Favorite Mixtapes of March 2015 Consensual debauchery, socio-racial parody, and trap orthodoxy

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.)

Father - Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First?

The act of becoming “New Atlanta” is the act of recognizing that the chillest possible philosophy involves aligning the chakras of gothic nihilism, purple minimalism, and anime bad-assery into nirvana — the evocation of incense as weed smoke. Father fuses monastic work ethics with sex-positive ethics clearly on Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First?. Dude produced the beats with enough space for his detached verses to reverberate with knowingness, a coy knowledge of where the night will inevitably lead with the right (or wrong) proposal. The cut’s primary triumph is its focus on delivering a mantra of sexual liberation that’s at least a small step away from hip-hop’s usual tactical misogyny. Here, Father offers open-ended suggestions, visions of consensual debauchery, where all involved seek to step with spacious, sexy beats rising from clouds of pheromones.

Tinashe - Amethyst

Timbaland recently told a crowd that Aaliyah came to him in a dream to tell him Chicago’s Tink was the next Aaliyah. Timba’s super saiyan stretch is more new-artist hype than anything — Aaliyah was One in a Million and she let us know. But what Timmy didn’t mention is Tink’s singer/rapper/actress skill set and rise in fame parallels another throne-seeker, Tinashe, whose major label debut from last year, Aquarius, was veteran in strength and whose new mixtape keeps one hand of her’s on that chair. Amethyst came about over Christmas break, created as a thank you from Tinashe for her fans’ support (you’re welcome; ily). The seven tracks span out in headspace like heavy eyes, tired mind of a comedown that owes Amethyst’s bedroom productions (DJ Dahi, Iamsu!, Ryan Hemsworth) and Tinashe’s fiery calm way to it. There’s a good chance we’ll never get an obvious heir to Aaliyah’s throne, but this leads to an even better reality where everyone can build their own.

Reese - Jump Off A Building

Nobody keeps the trap as grinded as Atlanta native Reese, backed by squad instrumentalists 808 Mafia and features including Rich Homie Quan, OG Maco, Key!, and the Odd Future-affiliated California punk band Trash Talk. Trucks on the rail or curb. Woozing with the bass-to-snare clicking and wobbling. Breathlessly thugging, staring crazy-eyed into the purp. Bloodshot eyes. Pupils as big as his hate for haters fronting. Pupils as big as his buyers. Pupils as big as his name has been around the ATL rap scene. And Jump Off A Building just shoved his MC status into the dangerous stature of being an employee of self. Backed by Kari Faux and Nevabitch, Reese is on the rise and worth keeping an ear out for in the future.

Gucci Mane - Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner / Dessert

You always feel full on the Gucci diet. The still-incarcerated ATL trap god (Free Guwop [also, abolish prisons]) released Brick Factory 3 and Views From Zone 6 back in February. At the beginning of this month, he dropped Mr. Clean, The Middle Man and then delivered three delicious meals and dessert straight to our door. His rolling slant verses, immaculately smooth choruses, and wilting voice are spread generously over this latest feast of titanic bass. He’s put together a complex flavor palate, from the somber notes of “Turn Back Time” where regret creeps on him (“I had so many turns/ I’ve lost so much time”) to the darkly comic flesh-eating bite of “Beef” with Waka Flocka Flame. After getting down Gucci’s fire smorgasbord, Dessert is served cold, with aching production and dry-ice bass from Mike WiLL and C-Note. It’s a lot to digest, but the mixtapes are a consistent batch of sustained Gucci excellence and a great entry-point for anyone doubting his influence. He cooked up enough quality sound that you’ll be ready to go back for seconds, at least until Trap God 5 hits.

Prince Metropolis Known - War Against Music 2

After airing out his bottomless hatred for Bill O’Reilly on the unspeakably graphic free-speech bloodbath Kill Bill earlier this year, New York’s Prince Metropolis Known stalks back into the underground spotlight with a proper follow-up to his breakthrough 2014 tape War Against Music, posting up on the decrepit couch in your brain with a spliff, a 40 oz, and a list of demands for both the music industry and society in general. While his tumbling, unpredictable flows and knack for visceral imagery follow the brilliantly twisted precedent of his mentor Kool Keith, PMK charges his free-associative verses with bursts of polemical commentary and pointed socio-racial parody that hover closer to planet earth than the UltraMag legend’s decades of singular insanity. PMK calls out specific critics and rappers he considers wack (see the epic closer “Open The Letter”) and campaigns to properly canonize hip-hop founding father Coke La Rock, when he’s not busy plying his preteen children with drugs or submitting to the advances of a woman with cerebral palsy. The shock tactics and bizarre magnetism of these scenes elevate the tape from a flattened personal crusade against “commercial rap” into an example of unabashed idiosyncrasy capable of actually bucking the status quo.

