Bandcamp is doing one of its first Fridays fundraisers today (6/5), for which Bandcamp waives its cut of sales for 24 hours and all profits go to artists and labels. This originally started as a way to help artists impacted by COVID-19, but in the midst of the nationwide protests against police brutality, many artists and labels are donating their profits to racial justice causes today. Like the past two Bandcamp Days, there are several special/exclusive releases out in time for today's fundraiser, on top of all the great music that was already available on Bandcamp. If you're looking for some ideas of what to pick up on Bandcamp today, we've put together a list of 17 independent (unsigned or signed to indie labels) hip hop artists with great 2020 releases available on the platform. Here they are, in no particular order:
Boldy James & Sterling Toles - Manger on McNichols
Sector 7-G Recordings
Boldy James is already on a roll this year with his excellent Alchemist-produced album The Price of Tea In China and standout verses on both Westside Gunn albums, and he recently revealed that he signed to Griselda Records and will have Westside Gunn executive producing his next project. But before that, Boldy and producer/composer Sterling Toles finally released their long-in-the-works collaborative album Manger on McNichols. Boldy recorded the bulk of his vocals between 2007 and 2010, and at the time Sterling Toles' production was "pretty much chopped samples and drums." Over the years, Sterling fleshed the recordings out with a live jazz band, and he added guest vocals to the song "Welcome to 76" by a then-little-known artist named Deja, who you now know as DeJ Loaf.
In 2018, Boldy helped Sterling finish the album, and now it's finally here. It's jazz-rap that's one part real-deal jazz and one part real-deal rap, not just beats sourced from jazz records. The music is alive and improvisational, and Boldy's raps fall right into the pocket. It's a whole different beast than The Price of Tea In China, and great in its own way.
Liv.e - Couldn't Wait To Tell You...
In Real Life
LA-via-Dallas psychedelic neo-soul artist Liv.e has collaborated with Earl Sweatshirt, Pink Siifu, Maxo, Black Noi$e, and others, but perhaps the most important musician relationship Liv.e has is with Erykah Badu, who considers the 22-year-old Liv.e her protége and who threw a virtual listening party for Couldn't Wait To Tell You. "What better artist to highlight as an extension of what I am creating?" asks Badu. "I’ve known Liv as family since forever. She was this young shy, creative girl who found her way into my heart. We graduated from the same arts high school years apart. Liv is of the same tribe. I can’t wait to see her do her thang."
Liv.e's new album -- her first full-length following a series of EPs -- does indeed sound indebted to Erykah Badu's music, but Liv.e puts her own spin on it. Like Badu, Liv.e makes genre-defying psychedelic soul, but she also sorta fuses it with the warped, collage-like sounds of the last two albums by her collaborator Earl Sweatshirt (one of which she appears on). She incorporates jazz, spoken word, funk rhythms, hip hop beats, meditative ambience, and more. She fuses the electronic with the acoustic, and she makes all these ingredients feel part of the same retro-futuristic world. Couldn't Wait To Tell You also pairs well with one of this year's most acclaimed debut albums, KeiyaA's Forever, Ya Girl. Like that album, it seems small and lo-fi on the surface, but the more you dig in, the more you hear how fleshed-out and ambitious it is. Like that album, Couldn't Wait To Tell You uses very old, very familiar sounds, but in a way that feels new and exciting. Liv.e may sound clearly influenced by Erykah Badu, but Erykah Badu sounded clearly influenced by Minnie Ripperton and Billie Holiday. Erykah made it her own, and now Liv.e is doing the same.
Blu & Exile - Miles
Dirty Science Records
Below the Heavens, the 2007 debut collaboration from West Coast rapper Blu and producer Exile, remains one of the most beloved underground rap albums of the past 15 years, and while Blu and Exile have separately remained prolific over the years, it's always even more of a treat when they come together. They've done just that on their new 20-song double album Miles, their third album together and first in eight years, following Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them. The album features some of the same guests as Below the Heavens (Miguel, who's a lot more famous now, and Aloe Blacc), some of the same as Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them (Fashawn, Jimetta Rose, Johaz of Dag Savage, ADAD), and some new ones (The Last Artful Dodgr, Cashus King, Iman Omari, West Coast legend and Freestyle Fellowship member Aceyalone, and more), and it (obviously) gets its title from Miles Davis, who's a clear influence on here. Exile provided jazzy beats on his last two albums with Blu too, but the production here has an especially live-band jazz feel, and the album is full of long songs that stretch out more like jazz songs than like traditional rap songs. Contrasting the more freeform music is Blu's extremely focused rapping, which -- as usual -- pays homage to '90s rap greats without sounding like blatant revivalism. There's a lot packed into this album, but it doesn't drag or feel overstuffed. It requires some patience, but it's worth it.