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.
Today’s haul features one of our rappers to watch, an under-appreciated trio, an Atlanta producer branching out on his own and jams, both West Coast-flavored and R&B-styled.
Bricc Baby Shitro
The self-described Son of a Bricc Lady makes his debut under his newest moniker on Nasty Dealer, a mixtape that finds the the L.A.-to-ATL hustler rapping about the trap like its his birthright with nonchalance and devil-in-the-details lyricism. But the most impressive part of Nasty Dealer is how its production draws from both Atlanta rap regulars and European rap-obsessives but still sounds cohesive: whether HPG or Pelican Fly, every producer is onboard for sparse, bass-heavy horrorshows.
In fact, even with Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital in the fold, the French club kids are responsible for some of the most memorable tunes: Sam Tiba produces ‘Work’ (with Clinton Sparks) and ‘6 Drugs’, tracks that show off Shitro’s ear for melody and vivid lyrics (“I got cocaine residue on all this money” is somewhere between bemoaning and bragging).
Shitro is as versatile as his producers, bringing trap tropes to AutoTuned, dance-ready tracks like ‘Choppa Music’, crooners like ‘In Love With A Hater’ and ‘On The Low’ and blown-out weirdos like ‘What I Want’. There’s even a guy-girl trade-off on the Mustardish ‘Real One’, featuring ex-White Girl Mobster Lil Debbie (at least it’s not Iggy).
Apart from the producers, there are only a handful of collaborations — tracks where Shitro gets lost in the mix. The percolating ‘Thru Wit It’ is practically a Young Thug track (which we’d never complain about if not for its unfortunate “Jewish rich” metaphor), and tour mate Kid Ink dominates ‘No Pressure’. The tape closes with a remix of Brodinski album cut ’51 Bandz’ where Shitro takes Fabo’s place, and while the song before it (‘Everybody Gotta Eat’) better demonstrates his storytelling ability, its an appropriate bookend for a mixtape that brings rap from Atlanta to Paris and back.
3 Live Krew
Travis Porter is an influential if underrated part of rap (in Atlanta and beyond), helping to bridge the gap from snap to ratchet with their brand of twerk-friendly party rap; there’s more than a hint of Travy in Migos, as well. As evident by its title and booty-full cover art, the trio are looking to the past on their latest mixtape, updating Miami bass progenitors 2 Live Crew for 2015.
The group’s three-pronged attack and chanted, hypnotic hooks dominate 3 Live Krew, grabbing the zeitgeist with lines like “I got a codeine and a pussy appetite” on ‘Show Me Sum’. ‘Where Them Dollas At’ has that undeniable post-snap bounce and highlight ‘Money Right’ is an anthem for the strippers with some gorgeous, Rich Gang-styled harmonies and overdubs.
Apart from the title, cover art and generally raunchy disposition, the mixtape only references Miami bass a few times (the flow on ‘Twerk 4 Travy’ and the sample of Splack Pack’s ‘Scrub Da Ground’ on ‘Round N Round’), and since it seems like such a natural fit, we wish they had embraced their forebears more whole-heartedly.
Everyone’s doing shock drops now, so Trey Songz — eager not to lose the momentum built up from last year’s actually-pretty-great Trigga — has cobbled together one of his own, the brief, but enjoyable Intermission. The clue’s in the name, this is a stop-gap record, but shouldn’t be avoided by those thinking it’s simply leftovers and cast-offs. Intermission is actually far more solid than you might think, continuing Trigga’s themes almost immediately with the sparse, slippery ‘Don’t Play’.
Better still is ‘Boss’, a track blessed with the weepy production depth of Drake and the lyrical tact of Chris Brown. The real winner here though is ‘Talk About It’ which while nicking production pointers from Timbaland’s chart-destroying beat to Tweet’s ‘Oops (Oh My)’ sums up what’s actually great about Trey Songz. Our boy’s crooning hood anthems are so well written, so expertly produced, it’s hard not to get lulled into their foggy haze.
No longer a part of 808 Mafia – the influential Atlanta production outfit he co-founded – TM88 branches out alone with this ambitious (and of course immaculately produced) selection of beats, assisted by a rag-tag team of young rappers. There are precious few big names on show here (save the notable appearance of PeeWee Longway, Project Pat, Tracy T and ManMan Savage) but you don’t miss Gucci and his acolytes. In fact it’s refreshing hearing a brace of thirsty voices backed by such assured production from TM88.
In a recent FADER interview, he cited the reason for this direction was simply because he wanted the opportunity to produce weirder shit, and he felt that most rappers weren’t allowing him that creative freedom. This brave choice works in his favor, and while there are no obvious massive breakouts, it’s refreshing to hear the producer simply working without obstructions. If you enjoyed Future’s recent 56 Nights (which notably didn’t include any production from TM88), Sacii Life feels like its closest companion.
Soultrap pioneer (it was indeed he who coined the term) Tree is perpetually underrated. We figured his big breakout would come after the release of the phenomenal Sunday School II mixtape, but he remains very much an underground concern. Thankfully, Mishka have stepped in to curate a tape that compiles some of the rapper-producers most skillful beats, and roll up a few exclusive unreleased jammers into the mix just for the heads.
Tree’s unique production style has always been his primary draw, and that stands out here more than ever as he layers ear-bashing kicks and snares over soupy soul samples and memorable hooks. Instrumental records can be a hard sell, we know, but Tree’s one in a million, and shouldn’t be ignored under any circumstances – it’s probably no accident that the tape’s title references Pete Rock’s storied instrumental full-length.
Compton rapper AD opens his latest mixtape with an emotional re-telling of his struggles until a voice blares “wait a minute, that ain’t how the West Coast rocks.” Then the track flips from orchestral soundtrack to elastic G-funk and sets the tone for the rest of the tape: West Coast through and through, with AD rapping his ass over post-Mustard bangers.
AD’s aggressiveness seems inspired by someone like OG Maco (‘Blew It’ owes a bit to ‘U Guessed It’), but that’s the only nod to Atlanta here: FACT favorite Larry Jayy has a hand in half of the tracks, laying down big basslines and snap-along rhythms; C-Ballin drops a sawtooth on ‘Get Out My Way’ and League of Starz chop up the horns on ‘Juice’.
While AD’s newfound intensity should be enough to carry it, Blue: 89 relies too heavily on a bunch of features that feel superfluous. The exceptions, however, pair AD with smooth-voiced hookmen like Jonn Hart and Rayven Justice for modern spins on a West Coast staple.