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

Nikko Lafré - Troubled Soul: Blame The City

“The whole major thing might be approachable, but right now I’m rockin’ how I’m rockin’/ Those who love it gonna love it, those who don’t, well, god bless.” Nikko Lafré sounds at peace having just worked his way out of a deal with 300 Entertainment to drop Troubled Soul: Blame The City as a free agent. It was a bold move by the Minnesota rapper after moderate success from 2013’s The Otherside, but Blame the City has been pitched as Lafré’s “breakout album.” That might sound presumptuous, or at least it would if this weren’t a back-to-back victory lap of masterful lyrics, sleek production, and beautifully refined R&B. Lafré uses the tape as a vehicle for reflection on the lives and relationships he’s encountered since The Otherside came out — just after he finished high school — but in spite of his age, there are moments of sincere contemplation here that sound like they are coming from an experienced rapper having spent decades in the game. “TTINM” is its most hard-hitting socio-political commentary, while “How It Look” documents Lafré’s time growing up in the face of adversity. But he never flaunts his accomplishments to mask those tribulations — he’s grateful for his current situation, and if City does lead to signing with a major label, it couldn’t be better deserved.

OG Maco - Tax Free

So I’ve been listening to this new A$AP record since it dropped the other night. I’ll straighten out an opinion about it soon enough, but I can say shit’s straight up taxing. I only mention it because OG Maco has that same stylish magnetism A$AP proliferates so well; he flirts with new beat styles and atmospheres without letting it take any attention away from his steady, versatile flow. I’m still sitting with it, but A.L.L.A. weighs on you like a $50 admission ticket to a purple cloud chamber, where the music floats along like an inflated balloon-animal filled with lead — drifting for a few seconds, but eventually rolling on the floor through a sea of colored-contact-wearing demon-folk donning studded leggings. Shit gets expensive. Rather, Maco’s new shit is tax free. Tax Free is quick, satisfying, and listenable, but not without a sense of urgency — virtually everything A$AP’s 17-track behemoth is not. The tape’s title track cuts deep, letting an ever-present two-note piano motif roll over a balanced instrumental, while Maco kills it with a quotable snarl: “Charge it all to the game at a flat fee.” “NEW” has a unique instrumental flavor to it, while “NO MO” and “VANITY” recall a Kanye-style melodrama, without the often oppressive Kanye “tax.” Instead, Maco’s drama is millennial, as the tape’s climax proclaims a generational indictment: “People don’t feel no more, all they do is bitch/ People ain’t real no more, we robotic kids.Tax Free brings the anger, concern, nonchalance, and desire for realness that shows Maco’s sharpening his “common sense” teeth, honing in on an autonomous rap ideology against the status chasers, the aggravators, the rich kids, but never placing himself outside the drama: he emphasizes our “common sins” insisting that the “The difference is our poison.”

Lil Ugly Mane - Third Side of Tape

Actually, I think you can easily read that we like folk music; we are doing folk music for the Twitter age… This cheap technology has a story; the language that technology develops has a story… So you can listen to Dilloway and to Lil Ugly Mane, to Chicklette and Primitive Art, to Stargate and Jaws… And I’m sure you will have good time… And I’m sure they are telling you more about the world we are living in now than Waka Flocka Flame or a fucking well-dressed, short-hair revival punk band from Northern Europe, or some hashtag micro-genre starlettes… Lil Ugly Mane: a fictional character, but how deep about the everyday feeling he went?
Simone Trabucchi in piecemeal

I’m, like, white-girl obsessed Lil Ugly Mane. Please, travel to the Bandcamp and read the diary provided. This is exactly that sociopath behavior David Keenan was referring to in his 2014 year-end article Subterranean Homesick Blues. Like, Side Three-B 5:18 mark — what’s HAPPENING. This is bombed. No genre. Completely poisoned music. It’s filthy. A spider tattoo. Dirty boots. Disembowelment.

King Louie - Drilluminati 3: God of Drill

I lie awake most nights fretting if Chicago drill has been tapped out, but goddamn King Louie’s Drilluminati 3: God of Drill sends my worries away. Right after releasing the video for “Throw Yo Set Up,” Louie dropped the Drilluminati threequel and, though there’s plenty Chi reppin’, Louie is at the height of confidence in his flow, taking on several two-minute tracks that don’t rely heavily on hooks. The mixtape speeds quickly to the third track, “Take Em To Church,” where I was hoping Louie would make fun of that dumb Hozier song, but instead we get splotches of innuendo, with Louie giggling like a sophisticated incarnation of Lil Wayne. The glossiest production is from D Brooks on “Live It Up,” a standout track that features Interscope’s newest signee, Dreezy. The hook does matter here, and even though there’s a lack of collaborations on Drilluminati 3, “Live It Up” leaves you wanting to hear more Dreezy than Louie. Fortunately, Louie makes you love him again with the more melodic and memorable tracks: “Like Louie,” produced by DJ L, and the penultimate “Smoke Break.” Just like the real Illuminati, the Drilluminati is a group within the shadows slowly poking its head into the mainstream geist; Chicago drill is still very much alive and poppin’.

KeithCharles Spacebar - We’re All a Little Triflin

KeithCharles Spacebar put it best when probed about Awful Records’s status as outsiders amongst the media that cover them: “Point Blank. We don’t give a fuck.” By eschewing the usual methods of distribution, the Atlantan crew has forged its own way in today’s rap game, creating and sustaining the hype by the simple virtue of being independent as fuck. It’s an outlook that pervades We’re All a Little Triflin, all sub-aquatic minimal murk and blasé sexuality. While KCSB literally does it all here — rap, warble, produce — collaboration and cross-pollination are crucial components to his philosophy, and some of Triflin’s high points come from a meeting of the minds; ABRA’s track-defining hook on “All My Luv” and the urgent turn of RichPoSlim on “Always 1” are shining examples of Awful’s broad church of talent. Even so, this is KCSB’s tape through and through, his lurching productions tying the whole thing together. The whole crew stays winning, but KeithCharles might well have offloaded their tightest effort to date.

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