Column: Favorite Rap Mixtapes of March 2019

This post was originally published on this site

With a cascade of releases spewing from the likes of DatPiff, LiveMixtapes, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, it can be difficult to keep up with the overbearing yet increasingly vital mixtape game. In this column, we aim to immerse ourselves in this hyper-prolific world and share our favorite releases each month. The focus will primarily be on rap mixtapes — loosely defined here as free (or sometimes free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if/when we feel it necessary. (Check out February’s installment here.)

Rap fans can be a spoiled bunch. March saw new releases from Quelle Chris, billy woods & Kenny Segal, Mach Hommy & DJ Muggs, Chief Keef & Zaytoven, and 2 Chainz, among others. Yet here you are still craving more! Never ones to disappoint, we Tiny Mix Tapes menschen heed readers’ calls even closely on the heels of yet another quarterly list. Thankfully, we didn’t have to look far, because this month’s rap offerings were many, diverse, and, in some cases, every bit as impressive as the aforementioned. On that note, below you’ll find at least one early bid for album of the year, and that’s just for starters. Personally speaking, I think we saved the best for last, so do the dig dug.

P.S. Apparently Kanye stars in Keeping Up With the Kardashians now, and Rhymefest gifted Kim a crystal on last night’s season premiere.

P.P.S. RIP Nipsey Hussle, who taught rap’s current generation a valuable lesson on supply and demand, and in doing so offered a new blueprint for independent success.


Little Simz – GREY Area

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Remember when Kendrick said Little Simz “might be the illest doing it right now” on BBC a few years back? If he wasn’t right then-“now,” he definitely might be now-now. Simz’s third LP sees her leveling up in real time. It’s more aggressive, clever, off-the-cuff, and catchy than any of her already impressive past works. On the fourth verse of the record, Simz boldly claims “I’m Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days,” and frankly we believe her. GREY Area is a 35-minute, distorted record of airtight songs, bluesy samples, dense lyricism, and bold proclamations of self, all with few features. Gotdamn. See y’all on the year-end list?


Billyracxx – RELIGION

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If high-production value translated directly to success in the music industry, Billyracxx would be Billy Joel, slurring his way out of felony DUI charges, with unreleased Atilla tracks bumping out of the 67 Citroën he crashed into a house in Bayville, NY. This is not to say Billyracxx’s music and visuals are all shine, no substance — far from it, really — just that I have no idea how he’s not a huge star yet, and I can only blame politics. I don’t know, maybe listeners are subconsciously scared of a rapper who can “spend like 60 on [his] vision” while also possessing the creative drive to pen bars like “I killed the verse never lost it/ I’m smoking dope in the process/ I put in work for my look and my ideas/ Sometimes I straight forget I need oxygen.” With that, Billyracxx shouldn’t need a co-sign to get his, but if it helps, you may recognize RELIGION producer ChaseTheMoney from his work with Valee, Offset, Chance the Rapper, and Jeremih. Oh, and by the way, Billyracxx has about four or five distinct voices on here, but they’re all his. Scary indeed.


AJ Suede – Darth Sueder IV

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“No Jumper, that shit is all cap / Sent ‘em ‘Gaslight’ and Adam said it didn’t slap / ‘Cause it wasn’t ignorant and they couldn’t exploit it / R.I.P. Yams, ‘cause I know he’s disappointed.”

AJ Suede’s fourth installment in the Darth Sueder mixtape series is also his shortest. Weighing in at a brisk 18 minutes and 9 tracks, DS4 is the underground auteur’s most original work to date — an overcast cloud of vaporwave samples, dark humor, and Suede’s signature references to Esoteric philosophy. Flirting with ambient soundscapes, the Seattle emcee feels most at home on beats with very little percussion, his deadpan delivery acting as a guiding beacon that cuts through the fog. Whether Suede’s paging through some Malcolm Gladwell, dipping his blunts in Adrenochrome, or tuning into sacred mathematics, there’s no questioning his thoughtfulness or his sample selection. He makes those 18 minutes feel like five.


