1. Public Enemy frontman Chuck D is back with another hard-hitting solo album. The Black In Man blends his baritone tones with heavy metal riffage and super-heavy funk. There's no let-up in his cutting wordplay and pointed barbs at the state of modern rap, such as the line: "I'm no fan of how urban radio has made rap fit for animals, best exhibited in some of today's mixtape culture, which invites black men into USA jails. All that jail murder rhyming from these cats at themselves is a shame, but these corps ushering and dangling many into USA prisons, need smashing."
2. Enigmatic electronic act Vatican Shadow has released the album Fireball plus a set of dark, brooding singles. Vatican Shadow is also known as Dominick Fernow, the boss of gothic electronic label Hospital Records - not to be confused with the soulful drum n bass label of the same name. He performs on stage dressed in army fatigues, in which he gyrates violently to his own brutal beats. His song titles are media headlines about US imperialist wars. He gives no interviews, so listeners can decide his intent for themselves.
UPDATE July 17, 2021: On July 10, 2021, journalist Jean-Hughes Kabuiku shared a blog post highlighting connections between Vatican Shadow, who has long been feted by the left-leaning music press, and a number of ideologically questionable musicians. This column will not feature the artist's music in future.
3. Manic Street Preachers' 12th studio album, Futurology, drips with the usual intelligence and quotations. The shock is that - after their musically bleak last offering and declaring that they were pretty much spent - the Welsh rockers have returned to form with big, catchy, pop hooks. Such is its strength, hyperbolic bassist Nicky Wire has declared that they aim to pull back on their prolificness to concentrate on quality and release a "huge" album before they retire.
4. Indigenous hip-hop workshop Desert Pea Media has released its first official album. Song Nation Volume One travels the length and breadth of Australia, unearthing young, politically precocious talent from some of the most remote communities on the planet. The album is accompanied by a YouTube video playlist, the high quality of which has to be seen to be believed.
5. Radical US rapper Marcel Cartier is back with more clear-voiced raptivism in his album Revolutionary Minded 4. But the producer who made his beats, Agent Of Change, has released a typically high-quality beat-tape at the same time. Tales From The Frontline mixes wide, fat bass with the diverse sounds of Africa and spoken-word samples like Nelson Mandela's: "I have fought against white domination, I have fought against black domination." Rookie radical rappers should jump on it.