Break From The Norm: Artists to Make Your February Complete

Look...maybe Hip-Hop is dead, maybe it isn’t, but sometimes you just need a break either way. Luckily, the independent scene has been churning out some alternatives that are plenty worthy of your time. Many of them aren’t Hip-Hop artists per se, but as Hip-Hop has officially become the standard for “cool” around the world, artists of all genres are becoming just as quick to cite A Tribe Called Quest as an influence as U2.

The five artists on this list are perfect examples. While none of them rap full time (if at all), all of them show their love of Hip-Hop – be it in production technique, collaborators, or just their general attitude. They might not be what you’re used to, but the originality they bring to the music scene might be just enough of a break from the norm to make yet another Lil Wayne verse a little more tolerable. If you missed any of these artists’ albums, it’s time to stop sleeping…

5. The Go! Team – The English six-member group may not be familiar to many rap purists, but if they’re good enough for Chuck D, they’re good enough for you. Besides one of the game’s most militant rappers, Proof of Youth features bits and pieces of old school breaks, ‘70s action show themes, cheerleading and ‘80s rap courtesy of the female MC simply known as Ninja. The album is fun in a way that catches you off guard and the multi-layered, sample heavy beats are actually more Hip-Hop than half of what’s being played on Urban radio these days.

4. Kenna – Kenna’s career has been a constant struggle, but listening to Make Sure They See My Face makes it clear that he’s fighting the good fight. The album’s quality seriously outpaces its sales, but his loyalty to his music instead of the charts keeps him on the industry’s radar and is the reason why high-profile artists like Fort Minor, Nelly Furtado and (of all people) Ashlee Simpson have enlisted him to write songs and support their tours. It might not be too soon before his next album, but whenever it comes, it will almost definitely be worth the wait.

3. Radiohead – Besides the fact the recently released In Rainbows is as musically innovative as a Radiohead album should be, the group took it one step further by changing the game of distribution. Instead of going to iTunes or walking into your local record store, fans can only buy their copy of the album from the group’s website. The buyers not only get to choose between a digital copy and a deluxe boxed set, but they also get to set the price they’ll pay for the music or, if they so choose, pay nothing at all. The group’s efforts to cut out the middleman and go straight to their fans is (hopefully) the future of music and a group deserves kudos for being so bold.

2. Justice – Right about a year ago, Kanye West had yet another of his famous tantrums at the MTV Europe awards, this time interrupting the acceptance speech being made on behalf of French dance-pop duo Justice. Usually, the conversation about that night turns to a debate on Ye and his ego, but let’s not forget that “the other group” involved in that incident made the dopest dance album to come out of France since Daft Punk’s Discovery. From the Michael Jackson tribute/MTV Video Award nominated single “D.A.N.C.E.” to the Three 6 Mafia sampling “The Party,” Cross is the perfect combination of European dance and American pop and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who likes to move.

1. Feist – You know, the chick from the iPod commercial. Don’t front, at least once this fall, you’ve spent the better part of your day at work with that 30 second snippet of “1234” looping in your head. It’s okay; you don’t have to be ashamed to like the song, and any doubts you might have should be dashed not only by The Reminder but her 2004 solo debut Let it Die (which is more Sade than Joni Mitchell). She even got the highest hipster-hop honor in the game when Kanye sampled “Gatekeeper” for Twista’s “Well It’s Time.” Kan couldn’t quite wrangle the sample into a great song, but the fact that he tried is at least a good start.