Shitao – Sunless

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As far as I can gather, I first heard Shitao on the Wu-Tang Corp message board in March 2007 (and yes, the link for that .rar file still works, so enjoy). Imagine my surprise when 12 years later I randomly stumbled on his latest instrumental project in Bandcamp’s new arrivals tab. In true Wu-fan fashion, Shitao appears to take his name from a Chinese landscape painter. it fits too, because you could imagine his music soundtracking any number of nature scenes, especially darker ones in this case, the chirping crickets and rustling branches his MCs and DJs. It’s been six years since Shitao’s last project, but the passage of time has done nothing to dull the producer’s seemingly innate ability to see and make others see the poetry and cinema in beatmaking. Bravo!


DJ Lucas – Big Bleep Music Vol. III

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He’s back, folks. That’s right, the farmboy himself, the crème de la crème of Massachusetts, the Young Mr. Clean: it’s DJ Lucas with the third installment of Big Bleep Music. It probably has the best album art on this list, but that’s not (all) what makes it deserving of a spot. As release formats continue to nebulize in the age of streaming, what makes a mixtape a mixtape seems to grow more opaque. But here, refreshingly, DJ Lucas stays true to the platform’s historical function, treating it as a sort of playground for short(er), raw tracks guided by his verses while simultaneously experimenting with different tempos, beats, and styles. The king and a major innovator of that approach is, of course, Lil Wayne, whom DJ Lucas has lauded as his favorite rapper. DJ Lucas utilizes the freedom a mixtape format enables, having fun testing his versability while still evidencing his knack for earworm beats and catchy hooks. In terms of beats and flow, Big Bleep Music Vol. III is discursive but consistently engaging, with some of the best track watermarks I’ve heard in awhile (“DJ Lucas on the fuckin’ thang,” “All the major labels need to see this,” etc.). It’ll give those of you already faithful to the Dark World camp another to add to your collection and hopefully rope in some new fans too. DJ!


Don Trip – Don’t Feed The Guerrillas

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Don Trip has been in the same lane since the mid-2000s at least, and with each new tape, my respect for his commitment only grows. His style has little in the way of commercial prospects; rather than broad appeal, the audience tunes in for the resonance that they find in the highly specific details of Trip’s day-to-day. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Don Trip’s world has considerable overlap with fellow Tennessean Starlito; their work on the collaborative Step Brothers mixtape series is among each’s best, to the point where a solo tape from either can feel a little bit empty. While there is admittedly little to draw in new listeners or suggest that Trip is working near what we know his peak to be, Don’t Feed The Guerrillas delivers what the already-subscribed Don Trip fanbase craves. Gotta respect his grind.


AZOMALI – GUAYABA MIXTAPE (uploaded from an internet cafe somwhere in Medellin)

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If I had a record label, I would dedicate all of my resources to putting out an AZOMALI project. Of course, I do not have a record company. Do you? If so, you should be investing all of your time and money in an AZOMALI project. No, seriously, get your checkbook out right now and write down a ridiculously high number. Don’t have a checkbook? Enter a number in whatever account you use to pay people money. Nah, that’s not going to cut it — a higher number! You got it? Good, now go find AZOMALI, possibly somewhere in LA or NY, maybe on Instagram. Tell him I said that you need to release his next project, that he gets to retain ownership of the masters, and that you are willing to pay him an insanely high amount of money, then follow through on all of that. You’re welcome. No, I don’t want a “finder’s fee.” Find these nuts. Do send me a test press, though. All right, peace.


