Favorite Mixtapes of June 2015 Fractal puddles, VST start-up screens, and general mayhem

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.)

Denzel Curry - 32 Zel / Planet Shrooms

When a talented young MC reaches the public eye, he or she can win hearts most easily by presenting a digestible narrative and an idiosyncratic style to match. Earl Sweatshirt: isolated introvert makes claustrophobic misanthrope manifesto. Lil Herb: the horror of Chicago’s gang culture fuels his intense documentarian verses. For some reason, we demand coherence, as if each element of an MC’s perceived persona has to correspond to the whole of their catalog. On the psilocybin-soaked, scattershot double EP 32 Zel / Planet Shrooms, 20-year-old Florida native and loose Raider Klan affiliate Denzel Curry offers no such coherence. His music bubbles with signifiers (and name checks) of numerous scenes, from Hypnotize Minds to Def Jux to Dungeon Family to Dr. Octagon to Weird Atlanta. His beats drip with processed synth lines, damaged percussion, and static noise formants. He confidently cycles through enough flows and vocal styles to obscure any elemental truth of his delivery (compare the desperate howl of “Ultimate” to the bouncing couplets of “Underwater” to any other track). He embodies the modern pluralistic capacity for unlimited harnessed influences and unlimited self-fragmentation. Curry melts into a fractal puddle before us, over and over, and each time we eagerly await his next reconstituted form.

Ho99o9 - Horrors of 1999 [EP]

Ho99o9 is in the pit with Torture Garden and It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, filling a basement with paint fumes and bloody mouths. The duo (pronounced “horror”) consists of Yetti999 and the TheOGM, two gnarly other-level guys who grew up within the NJ/NY rap scene but found that the energy and nihilistic power of NYC punk transcended the placid crowds around them. Now out in Los Angeles, they’re filling spaces with bodies and thrash, tearing shit up. HORRORs of 1999 is their second EP in as many years, and it doesn’t play like a collection of singles like Mutant Freax did. The EP is a horror flick made with the homemade videos of every non-skit track bleeding Ho99o9’s affinities for seance, death, and general mayhem together in a Grade A gross load. A far cry from two dudes on an 808 soapbox.

RJ - O.M.M.I.O 2

“Some of my records may sound ratchet. Some of my records may sound real. Some of my records may sound like some pain. Some of them may sound like love,” says Los Angeles-born Reginald Palmer Jr. a.k.a. RJ, whose latest mixtape runs that gamut twice over in its 22 tracks. The YG-signed and frequently DJ Mustard-featured rapper stays riding the ratchet wave from his 2013 O.M.M.I.O (On My Momma I’m On) that crested with TMT favorite mixtape Rich Off Mackin earlier this year. “Get Rich,” featuring IAMSU! and originally released on that Choice tape, remains the slickest entry point to RJ’s slinking flow. Breezy banger “No Talking” and Mustard-produced “Gudda” have some of the standout instrumental goods on a tape slapping from start to finish. With bass hooks and humbling self-examination (“Damn, I done gave the block some of my best years”), O.M.M.I.O 2 delivers an anecdotal auditory antidote for Kendrick’s This American Life register (that’s not to disregard K-Dot’s own powerful “on my momma”). If the “Blue Face Hunnids” and “Really Out Here Too” choruses don’t get you on board from the jump, you can go back to sleeping. Meanwhile, Mr. L.A. is making a spirited run for mayor this summer.

Lil Silk - Son Of A Hustler 2

The whistling voice of Lil Silk, a bit bratty yet nonchalantly carried on a breeze, is a perfect match for his sense of humor. Almost like Roseanne in the first few years of her sitcom, Lil Silk’s jokes feel like something stated as an aside, unconcerned with how overlooked they will be. Like its first installment, Son of A Hustler 2 has a self-awareness so quick, so immediate it’s almost prophetic. Are his jokes satire on the expected motifs of street rap? Spells manifesting new truths for his career? Or simply the dreams of a young musician with a whole lot of wit? Somewhere transcending self-mockery, stating the obvious, and pure wisdom, Lil Silk lets us know he is “Almost Famous.” And if anything, having Fetty Wap on your mixtape in 2015 already puts you far above the majority.

Chris Travis - See You There

Why you sip lean? ‘Cause I’m Chris Travis, bitch. The Memphis MC — ex-member of Raider Klan, current member of new crew Waterboyz — might work hard to emulate the phlegmatic demeanor of his perpetually-stoned peers, but his new tape betrays a few passions. For instance, Travis obviously thinks SoundCloud is important enough for an Unlimited Pro account and, by extension, that his music is important enough to potentially merit unlimited tapes. He’s already uploaded 10 just this year. Travis cares about weed, enough so that his beats can leave a sticky residue on headphone cups. On “Watch and Forget,” he makes a concerted effort to tell us “it” is all about the money, before “Just saying sometimes/ It’s not about the money.” Just watch and forget. The music is like water, whose simplicity as a fluid allows for endless, fascinatingly complex configurations and combinations. It is ubiquitous, transient, and satisfying, be it dense fog or thick drops of sweat in the southern heat.

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