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West Coast bangers, fresh hype and Future: 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.

Even with a load of tapes scheduled to drop later today and tomorrow, the round-up is still stacked: newcomers Dej Loaf and OG Maco deliver on the promise of breakthrough singles, Salva calls in the big guns, Future polishes his image, DJ Mustard picks a new protege and Mykki Blanco remains in a league of his own.

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Mixtape of the week:
SALVA
PEACEMAKER

Since emerging at the top of the decade, Chicago-bred, LA-based producer Paul Salva has been defined by his refusal to be pigeonholed: his club-ready productions have bounded between rave throwbacks, Dance Mania-inspired ghetto house, wonky beatcraft, trap bombast and beyond. And while Peacemaker focuses on hip-hop, he crafted the star-studded, free album with the same anything-goes approach.

At this point, crossover between the rap and dance music worlds is nothing new — just never as seamlessly as it is here. Salva maintains his pristine sound, yet this doesn’t sound like Waka dipping his toe in the EDM kiddie pool. These beats would not be out of place on mainstream mixtapes, clubs or radio, or on his own records; he even repurposes Odd Furniture track ‘Drop That Bitch’ for a pneumatic posse cut of the same name.

There are takes on Chicago drill (‘Child Pak’), Atlanta trap (‘A Lotta’), ratchet anthems (‘Motel’) and plenty of West Coast rap, from the throwback Dr. Dre vibes of ‘Moves 2 Make’ to the synthesizer G-funk of ‘Freaking U’ and ‘Freaky Dancing’. And these aren’t rap backbenchers or crossover acts: Young Thug, Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q and Problem sit comfortably next to legends like E-40 and Kurupt. If you want to know what rap sounds like in 2014, start here.

DEJ LOAF
SELL SOLE

Dej Loaf’s ‘Try Me’ has catapulted the 23-year-old Detroit rapper into the spotlight, its low-key threats replacing Bobby Shmurda’s ‘Hot N*gga’ in car stereos around the country. Sell Sole is her first mixtape since blowing up (and possibly signing with Columbia Records), and it doesn’t disappoint, thanks to her growing confidence and a load of neo-boom-bap from ‘Try Me’ producer DDS.

The Hennessey-sipping talent has a gift for melody, leaning on a sing-song delivery with ease, whether she’s doing rise-and-grind bluster and quiet-moment introspection. Her ripped-from-the-diary lyrics are reminiscent of Chicago contemporaries Tink and Lil Durk (in his softer moments), but she’s basically in her own lane.

There’s a bit of rapping-ass-rapping, but Dej is quickly moving on from backpacker to showstopper with tracks like ‘Blood’ and ‘Easy Love’. And after endless ‘Try Me’ freestyles, Def tightens her flow (and drops the Nazi punchline) and enlists Ty Dolla $ign and Remy Ma for the official remix — contest over.

FUTURE
MONSTER

After being near the top of the rap game for a few years, 2014 has seen Future drop an uneven album in Honest, deal with rumors about his personal life, and seemingly be surpassed by the next generation of Atlanta rap weirdos. On Monster, he looks to close his year on a high note, with a Halloween-ready clutch of Real Trap Shit.

Executive produced by hitmaker Metro Boomin and featuring beats by running mates Nard & B, Will-A-Fool and the usual ATL suspects, Monster is (over)loaded with the type of straight-ahead trap heat that made ‘Shit’ and ‘Covered n Money’ such hits; the Lil Wayne-featuring ‘After That’ is the strongest of the bunch, although Metro’s synth-splattered ‘Wesley Presley’ is his weirdest beat in a minute.

Acknowledging the hits his image has taken lately (and taking a break from nonstop menace), Future shows flashes of the sensitive thug that shined on Pluto with songs like ‘My Savages’, ‘Codeine Crazy’ and ‘Hardly’. “I’m easily agitated, get intoxicated, try to fight the demons,” he admits on the latter, “Tryna find right and my wrong, hope my legacy live on.” If this is a return-to-form, we bet it will.

OG MACO
LIVE LIFE 2

The rising Atlanta star drops his first project since this summer’s collaborative Give Em Hell EP, and those looking for bangers in the vein of his smash ‘U Guessed It’ are in for a treat. Your favorite new shout-and-scream rapper (catch up, Que) takes no prisoners on Live Life 2 — there’s a track titled ‘Unleash the Kraken’, if you were wondering what to expect here.

With beats by Treated Crew producer Cardo, Maco lets out his ad-libs and lines like “young legend, Ken Griffey Jr, Blake Griffin, Harry Potter, Gryffindor” for the first four, take-no-prisoners tracks. Then he admits that “people tend to think being aggressive is the realest route” and switches it up: he’s got a pair of smooth-as-hell sequels in ‘Sheesh 2’ and ‘Broke or Rich 2’ and closes the tape with the triumphant ‘Let’s Get It’.

MYKKI BLANCO
GAY DOG FOOD

It seems obvious, but you should never expect something conventional from Mykki Blanco… especially when he names a mixtape Gay Dog Food. After sharing a left-field (but still very club-ready) vision for rap on Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince(ss) and Betty Rubble: The Initiation, the art-rap iconoclast returns to the industrial grind of his Mutant Angels project for his latest offering.

Apart from the spoken word ‘New Feelings’, an acapella from James K and a few ’90s-baby interludes (including 10 minutes of Moesha (!)), Gay Dog Food is Mykki Blanco at his most queer, gnarly and nasty: barely rapping over warped industrial and hard house that’s been crossbred with punk and metal by the likes of Gobby, Physical Therapy and Supreme Cuts. He sounds like the Rap Game Iggy Pop on ‘Self Destruction’, trades K-hole verses with Cakes Da Killa, smokes in the mosh pit with Cities Aviv and has a meta moment with Kathleen Hanna. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

VELL
STAY DOWN TO COME UP

The West Coast started the year strong thanks to albums by YG, Schoolboy Q, Sage the Gemini, but it’s been a few months since a Cali rap full-length caught our ear. Fear not: Oakland rapper Vell has you covered. For his debut mixtape Stay Down To Come Up, Vell has teamed with club king DJ Mustard, FACT producer-to-watch Larry Jayy and a handful of California-based talent.

Stay Down To Come Up is cut from the same cloth as My Krazy Life: drinking and smoking, pimping and thugging, with true-to-life detail and sing-along simplicity. The basslines are massive: the one on standout ‘Childish’ threatens to walk out of the speakers and never return. As is usually the case, it’s a bit long at 21 tracks. If you’re giving it a haircut in iTunes, make sure to keep ‘Bitch Nigga’, a menacing track with E-40 and Cash Money obsessive Doughboyz Cashout.

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