“From doing records from sampling, I started learning the science about what happened to soul music,” the Alchemist told me 13 years ago. One evening, at New York’s Baseline Studios, I sat in a backroom full of ancient, dusty records, and I listened to the Alchemist and Just Blaze talk about disco. The … More »
Veteran rap producer the Alchemist has been making beats since the early ’90s, when he was in a group with Scott Caan. Over the decades, the Alchemist has made absolutely immortal tracks with people like Mobb Deep and Jadakiss, and he’s lately established himself at the forefront of the stoner-rap underground. Just in the past … More »
The Alchemist and Schoolboy Q have teamed up for a new track, “W.Y.G.D.T.N.S.,” the latest installment in the producer’s sporadic Craft Singles series. The longtime friends have collaborated in the past, and their new song finds them both reflecting on the fan pressure to constantly come out with new material. The unwieldy acronym of its … More »
Sometimes the most fascinating breaks come from songs we probably wouldn’t even know about at all unless someone sampled them. It’s a testament to how hip-hop and other sample-based genres aren’t necessarily about recognition but innovation and discovery — and a hopeful sign that as long as there’s the possibility of some strange undiscovered gem … More »
Oof. Almost missed this one. Released on April 5, The Alchemist’s latest, Rappers Best Friend Pt. 5, pulls together some of the producer’s recent collaborations with Mach-Hommy, the Griselda Records crew, Sean Price (R.I.P.), and Evidence. But there’s a twist! This collection is (wait for it)… all instrumentals. Hence, “Rappers Best Friend.” Like, these are instrumentals, so ANYONE can rap over them. Ah-ha!!
You’ll have to settle for the digital version, though. Vinyl copies are sold out. Sorry gang.
There’s an old joke about a lost-dog poster: “LOST: Male dog. One eye. Mangled ear. Paralyzed hind leg. Crooked tail. Answers to the name ‘Lucky.'” The Chicago rapper Lucki, formerly Lucky Eck$, was not joking when he settled on his rap name. Lucki’s rap name is his real name; he was born Lucki Camel, Jr. More »
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 October’s installment here.)
Soooooo many dope mixtapes these past two months that, even as TMT’s year-end coverage wrapped up like gifts bursting from Santa’s sack, our squad still jumped at the chance to pile on some final blurbs of 2018 before the ball-drop. “Overbearing?” Maybe. “Hyper-prolific?” Definitely. Multiple puns in that first sentence? Two for the price of one, hon. To that, before we get into our November and December favs, here are some “honorable mentions” that didn’t get a write-up below but are no less deserving of a spin this New Year’s Eve: Semiratruth – WAIT!, Demahjiae – Ghetto Blessings, SPNDA x Kae Tea – Mosaic EP Lil Durk – Signed to the Streets 3, City Girls – Girl Code, The Diplomats – Diplomatic Ties, Roc Marciano – Pimpstrumentals, Grimm Doza & SpaceGhostPurrp – The Haunting in New Jersey, Wiardon – Numba1Viktim, Chris Crack – Just Gimme A Minute and Thanks Uncle Trill, Bloodmoney Perez – Time is a Motherfucker, CL King – Waiting 4, and Defcee – A Mixtape As God Intended, Vol. 1 … also, three (!!!) Young Thug leaks.
Red Daughter, Trap Funk & Alivio – Red Funk Alivio 2
It’s mixtapes like this one that have us quietly missing the days when the word “rap” wasn’t in this column’s title. W/o wasting too many words justifying this tape’s inclusion, let’s just say rap is a big part of it. But so too are Afrocentrism, feminism, indigenous pride, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Brazil, baile funk, Jersey club, house, footwork, and many more elements than an admittedly limited worldview can readily identify. One hesitates to revisit clichés like the dance after the revolt or “if this doesn’t get you moving, you’re already dead,” but, well, while Google Translate tells us that alivio is Portuguese for relief, our ears, eyes, and noses tell us that the club is flooding with oppressor blood. If you missed the first drop, catch up.
