January's biggest underground releases: Shystie, Jon B, Jacob Banks and Bartoven


Release One: Shystie - Pink Mist

After returning to the music scene last year with two hugely well received mixtapes, 'Gold Dust' and 'Gold Dust Vol.2', it was as if the spitter from East London had never been away. The mixtapes which included 'Feel It' and 'Bad Gyal' were almost the perfect re-introduction to the lady who many consider the ultimate female rhymer after her 2004 major label debut Diamond in the Dirt and her previous response to Dizzee's monster 'I Luv U'. Having taken time to act and model the bonafide legend of the underground scene this week announced her long awaited EP for pre-order. Pink Mist consists of two skits, an engrossing digital booklet and six full length monstrous tracks emphasising her relentless, ferocious talent and charge to her rightful place at the forefront of the urban music scene once again. New York sensation Azealia Banks, who many see as her trans-Atlantic counterpart features on the anthemic 'Control It', a collaboration that came about after she mentioned Shystie in an interview. We hear her spit 'I'm a different breed / Not like me I'm a different seed' and 'I'm the Queen of the jungle / I'm that good it's hard to be humble' on the musically exciting 'Raybans' while 'Scumbag' is set to be a cutting anthem for all those wronged females. The first video 'Feel It' can be viewed now while rumours abound the video with Azealia Banks is set to drop in a matter of days.


Release Two: Jon B - B-Sides Collection

Ever wondered what happens to the countless tracks artists make for an album that never see the light of day? Legendary R&B/Soul singer Jon B, famous for classics 'They Don't Know' and 'Don't Talk' has this month collected and put out 23 tracks that for some reason or another didn't make the albums of the last decade. Recorded between 2001 and 2012 and cleverly titled the B-Sides Collection (see what they've done there?) the offering includes the iconic Jon B baby-making tracks ('Back To Love', 'Quality TIme') the infectious mid tempo numbers ('Turnin Me On' , 'Afterhours') and the effortlessly cool 'Sliver Moon'. While something for the many die hard Jon B fans out there, the quality of the Grammy nominated artist is such that they don't sound like B Sides but realistically didn't make the likes of Pleasures You Like, Stronger Everyday and 2012's Comfortable Swagg simply because they didn't fit the overall sound of the particular project at the time. What it does signify is that real R&B, the abundance that was about in the 90s and early 00s is there if you look for it.


Release Three: Bartoven feat. Jewels - London Eyes

'London Eyes' is the first single from 19 year old from Lewisham rapper Bartoven.  Taken from his mixtape, The Raggedy Tape which has amassed a healthy number of downloads, the single is an ode to London life both good and bad. The video uses imagery from the riots and also that of the Olympic successes, with Bartoven calling for a more inclusive society as he raps 'Despite being different we don't need to hold grudges' in his quirky, distinctive delivery. Rinse FM's Jewels features on the inspiring hook with her clear and pure vocals complimenting the track excellently.  Having worked with Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder and A*M*E as well as having shared the stage with N Dubz, Professor Green and Skepta, Bartoven is certainly a name to become familiar with before he follows up the success of The Raggedy Tapes with a sequel later in the year.


Mixtape of the Month: Jacob Banks - The Monologue EP

Recently signing with Zeon Richard's Renowned Management who also handle the careers of Wretch 32, George The Poet and artist FunnyTummy, Jacob Banks released The Monologue EP in January. The self taught guitarist was the winner of the MOBO UnSung Birmingham leg last year and having opened for Manchester's soul sensation Daley he's set to hold his first headline gig in London's St Pancras Old Church on April 15. Having already performed on Radio 1's live lounge and named in 1Xtra's Hot for 2013 list it's likely you're already aware of this old school soul singer and just how impeccably beautiful this EP is. Touching and heartfelt, every track is laden with emotion. 'Something Beautiful' sounds timeless in its composition, delivery and resonating lyrics while 'Homecoming' has so much artistic depth to it that you can appreciate it as a song, a message and a call to action all at the same time. With the tender 'Dear Simone' and refreshing concepts and narratives of 'Hostage' and 'Kids on the Corner' The Monologue EP is a fully rounded body of work that any artist in the world would be proud to produce.  



James Walsh (@JW_DittoMusic)