Highly recommended new hip hop/rap albums on vinyl include two heavy hitters and highly anticipated releases in their own right; Florida rapper Denzel Curry’s “ZUU” and Los Angeles rapper Schoolboy Q’s “CrasH Talk”.

Schoolboy Q doesn’t waste any time hitting you in the face with heavy beats and dark, heady synth-infused production on album opener “Gang Gang” before he slips into the military soul rhythm of “Tales”, a really strong track that has an old school sentimental vibe and some of the most personal, matter-of-fact lyrics he’s put on record. Brilliant song because it takes it’s time and the elements coalesce together like Wu-Tang or great jazz music. “CHopstix”, a collaboration with Travis Scott, introduces the more radio friendly side of Q, along with “Lies”, where he’s joined by Ty Dolla Sign and YG. Both tracks slightly miss the mark, particularly if you’re looking for that heavy ish. “Drunk” (feat 6BLACK) is another slow burning gangster soul jam with jazz piano backing and it works. “Numb Numb Juice”, “5200”, “Die Wit Em” and “Floating” (feat 21 Savage) all slap really hard. Leave a mark hard. Really, the whole album finds Q at ease in his gangster rap experimentation, and most of the songs here are strong, like the memorable “John Muir” from prior release “Blank Face”. He’s also continuing a fascinating creative evolution so I look forward to what he comes out with next.

Denzel Curry really came up from the underground like a comet. What’s not to like? The man jammed with Bad Brains recently. His new track “Psycho” with slowthai is magnificent. But wait a minute. Those tracks aren’t even on this album. He’s busy. Lead/title track “ZUU” sounds instantly classic and original. Production is unusually fantastic already. Lyrically and performance-wise, Denzel is coming from his own angle. Smart, visceral, sarcastic, and pissed off, he has the energy of a man on a mission. That continues through the slamming “Ricky”, “Wish”, which features more of a California/Dr. Dre vibe, and certainly an album highlight, the warped “BIRDZ” featuring Rick Ross. Taunting his way through “AUTOMATIC” (feat Tay Keith) and “P.A.T.” (feat PlayThatBoiZay), most tracks end up being highlights. Another noticeable element to this release is the songs are generally shorter, and the album is fairly short, a bit like a punk album. It seems he was more concerned with that punch effect and the ‘leave no fat on the bone’ ethos. What an MC.

Check out our Voices from the Underground Hip Hop roundup.

Read our feature on Fort Worth rapper J’Moris.

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