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Bay Area weirdo-rap, club-ready grime, and eclectic crate-digging: the week’s best mixtapes and 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.

Quality rap mixtapes continue to be few and far between, but DJs like Prosumer, Matrixxman and Madam X dig deep in their crates to keep things interesting. The list is rounded out by another bop compilation and another dispatch from UNO iconoclast Gobby.

LIL B
HOOP LIFE

This weekend, after the Oklahoma City Thunder were bounced from the NBA playoffs, Lil B dropped his eagerly-awaited Hoop Life mixtape — another “fuck you” to Thunder star Kevin Durant, with whom the Based God has a mostly one-sided beef. With Lil B’s curse seemingly in full effect, he’s certainly won this round, thanks to a remarkably focused (if overlong, as always) mixtape.

Hoop Life finds the Based God pushing his oft-imitated, free associative style in service of songs (mostly) about its titular subject. Musically, the tape breaks down into a few buckets: hyphy/ratchet slappers like ‘At The Freethrow’, ‘Off Da Bench’ and ‘Lockdown’; based tracks like the cloudy ‘Material Mindstate’, claustrophobic ‘Call Me Coach’ and the glistening ‘Scouts Report’; and throwbacks that serve as reminders that Lil B can “rap” when he wants to, like on loyalty anthem ‘Peyton on Broncos Jordan On Wizards’.

Plus, the outliers are some of the best tracks: Hoop Life kicks off with the rumbling ‘Pass The Ball’, flirts with Baltimore club on ‘NBATV Commercial’, and takes a showstopping trip to the funhouse with the based-drill-trap hybrid ‘NBA Live’, a track that suffers from a cringeworthy use of “faggot.” Not nearly as regrettable as his word choice is his offkey warble on ‘See Me In The Game’, ‘Living My Life’ and mixtape highlight/lowlight ‘Fuck KD (Kevin Durant Diss)’. Unsurprisingly, the tape eventually loses steam, and while only Lil B obsessives will make it to the end, don’t miss ‘Katy Perry’: “Call me Katy Perry” is his most troll-baiting move since I’m Gay. Your move, KD.

PROSUMER
LITTLE WHITE EARBUDS PODCAST

Ex-Berliner Achim Brandenburg (aka Prosumer) has turned in a corker of a mix for Little White Earbuds, and while he might still be best known for holding down residencies at Berlin stronghold the Panorama Bar, it might surprise you to know that the mix is delightfully eclectic, and always a good few paces from the dancefloor.

It feels if Brandenburg is pulling us headfirst through his vast record collection, and it’s a surprisingly light hearted journey as he mashes together Coldcut, Cajmere, Bobby Konders and dusty world music with the sleight of hand that only comes with years of training. Whether you’re a paid up house music fanboy or just an intrigued record collector, we reckon this one’s a winner for any situation.

Download at Little White Earbuds

DJ MOONDAWG
WE INVENTED THE BOP 2

Coming only mere months after January’s We Invented the Bop, its sequel might lack the invigorating shock of the new, but it’s a welcome example of the nascent genre’s quick progression. Bop still hasn’t moved far from the Chicago state lines, but here we have another sixteen examples of why it’s still a concern, and its young protagonists’ unwillingness to compromise.

Those of you who heard the first tape won’t be too surprised by the sounds on offer here – the breakneck drums (often charmingly mislabeled as “techno”), the sloppy autotuned hooks and the unrelenting summer vibes are all intact. This time around however we don’t need instructionals – DLow has moved into party mode with ‘Bop Wit Me’, and dance pioneer Kemo is nowhere to be seen. Instead the tape is speckled with grimy, druggy numbers from SBE and plasticky ringtone jammers care of the lazily monikered ThotKingz.

The tape’s real highlight comes with its most unpredictable track, the gorgeous ‘Love Bop’ from 16-year-old singer Yemi Marie, a slinky R&B number that cribs a liberal slice of DLow’s crucial ‘DLow Shuffle’. It shows, above everything, that bop’s potential for crossover success might be just around the corner, and if that has the backpackers up in arms, we’re all for it.

DJ BARELY LEGAL
SECRET SOLSTICE MIX

London-based upstart DJ Barely Legal gets ready for Iceland’s Secret Solstice festival in style with an hour-long jaunt across the dance landscape. She starts with footwork and R&B before going on a tour of the entire hardcore continuum, bounding between grime and bashment to two-step, garage and UK funky. For the latter, look no further than Flava D’s ‘Hold On’, the Wookie Mix of Lucy Pearl’s ‘Don’t Mess With My Man’ and Dennis Ferrer’s remix of Fish Go Deep’s ‘The Cure and the Cause’, a trio that finds the mix at its most danceable.

There on out, Barely Legal gives a dubstep sheen to the proceedings; how deep and dark to things have to be for a perfectly-timed ‘Forgot About Dre’ drop lightens the mood? After a brief smoker’s break, the mix closes Kelis and André 3000’s ‘Millionaire’, a hyperactive end to a mix that will leave your teeth chattering.

