Album: Mr Lif, I Heard It Today (Blood Bot Tactical Enterprises)

The injuries sustained in a road accident while touring in support of 2006's Mo' Mega album rather derailed the momentum of this fearsomely intelligent but pessimistic "conscious" rapper, whose self-assessment here as being "over-skilled and understated, often underrated" is more accurate than most hip-hop boasts.

His cynicism is undiminished on this return to the fray, the album opening with the comment, "Oh I see – we all supposed to start trusting the government again, just because we got a friendlier face in charge?" But then, why shouldn't Lif's pessimism persist, as he tackles one complaint after another, from disbelief at the banks' $700bn bailout in "What About Us?" and the housing crisis characterised as "all-out war on the poor" in the title-track, to police brutality in "Gun Fight" and the problems of low self-esteem among the black community in "Hatred" and "Head High". Musically, the shift away from the Def Jux label has deprived him of El-P's dramatic backdrops, though the scratch'n'sample-scapes created by the likes of Edan, J Zone, Batsauce and Headnodic nevertheless conjure up dynamic representations of urban dystopia.

Download this: "I Heard It Today", "Collapse The Walls", "Welcome To The World", "What About Us?", "The Sun"