Me’Shell Ndegéocello–Bitter
(Maverick) A wrenching, heart-breaking, uncompromising statement from an important, underacknowledged artist.



Mary J. Blige–Mary
(Universal) Nineties street-soul diva Mary J. just sangs her way into her rightful place in the pantheon.


Unbound
(Realized) Word sound power against domestic militarization, featuring The Coup & Dead Prez, Saul Williams, Ursula Rucker, Zack de la Rocha, Aceyalone, and Blackalicious.


James Hurt–Dark Grooves Mystical Rhythms
(Blue Note) Pianist/composer James Hurt makes “spirit-cosmic” jazz deeper than Atlantis, higher than Kilimanjaro.


Chuck D Presents Louder Than A Bomb
(Rhino) A brief history of hip-hop nation time–including Public Enemy, Ice Cube, X-Clan, and KRS-1.


Cheb Mami–Meli Meli
(Ark 21) Mami’s fierce rai is born of Algerian resistance, but dreams of an antiracist Europe on this hip-hop-tinged outing.


Anthony B–Seven Seals
(VP/Star Trail) Jamaica’s leading voice of resistance in this politically tumultuous year. His third album is his most melodic and sharp yet.


Mos Def–Black on Both Sides
(Rawkus) Hip-hop’s shining Black Star goes solo, fusing “What’s Going On” social consciousness with “Let’s Get It On” soul stylistics.


Innerzone Orchestra–Programmed
(Astralwerks) Techno acolyte Carl Craig with a jazz quartet, expanding and enfolding the borders of electronic music, free jazz, and ethereal soul.


The Funky Precedent
(No Mayo) L.A.’s hip-hop underground- including the Freestyle Fellowship, Jurassic 5, Cut Chemist, Divine Styler, the breakestra, and Black Eyed Peas- getcho soul together for music education programs in the inner city.