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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.

Another around-the-world round-up for your listening pleasure: Tennessee rappers Starlito, Don Trip, and Young Dolph, Chicago Glory Boyz Chief Keef and Blood Money, and Detroit Bruiser Brigadier TRPL BLK are in the mix, along with sets from FACT favorites (and in some cases, round-up veterans) Oneman, Bill Kouligas, Rabit, and Samo Sound Boy.

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STARLITO & DON TRIP
STEP BROTHERS 2

Tennessee might not have the wider-world rap profile of New York or California, but it’s long been a crucial hub of a very particular Southern sound. Don Trip and Starlito (from Memphis and Nashville respectively) actually don’t mirror the bass-heavy graveled gargle of Triple 6 or the urgent stutter of 8Ball & MJG, but their sound is nevertheless characteristically tethered to their particular location. Step Brothers 2 is the duo’s follow-up to the Will Ferrell-influenced original tape, and is a rare rap collaboration that finds its two rappers completing each other’s vision rather than impeding it with the expected ego overload. Where its predecessor was a hastily sequenced happy accident, Step Brothers 2 feels markedly well engineered and precisely labored over, a trait that isn’t lost in a sea of scrappy, semi-finished offerings.

It’s hardly surprising to hear Baton Rouge’s Kevin Gates repaying the ‘MYB’ favor on the startlingly good ‘Leash On Life’, and Gates’ book smart, rubbery lyricism isn’t a million miles from Don Trip’s sharp, throaty Southern drawl. Shining a flickering light on the awkward and rarely approached (in rap, at least) subject of teen bullying the track is a sobering reminder that the mood on Step Brothers 2 is markedly more difficult to pinpoint than it was on its predecessor. There are still more than enough vivid club-poised bangers (‘Pimp C 3000’, ‘Bunk Beds’) but it’s fellow Tennessee native Drumma Boy’s thoughtfully produced tracks that seem to characterize the tape’s mood best. ‘Shut Up’ in particular manages to capture the woozy low-key reflection Drake has made his signature without tipping into emo nonsense. It’s this understanding from Trip and Lito that makes the album (and indeed its predecessor) so successful – Step Brothers 2 is economical, well-managed and a damn near essential listen.

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ONEMAN
SOLITAIRE VOL. 2

Oneman continues his banner 2013 and follows-up August’s Resident Advisor podcast with a sequel to January’s Solitaire mixtape. Don’t let the title fool you: Oneman is far from alone on the mix, enlisting friends from the rap and dance spheres — Denzel Curry, Loefah, Jeremiah Jae, and more — for exclusive tracks (and drops).

After a slow-burning start, Solitaire Vol. 2 has its first turning point as ‘Dis Ain’t What You Want’ gives way to Mumdance & Logos, Bok Bok & Tom Trago, and Tyree’s acid classic ‘Acid Over’. Later on, it’s Miami-meets-London on ‘South Of The River’, by Lofty305 and Brtsh Knights, and then Rich Homie Quan will have you feeling ‘Some Type of Way’. There are some superb edits, too: Marcx takes on Ciara’s ‘Ride’, Brenmar & Finesse amp-up Beyonce’s ‘Naughty Girl’, and Rabit remixes Kelly Rowland’s ‘Dirty Laundry’. That rundown should give you an idea of what to expect over the mixtape’s 90-plus minutes: unexpected diversions into and out of hip-hop, R&B, grime, and club music by one of the best in the game.

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CHIEF KEEF
ALMIGHTY SO

Since aligning himself with Gucci Mane’s 1017 Brick Squad earlier this year, Chief Keef has struggled to find a way forward from the machine-gunning drill rap with which he made his name. Summer singles like ‘Citgo’, ‘Macaroni Time’, and ‘Round Da Rosey’ showed promise with synth-heavy sing-alongs, but Keef backslid with August’s uneven-at-best Bang Pt. 2, on which he opted for drunken Autotuned grumbling.

The first third of Almighty So returns to Keef’s tried-and-true formula: 808 sledgehammers, ratatat hi-hats, and none-too-inventive invective. As the tape progresses, Keef keeps things interesting by transitioning from big dumb street rap to something more befitting Future or Chicago’s nascent bop scene: ‘Salty’ is built around a Futuristic hook, ‘I Kno’ features some unexpected falsetto, and the scintillating beat of ‘Baby Whats Wrong With You’ is a surprisingly-deft juxtaposition to Keef’s half-lidded stream-of-consciousness.

