Each week, FACT’s Mixtape Round-Up trawls through the untamed world of free mixes, radio specials and live blends so you don’t have to.
We’ve now decided to break this into two features: the week’s Best Free Mixes (think Soundcloud, Mixcloud) and the week’s Best Mixtapes (think DatPiff, LiveMixtapes). Naturally, there’ll always be some level of crossover between the two, but for now we’ve split the columns up, with Mixes running every Thursday, and Mixtapes every Friday.
This week’s rap round-up is a youth movement, with Katie Got Bandz and Key Nyata following up a pair of our favorite 2013 mixtapes, a New York skater-turned-rapper, and an outstanding debut that continues the Year of the West.
Mixtape of the week:
It’s not often that a debut effort has a voice, a (non-corny) concept and an approach that goes against the grain, but with Thirst 48, Long Beach rapper Boogie has pulled it off. The 24-year-old newcomer is lyrical and conscious without being Lyrical and Conscious, so comparisons to Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper are inevitable — and not unwarranted.
Roughly a meditation on the over-eager, attention-starved nature of the social media age, Thirst 48 is closer to — using West Coast rap’s recent touchstones — Good Kid than Krazy Life, thanks to Boogie’s easy-going storytelling and a collection of muted productions that are kissed with neo-soul grace and smoked-out sleepiness. The punchiest tracks, like the hood-claiming ‘Westside’, are far from bangers; ‘Black Males’ is awash in AM Gold vibes.
Boogie is the star, though. He has a laidback style that is rich in melody and wordplay, as likely to lilt into sing-song as he is to point out lyrical cliches (“Man, how it feel to be numb? / What? That sound crazy / numb is no feeling”). His real gift is as a cultural commenter, either about thirstiness (“I swear, Twitter turned lying into talent”) or just relationships in general. On standout ‘Bitter Raps’, he admits there “a thin line between opinions and bitterness” before launching into a long list of complaints (“I hate when bitches call me bro / when I’ve already seen them naked”) that feel casually universal.
KATIE GOT BANDZ
DRILLARY CLINTON 2
With Chief Keef doubling down on weird, post-drill rap and guys like King Louie and Lil Durk keeping their powder dry in advance of proper debuts, it’s been left to a handful of rappers to keep Chicago’s drill sound alive. On the sequel to last year’s Drillary Clinton, Katie does that — and unfortunately — not much more.
Once again produced in its entirety by Block On Da Trakk, Drillary Clinton 2 has that familiar sound of machine-gun snare-rolls, martial melodies and bass for days. Katie stays in her lane as well, with her husky-voiced shouts just as insistent intimidating as ever: “These bitches is poodles / I’m more like a pit / that’s why these weak bitches keep biting my shit / I heard they say Louie be writing my shit / these niggas is thirsty / I’m loving this shit.”
But while we’re sure this one has its charms with the right time, place, and mindset, the shock-of-the-new is mostly gone; ‘Nothing’ is ‘Pop Out’ part two, but without teeth. Katie still has one of the best voices in rap, but we’d like to see her take the chances Lil Herb and Lil Bibby have with their recent efforts. Oh, and whoever “mastered” ‘Soldiers’: keep your hand off the damn volume knob!
Key Nyata returns with the follow-up to last year’s Shadowed Diamond, which was one of our favorite mixtapes of the year thanks to its easy-to-swallow approach to Raider Klan gloom-and-doom. Cosmic Dad is a departure in some ways, embracing an opacity that’s different from Spaceghostpurrp’s Three 6 Mafia worship (it should be noted that Key’s affiliation is unclear, as he raps “graduated from the Klan now I’m taking off” on ‘B.O.S.’).
No matter: Key Nyata is on one, either with the low-lidded chamber rap of ‘B.O.S.’ and the similarly dejected ‘YouCanH8Me’ or something more forceful like ‘Nothing Nice’. The starry-eyed lyricism of his last tape is still intact (“All I’m trying to do is bring change to the universe… [a] lost soul still roaming in my city”) and he’s sharp as ever (“I’m in your bitch car and I bet I get that neck special / Next level, my witch love death metal”). He even tries his hand of based-styled freestyles on the opener.
Unlike Shadowed Diamond, Key Nyata only helms one track, but his producers have him covered. S.A.T. Beatz chops-and-screws what sounds like Frou Frou’s ‘Let Go’ on ‘It’s Alright’, a spaced out beat reminiscent of Clams Casino; Party Trash’s ‘Sw3rve’ is awash in delay, with a melody seemingly played on a chainsaw. Tri Angle’s oOoOO delivers on the promise of witch house-rap hybrids with ‘De4thstar’. In fact, much of the tape feels like Salem’s remixes of Gucci — and we mean that as a compliment.
STAY BLACK 2
Skateboarder-turned-rapper Daevon “Black Dave” Willis is a Bronx native who shouts out New York plenty on Stay Black 2. Like his fellow New Yorkers in the Pro Era crew, Dave has an affinity for the Golden era, aiming for throwback vibes on ‘More Clever’, ‘5Boro’ and ‘East In The House’, and penning soul-kissed tracks like ‘None Of That From Me’ and ‘Back Up On My Bullshit’. But while those songs might be a plurality, there’s a stylistically-agnostic approach to the entire tape.
Stay Black 2 plays like a survey of contemporary rap. ‘Lil Nigga’ would fit in on an A$AP Mob tape; ‘Youtube’ has the synthy drowsiness of late period Chief Keef; ‘Rollin’ is a trunk-rattling party-starter; ‘Heard of Me’ has a touch of EDM in its trap-rap; ‘Fuck Everybody’ is down-the-middle street antagonism; and so on. The stylistic hopscotch makes it tough to get invested, even with Black Dave’s sure-and-steady mic presence. And while we’d never suggest that a rapper stick to the orthodoxy of a by-gone era, there’s got to be a way for him to distill his influences into something more personal — and perhaps more New York. The angsty ‘Black & Proud’ does this best; it’s no surprise, considering that Shy Guy just helped Junglepussy do the same thing.
DJ NICK & A$AP ANT
THE BIG PAYBACK VOL. 2
The A$AP Mob’s Baltimore representative, A$AP Ant aka YG Addie, teams with DJ Nick for an 80-minute offering that feels like an old-school mixtape with plenty of freestyles, remixes and shout-outs among its new material. While there are nods to A$AP Mob’s New York base of operations (‘New York State of Mind’, ‘Peacocks’, ‘X Pills’), Memphis looms large as it does on most of their releases: grim-and-grimy trap-and-trunk tunes like ‘Mobbin’ and ‘Middle Finger’ set the tone, while Ant and company revisit Memphis classics on a remix of 8 Ball and MJG’s ‘Space Age Pimpin’.
Up-and-comers from the New York underground and beyond — Bodega Bamz, Chynna Rogers, Grande Marshall, Aston Matthews, various A$AP backbenchers — make appearances, with Soulja Boy and Peewee Longway featured on the synth-swirling ‘Face Tat’. Unfortunately for him, Ant often has trouble finding oxygen on his own tape, so while it’d be a fine CD-R to leave in the car this summer, we doubt he’s going to break out of the pack with it.