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.)
Larry League - Put To Rest
Fresh off a fistful of collaborations with Lil Yachty, iLoveMakonnen, and Peewee Longway, Atlanta’s Larry League returns to mixtape form with seven tracks’ worth of polished pop mischief. The goofball triumvirate appears to have leveled up since the early-summer release of 3200, though their penchant for dry wit and frothy, Listerine-chill production remains as evident as ever on Put To Rest. Chief lyricist Randy slyly peppers his twangy couplets with offhand references to Josh Peck and Doctor Doofenshmirtz, while Larry Loudpack double-knots them together with laid-back, autotuned hooks atop SenseiATL’s translucent synths and squelching bass lines. Mechanized, digestible trap ecstasy.
Que - The DogFather
As I write this, I’ve spent 13 hours today chaperoning a middle school dance, and these kids still act like they’re in a trailer for Mulan when “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” comes on. Like, you know a whip’s a car and not a gut punch, right? Que knows what’s up though, but that doesn’t mean he’s driving like his whip’s a bus in a school zone. This dude growls like he could gun it if he wanted, but he’s content on stopping for pedestrians just so he can flex his restraint. Like a latent Lil Herb, a phonetically articulate Chief Keef, a restrained Future, Que undoubtedly goes hard on The DogFather, but what’s even more impressive is that we need no proof of his seriousness beyond a nod and hand wave like, “Yeah, you good. Now move along.” We’re blessed he just looked us in the eye.
Beeb x Prospek - UngodlyOurs
I have an obscene question for you. Why the fuck haven’t you heard this yet? Like Ka, cool, calm, collected NOLA-by-way-of-Newark MC S.Habib is a product of the Stretch and Bobbito era who fell off the face of the rap world for the better part of a decade, only to return with some of the most progressively reimaginative compositions heard in about as long. This is music to suss out tear gas drops from hazy aftanoons, while your mans and them’s busy sweating the difference between mixtapes and albums. Tell ‘em, “You can listen to Beeb but you can’t hear him.”
Zuse x Nard & B - Trench Zuse
Trench Zuse is a few shades more contemplative than I had come to expect from the Kingston-born rapper. Run your eyes down the tracklist, and a palpable fatalism emerges: “Never Had Nuthin,” “Lowkey,” “All This Pain” — “I do this for my niggas in the trench for life,” he raps on the tape’s opening track, their unending warfare casually passed off as if it were merely a formal reality. Nevertheless, his patois-indebted yet trap-ready flow remains, here paired with a relatively restrained Nard & B; these beats tread carefully between militaristic lurch and ATL trap-lethicism, as Zuse recounts trench life at home and in his adopted city. The vibe is disquieting, with plenty of guts and grime from both parties and no obvious hits, but Zuse’s command of the mic (no guest features on this one) is perhaps his most thoughtful performance yet; meanwhile, Nard & B still show no signs of dialing down the heavy, low-end impact of their production. A real slow burner for the winter months.
BMB Evil Haze - Horrorland
One might as well label BMB Evil Haze’s Horrorland mixtape a work of industrial dark ambience. An asphyxiating mash of monolithic sub-bass and fog machine drones, the half-hour playlist is the creeping approach of a paranormal threat heard faintly through the cracks of boarded-up windows. It rustles the leaves, sets off the alarms of parked station wagons, and spills the neighborhood’s curbside garbage cans without assuming a corporeal form. The Evil Haze knows nothing but disorder and spares none. It cannot be seen — only felt.
Dezordr Records (Various Artists) - Du Boucan sur les Braises (Dezordr Session 009)
…And speaking of tear gas (see my Beeb x Prospek blurb above)! Since, depending on the results of next month’s election, this might very well be the last Favorite Rap Mixtapes blurb I write from within the United States, it seems only right that it be on a compilation coming from outside our so-called land of the free, home of the brave. On the other hand, going off grid and underground to subvert the impending anarcho-fascist society might not be so bad. I could take up archery, fashion myself a modern-day far-darter like the Dezordr Records logo.That little guy knows what I’m talking about. The wee fuck’s been making disorder look sexy as hell since 2007.