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West London grime, Lil B and Southern rap trunk-rattlers: the mixtape round-up

FACT’s mix and mixtape columns trawl through the untamed world of free mixes, radio specials and live blends so you don’t have to.

Change is afoot – the weekly mixes column will now be coming to you every Friday, with the mixtapes being compiled into a biweekly list dropping every other Thursday.

Another solid haul this week, with three tapes vying for the week’s highest honors: K9’s old-meets-new grime heat, Rome Fortune’s latest weird Atlanta dispatch, and BeatKing and Gangsta Boo’s eagerly-anticipated collaboration. Stick around for entertaining if not essential tapes from The Based God, Zooly Gang’s Mike Fresh and Kevin Gates’ running mate Bread Winner Kane.

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Mixtape of the week:
K9
MAD IN THE CUT

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between mixtapes and albums and Mad in the Cut illustrates that perfectly. It’s a well-trimmed 11 tracks long, produced impeccably (overseen by FACT man-of-the-year Dark0, no less) and features some of the most urgent bars we’ve heard from West London in a minute. And it’s absolutely free.

K9, if any of you remember, bobbed up in the early ‘00s as a member of Younger Musical Mobb, but had his career cut short thanks to a spell in jail. Now he’s back to make up for lost time, and it’s clear that his time away has truly invigorated his flow. His growling, aggressive weed rhymes lock into the varied set of neon-splattered beats like velcro, offsetting production from Visionist, Mssingno, Dark0 and others to complete a full picture rather than a vague sketch.

K9 even manages to make mincemeat of Jahlil Beats’ ubiquitous ‘Block Nigga’ beat, eradicating all memory of Bobby Shmurda’s indistinct rambling in a few syllables. When the record’s moving final moments ease in peacefully following a surprisingly good skit, it’s hard not to be totally on side, and as K9 pays tribute to close friend Vager, who died while the rapper was incarcerated, it adds a touching coda to a record that’s far more than just a mixtape.

Make sure you check out K9’s exclusive FACT TV freestyle.

ROME FORTUNE
SMALL VVORLD

Since breaking through last year with Beautiful Pimp, it’s been clear that Rome Fortune is best appreciated through full-lengths, not singles. No matter how good, the tracks released in the run-up to his latest project lacked context; the thread between his experiments and diversions unapparent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the through-line here is Rome, who’s clever and introspective as ever, with an ear for beats outside of the ever-expanding “Atlanta sound.” Small VVorld has a disparate cast of producers — beat deconstructionists (suicideyear), up-and-comers (Cubby, Dizzle, Pat Lukens) and rap outsiders (Bassnectar, Blood Diamonds, Four Tet) — all of whom know that spooky, sparse and smoked-out is the order of the day.

Rome has developed parallel to rappers like OG Maco, Makonnen and the Awful Records crew, so it’s not a surprise to see the former pair turn up here. Like his contemporaries, he can do lethargic menace, heart-heavy sing-song, and — in the case of stand-out ‘Friends Maybe’ — carefree party rap. Long live the Pimp.

GANGSTA BOO & BEATKING
UNDERGROUND CASSETTE TAPE MUSIC

If you’ve managed to ignore BeatKing this year, let us be the first to say you’re doing it wrong. The Houston rapper/producer has had a vintage few months, dropping jaws with his two solo tapes Gangsta Stripper Music 2 and Pole Sex and string of urgent live appearances. Now he’s back with possibly his most high-profile drop of the year, a collaboration with legendary Three 6 Mafia emcee Gangsta Boo and almost predictably it’s absolutely unmissable.

Fans of Southern rap (from Houston to Memphis) should already be on-side just from the tape’s two protagonists, but this is really only scratching the surface. Paul Wall, OJ Da Juiceman and Daz Dillinger crop up on guest verses, there’s an updated version of Lil Flip’s 2003 anthem ‘Like A Pimp’ and a rework of Mike Jones’ unmistakable ‘Still Tippin’ – the whole record feels like a loveletter to Southern rap’s varied (and often massively underrated) past.

If you’ve been put off in the past by BeatKing’s “club god” stylings, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s Gangsta Boo that manages to sit at the center of the tape, softening BeatKing’s edges a little and adding a much needed female voice. BeatKing is clearly in awe, and while the two never actually met (a fact revealed by Gangsta Boo on the tape’s outro) there’s more heart in Underground Cassette Tape Music than in the majority of tapes that pass through the FACT offices each week.

LIL B
ULTIMATE BITCH

At this point, denying Lil B’s accomplishments and influence is a fool’s errand, and Ultimate Bitch features plenty of reminders why, even if it’s not as consistently good as this summer’s Hoop Life. Lil B is as scatterbrained as ever: Ultimate Bitch reworks soul-sampling boom bap (‘Gucci Shotgun’, ‘Freedom O Freedom’), dabbles in synth-blasted street rap (‘Sellin of Skinny’, ‘Rick Ross’) and revisits B’s hyphy roots (‘For The BasedGod’, ‘Booty Talk’).

Lyrically, Lil B contains multitudes; he makes black self-love anthems yet “loves buyin’ pussy”, and he’s as likely to take a stance against rape as he is to drop tired “f*ggot/no homo” punchlines. As confounding as he is compelling, Lil B still dazzles when he’s at his best: the gentle ‘No Black Person Is Ugly’ is a ray of positivity that plays like the based counterpoint to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘i’. It is also a reminder of what a singular force he is in rap, and all of music. As a particularly succinct Datpiff commenter puts it: “U A FUCKBOY IF U STILL HATING ON LIL B IN 2014”

KEVIN GATES & BREAD WINNER KANE
AIN’T NOTHIN BIGGA THAN THE B

FACT favorite Kevin Gates and Huntsville rapper Bread Winner Kane (named after Gates’ Bread Winners Association label) team up for this workmanlike collection of bass-heavy Southern burners. Those expecting another Gates tape however will leave disappointed as there’s little of the manic flare exhibited on his acclaimed recent run of full-lengths. Instead Ain’t Nothin Bigga Than the B feels more like Kane’s record, with Gates providing backup and personality when called on. Sadly this doesn’t result in the most memorable collection – it’s too long for a start, and is littered with pointless moments like yet another ‘OG Bobby Johnson’ freestyle and the inclusion of Gates faves ‘Posed to be in Love’, ‘IDGAF’ and ‘MYB’, Percy Keith’s ‘Lost Control’, The Game’s ‘Black on Black’ and others.

That’s not to say Ain’t Nothin Bigga Than the B is without its charms though, early banger ‘Childhood’ is reassuringly tough, with Kane’s narcotic Southern slang meshing confidently against Gates’ hoarse, uncomfortable rhymes. Elsewhere tense ratchet grinder ‘On the Set’ shows Kane’s club scope and remember, you can always hit the delete key and make your own playlist.

MIKE FRESH
FRESCO EP

Zooly Gang’s Mike Fresh follows this summer’s Que team-up Que Fresco with a six-track EP that lets him show off his rapper-turnt-sanger skills without overstaying his welcome. Fresco kicks off with the ratchet anthem ‘Kissin’ Me Sloppy’, setting the table for an EP full of syrupy, midtempo jams. While not essential, the drugged-out R&B of ‘Amazing’ (featuring an underutilized Natasha Mosley) and delightfully weird “pussy-popping anthem” ‘Exotic’ (featuring a restrained Zuse) are keepers. While he might not have the charisma of some of his Atlanta compatriots, Fresh certainly lives up to his moniker.

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