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.
With most rappers seemingly on holiday, DJs and producers do the heavy lifting this week: from the new wave grime of JT the Goon and Strict Face to out-there electronics from M.E.S.H. and Basic House to house and techno from Ron Hardy (RIP) and Vin Sol. If you need a rap fix, Skinny Friedman, DZA and Mac Miller (seriously) have you covered.
FUNCTIONS OF THE NOW VII
M.E.S.H.’s new Scythians EP for PAN is a thing of rare beauty, so we jumped at the chance to get our hands on this brief look into the Berlin-based producer’s record bag. It’s no disappointment either, and while it’s a little short, clocking in at just over half an hour, M.E.S.H. packs in tunes by the boatload, blending his own tunes (the David Firstly remix of ‘Captivated’ that opens the mix is huge) with selections from weirdo operators like Desto, nu-grime figureheads Mumdance and Rabit, and even Mario and Nicki Minaj (admittedly remixed by DJ Irressistable).
We’ve been hearing damn good things about the legendary Janus parties in Berlin where M.E.S.H. holds a residency, and if this is an example of what we can expect, then we know where we’re off to this summer.
Princess Nokia is the alter ego of New York underground star Wavy Spice, and the half-hour Metallic Butterfly is her debut release. A collaboration with fellow New Yorker OWWWLS, the mixtape draws from neo-soul and trip-hop as much as club sounds from New York and beyond. While its tagged as hip-hop, the tape mostly sees Nokia singing over synthwork that is woozy yet soothing and beats that are often distant and distorted.
Nokia is down for whatever, crooning over a tapestry of breakbeats on ‘Seraphims’ and the Game of Thrones-inspired ‘Dragons’, toying with Afro-Caribbean beats on ‘Bikini Weather Corzon En Afrika’, and mashing-up Shanghai and Spanish Harlem on the eponymous ‘Nokia’. Lead single ‘Cybiko’ is the most fully-formed track: a hyperactive, grime-kissed tribute to Internet life that is Nokia’s most personal blend of music, culture and attitude.
RESIDENT ADVISOR MIX
Ron Hardy would have turned 56 last week, and in celebration, Resident Advisor got hold of this phenomenal recording of the DJ performing at Chicago’s C.O.D.’s in 1987. It’s thanks to local DJ Zernell that RA managed to secure the recording, and they’ve done us all a favor. While the quality is endearingly lo-fi, it’s a historical document of a time that’s now long gone.
Long before Spotify, and most importantly long before Serato, Hardy was selecting tunes using just accumulated knowledge, digging skills and a keen ear, and he was also putting together his own edits (on reel-to-reel no less), just to make sure nobody else was playing exactly the same tune. This is a masterclass of a session, and not because it’s mixed with the precision of a robot using beat grid (it isn’t), instead it’s Hardy’s deeply musical touch on the decks that makes you want to go back in for repeat plays, and the way he manipulates each tune, make it a joy to behold.
JT THE GOON
The Slew Dem-affiliated producer released one of the best instrumental grime tracks of the last year in ‘Twin Warriors’, and if this all-original production mix is any indication, we’ll be hearing a lot more of him in 2014. The mix builds for a few tense moments before revealing take-no-prisoner tracks that are martial, ominous and metallic. He spends time across the entire grime-dubstep continuum, dropping acidic wobbles over stutterstep beats before mixing in sino-inspired fare and wonky basslines. And honestly, we haven’t heard someone do aggro-dubstep this well since ‘Cockney Thug’.
Mac Miller’s shtick can be hard to swallow, but you can’t fault the dude for trying. He’s been hard at work on image correction since the release of his terminally corny frat rap smash Blue Slide Park, and surprisingly that’s meant a slew of actually half-decent records and often shockingly credible feature spots. Miller’s even tried his hand at production, and proven he’s actually not bad at all.
