Column: Favorite Rap Mixtapes of June 2018

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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.)

Rap tightened its waist this month, brought in the belt a few notches, squeezed back into its G.O.O.D. jeans, and burst onto the scene with more surprise releases than a zoo covertly infiltrated by eco-terrorists. While Yeezy and co. continued their string of seven-track Fridays, a gifted young lady came blazing out The City that Bombed Itself, with 15 minutes of audiovisual rap that stand to reclaim the word “lean” from woozier realms. Meanwhile, Bey and Jay dropped the album. Rothbarth shrugged. I bugged. XXXTentacion died. Then Gibbs got one. Southern cooking more your flavor? Both Zaytoven and DJ Michael Watts threw new summer sizzlers on the grill. Plus, now we’ve all these mixtapes to run down! What’s a rap columnist to do? Perhaps Beyoncé hubby S. Carter said it best when he mouthed the Migos ad lib, “skrrt, skrrt, skrrt.”


Queen Key – Eat My Pussy

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To think of Queen Key as a persona is to do her art and her existence a great disservice; even cursory investigation will confirm that the image put forth on Eat My Pussy is the genuine article. It’s a new sort of rap authenticity, skipping “realness” and proceeding straight to fantasy; Key’s primary concern is not what others think of her but rather, to quote “Tell,” how best to tell this bitch she wants to fuck her husband. She’s an endearing figure, a sort of incarnate id, and it’s no surprise that her ascension has come about organically rather than through any reinvention. It was last September that the “My Way” video started to get attention, and a mere nine months later, Key finds herself not only recording, but also holding her own with Chicago mainstays like Tink and King Louie. Despite showing significant improvement over the run of YouTube loosies with which she closed 2017, Eat My Pussy is still just the beginning for Queen Key; nine more tracks are set to be added to the tape on Thursday, and it’s a safe assumption that work on the next is already underway.


EvillDewer – 13

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In response to the sea change in how music is consumed, distributed, and (mercifully, reluctantly) purchased, independent Boston-area rappers and producers have secured the bag by refashioning the mixtape into a luxury item. These tapes can feel like stately public affairs, brimming with artistic self-assurance, collaborative joy, and emerging regalia. Netherrealms, the second most recent, cassette-only offering from Boston-based producer and “waveform scientician” EvillDewer, featured architects of this local insurgence like Estee Nack and Paranom. On his latest, 13, EvillDewer scraps guest verses to foreground his chopped, flipped, and time-stretched MPC juggling. Though a solo effort, the result is hardly insular: it’s a glimpse into the librarian-like mind of someone who pulls from actual library records, jingles, karate flicks, krautrock, and public access clips. Don’t let the erudition fool you; 13 is as fit for the subwoofer as it is for the gala.


Tierra Whack – Whack World

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Tierra Whack is here with that quick fix. Compact, efficient, just how we like it. Fifteen tracks in 15 minutes. Stop it. Don’t waste a moment thinking it’s a gimmick. You don’t have any time to lose. There’s no fat on this record; all of that’s been sliced up and disposed of. Whack World arguably packs in as much as any of 2018’s G.O.O.D. releases. The North Philly rapper pulls u-turns, changes vehicles, jumps a bridge, and still has time to swing through a fast-food drive-through on her way to the award show.


ShoZae – Coffy

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So firstly, if you haven’t seen the 1973 film Coffy starring Pam Grier, written and directed by Jack Hill, please do so before it inevitably gets remade. Second, if you haven’t listened to the Roy Ayers soundtrack, take care of that too. You good? OK, now you can function in a society and begin to appreciate what Midnite Society producer/recent Stones Throw signee ShoZae is doing with this, his latest tape. I don’t mean to pose barriers to entry — you can enjoy the 2018 Coffy without knowing its precedents — but at least in hip-hop, there’s something to be said for plotting courses of inspiration. They don’t have to be chronological or linear and often aren’t, but the dig is key. To that point, Coffy is entry-level blaxploitation, but maybe from there you check out The Final Comedown. Likewise, maybe this tape leads you to the Patron Series, Beneath the Mantle Vol. 1, the catalogs of the artists featured therein, and ShoZae & Grandmilly’s forthcoming Stones Throw LP, Adventureland. That’s how this record we call Earth spins.


