Favorite Mixtapes of February 2015 Gonzo pornography, stentorian detachment, and Bill O’Reilly in a sex-party compost heap

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.)

Juicy J - Blue Dream And Lean 2

Amidst rumors of both a proper Three 6 Mafia reunion and the possible end of his solo career, the Juice Mane has his goons right where he wants us: thirsty for some sign that his post-Oscar era of mainstream visibility, benchmarked by the surprisingly consistent Stay Trippy, isn’t over already. Although his flows have slowed and his subject matter has lightened over the years, Blue Dream and Lean 2 captures the charisma, the rhythmic precision, and the hi-fi production aesthetics that keep Juicy J relevant in the trap-heavy paradigm that he helped to blueprint. If the booming taunts of “Im Sicka,” the red-eyed player’s anthem “Smoked Out, Dabbed Out,” and the icy strip-club jam “Throw Dem Racks” seem plucked from different traditions, then Juicy J unites them into a logical arc, spitting about getting high and being rich with a stentorian detachment honed over decades of “giving zero fucks.” To trip back into Hypnotize Minds territory, skip Blue Dream’s unnecessary features (Future, K Kamp, Wiz Khalifa) and head straight for the two Project Pat-abetted gems, which find the cousins coasting over cemetery synth lines and sub-bass swells like only they can.

Prince Metropolis Known - Kill Bill

Prince Metropolis Known has been listening to his Kool Keith and dreaming in X-Rated smeared vision while producing his February mixtape Kill Bill, which features 10 tracks airing out his rotten hatred for Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly. Prince’s breath is completely composed and controlled. Lyrics as filthy as a sex-party compost heap. Kill Bill isn’t necessarily the hardest mixtape out this month, because any of us could thug-up O’Reilly (incidentally, I live 10 minutes from his Long Island homestead) — nor is hip hop hate on O’Reilly anything new — but the depths of revenge and disgraced plotting that Prince Metropolis Known has written here is beyond just an “Open Letter.” Shit, beyond just aiming at O’Reilly, but also coming for his family members and mistresses and other Fox News anchors and politics — like, Prince has a song about drinking O’Reilly’s wife’s piss. And I thought my Grams was the HARD about trashing O’Reilly. Prince Metropolis Known devised a home invasion via Kill Bill. Bodies. In the town square. Defiled.

Young Scooter - Jug Season

Young Scooter’s “count music” stream-of-consciousness vocal technique generates lyrics that are, for the most part, utilitarian and empirical. Empirical because they focus on the details — actually, they’re nothing else, just fragments: a litany of passing thoughts. Utilitarian because these fragments do what they need to: they grab your attention and draw you into the fractured landscape of the beat. This isn’t nihilism; it’s an extremely narrow focus, a world-view organised around the idea of money as an ongoing process of limitless accumulation without loss, without excess, without even expenditure. It’s telling that money vanishes in the sporadic presence of death and betrayal: “In Loving Memory” is a tribute to fellow Free Band Gang member O.G. Double D, who was shot and killed while Scooter was inside. City life is another source of complaint: ” The police? Yeah, they dirty in these streets/ Try to plant some bricks on you? Jealousy/ The shit I rap about attract police/ I never change, I’m the same old me” (“What’s Wrong With The Streets”). The surprisingly fraught “Don’t Call My Phone,” complete with guest bars from Future and an unlikely sing-along chorus, urges listeners to “keep it low-key!” — Cheeze Beatz’ production, layering hair metal power chords and action movie trailer strings, is anything but.

Yakki Divioshi - Load Da Clip

The ATL has been hemorrhaging hip-hop talent for a fair old while now, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Yakki Divoshi is one of the latest workmen to emerge from the city’s burgeoning production line, an MC with a penchant for breakneck flows and a register somewhere between Future’s gruff sing-rap and the high-pitched intensity of Young Thug. Last year’s Jugg Music mixtape was a statement of intent from Yakki, peppered with features and contributions from other rappers; Load Da Clip, then, is his real breakout moment, a successful realization of said intent. Thugger’s influence is certainly palpable — Yakki’s a member of his YSL crew, and he shows up on four cuts here — but it’s Divoshi himself who sits firmly center stage, adept at turning up in the trailblazing initial stretch and mellowing out toward the back end of the mixtape, with the final two tracks in particular showcasing a sensitive side amidst the freewheeling braggadocio found elsewhere. Cast aside the ire of the DatPiff purists: Load Da Clip is a highly inventive trap tape, one that makes the prospect of Yakki’s imminent debut album tantalizing.