RAZO
97 FTWC

When a rapper shouts out a year in the 1990s, it’s usually a tribute to the Golden Age (or a golden age) of hip-hop. Bay Area newcomer Razo is no different in that regard, but the “97” in his mixtape’s title is also a nod to his birth year. And while he’s only 16, he already has a gift for playful wordplay and an ear for throwback beats.

On 97 FTWC (short for “97 From The West Coast”), Razo sticks to the topics you’d expect: skipping school, pulling girls, and smoking a ton of Cali weed. The tape may have a paucity of ideas, but it certainly sounds great: melodic, G-funked, Bay Area slappers with touches of New York cratedigging seemingly built for BBQs and beach days. Among the unknowns, Kreayshawn drops in to produce bass-heavy centerpiece ‘SummerTime’, while HBK Gangstas Iamsu and P-Lo, uh, turn up on ‘Turn Up’.

It’s a bit overlong (although not quite in Lil B territory) but an entertaining, pro-grade effort. “I’m the Mac Dre of my fuckin’ generation,” Razo boasts on ‘Friday’. We wouldn’t go that far, but we’ll be keeping an eye on him, anyway.

MADAM X
DUMMY MIX 213

Madam X is a part of Manchester’s Big People Music label/clubnight, a crew that pushes the grime-bass-club music axis, and while there seems to be a new mix of instrumental grime every week, Madam X’s set stands apart by finding similarities across time, place and genre. The r’n’g of Davinche, Katie Pearl and Sadie Ama is really not that far from the r’n’b of Brandy; Bok Bok and Mattwizard’s electro-funk plays nicely with Cameo’s ‘Word Up’; and so on.

At a little less than an hour and stuffed with 30 tracks, the mix is definitely built for club-borne attention deficit disorder — it’s certainly never boring. It’s loaded with tracks from her just-released (and excellent) Kaizen Movements Vol. 1 compilation, plus some of the biggest instrumental grime tunes of the year (Murlo’s ‘Twin Warriors’ remix) and a Destiny’s Child ballad for good measure.

TRAVIS PORTER
MUSIC MONEY MAGNUMS 2

Atlanta survivors Travis Porter follow up their 2011 tape Music Money Magnums with this patchy sequel, and while it boasts a starry list of local producers (DJ Spinz, London On Da Track and more), it struggles to capture the imagination.

It’s hard to begrudge an Atlanta act in 2014 for sounding too predictable, but the tape’s opening run is entirely forgettable, even with a pair of serviceable Spinz productions and an appearance from 2 Chainz. Thankfully things pick up mid-way through, with the glorious ‘Never Sober’, kicking off a run that makes the tape well worth a download. It feels as if when the trio allow the street veneer to fall off, they sound a little more urgent, and the short selection of robotic sex jams are certainly not unwelcome.

GOBBY
MIXTAPE FROM THE DU PT.3 “DUNE”

UNO-affiliated weirdo Gobby’s new mixtape is typically confounding. A soupy mashup of comical samples, awkward pastiches and screwed ‘n chopped trickery, it’s not an easy listen, but shouldn’t be avoided on that account. Gobby might be natural heir to the mischievous noise/idm of James Kirby back when he was still performing and recording as V/Vm. There’s a similar sense of smirking malcontent as Gobby fires off rap snippets and cuts of Owl City’s ‘On the Wing’ through his array of splattery effects and DSP tools.

Mixtape from the Du Pt.3: “Dune” might not be particularly refined, but you won’t hear a more bizarre collection of tracks this week, and that’s a sobering thought. Just don’t go in expecting a barrage of Frank Herbert references and you’ll be fine.

MASSPIKE MILES
SKKY MILES 3 PT.2: BLOCKS & BEDROOMS

Boston crooner Miles Wheeler (aka Masspike Miles, geddit?) follows his moderately successful (and incredibly awkwardly titled) Skky Miles series with the sequel nobody asked for. Rather than simply opt for part 4, Wheeler has instead tacked this on to last year’s Skky Miles 3, and we’re not entirely sure why.

Needless to say, his well-worn tropes haven’t mystically transformed overnight, and the MOR melange of worthy, dusty samples and air-punching hooks that achieved him a deal with Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group imprint is still at the center of Wheeler’s sound. It’s a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but even with appearances from Gunplay and New York’s Fred the Godson, it feels as if Masspike Miles is simply coasting, waiting eagerly for one of his hooks to stick. Doesn’t he realize rappers have Autotune now?

MATRIXXMAN
XLR8R MIX

San Francisco producer Matrixxman takes a tour through dance music past and present on his XLR8R mix, which kicks of with the disco of Sarr Band, Liquid Liquid and Pop Cycles before giving way to the industrial pulse of Throbbing Gristle. Then it’s onto the high-motor heat of throwback Chicago house and Detroit techno before the mix touches down closer to the present about halfway through. That’s when the mix locks in, with unreleased Matrixxman material (including a collaboration with Instra:mental’s Jon Convex) and tracks by Robert Hood, Kassem Mosse, and his Soo Wavey partner-in-crime Vin Sol. Deep grooves from an artist who seems to have a new release every month.

Download at XLR8R

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