Lukah – Chickenwire

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Humor and braggadocio are two methods of dealing with trauma in the places America chooses to ignore. On Chickenwire, South Memphis rapper Lukah claims he saw his first murder at age 12. This experience hardens him for a life in an unforgiving landscape. Simultaneously, he emerged from the womb clutching two backwoods and a pound of gas, with “handsome features” and a sensuous voice that’ll make you tingle. “Why you praying to God when you about to pay him a visit?” he asks. Lukah’s delivery is well-enunciated and confident, with quip after quip sliding off of his silver tongue over a half-hour of hook-less verses, as fluid and loose as backseat freestyles. “Bounce,” according to DJ Squeeky, is a necessary component of the Memphis rap sound, which by now has come to be acknowledged as the precursor to many of hip-hop’s hottest trends. Chickenwire contains no bounce. Some tracks betray their R&B samples in clipped slivers, but most are wordless, tangled loops, with production shared by the MC himself, Suni Katz, and Memphis avant-rapper Cities Aviv. Lukah is both menacing and hilarious; he remarks on many things that are “fucked up” about the world, but singles out a series of mental images that are absurd and shocking, like “Precious wearing a thong,” “a Blood Crip-walkin’,” “having thugs at your door dressed as Jehovahs,” etc. This tape is the sort of thing you can play all the way through while puffing a backwoods on a porch in the sweltering, humid heat, but the MC never fails to remind you: don’t let your guard down.


Chief Keef – Ottopsy EP

[DOWNLOAD/STREAM]

Ottopsy listens like an EP for Keef fans, a sort of gift from Sosa before he drops his next project, Mansion Musick, due out in July. It contains the type of forward-thinking hip-hop we’ve come to expect from post-Interscope Chief Keef, and if you enjoy his more creative (dare I say avant-garde?) side, this is for you. The beats are inventive as ever (especially the instrumental for “Randomly” ft. Tadoe), the autotune hooks catchy as all hell (lookout for those high notes on “I Need More”). Keef has endured some tough losses in the last year (RIP Fredo), and I hope his creative outlets are helping him push through. Not suggesting that Keef is using loss as an impetus to make music — I’m just happy to see him putting out quality tracks during hard times, which is inspiring.


Navy Blue – From the Heart

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Flipping through the playlists of collaborators like MIKE and Adé Hakim, you’ll likely find a fair share of aesthetically common ground between them, Navy Blue, and other members of their SLUMS NYC collective. But general nouns like aesthetics, mood, honesty, and intimacy are about as far as those comparisons can fairly go, because upon arriving at the latter two, shit gets personal. With bars like “My uncle had a junior and he named him the third/ Won’t show up at your communion ‘cause auntie has some nerve/ Mommy did it all by herself/ Mommy buried grandma by herself, ain’t none of y’all helped,” From the Heart is not just aptly titled, but also keeps faithfully close to that most vital organ.

Watch: Grandmilly & Shozae – “Graffiti”

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Have you ever seen the movie, Adventureland? If not, it’s basically Caddyshack in an amusement park, but with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart and Ryan Reynolds all playing exactly the characters you’d imagine. A fair portrait of white-suburbanite collegeiate malaise, it’s nothing like the real Adventureland. Yes, Adventureland is a real place, but it’s not in Western Pennsylvania as the 2009 bromantic blahmedy would have you believe (I’m just riffing here btw, the flick ain’t that bad). It’s in Farmingdale, NY, and although that town’s doing the bar/restaurant/brick sidewalk/unaffordable apartment thing lately, the Adventureland I remember is closer in spirit to the menacing grimace evoked by Grandmilly & Shozae’s latest video, “Graffiti.” It’s not an evil carinval, or anything tired like that, but well, your cotten candy might could get eaten, see.

