pm. All Ages. $20 adv / $23 door. 

April 26 - Eyenine, Farout, Jarv, Mister Burns at Monkey House. More details to come, but that's a promising bill, bud.

April 28 - Mister Burns with Live Band, Jarv at Snowshoe, Montgomery. Again, details t/b/a for now. 

Justin Boland
"In All Honest" - XP

XP's latest single is damn impressive. Over a dark, stripped-down Elm Beats canvas, he lays out an intense & personal manifesto, all rendered in meticulous rhyme schemes. Dude can really spit, in other words. 

He's been on a tear through 2018 so far, and we can expect that kind of output to continue. It was refreshing to catch up with him: XP has no mixtapes or albums or big events to plug, he's just putting in work between the pad and the booth and making the best rap songs he can. Simply because he loves doing it. 

If you're feeling this, definitely check out his new collaboration with Breadtruck Productions, "Don't Push Me."

Justin Boland
THROWBACK: "W K N D" - Loupo

Over the weekend, I was startled to learn that Loupo had released an entire LP, last April, and I didn't even notice. W K N D dropped shortly before his Melody Soul debut album Good Company, which made a lot of noise that Spring and stands among last year's very best.

Turns out the secret album he managed to sneak past me is also a knockout. 

Loupo is cranking up for a busy Spring; he's got multiple projects on the horizon and just got the nod for a Discover Jazz appearance. He will also be hitting Boston, alongside Es-K, to rep the 802 at the Master of the Machines Battle Grand Finale at Sonia in Boston.

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Justin Boland
"Weirdo" - GOOD WTHR ft. PureWZRD

Coming at the tail end of December 2017, GOOD WTHR's debut LP Somewhere Shining didn't make the usual "Year's Best" lists, but: it really should have. The duo of Pro & Kin delivered a serious album with top-notch production, bars for days, and grown-up songwriting, too.

While GOOD WHTR is technically a new rap group, their experience sets them apart. They're constantly dropping new content with professional sound quality and a consistent look. They're constantly working on fresh publicity, in the US and beyond, and never treat their work like an "old release" -- because there is always new audience out there. 

Both of these emcees have been doing album-length projects and collaborating with artists around the world for many years now. For instance, their latest single features Manchester, UK rapper-crooner PureWZRD on the hook. 

Of course, The Internet is what makes all this possible: you can network with like-minded artists anywhere on Earth with decent wi-fi. Here in the 802, artists like BurntMD, JynxINC, and Rhythm Ruckus took advantage of that early, nailing serious collaborations and co-signs with timing, talent, and luck. The Aztext took it further than most, though -- Pro and Learic did an exceptional job finding talent to connect with overseas. 

GOOD WTHR has adopted a similar approach, and 2018 will be a sprint full of singles and LP credits. The duo will be on feature tracks for a half-dozen albums this Summer, by artists stretching from Boston (B Leafs) to Belarus (Dray Yard). Perhaps most prominently, they'll also be appearing on the next project from Switzerland true-school production powerhouse, Soulslicers. That is a good look.

Yet some of the work they're most excited about is local produce, like their upcoming single with Rico James of Equal Eyes Records. Then there's an entire EP with producer/multi-instrumentalist SkySplitterInk. "If the first two tracks are indicative of the rest of this project," Pro says, "this is going to be very special."

More on this team in the near future, obviously. Meanwhile, give "Weirdo" a few spins.

Justin Boland
ROUNDUP: New Singles & Songs
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Happy Wednesday, folks. It is time, once again, for our regular roundup & rundown of new hip hop tracks from the 802 -- today's selection is superb.

First up, a new song from emcee NOtation and producer/DJ David Chief -- "Moodrings" is a brave, fascinating track that makes it clear the next phase of NOtation's evolution will be full of surprises. If the names are new to you, check out their recent (damn fine) tape SANDS

"I keep giving you bangers after bangers," states BTV rapper Bitzzzzz, and that ... that is objectively true. "Desire" continues her 2018 winning streak and showcases her sharp flows & funny songwriting.  

Loupo is prepping a ton of new music, and broke us off this smooth-ass SZA remix to get the hype train started in style. Witness a young man on the rise. We'll have a lot of Loupo updates shortly. 

SkySplitterInk does not make idle threats. When he promised to release more music than ever this year, dude meant it. This latest single is an immaculately produced tribute to the late great Stephen Hawking, and it's a worthy headphone trip. The rest of Spring 2018 is going to be a blitzkrieg of new SkySplitterInk -- expect a lot of of collaboration singles in the weeks to come. 

