Welcome to FACT’s new-and-improved Rap Round-up.
Originally conceived to shine a light on the wealth of free music that crops up daily on SoundCloud, Datpiff, Livemixtapes and beyond, FACT’s Mixtape Round-up has seen its share of tweaks and changes over the last two years.
In 2015, we’ll be presenting a Rap Round-up every other Thursday (the week’s best free mixes will be posted every Friday). Along with mixtapes, we’ll be featuring the albums (free and otherwise) that need to be a part of the rap conversation but might not be covered otherwise.
This week, we’ve got the return of the Blue M&M, two rapper-slash-singers named Johnny, some Houston sauce, some Bay Area slap and more.
Johnny May Cash
My Last Days
Chicago’s Johnny May Cash has been on our radar for some time, and My Last Days feels like his chance to finally shine. Often overshadowed by his popular, prodigiously-talented brother Young Chop (who incidentally produced most of the tape), Cash’s Autotuned sing-song style is nothing new — think Lil Durk’s or Chief Keef’s more melodic moments, or King Louie’s terminally-underrated Jeep Music tape — but My Last Days doesn’t concern itself with innovation, simply with coherence and quality. You read that right, it’s a tape that’s not overlong and appears to have been crafted, mastered and sequenced with genuine care and attention to detail.
It’s also not a tape that simply attempts to flesh out a few hype singles. There aren’t too many particular stand-out moments save the world-beating ‘Where I’m From’ (featuring FACT-fave SD), but My Last Days isn’t begging for them. Rather than fill it with club-ready bangers, Cash instead establishes and maintains a mood that rarely flickers over the record’s economic 50-minute duration, and paired with Chop at his most sensitive the two have chanced upon something that manages to be both defining and deeply enjoyable.
Whether it’s the chirpy, memorable ‘Lesson’, the absurd ‘Tacos’ or epic ‘Tryn Get My Money Up’ there’s the sense that we’re hearing Cash and Chop with their guard down, pushing each other rather than buckling under expectations. They’re not trying to prove anything here, and we’re left with a full-length effort that’s sure to be one of the highlights of the year.
The Blue M&M 2
PeeWee Longway has spent the last couple of years establishing himself as a reliable member of Atlanta’s trap scene, whether with sometimes-patron Gucci Mane or at the head of his MPA stable. But while he’s certainly talented and occasionally quirky, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break out of the Atlanta rap pack.
That is apparent at several points on The Blue M&M 2, when he ends up in second position to Young Thug, Offset and even Jose Guapo. The tape sticks to PeeWee’s money, pounds, ammunition credo, with songs like ‘Beat Da Pack Out’ and ‘Other Side’ banging the trap drum. But it’s when PeeWee and his producers (both reliable hitmakers like Dun Deal and promising newcomers like JTE Music and Ensayne Wanye) go off-script that Blue M&M is best.
The R&B-kissed ‘I Just Want The Money’, ‘Jug For Me’, and ‘Chasing’, the swaggering ‘Deja Vu’ and Mr. Roger’s Traphouse theme song ‘I Start My Day Off (Selling Drugs)’ are all highlights. We just wish PeeWee would listen to what he says on ‘That Ain’t New To Me’: “Tell me some shit I dunno.”
Sorry 4 The Sauce
If you’ve managed to ignore Houston’s Sauce Twinz until now, you’re doing it wrong. 2015 is theirs for the taking (there’s a good reason why they’re on our list of rappers to watch this year), and they’re yet to slip up. Sorry 4 The Sauce highlights Sauce Walka (one half of the Twinz) and quickly shows why the duo have been making waves recently in Houston and beyond.
As you might guess from its title, the tape models itself on Lil Wayne’s popular series, and as such brings back memories of what a mixtape used to be. This isn’t a set of fresh material showing off Walka’s production plugs, it’s an urgent set of versions of select bangers – from recent hits like Yo Gotti’s ’Errbody’, Shy Glizzy’s ‘Awesome’ and iLoveMakonnen’s ‘I Don’t Sell Molly No More’ to classics like Cam’Ron’s ‘Oh Boy’ and Mack 10’s ‘Foe Life’.
Honestly, we don’t often highlight these kind of tapes and it’s usually because they’re so lazy (we don’t really need to hear another freestyle over ‘Hot Nigga’ or ‘OG Bobby Johnson’ at this stage). What makes Sorry 4 The Sauce different is that, on top of Walka’s natural personality and competant flow, his selection is totally on point. Catch up on Sauce Walka now before everyone else has beaten you to it, you won’t be sorry.
In their most recent column for FACT, Southern Hospitality’s Rob Pursey and Davey Boy Smith accurately describe Johnny Cinco’s act as “a thoroughly engrossing style of almost wordless melody.” The Future-istic Atlantean continues to explore the fringes of rap-R&B hypnagogia on his latest tape, I Swear. Like last year’s John Popi, Cinco processes, warps and layers his voice like a sound artist; when he’s not, he’s blasting past enunciation at a rate that would make Ariana Grande jealous.
The result is hypnotic and haunting mood music, due not just to Cinco’s voice but also to to the sparse, anti-gravity beats provided chiefly by Spiffy Global. Digital strinsg on ‘One Time’ undercut gentle truth-telling (“I’d be lying if I told you I love you”); things get claustrophobic on the Snow White-flipping ‘Mirror Mirror’; ‘No Trust’ is a post-club comedown. On one of the highlights, Cinco teams with like-minded talent Lucci for ‘Do Better’, a track that wouldn’t be out of place on a Rich Gang mixtape. And with Rich Homie Quan focusing on his solo material for a while, that’s not a bad thing.
Eyes On Me
HBK Gang leader IamSu! follows-up last year’s uneven Sincerely Yours with Eyes On Me, an EP-length mixtape that promotes his upcoming tour. The form suits him, as the HBK formula seems to be more singles than album-oriented. After the slow-motion kickoff ‘They Say (Yeah’), highlight ‘Nothin Less’ proves that DJ Mustard still has a few tricks up his sleeves with a synths-and-piano mo’ money mo’ problems anthem.
Su flashes his own production skills on ‘Let Her Know’ and ‘Hella Good’, a track reminiscent of ‘HYFR’. Elsewhere, C4 is at his spookiest on ‘Cartier’, but Su and company are best when sticking to the bays that they’re used to: ‘Bandz’ is a slice of warped hyphy and ‘FTB’ (“Free That Bitch”) is a sunny West Coast slapper.
SD’s Truly Blessed was one of last year’s best rap albums. It showed the underrated Chicago rapper at his most diverse, tangling with drill, bop and err, nu-metal and emerging victorious. Sadly, Life of a Savage 4 lacks those vivid flashes of brilliance. At 19 tracks it’s far too long, and while there are plenty of reasons to listen – the ace Metro Boomin-produced ‘Covered in Money’ and Young Chop’s ‘Thank You’ for example – it’s hard not to see it as something of a disappointment. It’s a prime example of a tape that’s worth downloading and stripping down to EP length, hacking off the fat that threatens to overwhelm it at every turn.