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Mixtape Round-up: Cassie, Surgeon, Big K.R.I.T., Raekwon, Kode9, Scratch DVA, and more

With each passing week, listening to the deluge of mixtapes, radio shows, and live sets from electronic producers and hip-hop artists alike becomes an even more insurmountable task. Quality offerings can fly under the radar, either added to our ever-growing “to listen” list or — more often than not – disregarded all together.

This week saw the release of eagerly-awaited efforts from Cassie and Big K.R.I.T., which probably had a chilling effect on other artists. Still, there was plenty to choose from this week. For completion’s sake, we’ve included those here, along with mixes from DJs of all stripes (Surgeon, Jacques Renault, Kode9 and Scratcha DVA) to rappers both veteran and newcomer (Raekwon, GrandeMarshall).

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MINISTREX / KODE9 B2B SCRATCH DVA
The Boomcast #36

Parisian club fiends ClekClekBoom present the 36th installment of their powerhouse Boomcast series. After 45 minutes of bass-heavy house and techno, Hyperdub reps Kode9 and Scratcha DVA go back-to-back for a raucous hour of new favorites, including L-Vis 1990’s ‘Ballad 4AD’, Donkie Punch & Lorenzo’s ‘Snapbacks and Tattoos’, and a few cuts from Pelican Fly’s phenomenal Feathers EP. And considering who’s involved, expect bits of grime and footwork, as well.

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CASSIE
RockAByeBaby

Probably FACT’s most anticipated mixtape of 2013, it would be hard for RockAByeBaby to live up to our admittedly ridiculous expectations. Thankfully the tape is a lean, straight-to-the point reminder of why we actually care about Cassie Ventura so much, and a fine stand-in for the album we’ve been chomping at the bit for. RockAByeBaby is let down a little by a handful of frankly unnecessary guest spots (Wiz Khalifa? French Montana?), but that’s a criticism you could posit at the majority of rap records, and we have to keep in mind the fact that it is just a mixtape. Aside from this the record skates surprisingly close to sounding like a legitimate follow-up to 2006’s Cassie. Unlike most free tapes it’s been mastered properly and has a woozy, unexpected coherence, and with highlights like ‘Numb’ and the rock-solid Young Chop produced ‘Turn Up’ it’s clear we’re hearing the reinvigorated Cassie that excited with last year’s ‘Balcony’ and ‘King of Hearts’. Now about that proper full length…

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SURGEON
Boiler Room mix

Anthony Child’s resurgence (ha!) in recent years has made a number of us here at FACT very happy indeed, and while the Brummie techno innovator doesn’t show off any of the grinding industrial 4/4 you might expect in this mammoth two-hour set, he excels with a deviously smart selection of ear-bending experimental electronics. You see, Child has never been just a techno artist, and while he’s best known for pioneering a style that would become far bigger than he (and fellow local lynchpin Regis) would have ever imagined, his records have always been unflinchingly exploratory and far more bizarre than you might care to remember. This two-hour mix is a spectacular slo-mo dig into the producer’s ambient fixation, Scorn fetish and long-running love for the kind of oblique electronica popularized by Autechre way back in the mid 1990s. For those of us that remain equally enthralled by these sounds, it’s not only timely dose of nostalgia, but an expertly pieced together re-appraisal of music we might not be giving enough respect to right now.

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BIG K.R.I.T.
King Remembered In Time

The Mississippi revivalist turns in his latest tribute to UGK/Outkast-styled Southern rap with this eponymous release. As per usual, K.R.I.T. does the heavy-lifting behind the board, crafting orchestral trunk-rattlers with some of the finest basslines in all of rap; ‘King Without A Crown’ jumps with some quick-fingered drum programming and ‘REM’ tastefully samples James Blake’s ‘The Wilhelm Scream’. Even if he sticks with the same Southern-living lyrical tropes, K.R.I.T. is as sharp as ever. As for guests, Bun B makes his requisite appearance, as do Trinidad Jame$, Wiz Khalifa, Smoke DZA, BJ The Chicago Kid, Ashton Jones, Big SANT, and man-of-the-moment Future on a snippet of the forthcoming ‘Just Last Week’. Big K.R.I.T.’s mixtapes usually play like fully-formed albums, and King Remembered In Time is no different.