DaBaby – Baby On Baby

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If you put any stock in the adage that time = money, then North Carolinian emcee DaBaby is an extreme couponer, clipping any moments of dead air from his work and cramming the remaining space with Bars. His major label debut, aptly titled Baby On Baby, is a wall-to-wall stretch of infectious charisma and flex-laden triplet flows as exciting as hearing 2015 Migos for the first time; DaBaby’s so eager to get to work that his beats often have to catch up to him. As Pitchfork’s Paul A. Thompson calculated, the longest you’ll ever wait for DaBaby to start rapping on a track is 16 seconds — most of his intros range from 0 to 2 seconds long. Across the stretch, “Walker Texas Ranger,” an early single that also appeared on November’s Blank Blank tape, remains the main attraction — a careful balance of Triller-friendly percussion and scattered flecks of brilliant storytelling. ““I left the jail, had like 336 missed calls,” the rapper remembers. “Oh they wanna check on me now?” Can we blame them?


Koncept Jackson – Thot Rap: Chapter 1

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Shout out Cirrus Slump for not letting me sleep on Richmond rap. Thot Rap: Chapter 1 is every bit as ridiculous as the title makes it sounds, and thank god for that. Existing at the crossroads of slick talking and Diddy bop, the record finds Koncept Jackson celebrating the power-you while almost parodying 90s R&B in the way Prince Paul did during that decade, but with a production roster that reads like a who’s who of dusty, sample-based hip-hop in 2019, namely Ohbliv, August Fanon, and Dibia$e. Flip Theravada’s “now-for-something-completely-different” intermission track with the bonus cut, and this mixtape treads dangerously close to four or five mics in The Source status — though the classified ads that followed the reviews section would probably offer a more fittingly X-rated basis for comparison.


Sahbabii – 3P

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That’s what they doin’, Cam; they actin’ like these singers, man.

I ain’t goin’ to the studio until I got a situation — a subject. I need a beat, I need the producer… who gon’ be on the hook?
Lil Wayne

I need a noun, I need an emoji… the list grows ever longer. Both creatively and commercially, Sahbabiii’s in good company; his peers Gunna and Lil Baby have been gifted the careers that Young Thug’s management could never quite deliver, and collectively their sound rules what Hua Hsu called “a moment where being weird seems a bit derivative.” But as these studio castoffs show, that weirdness alone does not an identity make, squid. Sucks, I imagine, to make music at a time when one’s output must be both unique and prolific.


Maxo – Lil Big Man

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Lil Big Man — not to be confused with Little Big Man, the debut album from Bushwick Bill — marks Maxo’s first release on Def Jam. This blurb could be all about the label putting its stock in a burgeoning brand of individualistic “lo-fi” hip-hop, but that would only deter from the real story: transcendence. While last year’s Smile EP hinted at this, Lil Big Man is the complete portrait of an artist not just coming up, of age, or into his own, but truly breaking through and down preconceptions of his art’s purpose. Rather than employ minimalist production as inspiration for bloodletting, the project starts sanguine and builds by exploring the complexity of that emotion, keeping the production as honestly full-bodied throughout. Yes, you could put it on in as background music for studying, but don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself gazing down at a hyper-concentrated student who looks oddly familiar.


Tree – We Grown Now.

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Spring has sprung. Sunlight washes over the trees from where I’m sat, extinguishing the grey skies and biting cold of the winter months. A full-stop, and the ensuing renewal. Not that he (or, at the very least, the sound he birthed) ever went away, of course, but 2019 is shaping up to be a memorable one for a freshly vitalized Tree. We Grown Now. arrives in close proximity to the VicTree link-up just two months ago, and the strides made there continue to widen — the stories more personal, the confessionals more intense, the soul really shining through the trap. “I hate being famous, I hate it,” he monologues on “No Lies;” “I may never do a show again.” It’s an unflinchingly honest take on navigating life’s growing pains, chasing the light at the end, and staying true to family and friends. Tree’s grown, and through this release, we’re grown (and still growing) alongside him. Period.

