Maroons. Quannum Projects

This joint venture of rapper Lateef the Truth Speaker (of Latryx) and DJ Chief Xcel (of Blackalicious) embodies hip-hop’s power to incite and to inspire. Adopting the name Maroons, after 18th-century slaves that rebelled against the New World, this twosome pursues a kindred mission. “If” equates “staying the course” with self-destruction, unfolding a detailed political agenda—including a shout out to Medicare(!)—while “Matter of Time” is a funky call to the barricades. Even at its most political, Ambush is great fun, echoing old masters from James Brown to Chic. Xcel’s booming beats recall rap’s old-school glories, while Lateef is a fiery MC who can also lay down a love song (“Don’t Stop”) with energetic grace.