Favorite Mixtapes of May 2015 Common sins, lip-quivering catharsis, and sub-aquatic murk

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.)

Slug Christ - The Crucifixion of Rapper Extraordinaire, Slug Christ

The budding Awful Records’s mass output — including April’s surprise #AwfulHoliday — has kept it on the marquee for awhile now, and The Crucifixion of Rapper Extraordinaire, Slug Christ is headlining this month. Bursting at the seems with eulogy, releasing EP after EP the last two years, Slugger has openly wrestled with the terms and conditions of death, god, suicide, resurrection, sacrifice, going back to PLANT MENTALITY and, to a lesser extent, its predecessor GENOCIDE’s “Genocide I” & “II.” The Crucifixion of Rapper Extraordinaire, Slug Christ is another division of the narrative. Ethereal, Father, GAHM, Lord Narf, Stalin Majesty, KeithCharles Spacebar, Dexter Dukarus, Rich Po Slim, and Pyramid Quince all help pad Slug Christ’s exile in existentialism, corralling the last six months of recording and last decade of experimental output of Slug Christ. The EP is best heard from front to back if you want to gather Slug’s endorsement of heaven and hell through crucifixion — the sacrificial image pointing dead at a struggle that one man (God, to some) took on to save the rest of us. So, praise be Slug Christ, awful god almighty.

Rich Homie Quan - If You Ever Think I Will Stop Going In, Ask Double R

If the 100+ leaked Rich Gang tracks didn’t fulfill your personal quota for Quan consumption, our affluent comrade has returned with more than an hour of solo music in the form of If You Ever Think I Will Stop Going In, Ask Double R — truly “solo” in that the tape features no guest spots and no sign of his former YMCMB associates. Instead, we have the pleasure of digging directly into RHQ’s free-associative headspace, as he rattles off a limitless stream of mush-mouthed melodies, moans, and the occasional party anthem. Quan tends to oscillate between two primary personas: 70% heart-on-sleeve balladeer, 30% shades-on-face rager. Lead single “Flex” offers a counterpoint to Thug’s “Check,” with Quan’s sing-song tumbling over a bright Mustard-esque beat, while the sublime “Throw It Back” finds him cycling between flows over darker synth lines. When he slows it down for the lip-quivering catharsis of tracks like “I Get” or “Now I Know,” he handily out-emos contemporaries like Makonnen, stretching syllables way past their breaking point and dripping them over acoustic guitar arpeggios and wailed vocal samples. But the devastating tape closer “Daddy” hits maximum tear-jerker capacity, as Quan paints the shooting of his father in crooned verses peppered with promises of vengeance.

Soulja Boy - Swag

Where were you when Souljaboytellem.com dropped? I was starting my sophomore year of high school, balls deep in Def Jux compilations, Illmatic, and Adult Swim bump music when one of my friends showed me “Report Card feat. Arab.” Its stupefying lyrical absurdity (“I just got my report card! Throw some Ds on that!”) and sheer aesthetic unity completely busted my conceptions of what constitutes “good” music. I wouldn’t experience such a visceral reconsideration until I heard Lil B’s “I’m God.” It’s these tiny innovations (taking one phrase or joke or word and meditating on it like a mantra) that make Soulja Boy such a blast in 2015. Soulja Boy’s latest collection of interjections, Swag, feels like it’s all about “slang,” whether it be universal (“Gettin Dough”), contemporary (“Fleek”), or completely invented (“Yeen Heard”). Take care that you don’t confuse simplicity with stupidity though; Soulja Boy’s relentless swag can cut deep if you’re not prepared. But don’t just take 10th grade Jackson’s word for it. As Lil B — purveyor of such confounding phrases as “choppin’ paper up” — once said on record: “I fuck with Soulja Boy.” Infallible words about an unlikely legend from God’s Father himself. Swag, indeed.

Katie Got Bandz - Zero To 39th

Katieeeeee! On the follow-up to last year’s stellar Coolin’ In Chiraq, Katie Got Bandz (Chicago’s Kiara Johnson) begins with an echoing statement of purpose: “My mama raised me/ That’s why I grind every day like ain’t no tomorrow; so she ain’t never gotta work another day in her life.” With that hunger in mind, the self-proclaimed Drill Queen proceeds to eat alive Shady & D Gainz’s banger “Go In,” stealing the track like she stole its video back in 2011. Production is mostly handled by her cousin Blockondatrakk, pinging synths and hulking bass over which Drillary Clinton isn’t coolin’ as much as fire-breathing (yet breathless). While Zero To 39th never quite finds a hook like “BTAHB” or “Pop Out,” it ably relies on Katie’s flow to keep us on high alert throughout. She plows through the barking inferno of “Really” with the craft and focus of Furiosa driving the war rig. Bookending double features from OTF Savage and Canno Da God tie together the tape’s brisk 36 minutes and provide brief, cool respite from Katie’s powerful vocal performance. On “39 Bars,” Katie assures us: “I’m not writing verses/ Bitch, I’m telling stories.” These aren’t bedtime stories; don’t sleep.

Sicko Mobb - Mulah

Bopping’s glib guise as the drill swoosh in volt emphasizes its Chicago origins, at the expense of a wider set of references that could range from Miami Bass and dancehall to GFOTY and Alvin Lucier. Dave Tompkins has pointed out how Auto-Tune’s popularity with teenagers might have something to do with the realities of the pubescent voice, the inescapable public expression of hormonal growth. Auto-Tune is humanist and egalitarian; reset to zero, it jostles and mangles where it was once intended to measure and correct. Its synthetic birdcall is an admission that the responsibility for the song no longer belongs to the singer alone, a confirmation that the human voice (and therefore human authority) is inherently contingent, unstable, and temporary. The ragged whine of Auto-Tune is precisely not robotic and inexpressive: if anything, it is the abundance of emotion, exaggerated zigzag, that scares off listeners, not the absence. So just ask yourself: Is my heart big enough for Sicko Mobb?

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