Blu & Oh No, Indie-Rap Survivors

This post was originally published on this site

BluA decade ago, XXL did its best to figure out where rap was going. They’d tried it once before, spotlighting a bunch of rising street-rap stars — Lil Boosie, Young Dro, Saigon — on the cover of a 2007 issue. But 2009 was the beginning of the XXL Freshman class, a mostly-annual institution that’s come … More »

Column: Favorite Rap Mixtapes of April 2018

This post was originally published on this site

With a cascade of releases spewing from the likes of DatPiff, LiveMixtapes, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, it can be difficult to keep up with the overbearing yet increasingly vital mixtape game. In this column, we aim to immerse ourselves in this hyper-prolific world and share our favorite releases each month. The focus will primarily be on rap mixtapes — loosely defined here as free (or sometimes free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if/when we feel it necessary. (Check out last month’s installment here.)

It’s official: rap is high art now. Eight out of ten classically trained musicians agree. I know, finally, right? Imagine being that one violinist who still doesn’t get it. Is that an ignorant-bliss thing? And wouldn’t we all feel better if there weren’t a part of me that kept saying, “Cool, yeah, but then what, ‘Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa’ should have all the Pulitzers, shouldn’t it?” Whatever, that is, Damn. Pulitzer has Pulitzers. Tiny Mix Tapes has Favorite Mixtapes. Young M.A. has both a mixtape and an all-female porn out this month. Everybody wins. Be warned, though; if Western politics have anything to say about token corrective status achievements and their populist fascist fallout, the next Pulitzer Prize for music will go to Taylor Swift Kid Rock. This has been a Public Service Announcement. Now scoot over and pass the sleep apnea medicine, Minnesota.


Doja Cat – Amala

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I saw Doja Cat’s debut performance at that weird Arcosanti festival in spring 2015, at which point she had one song, “So High,” to her name. I registered the performance, but didn’t expect to see her again. Enter Amala. While the stylistic pivot from the “So High” era is obvious, it’s more than welcome; where the former was utterly indistinguishable from any of a thousand Coachellan audio hallucinations, Amala is noteworthy for the mere fact that it’s immediately identifiable among a sea of vaguely psychedelic R&B albums populating the post-SZA world. The album is a survey of a sonic landscape that might be categorized as “Californian;” thoroughly chilled-out save for the occasional excursion into hard-edged Kehlani territory, and striking the requisite balance between slow jam production and beats made either by the Soulection crew or in their wake. It is, above all, varied. Say what you might about established genres’ capacity for yielding surprises; Amala is riddled with them.


BLVC SVND – LIL GRAIN SEASON

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Around the turn of the millennium, people used the tools of rock to make rap; now, people are starting to use the tools of rap to make rock. I’m hesitant to associate BLVC SVND with the oeuvre of, say, KoRn or Coal Chamber or something. And yet, at least on an aesthetic level, I can’t help but think that nü-/rap metal might have sowed the seeds of success for artists like him, Lil Peep (RIP), $UICIDEBOY$, Lil Uzi Vert, et al. Indeed, several songs on LIL GRAIN SEASON hit with the force of a death metal concert (“LEGIT,” “HAMMER TIME”), while others contain considerably less frenetic rage (“ROLL IT UHHH,” “BABE RUTH”). While I currently prefer the latter, I might soon come around more fully to the former, and maybe you will too.


WiFi OG – Web of Lies

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A jack of all trades, WiFi OG a.k.a. DJ Prince has worked on music videos for the likes of Conway (whose Blakk Tape dropped to acclaim this month); as DJ for Skyzoo (whose In Celebration Of Us is my #1 album of 2018 so far); as co-host of semi-weekly podcasts and vinyl record appreciation nights in NYC; and as MC, producer, and mixer on a number of solo and collaborative projects issued via his Mobile Kitchen collective. The latest, Web of Lies, has been in the works since at least 2015. That it retains the most essential raw elements of its OG Jamaican-toasting flavors despite three years of future-looking fusion and refinement is testament to WiFi’s maestro-minded musicality and dab-dread discipline. Web of Lies is a Work of Art, in the truest sense of both words.