Unfortunately, nothing on Almighty So approaches the delightfully weird territory of his recent singles (none of which appear here or on Bang Pt. 2) or Finally Rich standouts ‘Love Sosa’ and ‘Hate Being Sober’. Still just 18 years old, Keef is clearly ready to turn the page (see ‘Emojis’), but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to keep his nose clean long enough to do it.

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RABIT
HYP 150

FACT is certainly a fan of Houston’s Rabit, one of the producers who is a part of instrumental grime’s new wave. While his simple-but-effective tracks have already made him a producer-to-watch, it’s a pleasant surprise that he’s also able to build the same type of ice-cold tension over an hour-long mix. Assembled almost exclusively from dubs, Rabit’s mix for Hyponik is a tribute to the type of grime that’s being championed by the likes of Keysound, Glacial Sound, and Night Slugs/Fade To Mind, and while it’s heavy with tracks that rep those labels, there are also some more unique treats.

Early on, he screws down Houston rap clique Guerilla Maab and mixes into industrial vanguards Chris & Cosey; later on there’s an ingenious ‘Till The End Of Time’ bootleg that mashes up Major Grave and Beyonce. Thankfully, he sprinkles in some of his originals, as well: the tape closes with a bhangra-kissed track, ‘1. n a very light colorless element…’, whose title might refer to helium, but whose sound is anything but inert.

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YOUNG DOLPH
SOUTH MEMPHIS KINGPIN

It’s a good week for Tennessee, and while Gucci affiliate Young Dolph’s South Memphis Kingpin is pretty far from fellow TN natives Starlito & Don Trip’s exemplary Step Brothers 2, it’s still worthy of a closer look. The tape follows Dolph’s May-released High Class Street Music 3: Trappin Out A Mansion, and there are few surprises, but Dolph’s no slouch on the mic. More lyrical than the Atlanta set, the rapper might not be saying anything particularly new, but he does so with just enough panache to make the tape well worth a play or two.

Production is business as usual for anyone with a 1017 co-sign, and it’s hardly surprising that it’s fellow Memphis feller Drumma Boy who yet again contributes the record’s tightest cut in ‘Get Blow’d’. Doomy and characteristically synth-laced, the track sticks out like a sore thumb and with good reason – Izze The Producer’s workmanlike cuts might slap but they’re ten a penny, and when good tapes are so easy to find, it’s the unique touches that make all the difference.

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BILL KOULIGAS
PAN MIX FOR XLR8R

Bill Kouligas’s PAN label has been a constant source of bizarre and beautiful musical treasures over the last couple of years, and it doesn’t look as if it’s in danger of fizzling out any time soon. Over the course of this bumper mix, Kouligas (affectionately referred to as Kouly G around these parts) drags us through his very unique headspace, eschewing the dungeon dwelling, chain-rattling noise that characterized his early catalogue in favour of a more contemporary beat-driven chug.

Beneath’s fantastic low-end rattler ‘Stress 1’ is a real surprise, but it’s hardly alone next to rhythmic jammers from Concrete Fence, NHK, Afrikan Sciences and more. Chances are you’re already sold on PAN, and if you’re not then this mix probably ain’t gonna give you the revelation you were waiting for – but it hardly matters, if you’re as bigger sucker for this stuff as we are, it’s an absolute treat.

Download via iTunes

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TRPL BLK
BIG DICK NIGGAS EAT PUSSY TOO

There are some records that slip into their titles like Kim Kardashian into her new bikini, and Big Dick Niggas Eat Pussy Too is one of those rare albums. Bruiser Brigade’s TRPL BLK has had the tape on the burner for some time now, and it’s a surprisingly well-baked collection of sleazy modern funk, throwback sex rap and low-slung R&B. There’s barely a single track that you could play within earshot of mom (choice lyric: “make that pussy splash/I eat that shit from the back”) but while the album’s final third certainly drifts into DJ Assault territory, for the most part TRPL BLK doesn’t seem overly concerned with spreading his words over testosterone-fuelled rapid-fire beats.

