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Mixtape Round-up: Royal-T, Cooly G, King Louie, Casino, and more

With each passing week, listening to the deluge of mixtapes, radio shows, and live sets from electronic producers and hip-hop artists alike becomes an even more insurmountable task. Quality offerings can fly under the radar, either added to our ever-growing “to listen” list or — more often than not – disregarded all together.

This week, Royal-T and Spooky offer live mixes of two grime variants, Cooly G and Jerome LOL take the smooth road, and while there’s no Gucci Mane to speak of, hip-hop is well-represented, from New York to Chicago to the South and beyond.

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ROYAL-T
RTMIX001: Eski

Butterz man Royal-T has done us all a solid here with a lovingly mixed retrospective of Eski, the icy grime variant pioneered by FACT fave Wiley. T clearly has a passion for the period as the selection is pretty flawless; it cleverly opens with Wiley’s classic, confrontational ‘Wot Do U Call It?’ and is interspersed throughout with nostalgic interview segments from the man himself. All the heavy hitters are represented, with a trio of takes on arguably Eski’s most recognizable breakout ‘Ice Rink’ from Tinchy, Kano and Dizzee forming the mix’s centrepiece, and jaw-dropping productions ‘Snowman’, ‘Eskimo’, ‘Frostbite’ and ‘Shanghai’ holding up the flank. It’s a touching tribute to a sound we know and love, and if you’ve not come across Eski before then we can’t imagine a better way to get yourself acquainted.

WESTERN TINK & BEAUTIFUL LOU
Mobbin’ No Sobbin’

Chances are if you’ve nosed around the underground rap game in the last couple of years you’ve run into Texan producer Beautiful Lou. Having produced for A$AP Rocky, Main Attrakionz, Kitty Pryde & Riff Raff and Lil B his sound has helped popularize a new generation of molasses-slow sample-laced rap beats, and on Mobbin’ No Sobbin’ he finally gets the top billing he deserves. Holding down the vocal side is fellow Texan Western Tink, and while the tape has been in the works for what seems like years, there’s a surprising freshness in the duo’s effortless interplay. Tink’s drawl slots into Lou’s overdriven, bass rich productions like a Tetris piece, and the two give a new spin on a sound that’s been co-opted by tourists for too long.

Mobbin’ No Sobbin’ doesn’t simply pastiche DJ Screw’s half-tempo lean rap (we see you Rocky), it re-interprets it, adding a unique voice in Tink and some truly quirky production elements from Lou. Our highlight is the kosmiche synth-led ‘Fancy Schmancy’: a track that sounds so blown out it sounds as if it could have been dubbed from a second generation D90, and yeah that’s a good thing.

COOLY G
Rise Up Mix 2013

Her first offering since last year’s masterful Playin’ Me long-player, the Rise Up Mix is a half-hour ranges from mutated garage to deep, dark house tunes. There’s no tracklist, which makes it seem like something you’d hear if you wandered into the small room at a house night: unidentified, unpretentious dance music for the real heads.

CASINO
Ex Drug Dealer

FBG man Casino certainly has friends in the right places. Ex Drug Dealer is his debut solo tape, but it’s laced with the kind of features you’d expect to find on a major label record. We reckon having Future on-side isn’t anything to scoff at right now, and the Atlanta auto-crooner likely had a hand in roping in appearances from Atlanta’s man-of-the-moment Rocko, Young Scooter, Mexico Rann, Maceo and more.

At this point we all know that a few hot verses from hype rappers doesn’t equal a good record, and we’re lucky that Ex Drug Dealer doesn’t buckle under the weight of its contributors. The album plays like an extension of Freeband Gang’s FBG: The Movie, and ‘Karate Chop’ producer Metro Boomin’ is responsible for much of its success, as he embellishes a cinematic sheen on Mike WiLL Made It’s patented booming electronics. ‘4 The Love’ is a great example, with a B-Movie Theramin-style lead sat alongside Casino, Future and Fresh’s opulent drug drawl. Ex Drug Dealer doesn’t offer up anything groundbreaking, but it doesn’t need to – it’s heavy enough to shake the doors off the whip without breaking a sweat.

