Mixtape Wrapup (August/September)
By Legend & William E. Ketchum, III
Nipsey Hussle - Bullets Ain't Got No Names Vol. 3 [click to download]
For those that haven't been paying attention lately, the west coast has had a pot of raw talent brewing the past year. While it simmers on the left, it hasn't quite boiled yet. The movement is growing strong though, and people are starting to take notice. Nipsey Hussle [click to read] would have to be one of those on the forefront of the movement. In his third installment of the Bullets Ain't Got No Names series, his goal is to show why Hussle is his last name. Part of the reason this tape should resonate so much in the times we live in is because of the way he paints street life. On songs like "Walk In My Shoes," Neighborhood Nip displays that hustle mantra, remains apologetic on "Shed A Tear," and even appreciates the music he creates, on tracks like "Rap Muzik." Not only does he describe that world he grew up on, but the hand to hand street connect everyday people experience. The old west coast sound is prevalent throughout the project without straying away from the true element of the music its forefathers provided. California got that next generation "Strapped" up and ready to compete with every other region. In the hood, this might just be soundtrack to life in 2009. It's payback.
DJ Drama, Cam'ron & Vado - Boss Of All Bosses [click to listen]
With Cam'ron's [click to read] out of retirement parade earlier this year, we couldn't expect him to stay quiet for long. This mixtape had been in the works for a couple months but undoubtedly, the power of the Internet put a halt to it with random leaks it faced in the beginning of July. After that moment, Cam'ron went back to the lab and re-worked the tape a bit to make it an even more official Gangsta Grillz presentation. Cam'ron doesn't break any new ground on this one, besides the fact that it's time for the new generation to get that shine. Boss Of All Bosses is essentially the introduction of Cam's newest protoge Vado. It's a Harlem block party every track in. This definitely hits the underground, and Vado isn't too bad on the mic game. While at times it might get redundant, songs like "La Bomba" and "The Baddest" hold the crown for the remainder of the tape. Even appearances from Rick Ross and Ma$e don't seem too out of place and with beats from Araab Muzik, the tape doesn't lack that sound. Lenox Avenue is still that danger zone.
Donnis - The Diary Of An Atlanta Brave [click to listen]
Without listening to one song from this mixtape, history has showed 10xDeep has broke some quality tapes. From Wale's Mixtape About Nothing, to Kid Cudi's classic A KiD Named CuDi. A Diary Of An Atlanta Brave is the next in the line of cosigns from the clothing brand. At first glance, Donnis' mixtape doesn't showcase too many features, but the bulk of the production is handled by the Florida production duo known as the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. Most notably, they have "Maybach Music" and tracks with Young Jeezy, Mary J. Blige, Rick Ross and more under the belt. While more conventional trap music like Gucci Mane invades our stereos every day, this tape showcases a different side of Atlanta. We're not sure how appreciative the city will hail this, but online they eat it up. Just keep it "Country Cool."
ESSO - Off The Wall [click to download]
Following Michael Jackson's untimely death, the amount of tributes projects soared through the roof. Everyone and anyone sought after their moment to capitalize off the media extravaganza. From the outside looking in, this would probably sound like another one of those endless projects we saw pop up weeks after his passing. In retrospect though, DXnext alum ESSO & Woody [click to read] had set eyes on this at the top of the year. With every release nowadays though, a certain amount of planning has to go into each project, which is why it took a while for Off The Wall the mixtape to surface. ESSO being a native of Harlem, captures anything but that staple sound on this. Off The Wall is more of his experimental journey an artist travels at times during their career. Speaking more to the digital era (see: "Logged In" & "Girlfriend") more than the streets, ESSO still keeps it real to himself. With tracks like "View From The Top," which is his ode to success and videos like the Milani Rose-starring "Don't Stop" are some of ESSO's standouts. Re-creating a classic is always touchy because rarely does the re-creation match the same excitement the original brought at first listen, especially with untouchable albums like Off The Wall. This project also goes against the New York gritty sound we're so used to hearing, but with today's internet age people are more prevalent to have a wider range of tastes and you cant knock the hustle of an artist trying something different.
Freddie Gibbs - Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik [click to download]
Interscope Records follow-through may be as short as Shawn Marions, but their eye for talent is undeniable. The latest example is Gary, Indiana emcee Freddie Gibbs, who had scored a deal with the label before getting released from the camp later on. For music fans that complain about the gimmicky nature of the business, Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik should be required listening: this disc is pure, no holds-barred spitting. Armed with a nimble baritone reminiscent (but not dependent) of Bun B and Z-Ro, Gibbs spews blunt, digestible rhymes about the trap. Gibbs major label experience is also evident by his ear for beats and the discs sequencing. Every soundbed here is whip-ready without drowning out Gibbs bars, and they flawlessly do what some of the best Midwestern Rap is supposed to do: combine elements of other regions without sounding like a knockoff. Highlights here are abundant, but examples include Gibbs and Devin The Dudes pimpin tales on Sumthin U Should Know, the brawny flow of the relaxing head-nodder Iodine Poison, and the anecdotal Still Standing. In laymens terms, this shit knocksget a hold of it.
Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa, How Fly [click to listen]
In an industry where everyone is concerned with going for self, its refreshing to see two youngsters confident enough to combine their efforts for a joint project. Young Money alumnus Curren$y and DXnext's Wiz Khalifa [click to read] combine their resources for How Fly, and the results are both positive and negative. Considering their talents, its a bit disappointing that there arent many displays of dizzying lyricismthere arent many songs where the two just go back and forth with dexterous bars like fans of each would wish. But Khalifa and Curren$y succeed because How Fly feels so organic. Maybe its the blunt getting rolled on the discs cover, but Khalifa and Curren$y sound relaxed with each other, and their production aptly complements their respective southern and northeastern origins while staying cohesive from top to bottom. When putting this in your disc changer, dont even approach it as a collaboration with Curren$y and Wiz Khalifalisten to it as a disc of smooth, feel-good music with rhymes that perfectly compliment their soundbeds. Highlights include Car Service, The Check Point, and Drunk Dialing.
KNaan - The Messengers (J. Period) [click to download]
Hip Hop is always chastised for its lack of respect for its elders, but J. Periods [click to read] catalog has always had a timeless element that isnt known in the role of many mixtape deejays. While many mixtape deejays focus on capturing the sound or ambiance of the time theyre working in, J. Periods niche has been to make audible time capsules that help listeners relive previous eras and connect them to the present. Tapes that chronicle the careers of Lauryn Hill, Nas and The Roots have shown this, but J. Periods new The Messenger series with KNaan may be his crowning achievement. He and KNaan take the its bigger than Hip Hop mentality to a different level with a trio of tapes that pay homage to American musician/songwriter Bob Dylan, African musician Fela Kuti, and Reggae legend Bob Marley. All three tapes capture the sonic elements of said artists, their political/social messages, their impact on others, and even narratives of their lives. And each tape is relatively short, so they dont impede on the series other parts. With KNaans historically-adept rhymes and J. Periods penchant for mixing and sequencing, The Messengers is a classic in every sense of the word.
Peter Bjorn & John - Re-Living Thing (Mick Boogie) [click to listen]
This reviewer doesnt know anything about Swedish Pop/Rock duo Peter Bjorn & John aside from their association with Kanye West and the prerequisite Google search, but after checking out Mick Boogies [click to read] Re-Living Thing project, I may need to step my game up. Boogie calls upon producers such as Jazzy Jeff, 6th Sense and Kickdrums to remix and rework songs from PB&Js album Living Thing for a crop of talented emcees to rock over, and the result is one of the most interesting listens of the year. The beats are cohesive since they all sample PB&J, but they stand out from each other because of different producers placing emphasis on different sounds. 6th Sense makes a spacey, minimalistic backdrop with 4 Out Of 5, while Marco Polo gives Buckshot, GZA and Tabi Booney a slightly more conventional beat with The Feeling, implementing PB&Js stark percussion into his own boom bap formula. Other standouts include the Detroit Hip Hop trio of Big Sean, T3 (of Slum Village) and Black Milk on the synthy Just The Past; Nothing To Worry About, which features Wale, Rhymefest and Young Chris spitting over a feel-good backdrop; and Amsterdam, which features a west coast-ready instrumental for Evidence, Fashawn and Jerreau to rhyme over. The Re-Living Thing is yet another example of why Mick Boogie is one of the most respected mixtape deejays in the business: focused enough to deliver a concept, and resourceful enough to get dope music in the process.
BONUS BEAT: Mick Boogie gives HipHopDX the Lost Liner Notes to his acclaimed cross-over mixtape:
Kardinal Offishall, Donnis & Henok Achido: "It Just Dont Move Me" (Remixed by Jet Audio)
"When I sat down with the band to discuss the direction of this project, one of the things John and I talked about was the drums on this song and how they were influenced by Planet Rock. I thought that would be a great idea to carry over into the remix and Jet Audio took that and ran with it, creating an uptempo electro hip-hop banger that would sound great on Top 40 radio. Also, note how soulful Peter sounds on the new, revamped hook. He could be the Swedish Michael McDonald [Laughing].
As far as the emcees, Kardinal started as one of my favorite underground rappers in the late 90s and has consistently evolved and grown to the point of being a huge pop star. Having him on his project was exciting and Im glad he found the time. I think he really appreciated the fact that PBJ is such an international group, and if you didnt know, Kardinal is somewhere else in the world every other day. So it worked out great.
Atlanta rising star Donnis holds down the middle verse, and for the finale, I thought it would be really cool to find someone from PBJs homeland of Sweden to close out the song. Henok Achido is definitely that dude. One of Europes biggest rappers and now America will know who he is, too."
