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The week's best mixtapes and free mixes, featuring Young Thug & Bloody Jay, Tree, Ace Hood, Fat Trel and more

Listening to the deluge of mixtapes and free mixes from hip-hop artists and electronic producers alike is often an insurmountable task. That’s why we scour Datpiff, LiveMixtapes and beyond, separating the wheat from the chaff each week.

It’s a rap-heavy round-up this week, with mixtapes from two Atlanta weirdos, a Cali party-starter, and a couple compilation-style offerings from some FACT favorites. There’s also some Actress and something for all those “Trill Dads and Twerkin’ Moms” in the audience.

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For all the mixtapes dispatched weekly from Atlanta, one as weirdly captivating as this is a treat. Young Thug justifies his rising star status with an iconoclastic flow that mutates with every song, from mumbled whispers to full-throated croaks: he’s mastered rap impressionism and his punchdrunk ad-libs and overdubs contain multitudes. For many, the tape will serve as an introduction to Bloody Jay, another Atlanta weirdo whose urgent pleadings are only slightly more grounded than Thug’s. His flow is just as versatile, in its own way, and he has a similar irrelevant streak, aiming for 90s babies with couplets like “But I’m Zach Morris cool / and you’re just Screech” and “are you a author? Huh? I guess that’s why you get Goosebumps when you see me / you know, R.L. Stein?”

Black Portland runs the gamut from downcast double-cup anthems like ‘Paranoia’, which lives up to its title with a queasy trunk-rattler of a beat and lyrics — “leave a n*gga’s brains on the curbs / I’m Picasso!” — that would make Jay Z blush. ‘4 Eva Bloody’ and ‘Let’s Go Play’ provide respite from the rage: two maxed-out, major-key jams painted in technicolor that perfectly suit Thug, his nasal hook delivery cribbed from emo-pop. Elsewhere, there’s a hint of Three 6 Mafia, especially on the ‘Gang Signs’-sampling ‘Signs’, and ‘No Fucks’ is a cinematic trap banger whose “I ‘on’t give no fuck” hook is guaranteed to become a club battlecry (probably after ‘Danny Glover’ — which is included here — has its moment).

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Chicago MC and producer Tree astonished last year with the sprawling, elegant Sunday School II mixtape, and this short EP serves as an appropriate follow-up. There aren’t any belters here (anyone expecting another ‘Busters’ or ‘No Faces’ might be disappointed) but the @MCTREEG EP simply shows the MC’s more restrained side. Production wise Tree is still mostly fixated with the crumbly soul-trap that he’s made his signature over the last few years, and it’s rarely sounded quite so melancholy.

He acknowledges the sound with ‘Soultrappin / I Believe’, but while the Chicago MC is audibly comfortable rapping over his usual patchwork of clipped beats and snipped vocals, the EP’s most successful track – ‘Like Whoa’ – is a refreshing about turn. Here Tree pulls things back to the bare bones, rapping dexterously over an overdriven synth moan and exhibiting the kind of rubbery personality that made Sunday School II so crucial.

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Slip-n-Slide veteran Plies follows up 2012’s On Trial 2 with another set of stony gangster assertions, which find him unfazed by the fact that he’s pushing 40. The tape’s first third shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s come across the rapper in the past, but to be honest, it’s a welcome mid-00s time capsule held together well by the rapper’s urgent barks. It really gains steam when Plies embraces something more contemporary though, pulling in a set of productions from ratchet figureheads League of Starz and DJ Mustard and Atlanta beatmakers Zaytoven and DJ Spinz. The best of these is Mustard’s slippery Tyga-featuring ‘Baking Soda’, and Plies sounds oddly at ease with the West Coast-rooted sound. Let’s hope he doesn’t forget by the time he finishes the delayed proper album Purple Heart.

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While DJ Mustard might be the best-known exponent of the West Coast’s unavoidable ratchet scene, Iamsu!’s Heartbreak Gang (or HBK Gang) can’t be far behind. A tight collective of producers and rappers, the group now have several hits on their roster (including Sage the Gemini’s smash ‘Gas Pedal’), and their currency is clearly on the rise. Skipper (also known as $kip) follows 2012’s patchy Wet with a great deal of confidence, and manages to emerge with a record that adequately ties up the LA sound, even attempting to nudge into fresh territory.

Ratchet sizzlers ‘Never Enough’ and standout single ‘That’s My Word’ won’t surprise Iamsu! or Mustard fans, but tracks like hazy opener ‘Hate Me Now’ and ‘Believe It’ put a welcome spin on a well-worn sound. $kip also reveals his love for LA’s rap legacy with winking throwbacks ‘Way of Life’, ‘Change of Plans’ and closer ‘The Glory’. Wet 2 is a tape that’s not afraid of where it comes from, and is all the better for it.

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XLR8R Podcast 327

With Darren Cunningham possibly set to retire his best known alias with the release of Ghettoville, we’ve had Actress on the brain. Over at XLR8R, Actress has assembled a mix that while free of his own compositions offers a glimpse behind the curtain. Experiment beats give way to pioneers of house and techno, the lounge-like vibes of Roisin Murphy’s ‘Through Time’ give way to Aux 88’s electro minimalism — and that’s just the first third. Stay tuned for some divergent crate-digging: Shut Up and Dance’s very-’91 ‘Autobiography of a Crackhead’, John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 cut ‘Julie’, and forgotten post-punk in Subject’s ‘I See You’. Beneath the vinyl crackle of his hour-long set is the type of eclectic journey through the lo-fi fog that we’ve come to expect from Actress. RIP?

Download via XLR8R.

