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Hypnagogic experiments, Indonesian alchemy and Bay Area R&B: the week's best mixtapes and free mixes

Listening to the deluge of mixtapes and free mixes from hip-hop artists and electronic producers alike is often an insurmountable task. That’s why we scour Datpiff, LiveMixtapes and beyond, separating the wheat from the chaff each week.

Along with high concept fare from DJ/Rupture and Leafcutter John, we’ve got DJ mixes that range from Detroit techno to Baltimore club. As for rap tapes, Rome Fortune and Kolley rep the South, Rampage, Chris Crack and Tree show two sides of Chicago, and newcomer Derek King continues the year of the West Coast.

ROME FORTUNE
DRIVE, THIGHS & LIES

Atlanta risers Rome Fortune and Dun Deal reunite for a six-track effort that comes just a few months after Rome’s Beautiful Pimp 2 mixtape. As Rome told us at SXSW, he’s looking to release music as EP-sized chunks that allow him to experiment with different styles and sounds, and Drive, Thighs & Lies delivers on that promise.

Dun Deal returns with the hazy, waterlogged trap that he laid down on Pimp and, as always, an ear for memorable melodies. The often bedroom-themed EP finds Rome flexing his singing muscles, on the poppy, dubstep-wobbler ‘Come & Get It’ and the Auto-Tuned ‘Waterfall’ (the latter might be too far out his comfort zone, though). The EP plays with tone, from the antagonistic and moody ‘Payin for It’ to the buoyant, Peewee Longway-featuring ‘Get That’. On the former, Rome claims he “just wanna… fuck you like I’m paying for it,” alongside 16s from Junglepussy and Relly Jade: female voices that give lyrical and sonic counterpoint.

At less than 20 minutes, Drive, Thighs & Lies is more a sketch than a complete picture of what these two can do, but we’ll take bitesized over bloated any day. Plus, where else will you hear Young Thug singing R. Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’?

DJ/RUPTURE
STAGE BOUNDARY SONGS

DJ/rupture’s mixtapes are widely known for being a cut above the competition, and this latest hour-long tome is no different. Stage Boundary Songs is a corker of a tape, and it should hardly surprise fans (and followers of Clayton’s excellent Mudd Up! Blog) that it’s just as interesting conceptually as it is musically. This time, Clayton has used Oscar-nominated documentary feature The Art of Killing as source material, and has managed to emerge with a suite of songs that is as engaging as it is haunting.

Clayton invited Indonesian vocalist Nova Ruth to help curate the musical pieces for the mix, and she pulled together a bounty of rare vinyl cuts (digitized especially for the mix) from the time of the 1965 coup which serves as the documentary’s backdrop. Also pulled into the fray was the writing of dissident Indonesian poet Wiji Thukul, and working with The Art of Killing’s co-director Anonymous and translator Richard Curtis, Clayton used affecting segments taken from a variety of Thukul’s poems in both Indonesian and English.

As you can imagine it’s a selection of music that isn’t immediately obvious to the Western ear, and Clayton masterfully blends psychedelic music, folk and traditional sounds with more contemporary pieces from Holly Herndon and Throwing Snow. If there’s anyone else putting quite so much thought into mixtapes right now, we have yet to hear them – Stage Boundary Songs is as unmissable as they come.

DEREK KING
FAKE ID

The title of Derek King’s Fake ID references his youth (he’s only 19), but don’t mistake youth for immaturity: the Bay Area singer’s debut tape is another great edition in what has become a banner year for West Coast party music alongside albums by YG and Sage the Gemini.

Fake ID is 13 tracks of ratchet&b: all Bay Area slap and radio-ready melodies and hooks, which King has enough charisma and range to carry. Oakland producer T. Kelley lays down some pro-grade beats, mostly sticking to the formula established by the HBK Gang and DJ Mustard, but these aren’t identikit rip-offs: there’s a hint of Timbaland percussion on the harmony-heavy ‘Good Girl’ and the shimmering, Drake-heads-West ‘Dedicated’.

Like everything these days, there are nods to 90s-baby favorites: ‘Poison’ samples the Bell Biv DeVoe classic of the same name, ‘Jump’ borrows a sample and the vocal tics from the Kriss Kross hit, and ‘Wondercall’ interpolates ‘Wonderwall’ — and pulls it off. There are cameos by (slightly) bigger names like Sage, IamSu!, P-Lo and Kirko Bangz, but King might surpass all of them in short order.

LEAFCUTTER JOHN
KIT RECORDS MIX

We have to sift through a hell of a lot of mixes over here at FACT HQ, but we’re still actually surprised every once in a while. Leafcutter John’s new blend for Kit Records is one such surprise, and instead of finding a selection of tunes and fading them in and out of each other, the London-based Planet Mu veteran has instead created an entire ‘composed’ piece, twisting and treating each track to emerge with a coherent (and of course very bizarre) mood.

