The Manchester music scene is currently as strong as I can remember it, with a hugely collaborative network producing a seemingly endless stream of great music.
There’s more and more artists breaking through, often with national and international acclaim. Here are our 10 top releases from last year…
Singer and rapper Layfullstop also appears on our list of artists to watch in 2019, and her EP is an indication as to why. Her 9-track Colour Reaction mixtape, released in May last year is an indicator for how much of a splash her first full album is going to be. I’m still yet to hear a track of hers I don’t like.
It was a busy year for Seven Spherez. Producer Dr. G and MC Ghost One released three albums in 2018 alone, with Boom Bap & Baseball Bats the latest one, in December. As you can tell from the title, there aren’t any ballads, just beats and bars galore, and includes a feature from Chris Rivers, son of the late US hip hop legend Big Pun.
IAMDDB’s success in the last couple of years has seen her truly cross through into the mainstream. Following the smash success of her Hoodrich Vol 3 mixtape, the latest volume of her Flightmode was another to keep momentum on her upward trajectory and features some influences from her Angolan heritage. DDB has created a style which is discernibly and identifiably hers.
The Mouse Outfit have gradually become a Manchester music institution, mixing silky jazz-inspired beats along with some of the top emcee and singing talent in the city, their tracks and live shows never disappoint. Jagged Tooth Crook is the third studio album from the Mice and was yet another banger, featuring artists such as Ellis Meade, Berry Blacc, Dubbul O, IAMDDB, Fox, and Metrodome.
After working with The Mouse Outfit for their first two albums, producer Pitch 92 signed to top independent label High Focus Records, who have previously brought through acts such as Rag N Bone Man and Ocean Wisdom. Lost in Space was Pitch’s first release through HF in September, and featured artists such as Sparkz, [ K S R ], Jehst and Doctor Outer, and was a brilliant warm up for his debut full album set for release through High Focus in 2019.
Over the last couple of years Bugzy has burst his way to the forefront of a very London dominated grime scene shouting 0161 and Manny on the map along the way. His long-awaited debut studio album, B. Inspired, was released in August, featuring Rag N Bone Man, Maverick Sabre and JP Cooper and reached number 6 in the UK album charts.
Regular goers of the crazy Murkage events over the years in Manchester might wholly agree that Murkage Dave likely did change their lives, and so says the title of his melancholy debut album Murkage Dave Changed My Life, released in 2018. This album definitely shows influences from long-term collaborator Mike Skinner and had eclectic styles right across the spectrum, from gospel to old school pirate garage radio.
After establishing his name in hip hop and battle rap, perhaps the last thing anyone expected from Shotty was a full rock and roll album, but that’s exactly what we got in October. His first album since signing to Sony in Canada, Salt of the Earth is a proper rock record, with definite influences from Oasis, but intertwined with Shotty’s own swagger and rap lyricism. Including the excellent debut track Shudehill, it’s about as Mancunion a record as you’re likely to hear, and that’s very much a good thing.
Black Josh has been one of the busiest and most consistent rappers in the country for the last few years, never mind just in Manchester. Considering his other projects such as Levelz, Ape Cult, Mouse Outfit and regular releases and collaborations on Blah Records, it was about time for a full album and it was absolutely worth the wait. With features such as Lee Scott, Sangy, Milkavelli, and production from the likes of Metrodome, Yung Sweg Lawd is absolutely Sweg, as it says on the tin.
Anyone who didn’t have Travel Light as their top Manchester release for 2018 would be baffling. The long-awaited debut album of Manchester legends Konny Kon and Tyler Daly, aka Children of Zeus, was one of the most anticipated releases in as long as I can remember, and it more than delivered. It’s been voted album of the year by a host of high profile DJ’s, including BBC’s Huey Morgan, and has seen them rightfully blow up, with tours across the globe in the pipeline. Travel Light is an absolute classic.