Rain and bank holidays have all blurred into one and April seems distant. Wikipedia gives you a small glimpse into the news: Tray Deee was release from prison; Blood Money was shot dead in Chicago; and the NYPD saved Jay Z from a blackmail plot - although I won't pretend that I had any idea about any of this.

Here are a few things that definitely did happen: RATKING and SZA both put out excellent records; Meridian Dan's 'German Whip' was given a London makeover; NWA Resurrected (a.k.a. Son's Of NWA, a.k.a. I'm not joking) announced that they were going on tour and released a 15 snippet of their take on their pops' 'Straight Outta Compton'; and... and... AND?! Read on.


SZA - 'Warm Winds' ft. Isaiah Rashad - Z

The third EP from TDE's SZA may not be strictly hip-hop, no matter. It's beautiful, uplifting and haunting, full of shimmering neo-soul pop tracks and introspective nostalgia musings. The production credits boast XXYYXX, Mac Miller and Toro Y Moi to name a few but despite the variety of producers the record flows along a similar ephemeral tangent, held together by SZA's lush vocals. From the Balearic infused Julia to the wonky synths on Hiijack and beyond this EP is a beautiful soundtrack to April's showers.

RATKING - 'Canal' - So It Goes

Moving past Wiki's hardcore background XL's newish signing RATKING have to be one of New York's most exciting groups. As opposed to a lot of the East Coast's younger, third eye influenced groups like the Flatbush Zombies, Pro Era and The Underachievers they blend dissonant beats with aggressive, thoughtful deliveries. Although Wiki and Hak's vocals make up much of RATKING's appeal a huge amount of credit must go to producers Sporting and Ramon for their experimental blend of samples and swung beats, no more so than on 'Snow Beach', a track which blends a dub bass line with reverberating sax melodies and decaying delayed synths. This record impressively captures youthful metropolitan angst, optimism and confusion in eleven beautifully crafted tracks.

In other news...

Meridian Dan - 'German Whip' / Vuj, KSI, Klayze, JME - 'Boris Bike'

Down in London Grime has been doing it's thing. Maybe the mainstream pop media forgot about it, but it's been there. JME, Skepta, Flowdan have all been working consistently whilst Dizzee Rascal flies around the world and Wiley complains about the mud at festivals. But suddenly an anthem has emerged: Meridian Dan's 'German Whip'. It was released last year but after becoming an underground classic it was re-released by PMR (home to Disclosure and Cyril Hahn) and given the budget to film a new video not done in a Mercedes show room. Then along came Vuj, KSI and Klayze and made 'Boris Bike'. It's great. Check out the video here.

NWA Resurrected - 'Straight Outta Compton'

This should not have happened. Someone has dropped the ball on this one. There are no words.

Flatbush Zombies - 'Don't Do Drugs Kids' - Day Of The Dead

Back in March Flatbush's Zombies announced a new project entitled Day Of The Dead whereby they would eke out 6 releases online. 'Don't Do Drugs Kids' was the first of the six tracks to be put out on their Soundcloud and features an excellent slurred beat and the Zombies' stylised emotive delivery. Get yourself over to their Soundcloud now and check the rest of Day Of The Dead.

Chance The Rapper - 'I Am Very Very Lonely'

From all the online press that Chance and James Blake have received you'd be surprised to hear that Chano was alone, but as the first line announces "It's just me and the cucaracha, tonight." What follows is what we've come to love about Chance, the introspection, the honesty and his blend of rhyming and crooning. Speaking to himself and sarcastically acting as his own hype man he celebrates the first anniversary of Acid Rap's release alone, tonight.

Karol Conka - 'Boa Noite'

This is a banger. No more no less. It came out last year, re-emerged on Fifa 14 and then got huge amounts of love on Gilles Peterson. Karol Conka's one to stay. Subs and kicks lurch into shuffling crowd chants. It's a joyous delight.

Edward Scissortongue - 'The Calculator'

Often, something about British accents just don't fit up-beat lyricism. To my mind UK hip-hop is at its best when dark and broody. Edward Scissortongue hits the mark perfectly on this new track on 'High Focus'. Rhyming about the absurd nature of existence and futility his low tones resonate over hauntingly swung saxophone lines and gun shell beats. Taken off his new Theramin EP, this is truly an excellent UK hip-hop release.

Missed from March?

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata

Enough has been written about this record, Madlib kills it, Freddie Gibbs kills it. The supporting artists and producers kill it. Go buy Piñata now!

De La Soul - 'Smell The Da.I.S.Y' (prod. J Dilla)

A beautiful free d/l tape put out by De La in a tribute to James Yancey himself. It's a blend of a choice few classic Dilla cuts with the Plugs relighting some old flames over the top. It may not be the freshest thing this year, but it's a fun excuse to spin some daisy inspired tunes as we strut into summer.