Welcome to FACT’s Rap Round-up.
Originally conceived to shine a light on the wealth of free music that crops up daily on SoundCloud, Datpiff, Livemixtapes and beyond, FACT’s Mixtape Round-up has seen its share of tweaks and changes over the last few years.
The Rap Round-up drops every other Thursday (the week’s best free mixes will be posted every Friday). Along with mixtapes, we’ll be featuring the albums (free and otherwise) that need to be a part of the rap conversation but might not be covered otherwise.
When it rains, it pours: the last few weeks have seen the release of a ton of eagerly-anticipated rap/R&B projects. Here are six, which doesn’t include Ty Dolla $ign’s debut and offerings by Rich Homie Quan, Slug Christ, Mila J and more.
Pregnant With Success
New York’s best up-and-coming rapper returns with Pregnant With Success, an all-killer, no-filler album that further establishes Junglepussy as Erykah Badu with bars: neo-soul and boom-bap are reimagined for her own purposes, with a holistic approach to good living and a Just Say No To Fuckboys attitude.
JP sets the tone with the smoky, slo-mo radio intro ‘Spicy 103 FM’, asking, “Are you willing to feel straaange for a while?” What follows is not particularly strange: just a rapper-singer in full command of every situation, unabashed about her wants, needs and desires, and not afraid to love but adamant that it won’t come cheap.
Over gorgeous beats by Shy Guy (with assists by Dubbel Dutch, Matt Parad and Cousin Gabriel), JP clowns internet haters and bad daters and drops gems like this pussy don’t pop for you” and “If your face ain’t a sitting place, fuck up out my face.” She’s ready to battle on ‘Get It Right’ and ‘Get To Steppin’, and big, brash closer ‘Dear Diary’ proves that the future of New York rap is already here.
The Outfit TX
Down By The Trinity
No one is doing it quite like The Outfix TX, not in Dallas and not elsewhere. Who else is donning black hoods and burning the Confederate flag on their mixtape cover, and then churning out sinister rap that nods to horrorcore without imitating it?
Down By The Trinity is a death shroud of rumbling sub-bass, horror-film synths, gurgling basslines and satanic choir samples: a quicksand sludge where syrup turns to mud. Songs are chant-filled funeral dirges, unending nightmares with guitar solo outros and radio transmission transitions that add extra minutes of menace.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t bang: ‘Light It Up’ is a firestarter, like a goth ‘Knuck If You Buck’ and ‘Flame Emoji’ sounds like the devil’s G-funk. But you can let smoke one and let it ride, too: closer ‘Burning Trees’ is an eight-minute instrumental with a bluesy guitar lead — can you imagine if these guys scored Friday Night Lights instead of Explosions in the Sky?
Shadow of a Doubt
Last year, Freddie Gibbs released his best effort to date, the Madlib-produced Piñata. Listeners looking for more of that type of throwback synergy might be out of luck, but Shadow of a Doubt is one of the best things the LA-via-Indiana rapper has ever done. As always, Gibbs put the G in gangsta rap, telling tales of trapping and thugging with a real-world edge. The difference this time is that he’s opted for a mostly-cohesive sound, often opting for beats heavy with low-end and Atlanta rap menace.
That’s the case on ‘Rear View’, ‘Narcos’ and ‘Lately’, and even more so on songs like ‘Mexico’ and ‘Packages’, which feature Tory Lanez and ManMan Savage, respectively. His storytelling shines on ‘Fuckin’ Up The Count’ and the confessional ‘Forever And A Day’, and songs like ‘Careless’ and ‘Insecurities’ add some singing to the mix (the all-out singing of ‘Basketball Wives’ doesn’t quite work).
Freddie Gibbs may never have the personality of Gucci Mane and E-40, who feature on ’10 Times’, but it’s great to see a great technician at work on an album that sounds contemporary without becoming Mr. Me Too.
Church In These Streets
This year saw plenty of retrospectives about Jeezy’s infleuntial Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, which somehow just turned ten years old. Plenty has happened since then — chiefly his transition from hungry innovator to respected rap veteran (which we documented in our beginner’s guide). The run-up to Church in the Streets has acknowledged that fact, with Jeezy penning manifestos and speaking on the issues of the day, but the album itself is very much what you’d expect of Jeezy in 2015.
Pastor Jeezy is unchanged on the mic, even if his beats have gone from orchestral epics to pneumatic, 808 Mafia-inspired ones; centerpiece ‘God’ updates his formula, and it works. Elsewhere, Jeezy and company break-up the menace with jazzy, slam poetry interludes, and they enlist Janelle Monae and Monica for a lighter touch.
He mostly sticks to the album’s titular themes, but the album would benefit if he cut some of the 19 tracks — namely, ones that don’t mine the church-street dichotomy. There’s an interesting concept album in here somewhere, just not as released.
Finally Rollin 2
Following Keef’s actually-pretty-great Sorry 4 The Weight, which we noted in February was possibly the most complete look at Chief Keef 2.0, Finally Rollin 2 finds the Chicago staple going back to basics. That doesn’t mean he’s reverting to his early Bang-era heat, either; he’s looking to records that shaped his sound and putting his own spin on it. The tape opens with Keef’s version of Lil Wayne and Birdman’s 2006 classic ‘Stuntin Like My Daddy’, retitled ‘Stuntin Like My Mama’, and jumps off from there.
Old-style mixtapes are somewhat archaic in an era where the line between the mixtape and album is getting increasingly blurry, but it’s refreshing to hear an artist having fun with the format, especially an artist as challenging (and sometimes confounding) as Keef. Finally Rollin 2 isn’t all reverence, either, while a clear highlight is ‘Law & Order’, which repurposes the instrumental from Bankroll Fresh’s excellent ‘ESPN’, there are plenty of new beats from ATL’s finest – Southside, Zaytoven, Metro Boomin’ and more. Keef continues to surprise, and that’s no mean feat.
Atlanta’s K Camp only dropped his debut album – Only Way Is Up – in September, but that hasn’t slowed him down. A couple of months later and we’ve got the shimmering You Welcome, a bass-heavy slice of slow-mo rap that sports the production value of a proper full length.
At a modest 13 tracks, it’s well trimmed too – giving shine to standouts ‘Don’t’, Spinz-produced ‘Jugg Foreal’ and Gucci tribute ‘Free Guwop’ without overstaying its welcome. It’s not the most exciting tape of the week, that’s for sure, but sometimes you just wanna spin something that just does what it does damn well. You Welcome does just that, and you’ll be going back for more.