Approach, The Nu (self-released): Approach has yet to finish the sequel to Ultra Proteus, but at least he didn't leave us empty-handed. The Lawrence-based rapper enlisted the help of DJ Sku on The Nu, a neosoul mix tape rife with funked-up beats, polished lyrics and, of course, shameless plugs. But if the number of shout-outs from national acts such as Hieroglyphics and Digable Planets is any indication, Approach won't be a local commodity much longer.
Listen to Feed Ya Ego from Approach.
Symbol Heavy, Vol. 1 (Symbol Heavy) One of the year's best newcomer acts was Luke Rocha and his brain trust of DJs, producers and lyricists. Symbol Heavy's Vol. 1 pushed cinematic beats laced with vintage samples and buttery lyrics. The label's roster continues to grow, and because most of its members are young artists in the conventional sense as well, you can expect the Symbol Heavy crew to flip the script for years to come.
Listen to eat ´em up from Symbol Heavy.
Miles Bonny, Smell Smoke? (self-released): As a solo artist, Miles Bonny expanded his repertoire in 2006. His latest release, Smell Smoke? (which is now getting play coast to coast via Fat Beats Records), has him singing, rapping and even using live instruments to round out his sonic backdrops. But to keep things on an even keel, Bonny reaches out to his local fans with online mixes and regular live appearances.
Listen to You from Miles Bonny.
Mac Lethal, Love Potion Collections 2 & 3 (Black Clover): Mac Lethal has been perfecting his long-awaited national debut for a while now, but he hasn't let his verbal skills rust. Along with several local performances and stage time at South by Southwest, the Overland Park lyricist spent a good part of 2006 on the road with Rhymesayers' colleagues P.O.S., Brother Ali and Atmosphere. To keep us at bay until 11:11 drops, he put out two Love Potion Collection releases on his and Joe Good's Black Clover label.
Listen to The Way We Bash from Mac Lethal.
Joe Good, Hi, May I Help You? (Black Clover): With SoundsGood on ice, Joe Good has continued to set the standard for local MCs. Masterful wordplay and unwavering cadence on the microphone have made him one of the area's biggest assets. Along with guest spots on several local releases this year, Good's solo debut, Hi, May I Help You? (Black Clover Records), packs as much flavor and attitude as the lunch rush at Gates.
Listen to In Ya Mouf from Joe Good.
James Christos, The Guerilla Movement: Fire and Brimstone (self-released): James Christos isn't one to mince words. His latest release, aptly titled The Guerilla Movement: Fire and Brimstone, embodies the urgency of a classic Public Enemy record with a delivery as hostile as the apocalypse. He's been nicknamed the Midwest Czar, but his Bay Area upbringing neatly balances his bass-heavy production and commanding lyricism.
Listen to Let the Band Play On from James Christos.
Gunn Jakc, 144 Killahurtz (self-released): After years of testing his lyrical agility onstage, Gunn Jakc finally made his mark in the studio with 144 Killahurtz. He's had plenty of practice doing guest spots for Joe Good and James Christos, but his debut proves him to be as competent in the leading role as in cameos.