Tommy Genesis – Tommy Genesis
We the undersigned/unwashed jabberers at TMT have a tastynasty habit of measuring years out in loosely-themed song mixes. I bet some super astute comment section glob thinks it’s an arbitrary habit. I humbly submit that when we cycle artifacts through a series of spaces, patterns emerge. Assumptions get split. Moods and usages cross and swerve. The exceptional artifacts fit every space. Tommy Genesis, the Vancouver rapper’s debut album, pumps blood and caresses muscles like GYM, cycles want until it subsumes self, a party in the VOID. “Drive” flecks acoustic strings at the CLIFF’s edge and Charlie Heat’s ballast production on “Play With It” turns the ALLEY concave, sends come-on invocations city-wide, supercharged fuel for the COUPE. Tommy Genesis sounds like a whole damn year — wanting more is loving living.
Peewee Longway – State of the Art
A glaring omission from our Favorite Cover Art feature (putting him at two for the year), State of the Art finds Peewee Longway rapping as well as he ever has, retaining his distinctive style while adapting to the ever-evolving sound of the moment. Longway’s sound has always tracked the mainstream not directly but as a point of divergence; while likely not distinct enough to make him anyone’s absolute favorite rapper, he’s well-positioned for the reliable production of quality, personable raps. State of the Art is split between showpieces for relatively stock guest spots from the likes Gucci or members of Migos, and far more idiosyncratic one-offs; “Lets Be Real” (with Maxo Kream) is a Molly anthem reminiscent of some of Longway’s stranger inclinations, while “Top of the Bank” marries an Otis Redding interpolation and a cooing, celebratory hook without either seeming out of place. Longway’s more likely to retire from rap (yet again) than blow up any time soon, but State of the Art is more than enough proof that the roundest rapper working has got plenty left to give.
Adé Hakim – On To Better Things
In a year of SlumsNYC triumphalism — see the series of landmark releases by navy blue, King Carter, MIKE et al., culminating with Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs — Adé Hakim a.k.a. Sixpress has been like a silent partner to the movement. Featured on most of the aforementioned and having released a couple of short but no less notable mixtapes on his own this year, Hakim closes out an already-headway-making 2018 with his most complete and progressive work to date in the aptly titled On To Better Things. Low-key, high-impact beats, rhymes, and life insights from the birthplace of hip-hop coalesce here in a freely collective but clearly self-defined gestalt. Where do we go from this? Just listen.
AJ Suede – Darth Sueder II: Goth Marciano
Don’t let your current intake of “lo-fi” hip-hop begin and end with Earl’s latest album. Rapper/Producer AJ Suede has perfected his own take on the subgenre with his latest tape, Darth Sueder II, chopping lightly treated soul samples to set his seasick verses adrift on a lemon-lime sea. What he’s doing sonically isn’t boundary-breaking or avant-garde, but his ear for memorable loops that settle into the backdrop is impeccable. On “Lovable,” a meandering organ shuffles against hi-hats that eke out what should be an un-rappable rhythm; somehow, though, it’s the perfect vehicle for Suede to wax romantic about autumn leaves before launching into asides about gentrification and white people who are too quick to call the cops. Ideas are scattered throughout the brief tracks, but each one’s focused, bridged by some of my favorite punchlines in recent memory (“I was in that county fair/ Like that kid apparently.”) If you’re not scared off by references to esoteric Christianity and MK ULTRA, give Goth Marciano a spin — it’s a fresh take on minimalistic East Coast hip-hop, especially for someone often entrenched in the distorted cloud rap favored by his brethren in the Underground Dust Funk collective.
Big Twins – Grimey Life
Although Big Twins f.k.a. Twin Gambino has experienced something of a second life thanks to today’s boom-bap revival, one need look no further than the guestlist on this tape to recognize his Infamous Mobb credentials. In addition to features from fellow Infamous rappers Godfather Pt. 3 and Ty Nitty, as well as Mobb affiliate Big Noyd, Grimey Life includes a posthumous appearance by Prodigy, which finds the late icon far from phoning it in, with lines such as “I handle bars like lifers or motocross bikers.” For those keeping track, Havoc also lends a verse (to Knxwledge-produced eulogy “Memories”), and The Alchemist produces the fittingly ghostly “Phantom of the Opera.” In spite of these bigger names and many other features, the project is first and foremost a product of Big Twins whose often imitated but never duplicated voice remains the unmistakable audio definition of grime — inflicted pain inflected.