Chief Keef - Sorry For The Weight

Between the Instagram videos of Sprite delivered to his door and his collaborations with Andy Milonakis, it seems like the 20-going-on-6,000 Chief Keef is having fun. Compared to the icy and troubled Nobody, Sorry For The Weight finds the Almighty So in a more energetic mode, marathoning over a flowing 67 minutes of heavy bass and hand drums. He delivers most verses in his 50/Gucci ooze, but his singing voice is let loose often (“Hidding” and “Yours” are standouts), along with dips into his lower register (“Guess What Boy”). Tone-setting opener “W.W.Y.D.” is carried by his autocroon, ending with electrifying scat singing. Production is handled by Chopsquad and his in-house Glory Boyz (a.k.a. GloGang), whose hyperdense, morphing beats are the heavy air Keef breathes. Sosa himself is on the beat for “What Up,” one of his best instrumentals yet — airy, eerie, and rattling like an episode of Goosebumps folded over Inception style. Sorry-not-sorry Bang 3 might never come out, as long as Chief Keef keeps turning out cohesive, engaging mixtapes in the meantime.

BeatKing - Club God 4

BeatKing’s Club God 4 is immature, unrealistic, lunk-headed, blunt, redundant, overlong, and graphic to an exhausting and nearly anhedonic extent; in other words, it’s pornography, and gonzo to boot. But you know what? Sometimes porn is all you need. For what it’s worth, Club God 4 generally stays within the bounds of consent, if never good taste. Even better are the moments when BeatKing lets you in on the joke, like on “Stopped,” with its particularly surprising conflation between “boring pussy” and Hobby Lobby. BeatKing continues to improve as a rapper, but he’s still outmatched by guests like Danny Brown, Paul Wall, Gangsta Boo, and even Riff Raff for that matter. For the time being, very few of the Houston rapper’s lines come close to being as clever or unexpected as his cover art, but then again, few appreciate porn for its creativity or sense of humor. So, much like the oeuvre of porn parody kingpin Lee Roy Myers, whatever BeatKing’s work lacks in originality or charisma it makes up with stamina, volume, and a filthy-minded smile.

Your Old Droog - Kinison

Music critics are lazy, yo. That’s probably why [I waited until the deadline to turn in this blurb, and] the reviews of Your Old Droog’s Kinison mixtape have so far focused almost entirely on its “rock theme.” I mean, don’t get me wrong; it’s cute that these writers are all, “LOOK! There’s a song called ‘Porno for Pyros’ and another called ‘Sonic Youth’ and another called ‘Rage Against the Machine.’” But at this point, I’d almost rather go back to the Nas comparisons/conspiracies. Seriously.. let me take a moment to hammer-punch the rap-game Risk board on some “The Ukraine is strong” shit. On track two, verse three, Droog says, “We used to get herbs for they pack, make ‘em cough up bud/ When you thought that Newports made you cough up blood/ See a lot of men fall to the powers of menthol/ Try to get away like Orenthal, I did/ Like the glove ain’t fit, I musta’ quit…” Bars.

Slim Thug - Hogg Life: The Beginning

The Beginning is divided into three acts through the productions of BDon and G.Luck: The opening and closing come direct from Houston go-to production created by DJ Screw, mastered under the scope of Z-Ro and UGK – the same sound that allowed Three 6 Mafia to win at and more importantly play The Oscars. The middle, bookended by two Z-Ro features, spills over into drill with Sosa Mann and the Sauce Twins (Sauce Walka and Sancho Saucy). The interlude doesn’t take away from anything but the flow of the mixtape, and Slim still holds Houston’s roots down with Screwston-type features from Propain, Chayse, and a postmortem verse from M.U.G., who passed last summer. The diversity in part one of Hogg Life and prior mixtapes comes from a bulletproof mutual fund that comes from being a Houston legend. The dude put out Already Platinum A DECADE AGO. ALREADY PLATINUM TURNS 10 IN JULY. Thugga earned the ability to show up with a two back attack and stand on a joint soapbox for him and his cronies. What’s next, Boss?

Matti BayBee - So Abnormal

As Chief Keef continues to delightfully fling himself into bizarre, irreducible zones, his cousin Matti Baybee discovers the fertile soil between drill and bop. But really, it was never up for discovery; it was simply ripe for expression, and Matti’s abuse of auto-tune, bright synths, and repetitious vocal patterns swirl here into an impressionistic haze, Matti himself blending into the digital muck. Becoming the digital muck: You can almost hear his vocals sub-dividing into chunky bits of data when he holds out the long notes on “The Others.” While the majority of the tape has the same overbearing gloom of Sosa’s latest work, Matti’s at his best on the upbeat cuts, particularly on “All This Time,” “Backup,” “Do It 4 The Gram,” and “All That,” where his Thugger theatrics and Ceno/Trav vocal athletics find their greatest union. Things can get pretty oppressive elsewhere, but when Matti sprawls out in the spaces between the beats, like on “Legendary” and “Too Many Niggas,” we see him flexing his budding versatility. Watch out, readers: soon he’ll be able to buy lottery tickets.

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