November's biggest underground releases

Release One: Scorcher - Simply The Best 3 (iTunes)

Scorcher's Simply The Best 3, is a 12-track offering featuring some of the biggest names in the UK urban music scene, in the form of long time collaborators and fellow The Movement members Wretch 32, Ghetts and Mercston. Simply The Best 3 continues on from where the second volume left off, in spite of a two-year gap. This latest installment is a paid as a paid release, and it's testament to Scorcher's talent and workrate over the years that the audience are demanding new music.

While Blue Colla Music have classified Simply The Best 3 a mixtape, this could easily have been released as an album such is its quality. From the high tempo 'Bang' and the reinforced marching drum rhythms on 'Raging Bull' to the more mellow storytelling, cathartic vibe of 'Diary2' (featuring smooth vocals from Haynzy), this mixtape caters for lovers of UK urban music in all its various guises. With additional features from fast-rising Krept & Konan ('Normal Day') and Loick Essien's distinctive tone and range on the mantra 'I Don't Care', Scorcher along with the boys behind the boards SX, NextPhase and Slic Vic have delivered a real triumph.

Release Two: Macca - 25 (iTunes)

One of the greatest things about grime is how it's grown and spread as a genre throughout the country, each ends having their own scene and artists at the forefront. This is nowhere more evident than in the Midlands with collective StayFresh who have successfully infiltrated a scene whose roots were firmly established in the capital. 2012 has been a great year for the guys with Logan Sama's After-Hours sessions, SBTV-cyphers and their huge achievement of reaching Number 2 in the iTunes Hip Hop chart with the StayFresh EP. December 17 saw their enigmatic member Macca drop his own album 25. Macca turned the age of his album title on its release date, and with features from Pressure (fresh from his Lord of the Mics 4 battle with M.I.K.), J1 and Raider as well as Malik of MD7, this is 16 tracks of unadulterated grime.

Macca's energy has never been in doubt but the album sees his original take on life, death, hopes and relationships that many may not have expected from him. Production credits include Swifta Beater, CRT, Teddy Music, Mr Figz, Averix and Moky as well as Preditah and Wizzy Wow's 'Own Competition', registering 25 as a true heavyweight grime album.

Mixtape of the month: LifeLines - One Faith

With Christmas just a matter of weeks away, a number of artists have been feeling particularly generous and giving music away for free this month.

Notable mentions go to Virgin Records' Amplify Dot for 'Spare Parts' and RCA's Maxsta with 'Gear 6', but our focus here is on emerging UK rapper LifeLines. Hailing from West London, Life released the third and final installment of his One trilogy this month. Following on from One Love and One Hope, One Faith sees a more serious LifeLines talking about pursuing  dreams in great depth. There's the positive yet socially conscious 'Try', while on 'Farewell' he approaches the consequences of one's actions; on 'Big Deal', he tackles the journey to the mainstream. Stand out tracks include 'ADHD' and the Angel-featuring 'Hazel Eyes'. The former centres around an infectious staccato rhythm wherein he shows off his his undoubted talent, while man of the moment, Angel - in his second feature across the trilogy - lends his immense vocal talent to a slower, laid-back vibe that alludes to Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway's timeless classic 'The Closer I Get To You'.

Inspired by the real great lyricists of the game in Nas, Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Common, Life offers a more soulful brand of hip hop than your usual UK MC. The trilogy has been designed to showcase the many facets of his personality and the variety he's bringing to the game. He matched the big hitters on One Love, showed off an outlandish extroverted side on One Hope, and with One Faith he's gone reflective, introspective and conscious. When put together as a whole body of work, the trilogy gives a great insight into what's to come from his 2013 album.


James Walsh (@JW_DittoMusic)