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We’re usually skeptical of the type of unofficial mixtapes that flood Datpiff and LiveMixtapes, but we’ll make an exception this time: a 30-odd collection of the finest tracks by DC street king Fat Trel. The Fat Gleesh Collection kicks off with an a cappella freestyle and never lets up, bounding from early tracks like 2010’s ‘E Street Flow’ (with onetime-mentor Wale) to standouts from 2011’s No Secrets, 2012’s Nightmare on E Street and last year’s SDMG. There are also his freestyles over Drake’s ‘Started From The Bottom’, Future’s ‘Shit’, Dom Kennedy’s ‘My Type of Party’, and Lil Wayne’s ‘Wowzers’ — the last of which features his most ridiculously raunchy rhymes ever.

Trel’s evolution — and underrated lyricism — are apparent throughout. For a more recent example, SDMG’s Lee Bannon-produced strip club anthem ‘Make It Clap’ is included (while FACT favorite ‘Niggaz Dying’ is not). Rounding things out are his tracks with Chief Keef, Soulja Boy, and the short-lived Louie V Mob, his MMG debut ‘She Fell In Love’, and the Migos-featuring single ‘Giddyup’, by his Slutty Boyz crew. If you’re a Fat Trel neophyte, this compilation will catch you up quickly.

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With his amped-up, always-at-11 approach to street rap, Ace Hood is Florida’s answer to Meek Mill. For most of Starvation 3, the self-appointed “new king of the South” lays down trap game detail and chest-pumping boasts. Jamaica’ is his attempt at replicating the success of ‘Bugatti’; despite its title, it has none of the Caribbean flavor of the Mavado-featuring ‘Buss Guns’. ‘Brother’s Keeper’ is the type of religion-heavy rap that was littered throughout last year’s Trials and Tribulations, mixing Jesus with street life storytelling. If anything, here’s hoping No Malice is listening.

Speaking of Clipse, Ace sounds like Pusha T on ‘F.Y.F.R’ (Fuck Your Favorite Rapper), a minimal nightstalker that flips J. Cole’s ‘Let Nas Down’ hand-wringing into an insult: “Pac would be ashamed of you n*ggas / Big would shed a tear for you n*ggas / Pun would wanna murder you all / Nah, this ain’t hip-hop dawg.” On the last few tracks, Ace tries to switch the script, but it’s too little, too late. He reaches for early Kanye, laying down a “Used to Love H.E.R.”-styled rap-as-woman missive over chipmunk-soul-sampling and reprising ‘Jesus Walks’ on ‘Save Us’. By the time singer Kevin Cossom shows up on the Rap&B tracks that close the tape, you’ll be wondering where the guy who boasted “Somebody text Jay Z and tell him rap game mine / He can go on vacation” in the intro has gone.

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Elizabeth “Yummy” Bingham has been in the music business since her teens, first as part of girl group Tha’ Rayne and eventually as a solo artist on singles with Jadakiss, Cam’ron and De La Soul. No Artificial Flavorz, her first full-length effort since 2006, attempts to hit the reset button. Over ten tracks, Bingham puts her soprano warble in service of straight-forward, contemporary R&B.

There are all the hip-hop inflections that that entails; she paints herself — quite vividly — as a misunderstood outsider on ‘The Change’: “My lyrics is making they guts ripping and twisting / like S&M and they ass fisting.” Contrary to that imagery, her lyrics generally bounce from the lovey-dovey (‘Lucky Me’, ‘Can We Stay’) to don’t-cha kiss-offs (‘Bet U Wanna’).

Newcomers Nyce Hitz produce most of the mixtape, providing varied styles for Bingham to sing over, but occasionally, less would be more: ‘In Denial’ suffocates under an overwrought production. The mixtape’s most captivating moment, ‘Cuffin’, finds everyone at their best: a bouncing, club-ready beat pairs nicely with Bingham’s traditional vocal stylings. Bingham certainly has the voice, but with No Artificial Flavorz, she still seems a bit anonymous.

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While we’re on the topic of retrospective compilations, here’s a massive one from everyone’s favorite Memphis obsessive: SpaceGhostPurrp aka Purrp aka Muney Jordan. Following a quietly-dropped collection of instrumentals, Purrp returns with 58 more tracks from the archives. Curation has never been Purrp’s strong-suit (look no further than the Raider Klan’s 47-track “Greatest Hits” collection); in kind, this is less a “best of” than an “all of.”

The producer/rapper has mined mixtapes like God of Black and B.M.W., his 4AD debut Mysterious Phonk, and various one-off releases for a definitive portrait of the artist as a young man. Of course, there’s loads of Three 6 Mafia tribute (including recent Da Mafia 6ix / Bone Thugs team-up ‘Murder On My Mind’), but Purrp’s palette does flirt with other sounds, like the dubstep-tinged ‘Filthy Fucking Trill’ and the cloud rap-adjacent ‘Loot’, to name just two. If you appreciate his style, 58 Bluntz of Purrp — clocking in at over three hours of lo-fi menace — is probably best experienced as the extended soundtrack for late night debauchery. Otherwise, you can probably pass.

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New York’s DJ Ayres — producer, record label boss, father — is behind the boards for the latest dispatch from Mad Decent Worldwide Radio. The title and inspiration might be inspired by a meme, but his “Parent Trap” mix is no joke.

Soundcloud producers may have riddled the corpse of “trap” with their hi-hat rolls and 808 sub-bass, but a pro like Ayres knows how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Amid tracks by Drake and Jeremih & Shlohmo are remixes and originals by Rustie, Ryan Hemsworth, Cashmere Cat, Canblaster, and RL Grime. Other highlights: Sinjin Hawke and Just Blaze’s Dipset-inspired ‘One’ and a mash-up of Obey City with Alabama crew PRGz. As the satirical write-up says: the “best in adult contemporary electronic trap music” for all those “Trill Dads and Twerkin’ Moms” in the audience.

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