Faces follows this earnest run at acclaim, and makes plenty of the right kind of moves. Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul poke their heads in for the Top Dawg stans, Earl Sweatshirt drops a verse for the awkward OFWGKTA teens, Thundercat’s in place for the Brainfeeder bores, and Rick Ross and Mike Jones hold it down for anyone worried Miller’s backpack has become fused to his spine. Sadly it’s almost too worthy for its own good, and no matter how many glittering guest spots he finagles, or how many dusty DOOM-esque samples he manages to glean, Miller is still a corny rapper.
When he exclaims “bitch you better have my money” on standout cut ‘Insomniak’, Miller just sounds as if he’s trying way too hard. You can’t please ‘em all, kid.
Opal Tapes boss and noted tape fetishist Stephen Bishop (aka Basic House) has turned in this corker of a mix for Thump’s Mixed By series, and unsurprisingly he exhibits the kind of eclectic taste that his label’s become synonymous with. The mix kicks of with Coil’s ‘Where Are You’, and quickly dissolves into Sleaford Mods, Pharmakon, Wolf Eyes and even some crucial new material from Bishop himself. By the time it reaches a close with the one-two punch of Matmos’s ‘Spondee’ and Lil Ugly Mane’s ‘Uneven Compromise’ you’ll feel like you’ve been dragged around a dirty Northern basement, and might need a shower or two.
LIKE A THUG (YOUNG THUG RANDOS)
There aren’t many rappers right now surrounded with the kind of hype that’s attached to Atlanta’s Young Thug. Hell, dude even said a calm “thanks, but fuck you” to XXL when they tried to select him for their Freshman line-up. And good on him, Thugger’s made it on his own terms (nobody was interested in his I Came From Nothing trio of tapes, eh?), and if Skinny Friedman’s smart blend of loosies shows us anything, it’s that the lean-addled rapper deserves every dollar that’s coming his way.
There simply aren’t any other rappers even approaching Thug’s weirdness, and whether it’s via his painful groans on ‘Florida Water’, or his anthemic chant of “uno, dos cups stuffed” on ‘2 Cups Stuffed’ there’s no denying the charisma that’s dripping from every track. Friedman’s mix coolly blends the big tunes (‘Picacho’ ‘Like a Thug’) with lesser known jammers (Young Dro’s ‘One Thing About Me’, Casino’s ‘Communication’), and whether you’re new to the Thug phenomenon, or already well versed in his Atlanta strip club crooning, you should find plenty to sink your teeth into here.
A disembodied voice asks “how deep do the fluids of emotion run?” early on in Vin Sol’s latest mix, and it may as well serve as a rhetorical framing device for an hour-long set that journeys into the deep and dark recesses of techno and house. He and compatriot Matrixxman have been on a tear recently, both on their Soo Wavey imprint and on Unknown to the Unknown, and this mix keeps the vibes flowing. The no-nonsense groover sees Vin mix his own tracks alongside those of contemporaries like Galcher Lustwerk, Dance Mania veterans Paul Johnson and Steve Poindexter, and even krautrock legend Manuel Gottsching. No real surprises, but that’s fine when a mix is this seamless.
GOLDEN SYRUP MIX
The polar opposite of the JT the Goon production mix (elsewhere in these pages), Strict Face’s latest set doesn’t include any of his own sublime originals (unless you count a pair of collaborations). Rather, the Aussie producer pulls together Philly street rap and midwestern bedroom house before diving into grime, both old school and new school, and from both sides of the Atlantic, before closing with Total Freedom’s bootleg of Ciara’s ‘Promise’. Killer.
MDWWR #83 – RAP & BULLSHIT
Paris-born, Miami-based DZA is a resident at downtown Miami’s über-popular Peachfuzz, and his Mad Decent mix sees him digging deeper than he does at the 90s-focused party. Nevermind Diplo’s sarcastic intro: DZA expertly mixes loads of hazy, underground Southern Florida rap (Denzel Curry, Robb Bank$, Yung Simmie and more) with smoked-out new school R&B (Jhene Aiko, SZA, Kilo Kish, AlunaGeorge) and a handful of crowd-pleasers (Drake, Jams Blake) into a laidback set that definitely lives up to its title.