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’s round-up has something for everyone. In the rap column, there’s Chicago (Sasha Go Hard, Bo Deal), Atlanta (PeeWee Longway), and a point in between (DC’s Fat Trel, pictured); there’s also nostalgia for Three 6 Mafia (Key Nyata) and Lauryn Hill (Rapsody). Elsewhere, Lee Gamble, Cobra Krames, and Mike G all mix club music in their own ways, while Demdike Stare deliver “one of the most bizarre blends” we’ve seen all year.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 1/11)
Fat Trel has been poised for a breakout for a few years now; early singles like ‘Respect With The Tech’ and ‘Rolling’ revealed a rapper well-suited for the current street rap moment. It’s worth noting that Trel’s DC hometown is equidistant from both Chicago and Atlanta: SDMG finds him embracing the two poles of contemporary rap in equal parts. While the songs never stray too far from the sex, drugs, money, and guns of the tape’s title, Trel’s always-sharp storytelling skills and newfound sensitive side — whether rapping about criminal enterprises (‘Kalifornia Living’) or falling in love with strippers (‘Make It Clap’) put him closer to someone like Kevin Gates than early point of comparison Waka Flocka.
A chunk of production is left to 19-year-old newcomer JGramm Beats, who brings melancholy to trap rap tropes on the mellow, synth-based title track and standout lead single ‘Niggaz Dying’. Elsewhere, the technicolor, major key beats of Zaytoven’s Atlanta offer some of the tape’s most memorable moments, like strip club anthem ‘Singles’, diss track ‘No Lamez’, and the melodic ‘Thots’ (the latter two tabbing Butla Beats a producer to watch). Rising star Lee Bannon outpaces standard twerk fare with ‘Make It Clap’, and Trel rises to the occasion. He also hooks up with rap notables Young Chop and DJ Mustard, but the tracks fail to deviate from their respective templates.
Sonic outliers are a mixed bag: Trel flirts with dancehall rap on ‘The Latest’, while the soulful ‘Xtraordinary’ sounds like an outtake from Tha Carter III (thanks to production by Deezle). However, the Blaxploitation-nodding ‘Willie Dynamite’ features a Southern fried beat by Harry Fraud and a short-but-sweet verse by Danny Brown. As for crew love tracks, the DC-reppin ‘WE4MN’ outpaces the sleep-inducing ‘Love My Gang’.
Beyond the bluster, Trel has always been a surprisingly deft lyricist, and while the oft-delayed SDMG has its share of mixtape bloat, its best moments deliver on that early promise.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 2/11)
RUNNING ROUND THE LOBBY
Atlanta’s PeeWee Longway is a relatively recent addition to Gucci Mane’s 1017 Brick Squad roster, but has been proving himself consistently since the release of the underrated Gucci collaboration Money Pounds Ammunition. While he lacks Young Thug’s wail or Young Scooter’s unfuckwithable street smarts, Longway instead goes for the slow and steady route opting for a smart blend of swift workmanlike rhymes over bruising club backdrops rather than flashy tricks. The resulting tape is a surprisingly consistent listen – not too shabby considering it clocks in at well over an hour long.
