A major hat-tip is in order and it's directed right at Pete Rock, who brought this stellar free project to our attention on Twitter. Once we listened to the release in question, we couldn't help being just as excited as the legendary rapper-producer-DJ. Charlotte, N.C. upstart Lute has created the kind of album that's difficult to describe as anything else but pure hip-hop. West1996 is gritty, New York-inspired rap to the core, from the soulful and sample-driven boom-bap production to the rugged, introspective lyricism.

As you might have gathered from its cover art, the Nas influence is clear throughout. Like the Nasty one, Lute spits sharp, street-bred narratives that give a hell of a lot of weight to the following line found in his Twitter profile: "Hiphop never died...it moved to North Carolina." You can stream and download West1996 below.

Mixtape: Lute West1996 [LINK]