Favorite Mixtapes of July 2015 Ice cream tattoos, red dye 40, and diabolus in rap musica

With a daunting cascade of releases spewing out each day 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 simply free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if and when we feel it necessary. (Check out last month’s installment here.)

RetcH - Finesse The World

Terror is often an exaggeration, a caricature. It’s expected in the rap game, but sometimes it just gets old. And sometimes it just gets better. On Finesse the World, RetcH channels the dirt and sewage of the New Jersey streets into 12 tightly focused tracks that have no bells, no whistles, no features. It’s a practice in asceticism, just RetcH snarling his way through a well-curated collection of beats from producers like Thelonious Martin (who produced the entirety of RetcH’s Polo Sporting Good tape from 2013), H.N.I.C., and A$AP P On the Boards. Here, RetcH reinvokes the darkness of his earlier tapes with lyrical grittiness, bustling over a bevy of minimal beats, flattened fifths, and sparse bass lines: diabolus in rap musica. The intro to track three, “Product of Da Block,” reinforces the mixtape’s tone: “When the fuck everybody become so friendly […] I ain’t never been that friendly, my nigga; I ain’t never known the world to be that friendly, man.” Fuck, me neither.

ETHEREAL - Final Fantasy

Having your own confusing life often stems from trying to understand how others live. Like having a good idea of what your boss does throughout the day. Or imagining what Salvador thinks about all day cleaning the bathroom. Or questioning ad nauseam if coworkers think you’re high. Does she want to fuck me, too? Then ETHEREAL takes us to a different level of thinking. His newest bit of jib-jabbing comes in the form of Final Fantasy, drawing from the popular video game series (considering select descriptive lyrics and the sword the rapper wields on the front cover). Themes of mech-bots, numbness as a superpower, excitement like red dye 40, generational voice via agoraphobia, and mostly: young love (m a y b e). Backed by a slew of features (both Awful and non-Awful) and slices of Final Fantasy VII -esque sounds as beats, ETHEREAL goes deep. Oh, shit, and I just noticed he started a year-long subscription option at $50, which includes all seven back-catalog releases, including Final Fantasy itself. Swervish!

DJ Mustard - 10 Summers: The Mixtape Vol. 1

So last summer — summer of 2014, DJ Mustard’s second summer within his “I’m boss past/present/future-suite” 10 Summers — I lauded his work as ushering in “The Mustard Dynasty” of production.” Essentially, I wrote about how 10 summers was dropping at the climactic point where his trademark sound was indisputably dominant, if not completely definitive, of 2014. That sound has tapered off and/or become more complicated in 2015, perhaps from one too many Thugger verses waxing surreal over otherwise crisp ‘tude drowned in “skrrrrrrts.” I felt a tinge of regret; maybe we jumped the gun? Maybe our world is more fickle and predictably change-mongering than I thought. Maybe radio wants more Meek/Drake drama than ubiquitous L.A. bump, more of Fetty Wap’s instant heartbreakers over Mustard-ian anti-emotionalism. Although the “history books” and/or year-end lists will most likely affirm this, it only took one listen to “Tool” to realize Mustard’s the man, always will be. 10 Summers: The Mixtape Vol. 1 is just the summer. Mustard’s actual production chops have surprisingly tightened — the bass is somehow bigger, showing some velocity modulation that lets the track press with more tenacity. *Praise hands* here’s a real mixtape with no drama, no memes; it gives no fucks, gives literally nothing to you but the bump. Instead, Mr. Big Bank Budda treats the city for “free supreme and ice cream — no phones or pics for your IG.”

Gucci Mane - Trapology

Gucci Mane is the embodiment of rap prolificacy. In the span between his arrest in September 2013 and today, Gucci has released 15 standalone mixtapes and digital albums, the MEAL trilogy, the World War 3D trilogy, and collaborative mixtapes with Chief Keef, Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, and PeeWee Longway. 25 releases in 23 months. Gucci Mane releases are more frequently delivered than my utilities bill. Needless to say, it’s rare to go a month without a new cut. So when June came up dry, Gucci Mane curbed the drought with Trapology. Already the most decorated rapper in our new-in-2015 monthly mixtape series, Gucci might have earned the number one spot on TMT’s Favorite Cover Art of 2015 (show me a better cover than this, and I’ll get an ice cream tattoo). In this two-year mixtape spree, there has been disappointments (Big Gucci Sosa, The State vs. Radric Davis II) and 2009 Gucci flashbacks (King Gucci, View From Zone 6) — Trapology is within arm’s reach of the latter. I say within arm’s reach because the spotlight, like with a lot of post-federal gun charge Gucci, is heavily on features, which Trapology is bursting at the seams with: Lil B, Young Dolph, Lil Reese, Soulja Boy, Snoop Dog, Young Scooter, Jadakiss, Fetty Wap, Father, Riff Raff – the list is long and held up easily by productions from Zaytoven, Mike WiLL Made-It, TM 88, Southside, Nitti, and Honorable C.N.O.T.E. It’s a liner note that needs to be actualized as a Rock The Bells-esque traveling tour. – Rock The Brrr #FREEGUCCI.

Snow Tha Product - The Rest Comes Later

On a long enough timeline, no art seems strange. A nice advantage of our culture being in overdrive is this timeline only gets shorter and shorter. Late-90s/early-00s hip-hop production dreams of acts like Kid606 and Lesser recently saw some revisiting with Death Grips’ The Powers That B, but these sort of skittering, spacious, neutrino-paced beats find a much more compelling home on The Rest Comes Later, Snow Tha Product’s latest. While previous efforts focused on music that simply matched Snow at speed (and she definitely works fast), a certain deftness and dreaminess has been missing until now: a magical delicacy that bridges her swift, powerful words and her earnest, of-the-people BeyHive membership. She is a true lady. She’s got skills. Who the hell would call that weird? The most obvious thing here is that it’s just beautiful art.


Awful Records isn’t a rap collective; it’s a collective of artists put under a rap lens. And like how Frank Ocean brought diversity to Odd Future, GAHM is the closest thing Awful Records has to nostalgia,ULTRA. The avant-R&B multi-instrumentalist/singer/producer/rapper sports an abbreviation that stands for God Awful Hate Machine, a rough verbal ebb from the lighter aura he lays out on the handful of EPs and countless features released since 2013. It’s also the title of his latest release, GODAWFULHATEMACHINE, which is less hazy than flip the mattress and IN THE DARK ROOM. Unofficially split into two halves by a “loading…” instrumental, the production on the first half is personal, slowing the room to a creep and then bumped up with more live beats in the second. The songwriting, meanwhile, is in true Awful Records-style, with features on nearly every track, like a 10-headed hydra. Right from the start, “Special Girl” and “Sun In Your Eyes” feature GAHM’s voice: smoothed and candid. “As It Is” ends is a soulful guitar solo. “Prom (Red Version)” and “Gone Is Love” speak to reconciliation and loss. “50” is super straightforward: team needs loud. “Unacceptable,” “Disclaimer (Save The Day),” and “Why” are selfish and cruel, a full reverse from the first half. The contradictions of GODAWFULHATEMACHINE are both sides of GAHM: Awful and the weird, backward world that surrounds them. Whether “loading…” is indicative of GAHM’s internal war of introspection and extroversion or simply a transitional ploy, GODAWFULHATEMACHINE is front-to-back another killer mixtape from the Awful Records crew.

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