Big Sean, Black Milk & T3: "Just The Past" (Remixed by nVMe)
"My wife is from Detroit and Ive spent a lot of time there the last few years. One thing thats amazing is how talented and internationally recognized their underground scene is. As such when I mentioned the PBJ project to Kanyes good homie, Big Sean, we felt he would kill this particular track. When I heard how dope it sounded, I thought it would be kinda crazy to keep it on the Detroit underground vibe. I called Black Milk who delivered with his usual quality, and then got at T3 from Slum Village who came thru and delivered a perfect third verse. Slum, obviously, is going thru some things right now, so its much appreciated. Baatin RIP.
By the way, this beat was done by nVMe and it rocks. A song called Just The Past should be dark and haunting. Moving yet inspirational. I conveyed these ideas to nVMe and I think they delivered perfectly!"
Bun B and The Kid Daytona: Losing My Mind (Remixed by 6th Sense)
"This is one of my favorite songs on this project and the legendary Bun B came thru with a crazy verse. Is there anything this guy doesnt sound great on? From rapping with Pimp C & Young Jeezy to flowing with Jay-Z & Outkast, he embodies the spirit of hip-hop. And now he embodies hipster rock, too.
One of the best young talents in NYC right now, The Kid Daytona, also contributed to this song. He has a great chemistry with Bun. Download his mixtape on a blog near you. The beat is by 6th Sense and it rocks. One of his best beats to date. Of all the remixes we did for the project, I think this is the one Id like to see brought to life most. It would sound insane live in a big room with amazing sound. I think we should work on that!"
Freebass 808, Christian Rich & Amanda Blank: Living Thing (Remixed by Apple Juice Kid)
"Growing up a huge Camp Lo fan, I was very excited to Suede re-morph into this new project called Freebass 808, along with my friend, the super dope producer Apple Juice Kid. Apple is one of those virtuoso producers, who can play any instrument you set in front of him, and make it sound fresh.
We reached out and got Christian Rich on this as well. Those guys have been toiling around in the underground scene for a minute, and are finally getting some well-deserved mainstream love."
Talib Kweli & 6th Sense: I Want You (Remixed by William Russell / Good Life Mike)
"I wanted to touch all audiences with this project and definitely create something for the Williamsburg kids and the people who download stuff from Discobelle. This song is for you, indie-rock-electro-club-kids. Talib Kweli, who sounds dope over everything, came thru with a flow reminiscent of his current Idle Warship stuff and its fresh. 6th Sense also added a verse for extra flavor. The beat was done by Good Life Mike and William Russell. You may recognize William Russells name from his remixes for Fools Gold and other such labels. Dope!"
GLC & Trouble Andrew: Lay It Down (Remixed by The Kickdrums)
"GLC understands music and is one of those guys that sounds good on everything: from super hood ish to progressive Kanye stuff. My homie Happy has been trying to connect me and GLC for a minute now and we finally were able to collaborate on this song.
We took the acapella to Lay It Down, which was super vulgar already and had The Kickdrums (definitely Google them if youre not familiar) add a classic, dark southern sound to it. Ominous piano sample, bouncy syncopated drums, and there you go.
For added flavor, I got the homie Trouble Andrew in the studio. Im actually working on a project with him and his crew (The Trouble Gang) slated for a late 09 release so I figured lets get the ball rolling ASAP by getting him on this. His sing-song flow is funk, punk, and crunk all rolled into one and he was the the perfect addition to this track. We have a Trouble Gang remix of this song coming soon, too featuring StunnaMan."
Big Pooh, Chaundon and Phil Nash: Stay This Way (Remixed by Jazzy Jeff)
"If you listen to any of my recent projects, you notice there is always a Big Pooh appearance. Why? First off, Little Brother is one of my favorite groups ever. Also, I cant think of a harder working emcee (aside from Kweli, see above) than Big Pooh. The guy understands how to work the angles and keep himself relevant to different audiences, whether he is solo or in a group. And he sounds great doing it. Kudos to Pooh!
For the beat, I reached out to my good friend, the magnificent Jazzy Jeff. It was important to me, creatively, to have a lot of different sounds on this project, but all very hip-hop. Jeff is the master of the mellow, jazzy hip-hop beat. Its one of his trademarks. And when I was breaking down the PBJ songs and samples, and heard the chords and vocals on Stay This Way, I immediately called Jeff. And there it is! Plus we did a video for it!"
88 Keys & Outasight: 4 Out Of 5 (Remixed by 6th Sense)
"Another 6th Sense beat. While we sat in the lab going over the beats and samples, we realized how many parts of this song could be re-used in the remix as parts of the beat. Youll definitely notice this when you listen. Also, as both 6th and I were big fans of Kanyes Late Registration album, 6th ends the song with an ode to Jon Brion. Fresh!
Lyrically, 88 Keys came thru with his trademark style and its perfect for this beat. Witty, funny and stylistically perfect. Same with Outasight. If you dont know who Out is yet you will. Two words: bidding war."