Bbymutha – Muthaz Day 3
The cover art of Muthaz Day 3 is a photo of Bbymutha with her two sets of twins all dressed in red robes, surrounded by candles and sitting on what appears to be a pentagram. You’re in her domain now. Welcome to a world full of sinister instrumentals and trap beats that slither underneath the Chattanooga rapper’s spellbinding flow; a world where a single mom with two sets of twins doesn’t have to be bound by the traditional ideas of what a parent should or shouldn’t be; a world where confidence is the lifeblood of all things. On Muthaz Day 3, Bbymutha continues to champion her independence and forge ahead on a path that she’s laying brick by brick, all by herself.
DaBoii – Neva Lookin Back
We should be thankful that this was even made into a playlist. For a little over two years, the members of Bay Area juggernaut SOB X RBE have operated as an essentially YouTube-only outfit; while enjoyable, both recent albums (GANGIN and GANGIN II) scan more as fulfillments of label obligations than as faithful documents of the group’s most essential, often online-only work. As obsessives were left to parse the steady stream of loosies from individual members and all possible combinations thereof, there were few safer bets than a DaBoii solo track. DaBoii raps with purist appeal, his style a charismatic but unornamented amalgam of the Bay’s long history of singular rap figures. The videos, courtesy directors Tyler Casey and BGIGGZ, are often as entertaining as the songs themselves; Neva Lookin Back corrals three of DaBoii’s best from the past year (“Ridin’,” “Onna Gang,” and “Sum it Up”) alongside a further nine new tracks, offering an imperfect but better-than-nothing document of DaBoii’s 2018. Still, it’s probably best to rip your own copy of this while you still can.
Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist (Fetti?) – Fetti (Roma?)
A tangential anecdote that bears repeating: in a recent interview, rapper Milo reminisced about driving around Chicago with rapper Serengeti, listening to Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s Piñata, which Milo recalled inspired ‘Geti to say, “I don’t know if it gets better than this.” Word. Although pairing with the Mad Liberator might’ve made Gibbs your favorite rappers’ favorite rapper, heads have been waiting for a Gibbs-Curren$y-Alchemist album since the trio first came together on 2011’s “Scottie Pippen.” Thankfully, Fetti does not disappoint nor does it rest on the laurels that the three artists have received independently of each other in the seven years since. Which brings us to another point not yet fully addressed in this tape’s coverage to date: none of the three artists’ names appear on the cover, yet the word “Roma” does, leading one to believe that it might in fact be the title to this, the first release by a rap supergroup named Fetti. Fingers crossed, lighters up.
Warhol.ss – Chest Pains
Has it really been two and a half years since Warhol.ss dropped “Speed Racer?” Although it feels like little time has passed since the Chicago emcee broke into the SoundCloud mainstream, the platform’s predominant ethos has experienced so much change it’s easy to forget the potential that brief track packed. Surfing Brentrambo’s undulant percussion, Warhol.ss stood out with a gruff cadence and unflinching confidence that offset the bubblegum aesthetic that overtook 2016. Despite a handful of collaborations with tastemakers Pi’erre Bourne and Cole Bennett, he’s yet to recreate his initial brilliance — an understandably difficult feat for someone so ahead of their time. On Chest Pains, we find Warhol.ss exploring the lanes that lead him back to prominence: he’s at his most accessible muttering plosive-tinged one-liners on the Kenny Beats-produced “Bird’s Nest,” but “War Ready” proves to be the tape’s most fascinating venture. Kick drums stumble over bars as Warhol lines the off-kilter rhythm with a nimble collage of triplet flows. It’s difficult to wrap your head around, but it’s hypnotic if you can. This new crop of cuts doesn’t include an obvious hit, but it does appear to be a step toward something greater. Trust the process.