Production is ably handled by Gucci’s team of usual suspects, from veterans 808 Mafia and C-Note to upstarts DJ Spinz and Dun Deal. Predictably then it’s not a tape that surprises with any kind of inventiveness or peculiar choices on Longway’s part, but if you’re looking for a set of tracks that simply aims to rattle trunks you won’t be disappointed. ‘100 Bands’ is a particular standout, building on the similar sparse energy that made Young Scooter’s ‘Colombia’ so damned hard-hitting and spiced with a Migos-esque lyrical bounce. It’s easily the album’s most quotable cut, and packed with zingers like “100 grand on my wrist my time is very expensive” it’s tough to shake out of your mind once you’ve heard it a couple of times. Elsewhere the 808 Mafia-produced ‘I Know They Know’ reminds of hi-grade Gucci, and ‘Molly Freak’, which in the wrong hands could be irredeemably mundane, ends up sounding bizarrely chilling.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 3/11)
SECRET 13 MIX 083
Now this is a mix – pieced together for the Secret Thirteen site, Demdike Stare’s Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker have selected twenty-three obscure gems almost without regard for genre. There’s techno, jazz, musique concrete and of course plenty of bizarre, almost unclassifiable experimental business, but the tracks have been sequenced and mixed in such a way that it just seems, well, correct. Much like the music the duo churn out through the Modern Love imprint, there’s so much care and attention put into the way the mix sounds that it’s impossible not to pay attention. Who else is slotting snippets of Wolf Eyes’ noise classic ‘Stabbed in the Face’ alongside the echoing folk of Egisto Macchi’s ‘Siberia’. Brave, dangerous and totally captivating, this might be one of the most bizarre blends that has passed through the roundup so far this year – more please.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 4/11)
This one fell through the cracks last week, but what would the round-up be without some Raider Klan? Last summer’s Two Phonkey established the now 18-year-old Key Nyata as the crew’s best lyricist. On Shadowed Diamond, he also flexes his production skills. The glistening, trunk-rattling title track sets the table: woozy, Memphis-facing jams built for “smoking blunts twice the size of a lead pipe,” but without the layer of lo-fi grunge that usually accompanies Raider Klan material. On the mic, Key Nyata favors the simple, sharp flow of his Triple 6 Mafia forebearers, and his lyrics are heavy with metaphor and pop culture. There is a youthful playfulness at times, but he favors shadows and darkness; ‘Tha Garden’ reaches hypnotic, black-cloaked depths, making him sound like the world’s grimmest weed smoker.
The strongest tracks are aided by unassuming guest spots: ‘Phonk In The Basement’ is nearly radio-ready thanks to a slink hook by LA youngster Phlo Finister, and ‘My Way’ re-imagines Sinatra via Southern rap menace with an assist by Seattle underground weirdos Nacho Picasso and Avatar Darko. Meanwhile, ex-Raider Klan associates Chris Travis & Ethelwulf show up on ‘Blvck Buddah’, a track punctuated by the growls of something out of Pacific Rim.
Shadowed Diamond closes with the appropriately titled ‘Journey’, a masterful, six-minute trip from Clams Casino haziness to Lex Luger antagonism (“I think that’s gonna be my thing—extraordinary outros,” he told The Stranger). With efforts like this, his thing may just be keeping Raider Klan relevant; as he says on ‘Far’, “I got a long way to go / but I’m ready for the show.”
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 5/11)
Lee Gamble’s Diversions 1994-1996 and Dutch Tvashar Plumes showed a disarming array of influences from an artist few had come in contact with until last year, so it’s hardly surprising that this latest mix for selftitledmag shines a spotlight on another facet of his musical knowledge. Mixed live on two Technics 1210s and a Vestax mixer, Gamble drags us through an hour and a half of his take on club music, starting with the kind of squashed deep house he gave a nod to on Dutch Tvashar Plumes moving through acid and eventually arriving on a selection of spacious warehouse bangers.
For a mix that Gamble explains is an example of what he would play “in a more regular club setting” it’s surprisingly diverse and challenging. Interspersed between the deeper, more typical 4/4 slow burners are choppy, spiky tracks with more than a few nods to Gamble’s experimental background – this gives the mix just what it needs to work just as well in the bedroom as it might in the club.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 6/11)
SASHA GO HARD
Whilst Chicago rapper Sasha Go Hard’s Round 3 felt like a knock on the door of the mainstream with guest appearances from the likes of Diplo and Kreayshawn, its follow-up Nutty World is refreshingly back-to-basics. She’s long been one of the more arresting presences in the flourishing Chicago scene, and the record is a sober, unusually well edited reflection of her skills. Sasha doesn’t have the quirky personality of friend and occasional sparring partner Katie Got Bandz, but she’s lyrically dexterous, and injects a surprising amount of content into a genre that’s increasingly concerned with barked catchphrases.
