K9 - Mad In The Cut 2
“I like to mix the sour and the sweet.” Could easily be an allusion to zoots and Ribena, but it holds true for K9’s ruff MC’ing and his typically awesome beat selection, with cuts from previous collaborators (and heavyweights in their own right) Dark0, Mssingno, and Visionist featuring here. And it’s not like Mad In The Cut 2 doesn’t slap, either. Nine lean tracks, ‘ard riddims, serious bars. Trap and grime are kindred scenes, really, and the possibilities explored by the likes of GAIKA and K9 in synthesizing both styles is exciting going forward; now that Kruddy Ninez is two-for-two in the mixtape circuit, it’s not hard to see him getting even sharper. “If you’re not down with K9, then get with it, blud.”
earoh - Big Trouble in Little Chinatown
Described by L.A. beatmaker earoh as “one part beat tape, one part ode to John Carpenter’s classic, Big Trouble in Little China, Big Trouble in Little Chinatown offers nine adventurous and still relatively bite-sized morsels of sample-based instrumental hip-hop. Its tracks play depth and shallowness against one another, working simple loops into layered compositions by mixing and altering melodic samples as an abstract backdrop of sorts to the constant, one-dimensional stutter of drum hits. It possesses an uneasy sort of momentum, like a narrative that struggles to express itself as such. The pervasive use of short vocal and string samples as the main units of melody puts Big Trouble in a comparison class somewhere between anime Vines™ and 0PN; never quite as simple as the former or as challenging as the latter, earoh makes creative use of the synthetic gesture in the MIDI freakouts of cuts like “Green Eyes [Trouble].” Within the fledgling medium of the beat tape, earoh manages to both zone out and freak out.
Rapsody - Crown EP
“Whatever you dream, you can do,” opens Rapsody’s latest mixtape, Crown. The North Carolina MC has been collaborating with the likes of Big KRIT and Kendrick Lamar since 2010, but accession to Roc Nation in 2016 marks a significant power move. Although none of the guests on Crown are Roc royalty, Rapsody displays veteran confidence. Her chemistry with Anderson Paak. on “OooWee” is strong, and the beat contains the same feel that gave 2 Chainz’s “Feds Watching” a formidable heat factor. Regardless of the beat’s flavor, Rapsody’s wordplay and flow is immaculate: on “Mad,” I double-take on deftly acrobatic lines like “the boss man’s wife’s sister’s sample is what I’m on.”
Lil Uzi Vert & Gucci Mane - 1017 vs The World
What a time. The winter is cold and heavy-hued, but a little play can go a long way. Freed Gucci Mane’s low-stakes November collaboration with young punk rocker Lil Uzi Vert is effortless and colorful, alive with elastic flows, and lit by brotherly love. The diamond-precious beats from Gucci’s rogues gallery pause an open-world game for the pair’s surprising chemistry, hooks and verses shared like special combo moves. Like the Gucci & Future mixtape from the same month, 1017 feels a minor victory lap for the only happy story from 2016. Two weird voices finding harmony in new peaks, the short-and-sweet runtime dripping with spontaneity. The versus is less about who the two are against and more about who else could fit in this groove. To be alive: It means you can change the weather like Uzi and Guwop.
L’Orange - Koala EP
Déjà vu again?
The tyranny of permanence or
The freedom to forget
Choose your weapon
Dig dug dead
UGHH said the corpse
Izzy Izzy Izzy?
Slept 20 hours straight
Cousin went missing
Like Itt or not
Lil Durk - They Forgot
If Lil Durk 2x was the eponymous rapper’s first successful attempt at merging the singular melodic style that brought him to prominence with Def Jam-sized exposure, surprise Black Friday drop They Forgot comes full circle, doubling down on the speed and minor-key repetition that typified Durk’s early tapes while blending in a newfound vocal dexterity and a palatable sense of urgency. At a slim 40 minutes, They Forgot is a fitting mantra for the tape’s Chicago-heavy yet success-inviting ethos: Durk honors where he came from, even as, in the glow of fame, these details become ever more invisible to those who are watching him.