Favorite Mixtapes of March 2016 From Lil Yachty and Young Thug to Kamaiyah and Denzel Curry

Where's Lil Yachty?

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.)

Lil Yachty - Lil Boat

Atlanta’s water-based rapper Lil Yachty is sailing over the heads of gut-check internet comments with nasally swoons and the confidence of a Coach K protege, and Lil Boat is just the beginning. His debut full-length mixtape comes at a new wave for Yachty. About six months after Chief Keef posted a video with Yachty’s “1Night” playing in the background and a month after he was front and center, decked in red for Kanye’s Yeezy Season 3 live show, Yachty is bringing love-bent positivity and Quavo into the same space. The remix of “Minnesota” and an extended version of “1Night” accompany 12 new tracks that feature Finding Nemo’s Dory, Super Mario, and further explanation into the dichotomy of Lil Yachty and Lil Boat. #BoatInsurance #YachtyRock #AmericasDoubleCup

Kamaiyah - A Good Night in the Ghetto

With the warm weather creeping right around the corner, it’s time to put down those choppers and bust out the Super Soakers. On A Good Night in the Ghetto, Kamaiyah, the 24-year-old rising Oakland rapper, takes the contemporary hip-hop blueprint for success and filters it through nostalgia for laid-back-top-down Miami bass, New Orleans bounce, and classic California G-funk. Throughout the tape, Kamaiyah confidently boasts and spits tales of her come-up (“Fuck It Up,” “Niggas”) and melancholy (“I’m On,” “Come Back”) as though she were caught somewhere between bacchanalian glut and the next morning’s thumping hangover. The snappy, vibrant vintage synth production also serves as the perfect canvas for her splendid musings. Her Big Easy-style flow on “Mo Money Mo Problems,” for example, perfectly accentuates the wistfulness of the beat and the song’s sunny tone, and the whole thing just sounds appropriately approachable.

Young Thug - Slime Season 3

Mineral pitch burning with a bright flame, the apeshit protoplasm glow that animates Jeffrey, here, sounding out in London sirens at Slime Season’s end, is condensed and light, concentrated but no way from concentrate. In three minutes, he pulls a beat from its hinges with a dozen voices like the wind was blowing in every direction at once. And then he coos in one voice for one listener. It’s that slime shit. If leaks from the vault still sound this relevant, this excited, the future is bright and primed for downpour. I’m here for every drip, drip, drip, drippin’.

Kap-G - El Southside

Customarily, we measure a rapper’s success by how well they do in their own lane. Veering off can be risky, and getting stuck behind a souped-up engine on a flyer set of wheels can guarantee that an underdog misses his exit. On El Southside, though, Atlanta-based rapper Kap-G is swervin’ all over these streets like he owns ‘em. And (duh) it’s not just his background that makes him stand out from our usual competitors (dude’s a first-generation Mexican-American who raps in both Spanish and English); El Southside finds Kap spitting bars over Clams-style beats with Herbo’s conviction, singing on unlikely bridges, chilling with Thugger, and slinging similes like he’s Katy Perry. Dude’s movin’ on up on every block with this shit, windows down, stereo bumpin’ like he don’t care who hears. Do yourself a favor and put this tape in your ears if you know what’s good for you, because who knows how long it’ll be street legal.

Denzel Curry - Imperial

Denzel Curry is ambitious. Newly emancipated from the Southern trxplvrd stylings of Spaceghostpurrp’s Raider Klan, Curry hasn’t used his solo career thus far to hone his style as much as he has expanded it, and Imperial is no exception. Production-wise, the tape is more consistent and less SoundCloud-y than 2013’s Nostalgic 64, favoring an icepick-sharp, neo-afrofuturistic production style with a distinctly in-house vibe, but Curry’s narrative ethos glides throughout the tape between nihilistic, my life is a movie banging-tales, Black Panther-style militarism, and laid-back, New-Agey testaments to personal growth and integrity. Imperial’s contradictory impulses are becoming of an artist so young and deliberately Woke to today’s internet-bred consciousness, though, so even while it feels like Curry’s brain conceptualizes faster than his sometimes rigid flows can articulate, his vitality as a polyphonic voice in hip-hop is unquestionable.

