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The Week’s Best Mixtapes and Free Mixes, March 7, 2014

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.

While Atlanta and Chicago might seem to dominate the mixtape game, don’t forget the West Coast (especially in a week when DJ Mustard has four songs on the R&B/Hip-Hop Top 10). We’ve got three very different Cali efforts this week, plus mixes by Jam City, DJ Clent, Miss Modular and more.

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Ice Cold Perm by Berkley rapper 100s slipped under our radar the first time around, but we eventually got wise to its singular fusion of cloud riding beats and ol’ school West Coast street rap. While IVRY disposes with most of the cloud rap affectations (‘Thru My Veins’ is a noticeable exception), the EP still finds 100s repping a sound unlike anything in rap, just this time, it’s an update of the G-funk of yesteryear with heavy doses of Bay Area forebearers Too $hort and E-40.

On songs like lead single ‘Ten Freaky Hoes’ and ‘Fucking Around’, 100s rides elastic basslines, equally adept at crooning the hook as he is laying down pimp raps (“She know I lick, rub, and fuck her ass… she say ‘100s, I love yo ass’ / but that ain’t gonna get my hair done”). If not for the verses, the similarly funky ‘Different Type of Love’ would be at home on Italians Do It Better. Yet no matter how many nostalgic touches (all that talkbox!), IVRY is clearly trying to continue the West Coast rap tradition differently than other claimants to the throne.

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Following his Earthly mix last year, Earthly II appears at just the right time. In the last half a year something sort of amazing has happened – a wave of artists influenced by Classical Curves have suddenly emerged from the woodwork. It might have taken a little while to take hold but there’s no denying Jam City’s influence with albums like Logos’ Cold Mission and Wen’s Signals haunting our pages, so it’s a privilege to get a peep into his listening habits right now. If you’re wondering, that covers a range of bizarre ambience, back-jerking Californian rap, slippery ghetto house and dancehall, and it’s all shrouded in the kind of cavernous reverb you’d expect from an artist chained to the Night Slugs stable.

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Let’s get this out of the way: this isn’t a mixtape, but it is streaming in its entirety, and the round-up seemed like the appropriate place for it. Deal with it and enjoy.

If Treated Crew is Chicago’s answer to Odd Future, then Mic Terror is their Tyler, the Creator. While he’s been kicking around the scene for a few years, Fresh Prince of Darkness is his proper debut, and it’s certainly a perfect introduction for those outside of Chicago’s underground rap scene. Fresh Prince of Darkness is not nearly as dark as its cover would suggest. Mic Terror is a confident presence on the mic, getting lyrical when necessary but never letting it get in the way of a hook or a punchline. Like Odd Future, there’s a streak of irreverence (“why you looking at dudes / look at the freaks / I’m looking at boobies, ass cheeks”) that balances out songs like ‘N.W.G’ (“n*ggas with guns”) and sorta-safe-sex anthem ‘Strapped Up’, which are as close as he gets to commentary.

Using samples from music, film (from The Spook Who Sat By The Door to Don’t Be A Menace…) and culture (some Calvin Butts that was sampled on ‘Thuggish Ruggish Bone’), there’s clearly an effort to put the album into the larger hip-hop conversation. And he’s not limited to the palette of Chicago rap; ‘West Coast’ does what it says on the tin, and the Kanye/Beyonce-sampling ‘Swagu’ is similarly tuned. There’s also a refusal to be precious about Real Hip Hop: there’s an ABBA/Madonna sample on ‘Tourette Syndrome’ and album highlight ‘Get Off My Dick’ (which includes the masterful struggle rapper diss “Versace instrumental that you say you wrote a heater to / go find a corny motherfucker you can tweet it to”) ends with DJ Gant-Man’s juke and footwork clinic.

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Another ghetto house veteran snapped up by the keen ears at Planet Mu, DJ Clent might not be quite as well known outside of the South Side as some of his peers, but we can’t imagine that’ll be the case for long. As figurehead of the Beatdown Crew he gave a platform to then-unknown DJs Rashad, Spinn and RP Boo, and now it looks as if he’s about to step into the spotlight on his own.

This hour-long blend of tunes chops up the expected chattering sub wobbles with snippets of Timbaland, TNGHT and whatever else was at hand, and Clent, clearly an old hand, commands the groove with a masterfully light touch. Typically, every beat has been snipped to bits and reassembled from the ground up by Clent himself, so even when you think you hear something familiar it’s actually something else entirely. One anyone packing something weighty in the trunk.

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Bay Area producer YP On The Beat dons a Miami Heat-inspired moniker (YP $poelstra) for his first compilation tape. YP produces the entire effort, enlists HBK Gang members and affiliates from the Richmond scene (P-Lo, Kool John, Dave Steezy, Young Bari) and drops 13 slappers of various flavors, all with the devastating low-end the scene is known for.

Kool John’s ‘Did That’ is blustery fun, whereas Chip$ Black’s ‘Money’ and NhT Boyz’ ‘We Movin’ are relatively sparse and menacing, but it’s all essentially light-hearted (“we gettin’ stoned like gargoyles”). For smoother moments there’s Dave Steezy’s smoke-hazed ‘Livin’, Young Bari’s yacht-rap ‘I Love It’ and ST Spittin’s ‘Major’, which updates G-funk for 2014.

