Apart from coming live with a multi-instrumental audiophile’s ethic that would make The Roots proud and a fist-pumping vocal delivery that would earn him a spot at the back of a Wu-Tang Clan tour bus, Hezekiah can also lay claim to being one of the only MCs who can throw his hands in the air and wave ’em like he’s from Delaware — because he is! Okay, so it’s really just suburban Illadelph, but it’s still good to see the land of DuPont chemicals and not much else get some play — and that Hezekiah can hold his own against any hip-hop crew from Anywhereville makes it that much cooler to root for the D-state.

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Songs about potheads always get me listening for the same reason songs about gangstas do: because I ain’t one. And coming from somewhere near Oxnard, California (word to anyone who’s never been there: the name don’t sound street because the city ain’t), I’m betting Quas, the heliumized alter-ego of Madlib, isn’t a gangsta either. But the man can freak a funky beat like the shit was in a blender set to Negativland. Don’t worry if you don’t smoke the doob — Quasimoto’s doing enough for all of us.

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Giant Robot

Not to be confused with the Japanese pop culture ‘zine of the same name, Giant Robot are members of Nuspirit Helsinki and they run the gamut like Jesse freakin’ Owens. From cozy EBTG-ish ballads (“Best Match”) to lanky, dub-hop (“Konevitsa”). And then you’ve got the remixes, if you’re ready for even more curveballs. Best of all, Giant Robot’s site has a mile-long MP3 page with all of their commercially unavailable tracks, which includes their entire debut album and tons of said remixes. Set aside some download time.

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Ryan Raddon, aka Kaskade, got his start by sneaking his tracks into the stacks of demos at Om Records during his employment tenure there. Raddon, teaming up with a regular and rotating cast of collaborators, with an emphasis on live instrumentation, refuses to slump during his sophomore season. Here he offers up a couple off-menu items, a downtempo hip-hop cut and a spacey, chilled-out, four-on-the-floor track.

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Rapping about the rap lifestyle anymore comes off as uninspired straw-grasping. But when it’s rolling off Project Blowed crewman Busdriver’s tongue it sounds more like the demon spawn of Cornel West, H.L. Mencken, and Jon Stewart — and believe me, that would be some demon friggin’ spawn. In a genre full of cultural critics, Busdriver is the guy whose intelligent sarcasm almost always exceeds his peers yet is funky enough to let the masses in on the joke. I wouldn’t want to be holding the other microphone in a rap battle with this cat, but I’d sure want to be in the studio audience.

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Machine Drum

2001. Machine Drum and Prefuse 73 both drop debut albums. Both serve cut up, stuttering, hip-hop that’ll get you jerking back and forth. No doubt, these two are cut from similar cloth — yet many still haven’t heard Machine Drum. What gives? Maybe it’s Prefuse’s A-list collaborators. But what Machine Drum lacks in “friends” he makes up for in deft drops and solid jazz and funk samples.

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These “original” tracks feature some swell breaks ‘n’ beats ‘n’ what-not but, to be honest, the Kleptones aren’t nearly as interesting when abiding by copyright laws… This post is merely an excuse to plug their new mash-up-and-more theme album, A Night at the Hip Hopera. After giving the Flaming Lips a b-boy makeover with Yoshimi Battles the Hip Hop Robots, the audio kleptomaniacs are back at it with a similar tribute to Queen. To have a listen, head over to Waxy.org, where you’ll find the complete album for download as well as a collaborative dissection of the countless samples used therein.

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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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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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