Mixtape Wrapup (February/March)
Blu - HerfavouriteColo(u)r [click to listen]
Blu [click to read] isnt exactly known for mixtapes, but the upcoming west coast emcee du juor has still managed to release a slew of material over these past couple years. Between the Exile-produced Below The Heavens, the C.R.A.C. Knuckles album with Ta'raach, his Mainframe-laced Johnson & Johnson album from last year, and an EP here and there, hes quietly been one of the most prolific rappers between 2007 and now. His latest release, HerFavouriteColo(u)r which is being dubbed as a free EP, instead of a mixtapefollows the tradition of his other material by being a cohesive effort that highlights his personal, narrative lyrics. Blus melancholy, surprisingly potent self-produced soundbeds and meticulously-chosen movie quotes do a commendable job of holding HerFavouriteColo(u)r together sonically (even if they seem abstract). And, naturally, his heartbroken rhymesespecially on standouts like Amnesia and Vanityare as heavy as a sack of bricks. There are just as many interludes as there are actual songs with raps on them, but even while clocking in at a sparse 30 minutes, theres more replay value here than albums that are twice as long.
Charles Hamilton - Well Isnt This Awkward [click to listen]
The seemingly constantly-recording Charles Hamilton [click to read] uses Well Isnt This Awkward as an opportunity to flex his conceptual muscle. On the Cinematic Hallucinations intro, he describes the project as a movie in which a homeless musician and a well-do-to socialite whom watch each other from their respective habitatsher in a high building, and him from the streetsand finally meet after the building owner invites him up after interest in his music. While plenty of emcees inaccurately boast about their mixtapes sounding like albums, Hamilton actually accomplishes such a feat. Even though the storyline is a little loosemore Lupe Fiascos The Cool than Masta Aces albumsthe tape stays cohesive with Hamiltons soulful, sample-based production, relatable lyrics, and alternate endings. The hit-to-be (in this writers opinion) Neverland sees him looking to woo the woman with doe-eyed rhymes, a silky soundbed and an instantly catchy hook, and You Too recounts a past of drug addictions. Match.com (Commercial Break) cleverly flips Carl Thomas I Wish and lets a regretful Hamilton reflect on doing women wrong in the past (Maybe if I wasnt such a bad boyfriend in the past, this song wouldnt make me feel so bad, he says after the last verse). This writer wasnt necessarily a cosigner throughout his initial buzz, but with relatable lyrics, impeccable hooks and moving beats, Charles Hamilton is the real deal.
Q-Tip - The [Abstract] Best Volume 1 (DJ J. Period) [click to listen]
Award-winning DJ J. Period [click to read] has made a business of chronicling the careers of legends through his mixtapes: Lauryn Hill, Nas, and The Roots [click to read] have all cosigned on the Brooklyn spinners product, and Q-Tip [click to read] doesnt break the rhythm. The [Abstract] Best sees J. Period mixing seminal segments from the A Tribe Called Quest [click to read] frontman-turned-soloists discography, with blends and remixes that flawlessly capture the essence of Q-Tips sound just as well as his own songs do. The mixtape also sees Tip and artists/executives that he was involved with providing anecdotes behind certain songs and points in his career. By the end of listening to The [Abstract] Best, a listener will feel like he was literally along for the ride of Q-Tips entire artistic ascension to who he is todayand thats the point of a best of project anyway, right?
Mae Day - Cherish The Day (De Notes and Mick Boogie) [click to download]
Michigan has already been making noise in the indie rap scene with the likes of Black Milk [click to read], Guilty Simpson [click to read] and others, but Mae Day makes a stamp of her own brand of Hip Hop with Cherish The Day. The Mick Boogie-cosigned project sees Mae and the De Notes production teamheaded by DeWitt Moore, formerly of The Sicknotes flipping a slew of samples from legendary singer Sade, both subtly and noticeably. Mae Day uses substantial lyrics and a tight delivery to simultaneously narrate a story and convey the emotions that come with it, and she's sexy without the brashness that many of her peers rely onmuch like the singer who inspired the project itself. A clip of Sade singing, DJs playing the same song is brilliantly used as the backdrop for DJ (Same Song), on which Mae laments deejays abuse of their gatekeeper privileges. I Still Love H.I.M., an ode to her personified beau of Michigan Hip Hop thats modeled after Commons seminal I Used To Love H.E.R. Cherish The Day flawlessly executes its concept, and it showcases one of Hip Hops most incredible new talents at her best.