Also, Grandmilly & Shozae are on Stone’s Throw now (!!!), and their first album for the label, Adventureland, will be out this summer. (Talk about “The writing’s on the wall.”) Celebrate this beautiful news by streaming the hell out of this amazing video.

Premiere: Grandmilly & Shozae – Mausoleum

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You just checked out of the Motel Six, permanent like, and in this here-one-minute, gone-the-next climate, that means you’re headed straight to the Mausoleum premiering six feet below, courtesy of rapper Grandmilly’s Zero Klique and producer Shozae’s Midnite Society. Do not ride the ambulance, do not pass the morgue, go direct to the burial ground first previewed in last Friday’s “Halloween” mix and now available in full for this All Hallows’ Eve. Trick or treat, you orange-headed fucker.

Column: Favorite Rap Mixtapes of October 2017

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.)


Trippie Redd – A Love Letter To You 2

[STREAM · DOWNLOAD]

All those Lil Uzi Vert comparisons notwithstanding, Ohio’s Trippie Redd is doing a fine job carving out his own lane as hip-hop’s closest thing to an opera singer. I mean, sure, there’s crooning, but then there’s Trippie Redd’s emotive bellow that erupts like a bat out of hell on the pre-hook for In Too Deep (I see the future in my plans / I’m gonna be good, it’s in God’s hands). Redd’s consistently ariose flow is the major draw for me: he’s got an amazing ear for melody, particularly those that instill sadness. While not entirely morose, the tape does embody themes of loneliness, nostalgia, and heartbreak (Baby wish me well / You know that I live in hell / I’m hellboy, I live in hell). Using autotune and endlessly-alluring, eerie, and ambient instrumentals as his brush, Trippie paints a world of vivid, lush euphony. And he does it effortlessly, with genuine affect.


Antwon – Sunnyvale Gardens

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There’s a lot of talk about potential in the rap game these days. With infinite, uh, clout at stake for those early champions of the next to claim their fifteen minutes, rap nerdery can feel more than a little obsessed with the obscure. But what exactly are we hoping that these teenagers might turn into? With Sunnyvale Gardens, underground veteran Antwon provides one possible answer, summarizing the year in Soundcloud while retaining the form of an actual, polished album. It’s a reassuring step forward, a promise that the genre’s core tenets – unabashed emo influence, guitar front and center, gargled autotune melody – can carry weight even in the absence of minute-and-a-half runtimes and blown out mastering. In spanning seemingly the entire history of rap since 2010, Sunnyvale Gardens can certainly feel a bit uneven; more often than not, however, it’s worth your while – Antwon is the ideal auteur for the goofy sincerity of rap’s current moment.


Grandmilly & Shozae – Motel Six

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The desk clerk hardly takes her eyes off the TV, absolutely never shoots you a straight glance, but make no mistake, she’ll scan her peripherals enough times to piece together a mental image. So it pays for you to look around too, giving her as little as possible without making it obvious. The game plays out perpetually. That’s what passes for hospitality here — that and musty carpets and buckled wallboards and busted heat pumps and penitentiary-level shower pressure and springy mattresses and HBO — because they know you’re only here on business. Bring your own amenities.


Evil Haze x CowboyKiller – Western Haze EP

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Cowpokin’ ain’t a far cry from trappin’. Texan/Pennsylvanian tag-team Evil Haze and CowboyKiller ride foreign horses and tote big irons, shooting hissed bars from the hip atop oppressively crusty bass lines. Their first three-track collab, Western Haze is a desert heat wave, warping its cracking samples on the scorched horizon: it stifles in the biblical sense, drying my throat like baked clay as my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. Lay me in the dust of death and ride off, pistols blazing. I hear the whine of slide guitar against the lens flare in the pale blue sky. “I’m causing damage while you on the internet spamming,” CowboyKiller whispers from a distance so great that I’m unnerved to hear him at all. It cuts deep.


