Approach

This one’s for my Mizzou people, you know who you are. Not only is Approach the best MC ever to hail from Kansas City, he swings a nice lisp (especially audible on “Hey Y’all”) and makes his own funky beats. This is straight-up party fodder for your mind à la J5, Lyrics Born, Talib Kweli — and ya don’t quit…

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Tommy Guerrero

Like his Southern California counterpart, Ray Barbee, Tommy Guerrero is a skateboarder turned musician, using simple, 4-track technology to capture his loose, laid-back grooves. Between the two they’ve practically defined a new genre: skate-soul.

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Headset

Allen Avanessian (Plug Research) and Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel, Postal Service, Figurine) hit the lab with a hard drive full of devolved beats and glitch-and-paste collages, then invite a who’s who of electronic and hip-hop innovators to muse over the sparse foundation. The result ranges from head-nodding to chin-stroking; this track, featuring verbal gymnast Subtitle flowing over what sounds like a dying music box, exemplifies the latter.

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Heiruspecs

Not rap, not jazz, not spoken word — at least not as you know it. Refreshingly tight live sessions that manage to reference Run-DMC and Mother Goose in the same verse with only a slight smirk.

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Four Tet

The “As Serious As Your Life” B-sides come in all flavors: Jay Dee and Guilty Simpson capitalize on the original’s funky underpinnings with b-boy savoir faire while the live version pushes the limits of both RAM and patience.

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