Free Crack: Recommended New Mixtapes
The heading “Free Crack” is a nod to the Lil Bibby mixtape of the same name. This will forever need explaining. For more coverage of Kevin Gates’ By Any Means, head to the full CoS review.
Various Artists – The Boondocks Mixtape
More than anything, The Boondocks Mixtape — released to coincide with the Season 4 return of the Cartoon Network satire — is an eye-opener. Surely, even our most thorough bloggers were blind to some of these rooks, and yet, pretty much everyone kills it: Boston’s Michael Christmas on the woozy “Sometimes”, Atlanta duo EarthGang on the breezy “Pascals”, ATL’s Wara on the stern “Slangin”, and the list goes on. Like The Boondocks the show, the tape is both tough and approachable — in fact, Reese’s “Riley’s Theme” features ad libs from The Boondocks‘ stubborn second main character and a pitched-up clip of his immortal “fuck you” speech.
Riley’s isn’t the only familiar voice here. Killer Mike’s vigilante blitz “Boonies” opens the tape, while rapidly ascendant prospects like Lil Herb and Troy Ave add to their buzz with the watch-your-back discretion of “Whatchu Get” and the “major without a deal” swagger of the melodic “Blanco”. Seriously, it’s every song with this thing. With production by DJ Khalil, The Alchemist, and Chuck Inglish, the whole thing flows like an album, and a great one at that.
Ibn Inglor – New Wave 2
With its buried-alive sound, moody Chicago rapper Ibn Inglor’s New Wave 2 brings to mind left-of-center splatters like Shabazz Palaces’ 2011 Black Up. That project, though, had its stable moments; this one is stomach-twisting for its loudness and aggression. It devises a lot from progressive music, as if the King Crimson sample on “POWER” was Inglor’s favorite part of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Mhone Glor (Inglor and friend Brandon Mahone) and a fleet of cryptically named producers, including E.N.O.N. Jacobs, PGMW, and Elanexus, bring his daunting sound to fruition with big drums and dark synths. As a lyricist, Inglor sounds troubled, pissed-off even; not even flattering blog posts can ease his mind. He can rest easy, though, knowing he has his own lane for now.
Low Pros (A-Trak and Lex Luger) – EP 1
Lex Luger, one half of production duo Low Pros alongside Canadian DJ A-Trak, never fell off. Still, the waves he created with his production on Waka Flocka Flame’s Flockaveli looked to be ill-fated as an endlessly influential masterwork tough to top — his Illmatic. The seven-song EP 1, meanwhile, is not necessarily a rap project (some of these songs don’t boast a single verse), but it takes cues from Luger’s trap-rap pedigree and features Young Thug, Travis Scott, Que, and even Juvenile. The adrenaline rush of the nuclear “100 Bottles” already sounds so familiar I forgot it’s only three months old. “Frankie Lymon”, meanwhile, is a deliriously goofy earworm inspired by the singer who had, like, at least three wives before his death at the age of 25 in 1968. Like everything else here, the song bangs. But, more crucially, it also sounds instinctive, never taking itself too seriously.
Mac Miller – Faces
Even with all his mid-career tinkering, Pittsburgh’s Mac Miller hasn’t quite figured it all out yet. But the 22-year-old stays dedicated to his craft, and Faces is another step in the right direction. After returning last year with Watching Movies with the Sound Off and releasing a fun-if-impractical project under his Delusional Thomas alias, this here is his best yet. It bolsters Mac’s rap-scholar status, which has always been evident to some degree, and still offers some of the pop instinct that first vaulted him to fame. Of course, with all these out-of-nowhere references (Richard Gere? Davis Love III?), he’s starting to sound more like a hermit than anything.
Young Chris – Gunna Season
Gunna Season, the 23-track latest from Philly vet Young Chris, is a mixtape in the truest sense. The hard-rapping 31-year-old also takes on a number of hammering sounds to go along with instrumentals like DJ Mustard’s “Who Do You Love?” (by YG and Drake) and Nottz and Kanye West’s squealing “Nosetalgia” (Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar). Chris tends to be a menacing, breathless presence here, as typified by sprees like the battering “Breathe Easy”. His bars are nice, too, as evidenced by a couple standout college basketball lines: “Tyler Ennis, ’bout our business/ Ball harder, Jabari Parker.”
Later on the same track, the Meek Mill collaboration “Don’t Play”, Chris declares, “No disrespect but we Philly.” The catch is that the whole tape is a Philly affair also including guys like Freeway and Peedi Crakk. With Meek at the forefront of street rap, though, and Chris sounding like he’s sprinting to get there, this top-2 list looks set for now.
And One Release You Have to Pay For:
Deniro Farrar – Rebirth EP
Rebirth, as Deniro Farrar’s first release under Warner Bros./Vice, is his best-sounding project yet. It’s also his most personal. Writing about things like his fear that he’s drifting from his incarcerated brother and his reluctance to judge his mom for her newfound taste for women, the Charlotte rapper spends more time coming down from those 10-blunt marathons than he does at the fearless peak. A different kind of reflectiveness goes into the working-girl ode “Notice” (which is practically an Atmosphere song), while the thudding Denzel Curry collaboration “Bow Down” is some of Deniro’s most vicious murk music to date.