The Kickdrums - SMASH the System [click to listen]
Production duo The Kickdrums are primarily known for 50 Cent [click to read] and M.O.P.s When Death Becomes You from the Get Rich Or Die Tryin Original Soundtrack and their material with fellow Ohioan Ray Cash [click to read], but theyre using SMASH The System to show highlights of their busy 2008 and where they plan on going this year. Some of their tracks here will be familiar: several of these appeared on DJ Benzi and Kanye Wests stellar Sky High project, and T.G.I.F. was on Kid Cudis lauded A Kid named CuDi mixtape. But the material you may not have heard knocks as well: their Slaughterhouse-assisted version of Joell Ortizs [click to read] Move On is an early contender for song of the year with its reflective lyrics and moving guitars (despite being the same beat from their Good Morning remix for West), and tracks like the Lil Wayne [click to read] /Pimp C collab Bottom Of The Map and their Melt My Heart To Stone remix with London singer Adelle and Little Brothers Rapper Big Pooh [click to read] are blissfully simple. The Kickdrums showcase an accessible sound here, and that should make keep their schedules busy in 2009.
Drake - So Far Gone [click to listen]
Drizzy been in the game a minute, but it seems like So Far Gone is his official "bandwagon" release. For those who have been late on Drake, he's three mixtapes deep in the game (ignoring unofficial releases). So Far Gone is a step in the right direction though. People cant really deny Drake's spit. He showcases those bars in songs like "Ignorant Shit," and the intro "Lust For Life," but where he shines the most is on "Say Whats Real." The way he came off on the track, one would be quick to forget who originally made the song. There's too many quotables. One thing that makes Drake stand out from the rest of the new class, is his versatility. Some songs were hard to distinguish between him and Trey Songz/Lloyd on the singing tip, he came off that good. Its hard to find someone with that much range. The only problem with So Far Gone was the inconsistency of singy songy tracks as compared to the rapping ones. Of course, we would love to hear him tear into more bars to the tune of "Uptown" but regardless of how many ballads Drake had on this mixtape, it has a certain sense of playback value that will continue to get burn in peoples decks/i iPods. Although he wasnt part of XXL's "Freshmen Class 2008," Drake definitely competes with any of the dudes on the cover.
Mike Posner and The Brain Trust - A Matter Of Time (DJ Benzi and Don Cannon) [click to listen]
The formal induction of Mike Posner and The Brain Trust into the mixtape game. DJ Benzi and Don Cannon [click to read] are orchestrating A Matter Of Time so you know Mike has to have some shit if they're cosigning. The Braintrust is Mike Posner's band, and not only is Mike singing on every track, but he also produced every record alongside The Brain Trust. At a short 12 tracks, this psychedelic Hip-Pop project is quite impressing. Featuring G.O.O.D. Music affiliate Big Sean on "Cooler Than Me" and "Who Knows," the tracks boast a real crossover appeal that the MTV crowd should eat up with the right promotion. Mike's skills on the singing tip aren't too bad either. On the production side of things, "Losing My Mind" has to be one of the standouts on the mixtape. The beat has a certain ride-out appeal that almost breaks your neck as the beat drops. Its on of those beats that you would wish Ludacris [click to read] would have gotten a hold of. All in all, this projects leaves you wondering what else Mike Posner has in store for the future, especially with that album around the corner.