The themes are tried and true as Sasha documents her rise from Chicago’s notorious South Side, but she does so with a commanding urgency free of Chief Keef’s flippant drunken mumbling or King Louie’s sardonic boasts. The Tony Roche-produced ‘Rondo’ might be the album’s breakout track, but ‘Saluting’ is the album’s clear winner. Roche again handles the lurching, epic beat, and Sasha sounds more incensed than ever, referencing Trayvon Martin as she cuts down the competition with merciless barbs. It’s proof that she doesn’t need star producers or cheap gimmicks to aid her battle to the top; she’s doing just fine on her own.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 7/11)
LONG CLOTHING MIXTAPE
Austin’s Mike G (not to be confused with the Odd Future member of the same name) delivers this hour-plus mix for London’s Long Clothing, and it’s a heart-palpitating survey of underground club music. Grime, footwork and more collide with the kinetic energy of the peak hour. Listeners might recognize Spooky’s refix of Mosca’s smash ‘Bax’ or Sideswipe’s edit of Breach’s #1 hit ‘Jack’, but for the most part, the tracklist is a treasure trove of new artists and new material to track down. Get to work.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 8/11)
THUG EDUCATION 101
Brick Squad Mafia’s Bo Deal clearly takes his job seriously – Thug Education 101 comes hot on the heels of May’s Skeletons In My Closet and maintains a surprising level of quality. Deal’s a Chicago rapper, but aligned with Waka Flocka Flame he for the most part ends up spitting over the expected BSM-strength backdrops. That means heavily compressed post-Luger bangers like ‘Drama’, ‘Heater’ and ‘Snake Niggas’, but strangely as the record hits its mid-point with standout track ‘I’m A Opp’, things take a much-needed left turn. ‘I’m A Opp’ is Deal’s answer to Gucci’s outstanding diss track ‘Birds of a Feather’, but instead of just pouring out shots he highlights his city’s complex politics in a series of jagged bars over a sparse, urgent beat.
Before long we hit the unexpectedly smooth ‘Jump On It’, a track that has more in common with Terius Nash than with Waka Flocka, and the woozy and robotic ‘Make It Back’ which sounds as if it could have fallen off scene pioneer King Louie’s excellent Jeep Music tape and it’s clear that Deal never left his city behind. Rather he’s attempting to blend Atlanta and Chicago into one coherent whole, and occasionally he succeeds.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 9/11)
DO ANDROIDS DANCE 36
Brooklyn club music veteran Cobra Krames steps up for the latest mix for new kid on the block Do Androids Dance. The result is 50 minutes of breakbeats and bass that mine the shared territory between ballroom and Bmore. The second half is a rap-inflected set perfect for the twerkers in the audience; Cobra Krames has been doing this long enough to separate the wheat from the trap-rave chaff.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 10/11)
SHE GOT GAME
North Carolina’s Marlanna “Rapsody” Evans may have gotten a late start in the rap game, but the few years she has on her contemporaries have imparted their share of wisdom. Her throwback flow, conversational and intricately detailed, is reminiscent of Lauryn Hill and MC Lyte. As youthful Golden Era obsessives continue to crop up to revive New York, it was only a matter of time before someone did the same for the tradition of our greatest female rappers, and Rapsody carries the torch well.
With a co-sign and production by veteran boom bap artist 9th Wonder, Rapsody lays out her wordy verses over soulful, cut-and-paste beats, and she holds her own with veterans (Raekwon, Common) and buzzy newcomers (Chance the Rapper, Ab-Soul) alike. However, despite all her mic skills and storytelling acumen, the 90s nostalgia seems too often like deja vu. But if you used to love H.E.R., you’ll love She Got Game.
Use your keyboard’s arrow keys or hit the prev / next arrows on your screen to turn pages (page 11/11)