Azealia Banks - Slay-Z

Who is this Azealia Banks? Never heard of her and have no idea what sort of social media personality she has. From this incredible new mixtape she’s released, though, I have to imagine she is a super fun, loving human being that is willing to put in hard work in order to produce expert-level art. Few could cop such a clear early-90s club-rap feel and not have it just come across as a genre exercise. There is just enough edge and comfort with profanity that this is obviously new, yet somehow without undermining the necessary naivety of the source material. Uplifting doesn’t work if it’s insincere. And this works. So Banks must be a truly uplifting individual IRL.

Oddisee - Alwasta

If Public Enemy claimed to be the Black CNN, then I suppose that makes Oddisee rap’s Mother Jones, meaning that his thoughtful and humanist music is sometimes almost too earnest to swallow. Recorded in one week, Alwasta — Oddisee’s follow-up to 2015’s The Good Fight — has a bracing nowness to it that’s been lacking in his music for some time, though he still lapses into conscious rap tropes from time to time. Even if he has too much sense to namedrop Donald Trump on this EP, it’s hard not to think of the know-nothing candidate’s rhetoric whenever Oddisee’s rapping against xenophobia at a righteous pitch. And while the PG county rapper might be too PC for many, what Oddisee lacks in offense, he more than compensates with much-needed sincerity and non-partisan moral certitude.

Steff Marvin - Somewhere Further Than Here

Steff Marvin is the master of his own rebirth. The artist behind last year’s jazzy throwback to boom-bap Legends Never Die would have once (not so long ago, even) fit in on the set of Dope, stylistically and lyrically catering to the kids, kidults, and veterans alike while still maintaining a personal freshness. These days, Marvin seems less interested in chilling with his college friends and more into getting guap and laying down stupid-catchy hooks about some of that P.M.W. Somewhere Further Than Here will have a song to fit every regional rap radio station’s taste, and in this sense, Marvin is sacrificing a naïver person to the gods of the mainstream. Will it work? Almost certainly — tracks like “Juice,” “Pray,” and “Change Up” beg to fill in the dead space at parties, on late-night drives, and in between moans when your roommate is back in 45 minutes and you’re tryna catch a body, so to speak. More than anything, Marvin is a deft producer and deserves recognition for engineering this project all on his own. One to watch for sure.

Elucid - Osage

Rick got a job. Sam ain’t fired. Ritch blew out the bass. Daniel threw up wearhouse smoke. Ken’s spot in Harlem is poppin’ off. Miles the most generous ked on Earth rn. L.A. Miles flies with me in my dreams. Maude a hot tub in heaven. Savannah the only thought. Marvin beckons second consciousness. Moms be melon farmin’ hard. BK Russ on that tease-game. …….E L U C I D’s 16-minute mixtape Osage gives me hope. Sam on the mixtape proper, so I not tryna bowl another 300 on fam. But Osage to me is rolling up to Taco Bell and telling ‘em to provide infiniti fuego packets. No order. Just love. This ain’t a stickup. Only a pal with pals being pals in a world where pals level up b/c. An’ I wants mine. BLUETOOTH ON: REPEAT. Ridin’round is all. Sauce.

Sasha Go Hard - The Realest I Know

Chicago’s Sasha Go Hard has stayed drilling since the scene blew up back in 2012, her flow as piercing as a clarion call. The Realest I Know is a focused, formal collection of drill bangers, tonally consistent compared to the genre-play of contemporary (and one-time collaborator) Katie Got Bandz. Save for a few turns (including a late show-stopping verse from Dreezy on “Set It Off”), the mixtape hinges on the practiced balance of Sasha’s voice. Amidst the din, Sasha makes room for a bop-infused companion to “Dear Nicki,” the heartening “Dear Yaniahl.” Later she sings, “I got family that need me/ Family I gotta feed/ Family that wanna see me win.” From its banging opener to the weaving hook of standout “Call The Cops,” The Realest I Know is a win.

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