Favorite Mixtapes of January 2015 From Lil Wayne and Lil Herb to Chimurenga Renaissance and Pipomixes

RJ & Choice - Rich Off Mackin

We’re moving toward the second of DJ Mustard’s projected 10 Summers, but his distinctive brand of ratchet music has proved to be one of the most enduring sounds of the past few years, lending itself equally well to both the radio and the club. Now that the likes of YG, Tyga, and 2 Chainz are bona fide forces in mainstream hip-hop, it’s refreshing to see that Mustard is turning his gaze toward new, up-and-coming talent with RJ & Choice’s Rich Off Mackin. There’s no doubt that Mustard’s beats have a mass appeal, and here they unify the disparate geography of the respective rappers — RJ from L.A., Choice from Seattle — but it’s to their credit that they never let the star power overshadow their own abilities on the mic: there’s a tangible chemistry at play here, as the duo trade bars about their come-ups and, of course, the excesses that follow. With a tight-knit 15-track runtime and some solid features (Casey Veggies, IamSu!, and Que among them) to boot, Rich Off Mackin isn’t just the extension of the Mustard dynasty it could’ve merely been; it’s also a showcase for two MCs who are well worth keeping an eye on.

Kitty - Frostbite

Female artists often have their accomplishments undermined by music critics, while male collaborators’ contributions get underlined by those same authors. Artists like Kitty, who avoid being boxed into that narrative, too frequently find themselves left out of the conversation. Frostbite is produced almost entirely by a Brony DJ she found on YouTube (the sole exception, “Hoaxxx,” arrives by way of PC Music-/Manicure-affiliated producer Guy Akimoto), but there’s no mistaking creative vision as belonging to anyone but Kitty. Despite her lack of self-mythologizing, Kitty is an auteur, the likes of which neither rap nor popular music at large has really encountered. Frostbite leans heavier into pop than any of her previous EPs, but it should be a consolation to Kitty’s long-term fans that her rapping is better than ever. She’s more nimble and less mumblecore than she was five years ago, and not once does she slip into vocal minstrelsy or masculinist drag. Even with this latest stylistic pivot, Kitty stays true to her recurring thematic concerns — social anxiety, technology, regrettable relationship choices — and in doing so, continues to light the way for artists trying to work within artforms that inevitably belong to other cultures. If it’s easy to forget that Kitty’s not just a whip-smart Tumblr construct, but also a meatspace tourmate of Danny Brown, then at least she lets her audience have it both ways: we get the promise of a more varied and inclusive future for pop-rap, plus the unexpected pleasure of Brony interpolations of mid-00s classics like “Umbrella” and “Why You Wanna.”

Rich The Kid - Rich Than Famous

If the roster of Atlanta-based indie empire Quality Control gained a distinctive loose cannon in the form of OG Maco, then trap deputy Rich The Kid continues to dutifully fly the flag from the roof of the bando on his third solo mixtape, Rich Than Famous. “Migo the gang/ It’s all in my veins,” he spits on “Quit Playin,” as if we hadn’t yet noticed his wholesale co-opting of his label heads’ triplet patterns, incessant mantra choruses, and production team. While Rich never quite achieves the surgical rhythmic flows that Migos pour out over 808 kicks on triumphant feature “Ain’t Workin Dat Move,” the MC carries his own weight as a versatile headliner able to flit between a casual sing-song delivery (“Goin Krazy,” abetted by a breezy YG verse and a lush G-funk vibe courtesy of KE on the Track) and moments of howled energy (“Trap Still Jumpin”). As ever, hi-fi beats from Metro Boomin and Zaytoven captivate with synth details and dizzying drum loops, while QC newcomers Deko and OG Parker offer a minimal strain of bass-heavy trap that coasts through wide swathes of empty space.

Pipomixes - Sounds Like Porridge

It’s not just that Roc Marciano and I are both from Long Island or that he’s one of my favorite rappers right now; the reason Pipomixes’ Sounds Like Porridge mix gets my pick is that it perfectly, simultaneously appeals to both longtime fans of and potential newcomers to the Hempstead-bred UN representative. Imagine you were pals with an adept DJ who wanted to get you into Roc Marciano, but instead of just sending you links to a few choice cuts, your friend had you over, sat you down, smoked you out, and then proceeded to de- and re-construct the artist’s greatest hits, blending a cappellas, instrumentals, sample sources, and more into a seamlessly sequenced pimpadelic cornucopia. An ideal introduction and a comprehensive retrospective, Sounds Like Porridge captures the essence of Roc’s music; it sounds like nothing else, and that’s exactly how it should be.

Rome Fortune & OG Maco - YEP

Atlanta remains forever in bed with Atlanta. YEP, a continuation of OG Maco’s three standout features on Rome Fortune’s Small VVorld, is a two-headed beast from two dudes who, outside of being on the come-up in the same city, don’t appear formulaic like Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan’s Rich Gang. Both emerging voices play off one another’s signatures — Rome Fortune can turn up and OG Maco can lay low. But the continued collaboration of Maco and Rome above all brings two worlds of production together, YEP being the Thanksgiving dinner of two Atlanta-based families: Rome brings Cubby back from Small VVorld on both “Make It Loud” and the mixtape’s opener “Jungle” (where Maco channels a pitched-down Danny Brown verse on Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire’s “Huzzah” remix); Atlanta’s TM88 makes the title track; OGG rep LC on the Traxxx finishes the main tracklisting with a mob classic “Riot;” and Rome brings back Childish Major and the heavy-subtle-hard collaborative mix from suicideyear and Honeycoma off Small VVorld. Here’s to a possible 808 Mafia x suicideyear x OG Maco x Rome Fortune collaboration next.

Most Read