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.)
Theravada - Little Did I Know
If The Blank from Dick Tracy took rapping lessons from Future, Vast Aire, and Phil Schaap, made some of the dankest beats north of the Mason Dixon, and was actually a dude with a beard long enough for neighborhood cats to go missing in it, The Blank would be Theravada. Which is to say to those who haven’t already listened to Theravada, you probably haven’t heard anyone quite like him before. Those already acclimated to his SoundCloud (possibly through the account of Trilogy partner in crime Rob Chambers) know that Theravada deletes tracks about as often as he posts them, so be sure to check this out while you still can. And if you don’t dig it, tell him so on Twitter. He’ll probably berate you, and I’ll laugh.
Kodie Shane - Big Trouble Little Jupiter
The only openers on Lil Yachty’s US tour this summer were the generally then-unknown members of his Sailing Team, featuring the likes of 1ksupreme and TheGoodPerry (f.k.a. Burberry Perry). But while all 13 or so Sailing Team members came out one-by-one to perform, Kodie Shane was one of the most memorable. She killed it with her slight auto-tuned sing-flow-into-rap-flow-into-sing-flow type of young Atlanta rap and The-Dream R&B. And now, after two 2016 mixtapes, Kodie Shane is aiming for second throne on the Sailing Team with Big Trouble Little Jupiter. Almost lost in the steam and smoke of longtime Kodie Shane collaborator Matty P and D. Clax, her voice trails like she’s up ahead of even her physical self in thought. 2017 is Kodie Shane’s to hold.
Rozz Dyliams - Dylvia Roska
As eager to rep Juggalo subculture as he is the velveteen twee-pop of The Softies, Rozz Dyliams’s creative process is a cleansing rite, his output a bucketful of vitriolic spew: no influence or whim is too deeply seated to be spared. The Seattle rapper/producer’s first mixtape transmission of the year, Dylvia Roska, is his most polished work to date, exorcising crazed surgical fantasies to the crooked choreography of malformed breakbeat samples. Despite the puerile, notebook-sketch aesthetic of his depicted depravity, Dyliams delivers his lines with menacing poise — he’s Violent J with a thesaurus, Bones midway through his summer reading list. My fragile psyche would be healthier keeping as great a distance as possible from Dylvia Roska, but, alas, the bilingual bounce of “Quackin” and the industrial crunch of “Thinking About Your Death” hold me in their cosmic clutches.
LA The Darkman - Paid In Full 2
January 2017 was a big month for Killa Bees. And by this, I don’t mean that certain geopolitical events are ripening our world’s climates for a swarm of honey-crazed insects (although, maybe that too). What I mean is that several Wu-Tang Clan affiliates got busy. Wisemen leader Bronze Nazareth contributed maybe the best beat on Hus Kingpin’s ‘16 Waves mixtape, Royal Fam/Ghetto Government official Timbo King teamed with Tek of Smif N Wessun for some TNT on Wu Camp, and mixtape master LA The Darkman showed once again how he’s remained one of the most in-demand features out of any of the worldwide Wu fam. Like Bronze, LA is a Grand Rapids representative who never became dependent on the W cosign; rather, he flipped it to build a family-first movement of his own (see the subsequent success of LA’s brother Willie The Kid and the tragically Unknown artistry of Bronze’s late brother Kevlaar 7). Also, January 28 was Rakim’s birthday, so now’s as good a time as any to get Paid In Full.
We’ll See x Treece (Prod Hyro) - Construction Tape
SW Mind Set is a Southwest UK-based rap collective channeling the rainy, industrial, smoked-out streets of Manchester and other drab locales around the isles. All tracks on Construction Tape were produced by Hyro, whose hazy, lo-fi compositions dominate the mood, creating a murky, opaque background on which MCs We’ll See and Treece ride. Their voices complement each other well and thrive together within the stormy beatscape. Trading lines and references to an upbringing in the shadows, lurking with a paint pen and a spliff, this isn’t boujee London hip-hop, peering longingly at the gilded Audi A8 from the bus window. If you’re looking for references to true UK melancholy and true UK culture — an M18 is a clunky old serviceman rifle, but it’s also a sleek, exclusive sports car — then this is a great tape to enjoy a cup of tea to.
DJ Coquelin - Operation Cheapstyle (Mix For Heated Heads)
PRR! PRR! LABEL CO-MANAGER DJ COQUELIN. OPERATION CHEAPSTYLE BUILT MIX FOR GLASGOW RECORD COMPANY HEATED HEADS. WHOLESALE BLOCKS BOUGHT THOUGH STOLEN VISA GIFT CARDS AND GUMMY LOOSE CHANGE. ONE PLY NAGGED FROM THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE. DUMPSTER DIVING FOR CRED. TWO EXCLUSIVE BONUS HITS. LAW & ORDER BOOTLEGS AT A BUY-NOW PRICE. DICK WOLF STICK & POKES ABOVE FLASH SALE HAND HOLDING A POCKET KNIFE. SELLING FREE TO TAKE LIBRARY BOOKS ON AMAZON THROUGH LIBRARY WI-FI. PLASTIC FLASKS. MILK JUG HONEY WINE. CIGARETTES OVER STATE LINES. THEY TOOK THE CREDIT FOR YOUR SECOND SYMPHONY, REWRITTEN BY MACHINE AND NEW TECHNOLOGY LOOP. CRYING AT THE MALL. FINDING CRIPPLING RELEASE ON SOUNDCLOUD.
Camp Lo - On the Way Uptown
Twenty years later, how can we tell the rest of humanity still hasn’t caught up with what Camp Lo were doing on their classic debut, Uptown Saturday Night, let alone the rest of their criminally underrated catalog? Well, for starters, it turns out even the goddamn demos were light-years ahead of the work of Camp Lo’s contemporaries! What has kept this group from getting the widespread recognition they deserve for their continued efforts? Maybe it’s the comet-like impact the “Luchini” intro makes any time and place it’s dropped, or the on-again, off-again presence of unofficial third member Ski Beatz, or the (perhaps overly emphasized) notion that their style represents more of a look back to the 1970s than a look ahead to the 2070s. Whatever the reason, these demos prove that each and every Camp Lo record deserves another listen. (And if you’re looking for a place to focus this renewed attention, Geechi Suede’s 0.9 NyteLife FM album from last November is a great place to start.)