Favorite Mixtapes of January 2016

Lil Durk & DeJ Loaf in "My Beyonce" video

Rowdy Rebel - Shmoney Keeps Calling

Shmoney Keeps Calling was released New Years Day 2016 but pulls from a year’s worth of archives. With both Rowdy and Bobby in jail, Shmoney tosses out 17 tracks to the hat-tossing, cha-cha-dancing, G69 true believers. The tape doesn’t come together as a cohesive project, instead hitting highs in its assorted cast and styles. “Shmoney Speaking” is “Computers” part 2 with a mirrored drive that gives in to even bigger bells. Immediately after, TeeFlii fucks up every feeling of love you were just feeling about the $$$ and your boys and reroutes it into a house-traveling bedroom jam on a candy beat. Wait a little and you’ll hear Rowdy say he doesn’t make drill music (he sometimes doesn’t, a lot of times does), but idk because he’s trading bars with Lil Durk earlier on banger “Gang.” I wasn’t feelin’ Rowdy’s take on Black Sheep’s “This or That,” but I’m not gonna sweat it! Point is, don’t worry about the not-as-good songs — smile a little, think about how shitty prisons are, and cross your fingers that our boys will be out ASAP.

Lil B - Thugged Out Pissed Off

It’d be easier to think of topics that haven’t appeared on a Lil B tape as yet. 05 Fuck Em alone covers enough ground in that respect. Life’s intricacies, little and/or large, have been a part of the BasedGod’s lyrical repertoire from the get-go, informing the vibe of each successive release. Thugged Out Pissed Off finds Lil B tackling hard-ass streetisms in typically #based fashion, splicing freestyles, off-the-cuff ad-libbing, nonsensical references to Fetty Wap and “Jerry,” and memorable one-liners into a 63-track monster — monstrous in size and scope, for sure, but also in his uncompromising method of weighing in on contemporary issues. Few could contend Lil B’s self-proclaimed status as the rawest ever after hearing “Domestic Violence Case” or “I Am A Thug,” for better or for worse. And that’s just how we like it, ‘cos the Lil Boss’ brand of unfiltered, unabated rapping is a delight to behold. Whether you schedule your day around listening to Thugged Out Pissed Off front-to-back, or throw it on shuffle, collecting this jawn will reward you with the Based-payload well into 2016.

OG Maco - The Lord Of Rage

The intersection of psychedelia, street rap, and thrash, which OG Maco loves so much, has never felt more fully realized than on The Lord of Rage. A unique philosophy of mix and EQ unifies as each element occupies a singular section of the frequency spectrum. Synths only up in super-high registers. Densely affected vocals wash through the mids. The kicks get free reign over the lows, unencumbered by bass lines. At first, it’s startling, demanding even; it requires the listener to take in an overlapping, three-way conversation. It’s also why the release becomes even more rewarding on second, third, and fourth listens. Never wanting to be pigeonholed as the “U Guessed It” guy, OG Maco has found a singular voice, one as complex as he. The Lord of Rage is a sophisticated ruler.

Lil Bibby - Free Crack 3

Another trilogy came to an end last year. One that sits on top of the greatest runs drill-era Chicago ever produced. One that ends when friend and frequent collaborator Lil Herb wiped the slate clean and started a new chapter under the name G Herbo. Free Crack 3 comes two years after the first installment, one after the second, and three months out from his album debut, set for February 5 on Kemosabe Records. Lil Bibby is consistent the way y = x is: rising steadily out of a negative plain into bigger and bigger charts. Free Crack started with three base-level drill features, while Free Crack 3 ends Bibby’s run with features from R. Kelly, Future, Jeremih, and Common. The dude has come up fast and nobody should doubt he’ll double 2015 in 2016.

21 Savage - Slaughter King

I highly doubt there’s a more fatalistic opening line on this list than 21 Savage’s “Knife in my face, 30 on my waist/ Real street nigga, and I keep a dirty K”. There’s a thick line of madness that surges through Slaughter King, his latest mixtape; it’s classic hard-nosed street rap that pulls from the internalized heartache and pain of an individual that raps over dark beats and lives in even darker streets. But 21 isn’t just the latest entry in Atlanta’s seemingly inexhaustible canon of trap rappers, he’s the most compelling. “He’s the last street nigga left making music,” says Metro Boomin describing 21, whose gruesome knife-in-the-face line isn’t actually a clever rap metaphor but of an actual dagger tattoo in between his eyes, a tribute to his best friend that was killed. Sure, he’s probably never going to fire-off a particularly impressive 16, drop a truly mind-bending line, or string together a set of dazzling similes. However what 21 does well with Slaughter King is create a world that doesn’t glamorize rap music: giving the listener the raw, no-holds-barred, lived-in street shit. Savage is ultimately an adept descriptor for this burgeoning young rapper, and the tape wisely bypasses Magic City’s glitz and glamour throughout its 14 blunt force tracks, finding comfort in trap houses and country dirt roads.

Future - Purple Reign

Even warmed by blue face insulation, royal colors coming in, fly guy Future won’t rest assured, won’t pause to catch his breath. On centerpiece standout “Inside The Mattress,” he raps, “I’m getting better, I’m at practice/ I’m working every day crafting.” His practice is what we cherish, and it seems to be at least as therapeutic as Alexander McQueen, how he relentlessly rings hooks from his monstrous imagic self-disclosure. So we get Purple Reign, extending his victory lap with Drake into a victory marathon, continuing the super Future saturation and creative downpour that took over 2015. Purple Reign feels like more than just exercise, though; its cohesive din another cloud of ragged emotionality. With this now-typical Future flood of tears comes the thundercrack, bangers like “All Right,” “Never Forget,” and “Drippin (How U Love That).” But it’s the closing duo of “Perkys Calling” and the title track that really lower like the storm raging throughout the tape. Future sings the sunless Ciara-shaped hole in his heart, his pain direct: “I just need my girlfriend.” There’s no calm before it, no clarity in its eye. But he’s getting better and better. Bye bye.

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