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Sleazy house, obscured drones and Jersey club heat: the week's best mixtapes and free mixes

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.

Did you see many quality rap tapes this week? Neither did we. Thankfully, everyone from Martyn to Mumdance dropped mixes for what is one of our most unpredictable rounds-up yet.

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Trapped in a sea of dull, waxy cocktail techno and friendly, whitewashed house it’s easy to foget that not too long ago, the music was a soundtrack to sleazy basement workouts and ugly, sweaty, semi-naked bodies writhing uncontrollably against each other. Luckily Unknown to the Unknown bossman DJ Haus is ready to catapult us back into the dungeon, and there’s literally nothing polite about this gurning hour-long monster of a mix.

Bolstered by a suite of his own productions, the mix lurches from grubby ghetto house into gushing Detroit-style melodicism, ragged pill-munching pseudo hardcore and fuck knows what else. It’s music made for sticky dancefloors, pitch-black crotch fondling and necking the contents of you mate’s mum’s medicine cabinet. Don’t think, just do.

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And now for something completely different. Mumdance is on a totally fresh tip here, as he rifles through a wealth of material he collected on a recent trip to Egypt. Put together by the British Council and, the project saw Pinch, Faze Miyake and Mumdance fly out to Cairo and collaborate with local musicians Figo, Sadat, Diesel and Knaka. Mumdance surrounded himself with Mahraganat music – a burgeoning movement that fuses electronic beats and bass with classic Egyptian folk – and ended up producing a handful of brand new tracks.

This mix is only thirty minutes long, but gives a rare look into a style of music most of us have never heard before, and it’s also damn good. Keen to distance themselves from the “choubi” sounds documented by Sublime Frequencies et al, the various singers owe more to contemporary autotuned pop, rap and dancehall than they do to the wedding music of their predecessors. In turn Mumdance has reframed these sounds with bare traces of grime, allowing his influence to sit in the background and letting the plethora of Egyptian performers to do their thing. It’s absolutely essential listening.

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Atlanta producer Ferrari Smash has been popping up on mixtapes with increased frequency these days thanks to his work with Young Thug, Bloody Jay, Rocko, Ola Playa and others. His F1 mixtape is a showcase of his wares, both songs that have been around the block (Peewee Longway’s ‘Jumanji’, Rocko and Jeezy’s ‘Which 1 U Workin’, Thug’s ‘Frum Da Back’, among others) and new material. Plus, he gets on the mic under his Rari Rokket alias.

Unsurprisingly, the best are tracks where Thugger and Jay team up as Black Portland; Ferrari smashes those tracks with widescreen, synth-laced trap that lets the pair get as weird as they wanna be. Young Thug cries out the hook on ‘Gotta Be Hard’, sounds lovestruck on ‘Dance’ (“too good to be true / I’ve got my eyes on you”) and is even more otherworldly than usual on ‘She Want a Molly’ thanks to cavernous reverb (and a touch of vocoder).

Joining the highlights are ‘Same Game’, featuring the recently freed Lil Boosie and friends, and newcomer Coca Vango’s half-sung ‘All I Know’, which loops a woodwind melody that wouldn’t be out of place in sino-grime. Sadly, the Trap-a-Holics drops are all over this one — be on the lookout for a NoDJ version.

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Jersey club queen Uniiqu3 makes her Lit City Trax debut with The New Klassiks, a powerhouse set of remixes that span the continuum of US club styles. Uniiqu3 drops tracks by Baltimore originals Rod Lee, DJ Technics and Samir before throwing down the gauntlet with Jerseyfied remixes that amp up their already palpable energy by chopping samples into even more frenetic blasts. Stick around as Uniiqu3 takes on the anthemic (the legendary ‘Samir Theme’), the raunchy (‘This Pussy Will Drive You Crazy’), the apropos (Lee’s ‘E Pillz’) and the nostalgic (T2’s ‘Heartbroken’) tracks of club music.