Black Josh – Yung Sweg Lawd
Is it acute homesickness or latent agoraphobia that causes some people to become physically ill every time they leave their old stomping grounds? Or maybe just plain, ordinary travelers sickness? My brother, who works in an airport, told me that a few months back a flight touched down with every passenger and crew member sick, like vomiting sick… quarantine sick. Yung Sweg Lawd is that sick, bro. It’s dark. Absent a better frame of reference (my fault), it’s Wu-Tang on Tim Westwood in the 90s, blacked out, using the words “dark” and “horrible” as slang praise, having likely just learned it. Pharma-grade smoke clouds billowing like factory stacks, it’s the acid rain; Black Josh a climate-change centaur moving (in) packs.
The-Dream – Ménage à Trois: Sextape Vol. 1, 2, 3
Weird times that we’re living in when an artist can release a three-volume, 42-song mixtape and it’s not anticipated or received as their magnum opus. In fact, I don’t even think that R&B heavyweight The-Dream announced Ménage à Trois beforehand beyond hinting that he was working on something. Thus Ménage à Trois, thematically billed as a three-part “sex tape,” with album art to match, lands as another long project from another major artist (which is the standard in The Age of Streaming), but it’s one worth sifting through if you like R&B even just a little bit. Singers-turned-rappers and/or rappers-turned-singers are a dime a dozen nowadays (i.e., that Drizzy-/Ty Dolla-esque hybrid style, which, make no mistake, I do enjoy), which is to say: for all the suave-crooning purists like myself, R&B proper has seen better days on the charts. Luckily, The-Dream gives us 2.5 hours of sultry singing (mostly) sans rap harmonies here while still delivering much stylistic variety. Think The Weeknd’s Trilogy except every song is about sex, with a modus operandi that overall seems to be downtempo and lush. Dig through this behemoth until you find something to cuddle up with — there’s bound to be stuff you’ll have on repeat.
Boosie Badazz – Boosie Blues Cafe
From the Thanksgiving release date (announced two days prior) to its very concept, the actual existence of Boosie Blues Cafe was far from certain until the moment we had it in our hands. Not that expectations were tempered to match, of course. While not “bluesy,” per se, the cathartic baring of the soul has always factored heavily into Boosie’s work; he’s the man with a song for everything, a Baton Rouge legend off his ability to speak directly to the city’s youth. The prospect of him stepping fully into the region’s other musical tradition, then, was immensely appealing, if less out of optimism than sheer curiosity. It works OK — with the exception of absolute slapper “I Know How to Have a Good Time,” most of the tracks are identifiably Boosiean to a fault; Boosie’s got such a long history of rapping this stuff in a compelling way that translating it to a blues idiom can feel a bit rote. A worthwhile experiment, however; Boosie’s passion projects are by default a thousand times more interesting than someone else’s re-hashing of the very crowded Rap Caviar lane.
Sir E.U – Merry christmas my nigga! / Thc / To This Day / Cries for help
Earlier this year, I was talking to an artist who shall remain nameless about the inclusion in this column of a tape by another artist who shall remain nameless. The artist I was kibitzing with took issue with the included work, saying something to the effect of “If you throw enough shit at the wall, eventually some will stick, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good,” which is more than fair. To be honest, my understanding of noise sets and DJing in general isn’t nearly adroit enough to tell if Sir E.U’s massive output over the last two weeks is an example of the aforementioned criticism or of a mix master purposely and methodically laying waste to two-turntable fundamentals. Either way, though, the shit bangs. And the sheer quantity of his year-end sound dump is something to behold. Dig in.
Earl Sweatshirt: He’s doing things again! On Friday, the enigmatic rap cult hero will release Some Rap Songs, his third proper solo album. We’ve already heard his songs “Nowhere2Go” and “The Mint,” as well as his brief appearance on Vince Staples’ album FM! And now we learn that Sweatshirt … More »
Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs had it figured out before almost everyone else. Near the beginning of this decade, when the rap landscape completely and irrevocably changed, both of them were right there. Both of them figured things out on their own. They saw rap music becoming a decentered system, a fractured landscape that no longer … More »
“It feels like they’re just getting started.” That’s something I wrote about the young Vallejo, California rap group SOB x RBE eight months ago. It turns out that they were really just getting finished. Eight months ago, SOB x RBE had enormous momentum behind them. They’d made “Paramedic!,” maybe the single best song … More »