Finally, we've got "Making Big Moves," a single from Ciurleo, the newest artist on the Hustle, Loyalty and Respect roster. A lucky mammal, in other words: that's a strong team with a lot to teach. Ciurleo is currently working on his debut mixtape, Better Late Than Never. Welcome to the club, bud!

 

Justin Boland
3/23: Blockhead w/ Possibly Human @ Higher Ground
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NYC producer and famously normal-ass dude Blockhead will be swinging through Higher Ground on Friday, and Possibly Human will be opening up. Blockhead is promoting his 2017 LP Funeral Balloons, and Possibly Human crew is prepping a flood of new music and a video for the recent Sam. single "Ghoul." An evening of tasty hip hop in the Queen City's 2nd most prestigious venue. 

8 pm. All Ages. $10 adv / $15 door.  Get tickets here

Justin Boland
FRIDAY NIGHT: March Raddness @ Club Metronome
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The team at East Coast Indie is bringing another packed showcase / networking festival through Club Metronome on the 16th. MARCH RADDNESS is a sequel to last October's "East Coast Indie Jam," which managed to get an impressive chunk of the New England scene under one roof for one night.

This latest incarnation is aiming to go bigger, across the board. Anyone looking to sample a broad selection of new artists is in luck: there's a ton of two-song showcase sets, and Stiltz will keep the trains running on time. 

Maine monster Ill By Instinct will also be in the building, alongside DJ Myth -- both of them are lynchpins for the New England scene, especially the tradition of Rap Night. Throw in spitboxer Weapon E.S.P. and the NH standout Mike Wing, and the "New England All-Stars" claim pretty much checks out. This will be a huge night.

Naturally, StiltzGang will be very much in effect. In addition to Mr. Down To Earth himself, expect strong showings from DZY, Corty Booth, and Wes the Best. The Hustle, Loyalty and Respect roster is also heavily represented: Jibba the Gent, Drive, Modest, Biozone, and new member Ciurleo will all perform.

Props to Colby Stiltz for bouncing back strong with this one. Props to Brett North Photography for holding the event down as official house lensmaster for the evening, too. 

Justin Boland
TOMORROW: 3rd Thursdays @ The Monkey House
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3rd Thursdays has grown into one of the best traditions we've got, a venerable institution unto itself. This is even more impressive when you consider the fact that Anthill Collective aren't promoters -- they're a graf crew, and 3rd Thursdays is but a small fraction of the work they do in VT.  (And beyond!)

After the high of February's packed "HLR Takeover" special, the team is keeping the energy up. This month's installment will kick off with a special Open Cypher over ILLu beats and DJ Kanga cuts at 9 pm sharp. 

Maine's Jacobsen will also be playing his first ever 802 set tomorrow night -- check out "The October Tape" if you haven't already. He's rocking on a bill alongside NEK freestyle evangelist Mycelium MC with Muddy Ruts, and a headliner set from Uncle Sam & EvillDewer, who are roaming New England on their Disconnection Tour, promoting their collaborative EP.

They're both remarkably busy young men: Uncle Sam runs LFOD Apparel and the hip hop platform LFOD Radio -- high-quality operations worth getting familiar with. EvillDewer is a producer who's been at the center of Boston's rap renaissance in recent years. His excellent tape "Bck on the Blck" was a cinematic, distinctive trip that featured some great verses from Haze, Magno Garcia and Estee Nack, and he just hit another home run with "Apocrypha," a new instrumental LP.

Another damn hot ticket, all in all. Props to Anthill Collective & The Monkey House. 

Justin Boland
"The Sukara" - Smash AdamS

New material out from rap group Immortal Kombat: "The Sukara" is a sharp improvement from their last offering, "EXORDIUM," in more or less every department. Although the crew is a trio, this new EP is a completely solo offering from member Smash AdamS.

Smash AdamS grew up between NH and MA, and is currently stalking the forests of "Northern VT." Right from the jumpoff, "First Day," the bars, beats and mix are all on point. "I was working on this project for three, four months," AdamS says, "I wanted this to show off my abilities. The crew is very tied down by the weight of bills and 9-to-5's right now, but I'm going to continue to make music and rep Immortal Kombat."

In the near future, we can expect another solo release -- and more shows. Smash AdamS is keen to start networking and get onstage, so if anyone reading this is interested, hit him up

Justin Boland