Welcome to FACT’s Rap Round-up.
Yeah, it was hard to anticipate a certain rap bomb dropping this week, but there’s plenty more to sink your teeth into, including a devastating new album from self-styled king of Memphis Young Dolph, the first solo full-length from Two-9’s Jace, and the return of Atlanta’s Rich Kidz.
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 feature the albums (free and otherwise) that need to be a part of the rap conversation but might not be covered otherwise.
King of Memphis
While Yo Gotti and his protégé Blac Youngsta might have a problem with Young Dolph calling himself “king of Memphis”, he makes a damn good argument with this latest proper full-length. Last year’s Shittin’ on the Industry boasted impressive moments but was painfully uneven. King of Memphis, on the other hand, is white-hot from beginning to end. A lean 11 tracks, the album is the finest distillation of Dolph’s sound to date, splaying his South Memphis tales and boasts over a selection of beats that more than hold up to his familiar hoarse chants.
Early highlight ‘Fuck It’ is the best example of what you’re in for: Dolph’s lean-laced braggadocio (“I just poured a six in a one liter and I’m like fuck it”) is offset by a low-end rumble that recalls fellow Memphis heroes Three 6 Mafia, and it’s a formula that’s hard to fuck with. Elsewhere, super-producer Zaytoven pops up on ‘How Could’ with his weirdest beat in ages, splicing groaning synths over organ loops while Dolph spits neon-lit strip club pulp. Gotti might have outsold Dolph, but musically speaking it’s clear who’s watching the throne.
RapN & SangN
Rich Kidz are back with their first mixtape since 2013 (an EP for Columbia followed in 2014 but didn’t make much of an impact). At the beginning of the decade the group helped sow the seeds for Atlanta’s rap dominance; hitmaker London On Da Track (fka RK London) started his career as part of the crew, and they introduced the world to Young Thug with the jubilant ‘100 Dollar Autograph’.
In their latest incarnation, Skooly and Huncho Kae have continued to move past the pure euphoria of their early material, which now sounds like much of the RapN & SangN happening in Atlanta and beyond. Over piano melodies and woozy synths laid down by London On Da Track, Will A Fool and others, the Kidz are at their best when the resurgent Skooly is pulling heartstrings with his melodies on songs like ‘On My Mind’ and ‘Show You Rite’ (it’s criminal that ‘Like This’ is just an interlude). For his part, Kae’s voice has turned into a Boosie-esque snarl on moody songs like ‘N.B.A.’ and ‘On One’.
But after spending a few years in major label purgatory, the Rich Kidz aren’t exactly kids anymore, and unfortunately, RapN & SangN isn’t as revelatory as it could be. Case in point: the duo maintains that they have more to say and more to do on closer ‘Sum To Do’ – a song that’s nearly two years old.
Picture Me Rollin
Mikey Dollaz has been a consistent figure in Chicago rap for a few years, toying with drill, bop and more. On Picture Me Rollin, he’s the latest rapper to connect with underground electronic music producers in an attempt to hybridize Chicago street rap.
Sometimes these collaborations see producers trying to make their best rap beats rather than playing to their own strengths, but Picture does the opposite: Silk Road Assassins (a Planet Mu trio that has explored connections between drill and UK sounds), Strict Face and Salva show personality in their beats, while Sonny Digital, Dun Deal and C-Note are at their best when reaching for less straight-forward productions.
In kind, Dollaz uses these divergent productions to explore different pockets. He’s an AutoTuned lover on the all-enveloping ‘Fuck Me Right’, a loud-mouthed braggard on the ‘Moments in Love’-sampling ‘Forever Dat Guy’ and a sing-song pop-rapper on ‘Girl I Want You’. Straight-up drill and bop haven’t always suited him, but it looks like Mikey Dollaz has found his lane.
I’ll Call You Tomorrow
A$AP Yams protégé Joey Fatts is not just a rapper, he’s a notable producer too, having handled beats for A$AP Rocky, Curren$y and others. Now the Long Beach native has dropped his latest full-length tape, and it’s a breath of fresh air. I’ll Call You Tomorrow shakes the pitch-black gloom of Fatts’ excellent Chipper Jones trilogy instead following last year’s comparatively sunny self-produced EP Ill Street Blues.
Prezident Jeff’s eerie, brittle beats make up the majority of the tape, but it’s LA’s 100Staccs who makes the sharpest moves with ‘Feel The Breeze’, an introverted, evocative, synth-led beat that’s not a million miles from Boards of Canada (seriously). Fatts’ tone is perfectly in line with the woozy melancholy melodies, sounding out his confident California gang memories with an air of caution and a puff of smoke.
If you’re a fan of Danny Brown’s unhinged rap style, Lil B’s free associative streak or the squealing energy of someone like Lil Silk, then you’ll probably enjoy ZelooperZ’s debut album Bothic. The Bruiser Brigade member explores his “Bruiser gothic” sound with a 10-track collection of left-field tantrums seemingly designed to frustrate rap purists.
ZelooperZ’s nasal outbursts are matched in their weird intensity by beats from compatriot Bulletproof Dolphin, who has mastered trap-EDM maximalism, and Black Noi$e, who can do screwed-sample soundtracks (‘Ocean’) and surprisingly dancefloor-ready bangers (‘Elevators’). Ratking’s Wiki – another rapper exploring the outer fringes – provides the album’s only guest verse on ‘Heart’, a song where both rappers prove they’ve got plenty of it.
As part of Mike Will-cosigned ATL collective Two-9, Jace has impressed with loosies and guest verses, culminating in an appearance on Rae Sremmurd’s tight SremmLife album last year. Now it’s time for him to make a mark, though, and his debut solo full-length, cunningly titled Jace Tape, is a solid entry point into Two-9’s psychedelic world.
Impeccably produced and surprisingly diverse, Jace Tape runs through a wealth of ideas with an admirable resolve. Jace wears his influences on his sleeve – Drake and Kanye are never too far away – but the ease with which he can bring to mind Outkast on ‘Vibrations’ and the Childish Major-produced ‘No Issues’, or reach for the clouds on the uneasy ‘Designer Drugs’ has to be applauded.