Favorite Mixtapes of October 2015 Smooth yacht vibes, introspective hot boy yarn, and a Backwoods rolled freshy

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.)

G Herbo (Lil Herb) - Ballin Like I’m Kobe

Lil Herb came out of a lengthy absence this month with a new name and another incredible mixtape. Now G Herbo, the Chicago rapper dropped the heated Ballin Like I’m Kobe, following his two 2014 tapes, Welcome to Fazoland (TMT’s 50th favorite album of last year) and Pistol P Project. Herbo comes out furious, spitting compassionately as if reading a collection of proverbs — if Abraham took his only son to the rim instead of the mount, we’d be discussing Ballin Like I’m Kobe at the seminary. But unlike Abraham and his son, Herb KILLS the whole tape. You could run a mouse over a Fisher-Price keyboard, loop it, add a 4/4 beat, and he’d still slay it. In a similarly straightforward, drill-basic style, Herb-favorite DJ L produces the majority of the 16 tracks, but two production standouts belong to Southside: the cloud rap-loving “100 Days 100 Nights” and the squelched DJ Mustard-esque “Rollin.” Three years after drill’s peak, guys like G Herbo and frequent collaborator Lil Bibby (who makes his scheduled two features on BLIK) are still knocking the embers around, keeping it alive.

Migos & Rich The Kid - Streets On Lock 4

Another Streets on Lock tape, another opportunity to break bread with the extended QC/YRN family as they go in on a bottomless beat buffet from Atlanta’s most prolific producers. While some MCs aren’t yet capable of significantly imprinting on our consciousnesses (see: Jose Guapo, Pablo Juan), the Migos proper more than make up for it with a full stockpile of mantra choruses and signature surgical flows — despite the relative absence of Offset. Takeoff dominates the remix of “Pipe It Up,” as his pyrotechnic double-time blasts outshine hungry turns from 2 Chainz and Young Jeezy. Quavo can still turn any phrase into an earworm if he repeats it enough. Baby brother Rich The Kid gets the lion’s share of the spotlight: he bounces over the smooth yacht vibes of “Extra,” channels “Hot Boy” on the Rae Sremmurd-abetted banger “Champion,” and shoots “Tequila” over some hammered karaoke with Makonnen. Zaytoven kindles new age fire with the Alice Coltrane MIDI harp of “Life So Hard” and buries the tinny Sega synths of “Addicted to Gangsta” behind a barrier of snare rolls; Dun Deal, meanwhile, gets freaky with the Derude-core club trap of “Mama We Made It” and the fried auto-tune warble of “Designer Drugs.”

Ty Dolla $ign - Airplane Mode

As mature and soulful as Ty Dolla $ign’s newest mixtape Airplane Mode is, we’ll all probably forget it when he releases his debut full-length next month. But that’s the point, no? This essence of leaving one’s phone on “airplane mode,” ignoring everything from the trifling to the ultra-important, is exactly what Ty Dolla $ign provides on Airplane Mode: relaxed, well-paced production (from Nate 3D, Smurv, DJ Mustard, Sonny Digital, DJ Spinz, Southside, Mike WILL, James Koo, and the man himself Ty Dolla $ign), constant shout-outs to his DRUGS crew, and particular attention to pitch-shifts and effects. And I love how tracks just DROP at the end of each, but mix/transition fairly well into the next. Yet, when you narrow it all down, Ty Dolla $ign made something for everyone here: Airplane Mode is your slippers, that spot on the couch, a tall drink and a Backwoods rolled freshy, speakers on MAX, and plenty of nodding. Or you can hit the club, swap out the DJ’s thumb drive with your phone AUX’d in, and turn out Ty Dolla $ign to match fleek-level altitudes. Find the horizon and set your sights. Airplane Mode has landed, y’all.

Doughboyz Cashout - BYLUG World

While the rest of the world tries to figure out vexing issues of climate change, the ongoing immigration crisis, and Donald Trump altogether, Detroit’s Doughboyz Cashout have kept busy by bossing their lives up. However, being the generous robin hoods that they are, DBC have returned to the mixtape game with a new compilation of songs that aim to inspire you — to once and for all boss your life up. The latest installment in their catalog of exquisite gangsta rap is BYLUG World — that’s Boss Your Life Up Gang, of course — a comp containing 18 lavish passages with considerable scope. There’s opulent production that detours through Motor City’s frightening barren wastelands (“So Serious,” “In the Sky”), confident raps shining like their collective diamond-encrusted chains (“Raw Shit,” “OVL”), and strikingly introspective hot boy yarn (“Fell Off,” “Conquered It All”). While rapping with strength in numbers can yield pedestrian results long term, Doughboyz Cashout’s many unique personalities (Roc, Payroll Giovanni, HBK Kid, Overlord Scooch) can easily carry this exciting rap project into the future; hopefully by then we will have bossed our lives up completely.

Lil Debbie - Home Grown

This isn’t the first time in 2015 that an album was released on iTunes and then later made available as a free mixtape — B.o.B.’s Psychedelik Thoughtz did this almost instantly — but it’s certainly not common practice. One might see this shift as a sign of defeat, but how is it much different than films that go from the theater to Netflix, or even ones that are available to rent digitally while in theaters? When it comes down to it, the value differences between media are constructed, and I for one am thankful that Lil Debbie’s Home Grown has been turned into a “mixtape.” Otherwise, I never would have known how glorious its spacious minimalism is, how it’s the best example this year of tasteful restraint, allowing even a dubstep breakdown to sound classy and well earned. Lil Debbie truly is the queen of cool in 2015, both for these sounds and for knowing when to gift something to the world.

King Louie - 6 God Tony

With 6 God Tony, the follow-up to Drilluminati 3: God of Drill, King Louie explicitly shows admiration for both the 6 God (Drake) and the OVO Sound label with six tight, hard-hitting tracks. Whether Louie is claiming to be the 6 God of Chicago or simply paying homage, he undeniably kills it on his closing freestyle over Drake and Future’s “Jumpman.” Louie boasts his unique voice throughout, most notably on opening track “Tony Tone Tone,” where a Master P-esque groan moan is revived, followed by a quick “I’m the shit/ Bowel movement.” The under two-minute headbanger closes with the rich and succinct line, “My bitch know I ain’t shit/ I call her Hillary.” Quick quips — like “Killing shit like Plan B” on “God Flow No Fear” — mixed with the rapid-fire production keep this EP flowing in a fast but enjoyable clip.

Scotty ATL - The Cooligan

Straight outta the name recognition, I figured Scotty ATL was Fabo reincarnate, simply from the snap-lord’s infamous hit “Scotty” (and subsequent Young Jeezy remix). Totally wrong. But I’m repentant – Scotty, forgive – instead, the Atlanta-based rapper seems more like the city’s Chance the Rapper or Lupe Fiasco equivalent, whose flow sits somewhere between the aforementioned and the more radio-prevalent Vic Mensa. On his latest mixtape The Cooligan, Scotty ATL is prepping a come-up like Lupe, a sentiment seen and heard throughout. Like Scotty ATL’s style, the tape seems heavily linked to Lupe’s 2007 breakthrough The Cool. There are more pop-centric pieces like “Bust It Out” and “Fantasies” (both of which feature B.o.B. and B.o.B. affiliates) and then complementing tracks like the waltzing “Art Of War” and the piano-led plead “Nigga Concentrate,” deservedly on the same disc. This kid should be opening the next Family Matters tour any day now.

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