Max B - Quarantine (Big Mike) [click to download]
The wave is still hitting strong and Max B [click to read] is at the top of it all. It only makes sense that Big Mike would choreograph Quarantine. They've linked up on some epic projects in the past. You already know what to expect from Boss Don Biggavel too, the formula hasnt changed. Konvict's newest signee French Montana appears here only three times, but Big Mike promises that Coke Wave 2 is coming. From Public Domain to that Goon Muzik, Max's comedy on tracks is undeniable. With tracks titled "Owww Oww Oww" you can't help but to laugh, turn the volume up and let the Dame Grease beat ride out. "PD 5" is another track that should have you on that wave, but with Max's future looking a little cloudy due to legal issues, Quarantine serves its purpose. It hits the streets with that new material people have been waiting for, and with enough in the stash to hold people over until the bid is over, expect more of the same from Biggavelli. Owww!
Jadakiss - Kiss My Ass: The Champ Is Here Volume 3 (DJ Green Lantern) [click to listen]
If you haven't heard the original Champ Is Here mixtape with DJ Green Lantern [click to read] and Big Mike, I suggest you dig into someone's hard drive and find that because that is one of Jadakiss' [click to read] most memorable tapes to date. Some people even argued how much better that mixtape was as compared to his album, but 2009 is here and with the reconciliation of the Evil Genius and Jada, Kiss My Ass (The Champ Is Here Part 2) has got to be one of the most anticipated mixtapes of the new year. The way Jadakiss verbally pillaged the track on "Child Abuse" to jumpstart the tape, made it hard to make it past this point, even after the DJ Green Lantern bring-backs. "The People" with Styles P [click to read] also showcases the verbal spit from these two in true D-Block fashion. Everything from "Hard Times" to "Big Dogg Status" and even when he switches the vibe (see: "West Coast Kiss"), Jadakiss is in top form. I'm not sure how this measures up against its predecessor, but regardless, DJ Green Lantern brings some of the best out of artists. The Champ Is Here Pt. 2 is sure to be on heavy rotation for some time to come, and if this is what we're to expect from the album, let's hope Jadakiss doesn't dissapoint.
CTE - Shield Gang 2 (In The Shield We Trust) (DJ Folk and DJ Got Now) [click to listen]
Corporate Thugz Enterainment is steady doing their thing in 2009. With Young Jeezy [click to read] leading the way, Slick Pulla, BloodRaw, Roccett [click to read], and the others are trying to get things poppin for the new year. Shield Gang 2 (In The Shield We Trust) is one of those project that shows what CTE has been up to lately. Powered by DJ Folk and DJ Got Now, you know this is bound to have tracks that will have the trunk rattling. BloodRaw's "Wheres Ya Swag At" is one of those tracks. As much hilarity it is to have a rapper named Bama, don't let the name fool you... he sets it off just as good as Young Jeezy did on the intro. Even with the excessive "swag" talk throughout the mixtape, its good to show love to the team. CTE has some players on the roster that are getting slept on. West coast representive Roccett comes correct on "Ain't No Way You Can Win" and although True Breed only clocked in one slot on the whole project, he had one of the standout tracks. Expects some good things out of CTE in '09. Meet the connect!
Illmind - Blaps, Rhymes & Life [click to listen]
Blaps, Rhymes & Life is a nice little series showcasing some new talent for Illmind [click to read]. People slept on part one and he's steady hitting people off with volume two and probably working on part three, as I type this. Its good to see Illmind continue this series, because at worst case scenario, as fans, we're left listening to some dope production with mediocre rappers. For some, this might be the best song they ever made in their life, but you never know, that diamond in the rough might be lying there in the midst of mediocrity. D-Black might be one of those diamonds the way he went in, on "Hold Up (Gangsta Shit)." That Heltah Skeltah [click to read] banger alonside Buckshot [click to read] and Ruste Juxx [click to read] is one you can't ignore if you're a fan of Hip Hop either. That is true culture at its essence. Even an appearance from Scarface [click to read] will have you snapping your neck to some good music. The reality is that this project is filled with 65% new artists that you havent heard of and might not ever hear of again, but the potential in some of these guys bleeds through the tracks. Put those in between Pumpkinhead/Talib Kweli [click to read] tracks and those Che Grands, D-Blacks, Grynchs & Blitzkriegs are more appealing to the ear.