This means that Harold Faltermeyer’s ‘Axel F’ now sounds like a copy of some lost 1960s library music record playing in the distance, and The Cannonball Adderley Quintet’s ‘Somewhere’ is a transformed into an hazy, echoing, Lynchian dreamscape. It’s one of the most invigorating and original mixes we’ve heard for a while, and if you’re looking for something notably different to lull you into the netherworld, it’s just the ticket.

KOLLEY
REAL NIGGA SHIT

Kolley is from middle-of-nowhere Mississippi, a place where he says “most die young / and most never know their father.” That idea looms large over Real Nigga Shit, a collection of angsty Southern street rap. Kolley’s got a sinewy drawl and a few lyrical tools in his bag: there are grasps at universality (“this shit’s a big gamble / why not roll the dice? / we’ve all got scandals / all different walks of life”) and poignant details (“‘fridgerator empty / not even cubes of ice”) with which he’s able to make his story come to life.

Unfortunately, some of the street hustle tracks sound too much like everything coming out of Atlanta. Zaytoven, Metro Boomin, TM88 and Bobby Johnson do their thing, and Kolley sticks with well-worn lyrical tropes; the exception here is ‘Hanna’, a propulsive track produced by newcomer MI. The high points are tracks produced by fellow Mississippian Big K.R.I.T. on the soul-sampling ‘Real Love’ and the laidback, top-down/drive-around ‘Poetry in Motion’. Hopefully, Kolley can find a middle way between K.R.I.T.’s brand of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and more contemporary street storytelling — ‘Down The Road’ just about pulls it off.

ROLANDO
THE RANSOM NOTE MIX

Known primarily for shooting up the UK charts with his techno anthem ‘Knights of the Jaguar’ (retitled simply ‘Jaguar’) in 2000, Detroit’s DJ Rolando is no newcomer. He doesn’t however languish in the successes of Detroit’s storied past, and this new hour-long mix is not simply retreading tired old ground. Rather Rolando’s staying fresh, interweaving more recent minimal tropes into his expected arsenal of pounding kicks and eerie synthesizer drones, and it’s hard to argue with.

Moving quickly into gut-churning territory, this is a mix for those who prefer their techno without unicorns and sparkles. Fans of Perc and Untold’s recent dalliances with face-melting eardrum-ripping 4/4 will no doubt be pleased to hear that Rolando is managing to stay equally as intense, but he never loses sight of Detroit’s inherent soul, which is kind of miraculous.

CHRIS CRACK AND TREE
#TREESWAG

TREE hardly needs an introduction on these pages – the Chicago rapper/producer is one of the most recognizable figures in his city, whether he’s producing his self-styled soul-trap or spitting hoarse, characteristically melancholy rhymes. Here he’s accompanied by fellow Windy City rapper Chris Crack, and it’s Crack who handles the majority of the vocals, while TREE, for the most part, is in producer mode.

It works too, and while TREE’s characteristic presence is missed at first, Crack’s nasal, competent flow is a good fit against TREE’s unmistakably dusty backdrops. The short seven-track EP is apparently only the first installment of a proposed series of collaborations, and it’s certainly a success – ‘Off Da Pot’ especially shows the two rappers’ interplay perfectly, with TREE contributing a molasses-slow hook, and Crack kicking it up in the verse, waking the track up with vivid, urgent street truths.

RAMPAGE
THE COME UP

A member of Young Chop’s 8TMG crew, Rampage has mastered the type of drill rap Chop has pioneered and refined over the last few years. On The Come Up, Rampage and his producers (Young Chop, Murphy Kid and Chop Squad Inc.) seem content to stay in that lane. While it veers into anonymity, there are a few high points: ‘Bring It Back’ samples the iconic Halloween theme, and ‘HML’ with fellow 8TMGer Johnny May Cash is equally cinematic. The beat on ‘Boring’ is anything but, with percussion seemingly make up of gun SFX, and ‘See You’ is a midtempo and melodic change-of-pace that flashes charisma that’s in short-supply elsewhere.

ELIJAH & SKILLIAM + NOVELIST
STUDIO SET

Released in the run-up to Butterz pair Elijah & Skilliam’s eagerly awaited FABRICLIVE 75 appearance (they’ll take over Fabric’s room one for the first time ever on Friday May 16), this short set pits the grime duo against emcee Novelist. If you’ve kept your ear to the ground you’ll know Lewisham’s Novelist is blowing up right now thanks to Mumdance’s absolutely massive ‘Take Time’, and he shows similar star power spitting bars over Elijah & Skilliam’s expert selections.

There aren’t any big surprises here, rather the Butterz boys lay down a bed of pounding bass-heavy rumblers, and Novelist takes us through his world for 40 minutes – it’s hard to argue with that.

BLAQSTARR
DON’T THINK FEEL

The Baltimore club iconoclast continues his resurgence with a no-frills, old-school Baltimore club mix. Forty minutes of classics by himself, KW Griff, Rod Lee, DJ Class and more, with newish tracks ‘Gangsta’, ‘Release Yourself’ and noisy opener ‘Fun’. While Jersey club is in vogue, Blaq is happy to remind you of the sound’s crowd-pleasing Baltimore roots.

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