Ruckus Fo'tet X Milla Thyme Round One

Claims of melding hip-hop with live jazz and funk by pretty much any band outside of the Roots, as unfortunate as it may be, are almost always met with a fair bit of generally justified doubt, as the hip-hop elements regularly come out the flattest part. Ruckus Fo'Tet (a boisterous collective of dynamic, Montreal-based musicians) go to great lengths to break with that tradition, teaming up with lyricist Milla Thyme for a melody-rich jaunt through a collection of fresh jams that elevate their hip-hop base through a wealth of quality instrumentation on debut set Round One. The smooth, stylized guitar and horn lines on "Billa's Bounce" and "Emoney" help swell each cut to impressive emotional heights before embarking upon a slowed, heady trip through dub-y atmospherics on closer "Hey Young World." All of this is accompanied by a tough backbeat and Milla Thyme's competent, fast-paced flow, which appears often enough throughout the record to re-route the music back to its hip-hop basics, solidifying a top-notch musical excursion in which sound wordplay and soul-ticking musicality shine in equal parts. (Independent)