With a daunting cascade of releases spewing from the likes of DatPiff, LiveMixtapes, Bandcamp, and SoundCloud, it can be difficult to keep up with the overbearing yet increasingly vital mixtape game. In this column, we aim to immerse ourselves in this hyper-prolific world and share our favorite releases each month. The focus will primarily be on rap mixtapes — loosely defined here as free (or sometimes free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if/when we feel it necessary. (Check out last month’s installment here.)
Lil Yachty - Summer Songs 2
Right in the middle of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, in which the two parties spent the days throwing pessimism and doomsday scenarios at each other, Lil Yachty dropped another mega ray of light to a chorus of auto-tuned cheers and boat adlibs. The second mixtape from the recently donned XXL Freshman, Summer Songs 2 is for the kids trying to muffle the powers that be wrapped up by the now-proclaimed “King of the Teens,” beginning the whole mixtape with a “we are the yooouth” glider. The cherry-headed 19 year old is a goofy, mall glasses-wearing dude (shout out mall glasses-wearing dudes) who happens to write ultra-positive music. “Why,” “Life Goes On,” and “Such Ease” are all uplifting open-ended journal entries from Yachty. They’re fresh air in a stiff room, and damn if this world doesn’t need more of it.
Jeremih - Late Nights: Europe
Never mind the hundred-some times you already heard Jeremih’s crisp, heliumated hooks over a DJ Mustard beat this week, Late Nights: Europe is that playful “Bo Peep” side of Jeremih, the one who doesn’t care about crossover success yet still inscrutably writes perfect pop songs. The concept here is a nocturnal trans-European journey that takes us to Belgium for footwork-inflected booty rhythms, to London for grimey dancehall aided by Krept & Konan, ending back at “The Crib” for a loked-out last hurrah with Chicago compatriots G Herbo and Chi Hoover. Chalk up another certified classic chapter in Jeremih’s ongoing Late Nights series.
Pollàri - ✞ lil llàri world ✞
✞ lil llàri world ✞ is Atlantan new wave’s answer to Tropical Starburst: beneath its ecclesiastical wrapper lies a viscous blend of pastel-toned trap that’s as palate-stingingly sweet as a mouthful of piña colada candy. Soaking his warbly, acidic delivery in a dulcet bath of Super Mario Sunshine-inspired production, Pollàri is not unlike Gene Wilder’s interpretation of Willy Wonka: an eccentric master of confection who is as cordial as he is sinister.
Maxo Kream - The Persona Tape
For those stuck in an alternate universe, where straightforward trap is deceased and autotune is hip-hop’s official dialect, meet Maxo Kream’s The Persona Tape. Flanked by tough yet malleable production, its 13 tracks bounce under the weight of Kream’s gritty cadence as he flows with a quickness that outpaces most H-Town contemporaries. His first-person tales of catching bodies and moving weight are delivered with a helping of wit that shines on cuts like “Choppas,” as he spits, “Put his brains in is lap, let him see what he was thinking/ Put his feet cement and then we throw him over deep end.” A Paul Wall feature early in the tracklist signals significant backing by the Houston rapper’s hometown, but appearances from Key!, Playboi Carti, and Rich The Kid ensure the project never becomes too regional to thrive outside the gun-slinging state.
Napoleon Da Legend - Steal This Mixtape
“Call me Jay ElecHanukkah, Jay ElecYarmulke / Jay ElecRamadaan, Muhammad A’salaamaleikum / RasoulAllah Subhanahu wa ta’ala through your monitor”
“A MySpace rapper—”
“Reading All Things Censored—”
“Downloading Dilla tapes—”
“Super into anime—”
“Buying records damn near every weekend—”
“Listening to Hot 97 actually—”
“Real records though. I mean vinyl—”
“Smoking a blunt, drinking a 40, down Lower East Side…”
If you don’t get the reference, sorry, just keep it moving. If you do, yo, you heard this yet?
OG Maco - Breathe 2: Episode 1 “Unite”
1980s, feed-the-world-style stadium rock is certainly in OG Maco’s soul lately. Breathe 2 features the second time now he’s released his Queen-referencing track “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!,” and in total, this mixtape finally fulfills the promise of turning into U2 with shouting. While those paying close attention won’t be surprised by this evolution, it’s a very well-timed summit reach nevertheless. With today’s youth having a huge 80s moment at the same time as the Black Lives Matter movement having its biggest collective voice yet, OG Maco positions himself as an undeniable voice of a generation. While Juicy J’s latest fumbles right out the gate proclaiming “All lives matter,” OG Maco shows that the new generation is actually in touch and truly eloquent about it with graceful hooks like, “Don’t shoot, it’s a black man’s anthem/ We all human but they still don’t understand us.” Now that is someone who can negotiate the Black Lives/All Lives debate like a pro and make a soaring hit song at the same time. OG Bono for real.
Cousin Stizz - MONDA
Boston rap rarely hit my ears as a growing kid from the South, and when one slipped through (Mr. Lif, Big Shug), it was through internet back corners or friends. Truthfully, not much north of NYC ever grabbed me. But MAN, Cousin Stizz is making me reconsider. Last year’s Suffolk County was a blindside hit with plenty of open-eye hits. Now, 14 months later, MONDA rolls up, with much of the same production team (Lil Rich, Latrell James, Dumdrumz, Tee-WaTT & M. Ali) bringing smooth, soulful Madlib-type beats. While there isn’t a huge anthem like Stizz had with “No Bells,” tracks “500 Horses,” “Gain Green,” and “Where I Came From” are all definite stereo hits. In fact, the whole first half of the tape is flawless, while the second sits under its shade still solid built, carving MONDA into the bark for passersby to check out for years to come.
Rich The Kid - Rich Forever 2
Swaddled in re-colored Invader Zim artwork and oozing with bratty impudence, Rich Forever 2 is entrenched in its mid-00s Hot Topic-revivalist aesthetic: the same sort of recycled imagery employed by Lil Uzi Vert on his Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World tape cover or the staggering excess of Dragonball Z edits scattered throughout SoundCloud. It’s a strange look for Rich the Kid and his plucky sidekick Famous Dex, yet, swapping wristband-lined forearms for Goyard bags and cans of Monster for cups of lean, it’s evident few styles could suit their sinister deliveries and collective slacker sensibility quite as well. The duo’s exchange of half-giggled wisecracks with the likes of Playboi Carti, Young Thug, and a surprise Jaden Smith feature is charmingly effortless, especially scrawled across a backdrop of eerily skeletal production courtesy of Jaasu and Rich The Kid himself. Rich Forever 2 is as snotty and youthful as trap gets.