PeeWee Longway – Spaghetti Factory

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Peewee Longway has been my favorite rapper for a while now, and you don’t have to look too far beyond the Spaghetti Factory cover art to see why. Over the past five or so years, he’s released a stream of mixtapes and features that have largely tracked with the ever-shifting Atlanta rap scene, never quite crossing over but also never sounding for a moment like the product of anyone but Longway. In an era in which personality seems like over half the battle, it’s remarkable that the PeeWee Longway experience — his reliably bonkers videos, knack for nicknames, and latent ability to out-rap anybody — hasn’t caught on in any evident fashion. Alas, those who know, know; Longway’s tapes do respectable numbers, and the fanbase that he does have doesn’t seem to be in any danger. Spaghetti Factory exists for those who need it, serving (much like Longway’s career as a whole) as a permanent, ever-replenishing resource for those who still can’t believe the year Atlanta had in 2014.


Princess Nokia – A Girl Cried Red

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A Girl Cried Red, the follow-up to last year’s much-beloved 1992, is a stylistic left turn, veering hard into the substantial lane of emo-rap hybridity that’s been blossoming with disarming grace as of late through the works of various “teen” artists. While others have mined the depths of autotune meloncholia or narrowly toed the line of mainstream hip-hop, Princess Nokia’s gleeful, singsong self-laceration on A Girl Cried Red imparts a decidedly weirder affective timbre. Nokia is never just operating on one level, and there is work being done herein equivalent to the decolonization of the sadboy mentality. And yet, that doesn’t prevent this tape from being straightforwardly cathartic: a welcome departure from an already eclectic artist.


KA5SH – Big Pink Loser

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Big Pink Loser is a hell of an elevator pitch. In 19 minutes, KA5SH rips through countless styles and flows. Right when you think he’s about to make a point, he changes topics. You’ll want to stop him and try to get ahold of what you’re hearing, but you’re so intrigued you let him go, and go, and go. He talks about his friends — Young Skrrt, Glitter Princess, and Swsh — like you’ve known them for years. He uses self-deprecating humor even though you’ve only just met. The elevator keeps going up, eventually hitting your floor, but you stay put. You’re in it now. What’s next? Tell me more. When he finishes, you look down at your watch and realize the budget meeting you were supposed to attend is over. So, what the hell: “Can you tell me that one more time?”


Papo Johnson – Hollywood Po

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My personal favorite emcee from the AF1MG/2oo4 crew, Papo Johnson released Hollywood Po as something of a one-off, a “West Coast” tape departing from the group’s usual post-Dipset New Jersey club sound. The subject matter’s still there — references to basketball and pop culture more broadly abound — but the beats are a revelation, in-house producers Cyber Tek and Subjxct2oo4 fully embracing breezy samples and G-funk whistles to completely reframe Johnson’s usually grimy Tri-State flows as soundtracks for cruising. The title track is the highlight by far, all parties stepping into uncharted territory to deliver the song of any and every summer between 1992 and 2018.


Maxo – Smile EP

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One of the few legitimate arguments I ever got into on Facebook was over the cult of positivity. (The other I can remember off the top was about Yeezus and might have helped bring this column into existence.) I’d posted a video in which a cancer survivor pointed out something that seems to elude many in my generation: that there are times when it’s healthier to be negative than positive, that some occasions call for abandoning any sense of hope or optimism and simply wallowing in despair, and that this is completely fine. One of the things I enjoy most about Maxo’s Smile EP is that, I think, the titular expression isn’t necessarily or primarily one of happiness here. It is equally a function of experiencing, appreciating, familiarizing, and knowing. You might’ve heard Maxo last year on the song “8 24” off Medslaus’s Poorboy. His was pretty obviously a standout contribution, and on an emotionally layered tiramisu like that album, making a memorable impression is, although critical, no cakewalk. They say it takes more effort to frown, but there are so many different kinds of smiles, and only some belong to happy faces. This one’s deeper.