Beneath the fun of the whip-riding, party-starting music are some real surprises. At first glance, ‘Throw It’ is standard DJ Mustard fare, but YP has girded it with hyper-active percussion and old school touches; the same is true of P-Lo’s ‘Game’. Elswehere, ‘Dippin & Swervin’ screws down a Bun B sample into a sing-song hook for a reminder the symbiotic relationship between Southern and West Coast hip-hop; standout ‘Snitch’ fuses Three 6-styled unease with West Coast gangsta posturing. Here’s hoping for Heat Vol. 2.

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C’mon, don’t keep lying to yourself – Atlanta’s pretty much the central point for rap right now, whether you like it or not, and this Spinz-helmed collection is a pretty efficient mission statement. We know pretty well what to expect at this point, from the accepted handful of tier one producers (Mike Will, Spinz, Metro Boomin’, Zaytoven, 808 Mafia) to their accompanying spitters (PeeWee Longway, Future, Casino, Rocko, Ca$h Out, Migos, Young Scooter), but lack of surprise doesn’t make The Real Atlanta II any less hard hitting.

For a start, we’ve finally got access to Future’s industrial-sounding club wrecker ‘Move That Dope’, and on top of that there are plenty of tracks that give a prescient look into the direction of the U.S.’s current rap capital city. Que’s ragged ‘Jungle Fever’ might be the best – a punishing post-Yeezus cut it’s pretty much the only way for him to follow breakout hit ‘O.G. Bobby Johnson’, by turning it up to 11.

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From the title on down, Chicago rapper (and alleged Hustle Gang affiliate) Ty Money doubles-down on “Turn Up” culture, leaning heavily (pun intended) on nihilistic weed-and-molly tracks. With a clutch of pro-grade productions to work with, Ty lays down a seemingly endless supply of punchlines with a crystal-clear delivery and a single-minded focus: let’s get fucked up.

Turn Up G.H.O.D. traffics more in drug-doing than drug-dealing, like on the Actavis-heavy ‘Drugz’, which finds Chicago kingpin King Louie on his Jeep Music steez. If you enjoy cinematic lead track ‘Turn Up God’, you’ll probably enjoy the rest here: a big, brash beat and sharp-tongued lyricism; in a line of disses, “Fuck a subtweet, Imma at you” stands out. ”I done came up like Oprah,” Ty claims, “and they falling off like Sosa” — if he’s referencing Chief Keef and not the ballplayer, it doesn’t seem to bother Keef, who shows up on the claustrophobic ‘No Hobby’ anyway. And if he’s taking a shot at Keef, it makes sense: the mixtape is certainly a more pristine take on the drug-heavy street rap Keef (and Louie et al) have mastered.

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You’re probably sick of hearing us bang on about Miss Modular now but trust us, we’re shouting for a reason. The Her Records dancefloor demon has sliced up a selection of his favorite beats for We Are Insert and it’s a pretty astonishing ride, following the producer’s stunning ‘Reflector Pack’ without disappointing. Admittedly it takes a few tracks to hit the gas pedal, but once it gets moving it’s hard to stop. A particular highlight is the rewiring of Drake’s awkward ‘Pound Cake’, which might have given us new appreciation for Hov’s nauseating verse, something we were certain wasn’t possible. Good job all around.

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Young Ace is a rapper from Watts aligned with the nascent Kioe Boyz crew, who offer another take on West Coast rap in line with DJ Mustard and the HBK Gang. A Reason To Hate is best in this mode: songs like ‘We Gassin’, ‘Active’, Earl Swavey’s ‘Maxed Out’, and posse cuts ‘Hustle 24-7’ and ‘Don’t Hate’ bump with glistening keys, trunk-rattling basslines and lighthearted party-n-bullshit rhymes. The highlight of the tape is undoubtedly ‘Bad Lil Bitch’, a club hit in the making produced by beatsmith-to-watch Larry Jayy.

Elsewhere, influences from Atlanta and Chicago bleed in, with uneven results. The neon post-drill on ‘No Clout’ (featuring Chicago talents Lil Durk and 485) works, while the AutoTune on ‘Put It Down’ is distractingly offkey. Songs like ‘Doing Dat’, ‘Watch Me’ and ‘Karate Chop’ freestyle ‘Ain’t Wat Ya’ll Want’ are rougher than they need to be; this stuff is better when loving, not fighting.

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Master P’s been oddly prolific in the last couple years, but maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. Back in the day he was churning out records with the chilly efficiency of a meat factory, and he seems to have recaptured some of that early spark. Billed as the “return of the ice cream man” (heads, y’all remember), The Gift is another glossy affair, loaded with guest appearances from rappers who owe P a buck or two for basically kicking the doors open way back when. There’s Rick Ross, The Game, E-40, Romeo and of course P’s Louie V mob boys Fat Trel and Alley Boy, and while they don’t all pull their weight (Rozay cut ‘23’ is particularly avoidable) for the most they add to the record’s decadent appeal.

The tape’s problems almost aren’t worth mentioning – it’s overlong and there are some awkward stylistic choices – but it’s a Master P tape, and anyone who’s spent any time with the No Limit captain knows you gotta take the rough with the smooth. Endure the hail of iron pyrite and you’ll start to notice the tiny nuggets of 24-carat gold.

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