Migos / YRN - Migo Lingo

2015 the year, Migo the Gang. Instead of offering up another YRN mixtape, the Atlantan 3 known as Migos have instead taken a bit of a backseat with Migo Lingo, adopting a more curatorial approach and utilizing the format to showcase YRN the label: Rich the Kid, YRN Lingo, and Johnny Cinco headline much of the tracklist as a result. But if the past few years of trappin’ out bandos and whippin’ bricks have taught us anything, it’s that Migos and their collaborators tend to draw from a collective consciousness, which is to say, high-octane party rap squared off with rattling trap kits. It’s a delirious formula, one that nicely captures the tape’s prevailing sound, yet some of the more interesting moments here can be heard when divergent paths are explored. There’s Johnny Cinco’s “SRGYRN,” a track boasting near-Chief Keef levels of lethargy; and there’s “Shmoney Never Stop,” a glimpse into the location-transcending synergy between Migos and Bobby Shmurda, with the assistance of a piano-heavy Zaytoven beat. Moments like these throughout Migo Lingo suggest there’s more to our plucky ATLiens than their flow — whether they capitalize with their studio debut YRN Tha Album remains to be seen.

Raz Simone - Macklemore Privilege & Chief On Keef Violence

To what degree can music actually be revolutionary? While an act like Rage Against The Machine can paint a very theatrical picture of revolution, would any activism actually go away if Rage didn’t exist? What about Kendrick? Are there folk’s fighting the Kendrick tide in defense of Macklemore and his pop culture gloss-over of ethics? Raz Simone’s latest would suggest it has a lot to say about Macklemore, given the mixtape title and two tracks that also include his name, but it is actually far from it. The real defining aspect of Macklemore Privilege & Chief On Keef Violence is how genuinely revolutionary it feels. The feeling is accomplished by going further than just word choice and daring to also have revolutions in compositions, arrangements, and production. The first single — “Drake & Macklemore’s Platform” — was nearly nine minutes long, spending most of its time soundtracking a monologue from Tupac rather than being a pop song. It’s a pattern that emerges throughout the mixtape, with moments of spoken word and beat-less orchestras dipping in and out of some of the catchiest tracks of the year. It feels fresh, futuristic, and huge without overstepping its own melodrama. For Raz Simone, revolution is not just a “do as he says” situation, but a far more convincing “do as he does” one. This music embodies the message of changing the norm.

PeeWee Longway - The Blue M&M Vol II (King Size)

PeeWee Longway has verily embraced the role of Gucci Mane’s own John The Baptist, with his announcement on Guwop’s upcoming discharge the latest in a series of heraldic gestures, including the release of two star-making mixtapes. The Blue M&M Vol. II (King Size) completes a diptych amounting to a synthesis of Atlanta’s signature sounds; PeeWee’s proximity to ATL’s trap royalty is here substantiated by the impressive guests/producers list. However, while his flow is rooted in trap orthodoxy, PeeWee shines when his narcotic drawl unravels into a melody (“Longway”) or when he flaunts his technique regardless of genre tropes (audacious multies lead “Purpose” into a hook packing two different cadences). Sure, Dun Deal’s or Cassius Jay’s production guarantees bangers (“Big homie,” “Jug for me,” the hilarious “Cooked crack,” the TLC wink in “Deja vu,” the channeling of Bernie Worrell via a broken Theremin on “Work”), but it is PeeWee’s unhinged charisma that sells the goods. The MPA capo oozes a larger-than-life swagger that tricks you into forgetting his up-and-coming stature, an illusion best achieved in “I Start My Day Selling Drugs,” the tape’s stand-out track. Essentially the job description of a man whose breakfast comprises molly, gas, and lean, the song’s real meaning is revealed by the time the hook hits, and the slurred “shout lil thug” acquires a mantric quality, resembling a chant that hails a shaman into town: this is music to fill every valley and to bring every mountain low for the king of the trap to return home.

Rome Fortune & CeeJ - loloU

Rome always seems to be rapping on the edge, but his commitment to the grind will surely keep him from falling through the cracks. On loloU, the sequel to 2012’s lolo, he gives the impression of an artist who is keenly aware of the distance between an idea and its reality, the message and its medium. I like to think that the U in loloU refers to the universality of the most intensely personal experiences, that Rome addresses yoU/she/me in order to render his ego in higher definition, that his narcissism expresses a covert unity of well-intentioned desire. On cuts like “Backside” and “Chances” it’s not what he says that’s important, but the moments of hypnotic incantation and insistent susurration that determine how he says it. Rome’s a pop-not-pop superstar, a peak-time playlist-in-waiting, seeking certainty in the ephemeral, dignifying the hope in lust: “I just want to please you, Good Lord Jesus/ Telling you you need this, telling you I need this/ Come here, strip down, exactly in that sequence.” And then: “Oh my God, this big ol’ backside/ Got a track record for making me act right.” Again: it’s how he says it. On the buttons, Brooklyn’s CeeJ (Two-9) sprinkles jazzy minor chords on thick over treacly stop-start boom bap, bringing to mind his work on Retro Su$h!’s Starting Five. Throw this mixtape at a wall and it will stick.

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