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JACQUES RENAULT
100% Gomma

New York veteran Jacques Renault digs deep in catalog of Germany’s house repository Gomma for this hour-long set, expertly mixing rare 12″s with the label’s newest material. While not always our bag, you can’t beat the pairing of Renault and Gomma for groovy, body-jacking space disco with diversions into similarly intergalactic house and techno. Highlights include a Jacques Lu Cont remix of Leroy Hanghofer and Mercury’s elastic funkfest ‘Man’.

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GRANDEMARSHALL
Mugga Man

Dense and surprisingly jazzy, Mugga Man is Philly rapper GrandeMarshall’s first tape since signing to Fools Gold, and makes a great case for his blunted neo-cloud sound. Its most unanticipated trait is Grande’s ability to pick and produce beats that stay just the right side of old school. In the wrong hands many of the gaudy, sample-based backdrops would push a rapper into dull revivalism, but Grande holds his own, falling in with the same skyward-gazing sound as Bay Area champions Main Attrakionz. In fact Mugga Man’s most obvious comparison would be Squadda and Mondre’s 2012 effort Bossalinis & Fooliyones, but in place of the West Coast duo’s Bay reverence there’s a nod and a wink to Primo and pals from GrandeMarshall.

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SZA
S

With the lines between EP, album, and mixtapes so nebulous these days, we’ll let this one slide. The Maplewood, New Jersey singer shares her second effort, and it’s an impressive one. Over glittery, trap-inflected beats by newcomers Felix Snow and WNDRBRD (among others), SZA spins her poetic, expressive lyrics into gossamer. From the twisted alt-pop of ‘AFTERMATH’ to the dreamy lullaby ‘ICE.MOON’ to the spooky menace of ‘Wings’, SZA establishes herself as an intriguing figure in the rapidly-growing world of genre-defying R&B hybrids.

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RAEKWON & SCRAM JONES
The Chef vs. The Beast

First thing’s first; The Chef vs. The Beast doesn’t offer up a great deal of new material. The tape is mostly a compilation of Raewon and Scram Jones’ previous collaborations, but there are at least a few unreleased tracks dropped in to make it worth the download. Even though we’ve heard a lot of these before there’s a surprising coherence to the tape. Jones’s beats certainly revel in the Wu’s grimy Staten Island past, but they’re handled with an expert touch, and work as an appropriate backgrop to Rae’s reliable, unmistakable flow. The fact that a twenty-six track Raekwon record might get ignored in 2013 because it’s not all new material is more of a statement on the amount of free new rap music out there than it is on the quality of The Chef vs. The Beast, and whether you’ve heard a few of the tracks or not, we can safely say it’s worth a peep.

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MIKE G
Verses Vol. 1

“Laid-back” best describes both Mike G’s flow and his approach to releases. The underrated Odd Future member has been mostly dormant since his 2010 album Ali, occasionally appearing on OFWGKTA projects and curious one-offs; he’s been busier as a DJ, frequently assembling chop-and-screw tapes, though. In an effort to reintroduce himself as a rapper, he’s collected a set of verses on a volume of the same name. The 13-track set includes collaborations with contemporaries Hodgy Beats, Zion I, Joey Fatts, and Paul Banks, along with his remix of Charli XCX’s ‘You’re The One’.

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SMOKE DZA
Ringside EP

Released in celebration of Wrestlemania 29 (seriously), Harlem-based Jet Lifer Smoke DZA decided that the event was worthy of a good soundtrack, and that’s what we get with Ringside. Clocking in at a modest five tracks (it is after all only an EP), the whole record is produced by in-house beatsmith 183rd who accents DZA’s weed-rap with an abstract ear for off-kilter samples and rolling 808s. Opener ‘The Streak’ is the standout, and while DZA’s lazy flow can grate over time, his tone is matched well against 183rd’s peculiar blend of church organs and beatbox rhythms. Riiiiight!

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