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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.

As we near the end of year, rappers turn in their last efforts to make a mark in 2015. Highlights include new ones from Houston rappers-to-watch Sauce Twinz, Fetty Wap partner-in-crime Monty and the always captivating iLoveMakonnen.

Sauce Twinz
Don’t Let The Sauce Fool U

Regular visitors to this column shouldn’t be surprised to see more digital ink spilled on Houston’s Sauce Twinz. They might have shot to notoriety this year after openly calling out Drake (it’s not surprising to hear Meek Mill pop up on tape highlight ‘Winnin’), but they’ve been worth keeping an eye on for some time now. Don’t Let The Sauce Fool U bookends a banner year for Sauce Walka and Sancho Saucy, and might be their most essential document to date. The duo and their larger Sauce Factory crew have been popping out tapes this year at breakneck speed, and Don’t Let The Sauce Fool U feels like a bumper gift-wrapped collection just in time for Christmas.

Clocking in at 19 tracks, it’s not for the faint hearted, but anyone who’s been riding the BeatKing hype train at the very least should take a closer look. This is Houston, so slab-rattling beats are a given, but throughout the tape the duo show remarkable personality and flair – dropping in videogame references and sorely-needed humor that’s so often missing from the majority of the tapes that appear week-by-week. It’s late in the year, sure, but this might be low-key one of the most enjoyable tapes we’ve heard in a while. Don’t let yourself get blinded by list season and miss it on a technicality.

Remy Boy Monty
Monty Zoo

Fetty Wap’s right hand man, Monty (who appears a mammoth seven times on Fetty’s acclaimed self-titled debut), has finally stepped out on his own with Monty Zoo, but don’t expect the shadow of his mentor to disappear entirely. Fetty’s post-Pluto AutoTuned street pop remains the blueprint here, and the man himself pops up no less than eight times, but Monty seems uninterested in re-creating ‘Trap Queen’ and ‘My Way’.

Rather, the record is notably more rap-heavy: hooks are still often memorable, but there’s significantly less pop and a more obvious nod to the dominant ATL strip club sound. The 1738 in-house production crew handle the majority of the beats, but Atlanta super-producers Sonny Digital and Metro Boomin pop up to add some variety with tape highlight ’Not Poppin’, further cementing the link. While Monty might not have the chart-busting personality of Fetty, Monty Zoo is nevertheless another bumper selection of Remy Boyz bangers – think of it as the Fetty Wap bonus disc.

iLoveMakonnen
iLoveMakonnen 2

Late last month, Makonnen quietly released his second proper EP and teamed with fourth Migo Rich The Kid for Whip It Up. Both releases find him, to some degree, playing in two lanes, effortlessly churning out Atlanta rap memes and delivering lovelorn crooning. But these days, he sounds bored with the former.

Makonnen is certainly better when doing the latter, on songs like ‘Forever’, ‘Being Alone With U’, ‘I Loved You’ and ‘Tequila Me’, and he’s at his best on his poppiest effort yet, the trance-by-Mustard ‘Second Chance’.

Still, it seems that OVO/Warner Bros. doesn’t know what to do with him, which is a shame for a songwriter this good, but it doesn’t seem like Makonnen is letting it get him down. “It’s cool,” he says of his relationship with OVO, “they put out my music and stuff and we just keep it moving.” Hopefully everyone will move — in lockstep — in 2016.

Lil Bibby
Free Crack 3

Chicago up-and-comer Lil Bibby returns with the third volume of his Free Crack mixtape series, and he’s just as smoke-voiced and street-worn as ever. After a few tracks of Atlanta-styled rap, FC3 hits its stride with ‘Aint Heard Nuthing Bout You’, which teams Bibby with partner-in-crime Lil Herb.

The best moments on FC3 are soulful ones, whether the Common-featuring, Jake One-produced ‘Speak To Em’ or standout ‘If He Find Out’, which pairs Bibby with Tink (‘Misunderstood’ features R. Kelly and Jeremih, with barely any oxygen for Bibby). ‘Things Will Get Brighter’ updates some familiar samples and ‘Killin Me’ uses a line from Wet’s ‘Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl’ to add a feminine touch to the hyper-masculine proceedings.

The mixtape is also prelude to his first proper album, the convolutedly-titled FC3 the Epilogue. Bibby shares a taste of the record with a snippet of ‘EBT To Bet’, a rags-to-riches rap that finds him sharing hard truths with no shame.

Waka Flocka
Flockaveli 1.5

It’s easy to be cynical about Waka Flocka Flame in 2015. For many, he’s come to represent the worst parts of the global trap explosion – the awkward festival lurch that appropriates the fatty excesses of Atlanta’s signature sound, ignoring the meat and bones completely. Whether you can fault Waka for following the dollar signs is another conversation though – Flockaveli might be lauded now, but remember that not so long ago he represented the enemy for keyboard-shackled “real hip-hop” stans who felt slighted by his repetition and lack of traditional lyricism.

With this in mind, Flockaveli 1.5 feels like a sly nod to the haters, reminding fondly of its predecessor’s knuckles-to-the-wall heaviness and eschewing the “drops ’n ad-libs” of Waka’s EDM career entirely. Honestly, there’s nothing here that can touch ‘No Hands’, ‘Grove Street Party’ or ‘Fuck the Club Up’, but as a free offering, a stop-gap, it’s a step in the right direction. Waka doesn’t really need to prove anything at this point – he’s made his mark – but Flockaveli 1.5 shows he’s still got it. Maybe Flockaveli 2 will actually be worth the wait after all.

DJ Jayhood
Too Busy In The Trap

New Jersey club talent DJ Jayhood has been at it for a few years now, but it looks like he’s finally putting it together. Rather than his club roots, Too Busy In The Trap is heavy on melodic, AutoTune-drenched rap and R&B (reminiscent of the trajectory of DJ Nate’s post-footwork mixtapes).

Jayhood isn’t alone across the tape’s 18 tracks: aside from that Missy Elliott (!) intro, frequent collaborator Ms. Porsh turns up on the slo-motion ‘Motion’ and newcomer Kemsco is heavily featured (check the guitar-laced title track). Aside from bonus track ‘She From Jersey’, there isn’t much for the club here, but that should change on his Local Action debut next year.

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