Farther down the road than the "dirty South" of Atlanta lies Orlando, Florida. It's not a known creative center for beats and rhymes, but don't tell the Solillaquists of Sound. The collective creates a hefty-conscience brand of hip hop that's speaker-rattling rich in the deep lows and features a great combo of fury, and sultry, wavy-voiced melody via MCs Swamburger and Alexandrah. As If We Existed comes with some Coup-reminiscent meditations on racism and capitalism ("blacks were promised 40 acres / but only got 40 ounces / no one should own land"), and moreover, the album comes with a dizzying array of musical textures. Super-fast electronica makes for quick carpeting to rhyme against, while a mournful violin might color a vocal segment from Alexandrah, who sounds like a wayward 1920s-trained jazzer let loose in a distant mad decade. As for Swamburger, he's spitting mad in spots, then bluntly frank. It's no coincidence that the group resembles in some ways the Black-Eyed Peas. They scrapped politically once, too. --Andrew Bartlett
This is the debut and next link in the chain of cerebral hip-hop by the proteges of politically minded rapper Sage Francis. Beat artist DiViNCi plays his MPC with the passion and intensity of a Hendrix or a Townsend, filling the stage with an astonishing sonic landscape. These athletic beats form the perfect setting for MC Swamburger's flow; a tongue-twisting, machine-gunning cadence whose precision is surgical in both rhythm and message. With tough, spiritual tracks that take aim at specific issues like cultural revolution, ethnic alcoholism, and personal wellness, "As If We Existed" is a public service announcement with spit.