Instead, the majority of the tape is made up of crackly samples, smooth grooves and simple lo-fi beats that sound like they could have dropped off a Cool Kids tape. A track called ‘Pussy Fartin’ could probably go either way, but GFC Monday’s screwed funk-pop production gives the whole thing a bizarre dry ice and blue light shimmer that just about prevents it from falling into self-parody. Mishka probably say it best in their press release: “Honestly though, if you’ve never had sex in a public bathroom, don’t download this shit. It’ll just make you feel real uncomfortable in your personal areas.” Indeed.

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SAMO SOUND BOY
OC MIXTAPE #41

LA DJ/producer Samo Sound Boy does his thing on the latest installment of the ever-reliable Open Ceremony mix series, seamlessly mixing house and techno tracks that live up to the name of his label, Body High. It’s tough not to move to a mix this propulsive where kickdrums sync up with heart rhythms and hi-hats and snares alter breathing patterns.

Samo has a gift for selecting “timeless” records, in the sense that everything gels without regard to release date. Reese & Santonio ‘s techno classic ‘The Sound’ sits next to James Holden’s analogue slowburner ‘Renata’, despite a 25 year age difference, and without a tracklist, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out what’s from ‘88 and what has yet to be released. Along with tracks by Ikonika, Leon Vynhall, Grown Folk, and Jim-E Stack, the producer also drops in tracks from his latest release: the live take ‘The Ride’ breaks the spell of Oneohtrix Point Never’s ‘Chrome Country’ and Shlohmo’s pitch-perfect remix of Samo’s ‘Your Love’ closes the mix. The hour-long set delivers on something Samo told FACT earlier this year: “[Body High is] trying to do something different and exciting, but come enjoy it with us.”

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BLOOD MONEY
GANGLAND

GBE’s had a busy 2013, and while figurehead Chief Keef might have descended into a swamp of half-heard mumbling and bizarre self parody, there are still plenty of reasons to keep a close watch on the Chicago imprint. Blood Money is one of the crew’s older members (not hard when you’re rolling with Keef and Reese), and brings a weathered menace to the gang’s usual fervent slap. His previous couple of tapes (June’s Drug Wars and Choppa Talk) were under-the-radar gems, and Gangland is even better, layering the expected urgent drill with a decided realness.

It’s all well and good hearing young kids telling corner boy tales, but there’s the sense that Blood Money’s had the time to see a little more of his city’s trials and tribulations. He talks fondly of GBE overlords Keef and Fredo, but his stories are peppered with references to his frequent extended trips to jail, giving the usual street assertions a chilling credibility. This is explored in depth on slow burner ‘My Life’, but Money really comes into his own spitting on cask-strength heavy hitters like ‘Met a Migo’ and ‘If I Was You’ and robotic Durk-style destroyers ‘Bitches In Da Crowd’ and ‘A Ho Dat’ll Blow’. Gangland is a smack to the jaw accompanied by cheap tequila and a lung full of smoke, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

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YOUNG SCRAP
MUSIC WE CAN FUCK TO 5

Young Scrap is a Los Angeles vocalist who is probably best described by his Twitter profile, where he boasts, “I sing about fuckin Yo bitch for a livin.” The title of his any-which-way-but-subtle Music We Can Fuck To 5 is also instructive: these are sex jams a la The-Dream and R. Kelly, supplemented by Scrap’s competent but unremarkable rap skills. The results sound like fellow LA R&B talent TeeFlii (who produces the smokey ‘Bout That Life’) mixed with a touch of Drake.

Music We Can Fuck To 5 starts strong with the ‘Pony’-interpolating ‘Retro Love’, ‘Swing My Way’ (which samples K. P. & Envyi’s 1998 single of the same name), and the G-funkish ‘One Eight Seven’. Afterwards, it’s an easy listen, if a predictable one. The production leans heavily on the synths-and-808s of contemporary hip-hop, while Scrap sticks to well-worn lyrical tropes: pussy (whether “murdering” it or “drowning in” it), Molly, models, bottles, etc. The most egregious examples are when he grabs the zeitgeist with both hands on ‘Turn Down For What’, or the DJ Mustard soundalike that is called — what else? — ‘Ratchet’ (it also bears a strong similarity to TeeFlii’s superior ‘This Dick’). This volume of Music We Can Fuck To certainly lives up to its title, if not much more.

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