YoungBoy Never Broke Again – Ain’t Too Long

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Ain’t Too Long, the latest chapter in Baton Rouge rapper YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s rapid ascent to hip-hop’s front page, arrived early October in peculiar form: a playlist of 8 YouTube videos on YoungBoy’s official page, not accessible via the usual mixtape sites nor the main-channel streaming services. This very unceremoniousness is exactly what makes the 18 year-old rapper so refreshing: his melodic, repetitive storytelling bears equal imprints of gen Z stylistic cues and Kevin Gates-esque confessionalism, and this latest tape finds him pensive and morose even in the face of great success. “Pour One” and “Better Man” start at the origin of his struggle and tell a story elliptically, looking back on betrayal and past selves with equal parts disbelief and gratitude. The circular melancholy in YoungBoy’s grates on the listener, at times unrelentingly sad even as the beat continues to bounce and fade out. What else are you looking for?


Gunplay – Haram

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There’s not good reason that Gunplay isn’t one of the biggest rappers in the world. He has more than enough intensity, talent, grind, uniqueness and hit-making ability to get over. Crossover appeal? C Monster and I saw him rock a noise showcase during Red Bull music week a couple years ago! Plus, Gucci Mane and DMX sustained careers through worse recidivism. Regardless, a couple years removed from a debut album that was understandably underwhelming (in that it was so needlessly belated and highly anticipated), Gunplay has sounded reinvigorated throughout 2017, powdery explosiveness complemented by a sensibility that was at the heart of his finest early works and now feels more attuned. Gunplay with precision and consistency.


Injury Reserve – Drive It Like It’s Stolen

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God, these three will never get the credit they deserve. Drive It Like It’s Stolen is everything Injury Reserve fans have come to expect: beat-heavy, lyrically conscious songs drizzled with some of the silkiest flow in the game. The 23-minute mixtape showcases the dichotomy of the trio in a short amount of time. “See You Sweet” and “Boom (X3)” are tough enough to “have the landlord knocking like a burglary,” while “North Pole” and “Colors” sway slow enough to swing a room into a smoke-sesh. Jokes aside, Drive it Like It’s Stolen has moved Injury Reserve to a more permanent position in rap and lets the world know that the trio has finished flossing and is ready to eat again.


araabMUZIK – One of One

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In 2010, Dipset Trance Party was, as far as I was concerned, one of the coolest and most confounding things in music. Hosted by someone calling themselves “Your Boy SK,” the series of beat tapes, somehow inspired simultaneously by vocal trance and by the rhythm-focused, high-fidelity Dipset production aesthetic, introduced the world to araabMUZIK. Since the release of his debut album Electronic Dream one year later, in what was surely the biggest Dipset Trance Party success story, we haven’t heard very much from the producer, known for feverishly punching out drum sequences on his MPC as if it were a live percussion instrument. At six tracks, One of One feels like the perfect serving of his simple yet intoxicating blend of beats and emotional dance music. Nevelle Viracocha’s vocals on “Lock and Load” and “Wanted,” seated in the middle of the mix and shrouded in delay, take me back to the bygone Trance Party even more effectively than araabMUZIK’s studio efforts, while the drums hit with the swinging, hand-plucked weight I’ve come to expect from him. One of One is a nifty, powerful little collection of beats, as ready for SoundCloud freestyling as for home listening.


Future & Young Thug – Super Slimey

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According to the October 2017 edition of Physics Today:

Allison Sweeney and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania now report that they may have a solution to the long-standing puzzle of how the squid lens establishes its protein-density gradient in a way that maintains uniform transparency. They found that cells at different radial positions within the lens produce different ratios of some 40 subtly different variants of S-crystallin. All the mixtures form gels — or at least a volume-spanning protein network — but at varying densities. The gelation prevents the proteins from aggregating into opaque clumps and damps local density fluctuations that could distort vision.