JEROME LOL
A/S/L

Here’s the Body High co-boss, in his own words: “This mix is a mix of songs that inspire me. None of them are secret, none of them are unreleased, none of them are brand new, even. Each song on the mix means a lot to me, and I hope they end up meaning a lot to you too. This mix should get you in the proper mood for the upcoming summer.” A peppy, jazzy mix of house, disco, and garage, it’s also available as a personalized run of 100 CDs (with AOL floppy-inspired art, naturally).

VARIOUS ARTISTS
New York Renaissance

Following a corresponding gig at SXSW, Hot 97 personality Peter Rosenberg has assembled this testament to New York’s rap “renaissance.” Retro-fetishist Joey Badass and Ghostfaced gourmand Action Bronson do their respective things over a pair of soulful Harry Fraud throwbacks; Buzzy Queens collective World’s Fair make a statement with their 50 Cent-sampling ’96 Knicks’, while A$APs Rocky and Ferg take on Mad Lion’s ‘Take It Easy’ beat. Clearly, Rosenberg takes “renaissance” to mean the revival of a specific strand of Golden Era hip-hop, to which these arts pay varying degrees of tribute.

HONEY COCAINE
Thug Love

Canadian rapper Honey Cocaine follows the novelty 90’s Gold with this chunky collection of proof that she’s worth being signed to Tyga’s Last Kings imprint. Veteran pop producer Devrim Karaoglu (aka Dkevrim) flexes his rap muscles producing each of the record’s twenty-two tracks, and he gives Thug Love a coherence rarely heard in rap these days.

Sadly, although it plays like a ‘proper’ album, there’s not a great deal to keep listeners on their toes here. Dkevrim’s productions are good enough, sounding like skeletal takes on DJ Mustard’s strip-club neon swervers, but an over-reliance on the same Beat Repeat tricks tends to make each track blend into the next. And although Honey Cocaine’s pitchy flow is more memorable than many of her peers it feels like the tape as a whole just isn’t quite different enough to make Thug Love stand out. Almost, but not quite.

ASA
Superficial

Superficial is Caribbean-American rapper Asa’s debut tape, and goes some way into showing the wide variety of influences he’s capable of cramming into seventeen tracks. Born in Chicago, it’s not surprising that a few of the local usual suspects crop up. We’ve got memorable guest appearances from FACT faves King Louie, Sasha Go Hard and most surprisingly Tha Pope, who you might remember from Planet Mu’s Bangs and Works compilations.

Asa thankfully manages to stop short of becoming simply another forgettable drill rapper by actually giving us something that most can’t: variety. From the screwed-and-chopped Southern flavors of ‘Drink and Dro’, through the Future-lite ‘Hell Yeah’ to the synth-heavy drill of ‘Bitches Love Asa’ there is a sense that Asa is a little more ambitious than his peers, and ambition will take you a long way when your peers are happy to simply remake ‘I Don’t Like’ and ‘Love Sosa’ time and time again.

KING LOUIE
March Madness

Well-documented on FACT, the king of Chicago drill music spent March releasing 31 songs over 31 days. Thankfully, it’s all been collected in a more-accessible mixtape format. The ambitious collection finds King L mixing it up with some of Chi-town’s finest (Lil Durk, LoKey, Katie Got Bandz) in a variety of styles, from the Futuresque ‘Old Bitch’ to the menacing, siren-fest ‘Hella Bandz and Loud’. For those that missed last year’s Drilluminati, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with Chicago’s next-big-deal.

SPOOKY
Mixpak FM 048

While Royal-T is holding down Wiley’s eskibeat, Spooky reaches back into grime’s soundsystem roots. Dre Skull’s Brooklyn-based, tropically-minded label Mixpak tapped Slew Dem Crew badman Spooky for a live mix of reggae and dancehall-inspired grime. After a run of his own riddims, Spooky mixes in highlights from Chimpo, Luciano, P Jam, and a reggae remix of Kyla & Crazy Cousinz’ classic ‘Do You Mind’.

Download Mixpak FM 048: Spooky

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