In an era of reheated Auto-Tune rap, Kero One's Early Believers is the equivalent to a homecooked Sunday dinner with the fam. Organic and soulful, the San Francisco-based producer and emcee shapes his signature sound with a breezy blend of future soul, synth-driven disco grooves and funky, feel good hip-hop on this follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2006 debut, Windmills of the Soul. Using live instruments and enlisting soulful crooners such as British DJ Ben Westbeech and Finland's Tuomo for the assist, the album is filled with party bangers and head-nodders alike. Tracks like "Bossa Soundcheck," with an obvious Brazilian influence, and "Keep Pushin," with its pulsating drum beat and groovy guitar lick, will certainly keep feet in motion. Equally skilled on the mie, Kero's buttery, enunciated rhymes and laidback flow has drawn comparisons to Common. But with Early Believers, Kero solidifies his position as a triple threat: well-rounded wordsmith, crafty composer and savvy businessman. Early Believers drops on his own Plug Label. - Zoneil Maharaj
Music editor ZONEIL MAHARAJ took a break from his normal Hyphen duties ("get advance copies of albums, bootleg them sumbitches and slang 'em in the Mission") to profile iLL-Literacy, a spoken word crew he calls "some of the most creative live performers I've come across." San Francisco-based Maharaj has learned a few things about unconventionality from his own family: "My dad still kills goats in the back of his car shop. And there's a huge Hindu trident on my parents' front lawn. That right there should sum up how we roll." After two years with Hyphen, Maharaj is, sadly, leaving to focus on his role as editor in chief at urban culture magazine Oh Dang!, which he co-founded.