Lil Durk – Signed to the Streets 2.5

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I guess Lil Durk and Dej Loaf aren’t together anymore. I hope they’re ok! Really. Though never short on flexes, Lil Durk’s music has always had a believable earnestness far beyond that of his peers, neither cartoonishly immersed in his feelings nor insistent that they don’t exist. Despite never quite breaking out beyond Chicago, Durk has enjoyed massive sustained popularity there since well before drill entered (and subsequently exited) the national stage. There was a brief period this summer when it seemed like Distance was going to break through, and practically every track on Signed to the Streets 2.5 is similarly easy to imagine as a hit. Then again, that’s been the case for most of his career.

Mix: Chocolate Grinder Mix 123 – The World’s A Graveyard and Every Day Is Halloween

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In the mob’s damning stares, the shtetl woman saw reflections of not only burning torches but also burning hypocrisy, and this the worse conflagration. It wasn’t enough that they’d spread their shameful lies to her customers. It wasn’t enough that they’d marked and ransacked her market stall. They, whose children daily enjoyed the fruits of her sister-kin’s bloody toils, now dared bring their accusations of blood libel to a part of town they’d otherwise never deign to enter and to the door of her family home?! No, not this night, she thought, not without real sacrifice. For that was what they accused, and that was what they demanded, wasn’t it? So be it then.

“Yes! Yes, I drank of your child’s blood!” she moaned at her nearest accuser. “And yours,” she cried to the next. “He’s the fat one, isn’t he? Tonight I’ll bathe in his!” The crowd inhaled a ghastly gasp. “And yours!” And another. “And yours!” The horde receded. “And tomorrow the streets will run red with goyim baby blood!”

Stream below, download the WAV version, and subscribe to our podcast here.

[00:17] Angelo Badalamenti – “Dark Mood Woods (Twin Lakes Mix)”
[04:27] Grandmilly & Shozae – “Halloween” (Unreleased)
[06:34] Alförjs – “Ajiba”
[09:21] 30XX – “Death Machine”
[09:21] Mars89 – “Poltergeist”
[11:04] Evan Caminiti – “Possession”
[14:35] ELUCID – “Piano Wire”
[16:45] Oaht – “Till Days Over (Gothic Marxism Mix)”
[19:45] Anthony Pasquarosa – “Godforsaken Country (Seq. 2)”
[21:58] Rozewood – “Stranger Danger”

Special thanks to Grandmilly and Shozae, whose Mausoleum EP is coming October 31; and to Andy Koufax, whose voice can be heard on the “Twin Lakes” and “Gothic Marxism” mixes and whose ancestral in-laws inspired the tale above.

♫ Listen: Grandmilly – “Annunaki” ft. Dunny Cold-Facts / “Elohim”

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I make music for dust heads, walk out Nike Town with a crisp pair.” The opening line from Grandmilly’s “Annunaki” verse (the song’s second) is about as fine an introduction as you’re going to get. A former Raider Klan member (and one of the only NY rappers who can stake that claim, if memory serves), Grandmilly has been quietly yet consistently putting out quality projects since 2012’s BVNDVNVZ x BLVCK MVGIC. A few noteworthy catalog entries include a 2012 EP with Bones and a 2015 LP with SageInfinite, which just might be the best thing the Mishka label ever released.

Over the years, one of Grandmilly’s closest collaborators has been Shozae, a producer whose Midnite Society claims some of very the same Uniondale and Hempstead, Long Island blocks as Milly’s Zero Klique. Last year, Sho and Milly teamed up for an EP called 2 Stoopid Dogz, and the duo is currently sitting on a follow-up cassette called Adventureland, which definitely exists but also definitely isn’t out-out … at least, not yet. In the meantime, they’ve been posting a number of loosies, including these similarly branded 80 Proof elixirs, the first of which features Sho’s fellow Midnite Socialite Dunny Cold-Facts.

All that still isn’t nearly as solid an introduction as “I make music for dust heads,” though.