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Drone master Marc Richter (aka Black To Comm) is probably best known for sitting on the throne of the unpredictable and often excellent Dekorder label. Over its ten-year existence the label has been home to records from Machinefabriek, Stephan Mathieu, Felix Kubin, Keith Fullerton Whitman and more recently Pye Corner Audio and Jan Jelinek collaborator Andrew Pekler. It’s been a go-to source for anyone wishing to inspect the greasy underbelly of the experimental music scene, and his hour-long mix for the ever on-point Secret 13 is no different.

Blending smart, disparate tracks such as Colleen’s underrated ‘Ritournelle’, Microstoria’s ‘Dokumint’ and Asa Chang & Junray’s outstanding ‘Hana’ Richter creates a tense mood, balancing beauty with ominous darkness. He mixes with the same creativity he puts into his own compositions, and emerges with an hour of obscured drones, cunning occidental experiments and half-forgotten electronic gems that would slot right into his own catalogue.

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Martyn’s eagerly-awaited third album The Air Between Worlds is out in a few weeks, so it seems like as good a time as any to dive headfirst into a brand new blend of tunes. It’s rugged stuff, laced with the kind of piqued retro house bangers and dusty dub-flecked techno that has characterized his recent sound, and according to Mixmag at least (there’s no tracklist so we can’t exactly check) the mix is “packed with cuts off the record.” We’re guessing this might be the best way to get some hint at what we can expect when June 16 arrives, then.

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Chicago’s T.H.E.M People describe themselves (itself?) as “a creative music and visual production team, an art-encompassed collaborative and an urban channel.” The high-minded production crew and frequent Save Money collaborators have collected a baker’s dozen of offcuts that showcase their neo-neo-soul and post-boom-bap approach to songcraft on their fourth Smoke Breaks mixtape.

Lush instrumentation, hazy sample loops and punchy percussion underscore a variety of Chicago up-and-comers, including Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Joey Purp, and Dally Auston. There’s a level of songwriting on display throughout that we don’t usually see on a free tape, from the wow-and-flutter ‘TheMOON’ to the windswept ‘Worth It’ to the jazzy ‘Ocean 85’ to the Frank Oceanish ‘Stevie’. So while there’s definitely an odds-and-ends feel to the whole project, we’ll be on the lookout for T.H.E.M People in liner notes this year.

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The early-aughts mashup king and the Philly rap survivor? It certainly is an unexpected pairing, but it works better than you might think on the Broken Ankles EP. Girl Talk forgoes his ADD-addled sample wizardry to craft the type of mile-high beats that Freeway would have bought a decade ago, a la Just Blaze/Swizz Beatz/Dipset. ‘Tolerated’ finds both in fine form, with Freeway taking on haters and rapping crazy shit like “flip-flops and drums / Afghanistan marching band”; even Waka sounds somewhat engaged.

The soul-laced ‘Tell Me Yeah’ is the type of track Girl Talk would have sampled in one of his mash-up collage albums; same goes for ‘Lived It’, in which Freeway recounts the highs and lows of his decade-plus career. And while no longer as manic, Girl Talk still has an ear for samples: ‘I Can Hear Sweat’ is most definitely the only rap track to sample the guitar fuzz from the outro of NIN’s ‘Hurt’ and Biggie’s ‘Who Shot Ya?’, and Jadakiss is just nasty on it: “do him dirty / and put a .30-30 through his throat / send the footage to Diddy / let him premiere it on Revolt.”

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London-based producer Slugabed stops by Truants to show off the freewheeling dance tracks that he and his Activia Benz imprint have become known for over the last few years. The Ninja Tune talent refuses to get bored, bounding between tracks like he’s shuffling iTunes. Claustrophobic hip-hop instrumentals, deep space electro, hands-in-the-air house, damaged rap samples, Glass Swords-influenced bangers, and 80s action soundtrack synths: everything we love about Internet-age, DIY dance music in one 45-minute mix.

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Here’s something for the heads – electronic music blog Ants in my Trance have put together a stunning mix of classic material from Warp duo Plaid, and much of it wasn’t even featured on the essential double-disc retrospective Trainer. Anyone who’s spent any quality time with early Plaid or Black Dog Productions will already know how crucial this stuff is, and hearing it again all in one place feels like a rare treat. It’s also just in time for the release of Plaid’s forthcoming album Reachy Prints, so is a good opportunity to swot up on the band’s history before diving into their contemporary work.

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