Favorite Mixtapes of September 2015 Shade-winking, self-mythologizing defiance, and the trap house code

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.)

Rick Ross - Black Dollar

Unghh! At this point, everybody familiar with Rosay has at least overheard his act of contrition: “excess is just my character.” It’s no secret that this is all part of his long con; even his realness is hidden in a wink behind a pair of shades. Isn’t that how it’s always been? His ad libs are now artifacts in newly Colombus-ed crash sites curated by Sicko Mobb. Dude never needed acceptance from all you (us) outsiders, anyway. On Black Dollar, it doesn’t matter where that black tux came from or who he put them sights over. Truth is, his enemies are already blessed, his Teddy Pendergrass vinyl already scratched, his cognac already spilled for those dead rappers he got his best quotes from. Black Dollar is well earned, and there’s no use in checking his math; his books are already burned. So just relax and take it all in as your J burns. Shit’s hot, mind it. Beats are dope too.

Young Thug - Slime Season

Fuck you know about Slime Season, jeffrey? David Drake paired the word songwriter to Young Thug… WRONG. Young Thug is flagrantly more than just your average songwriter; he’s a bard of the trap, quarterback-sacking all the lettuce and relish, dusting the streets with slime. Slime Season is about the glorious moment, not time or being, but just hustling. Philosophy and academics can be left at the university, because on the street, if you ain’t got the code to get into the trap house, you ain’t getting high/paid. Young Thug has no training. There’s no acumen here. He’s the fellah given an opportunity; CUT TO: gun-in-shaking-hand firing four shots around the block to put more hotels on Young Thug’s Monopoly property. Yeah, y’all fuck with Barter 6, but each of the 18 tracks on Slime Season have chiseled their worth into my whip’s subwoofers, and to be honest, I don’t even know if Young Thug knows what he’s doing, as if Young Money found his ass on the street at 4 AM and was like, “We recording again, you in?” Personally, even though I’m doing OK in life (as we all are), it still feels like if I make one wrong move, everything will come crumbling down. Young Thug is my Atlas to this lifestyle, supporting me through the word of Slime Season.

YG, Blanco & DB Tha General - California Livin

DAMN. If you thought YG’s My Krazy Life was a modern tribute to G-Funk’s 90s heyday, then try California Livin. On this economical 13-track spliff of an album (5 of which are interludes), YG, Blanco, DB Tha General, and producer Cookin’ Soul drop a G-Funk homage that not only embodies its aesthetics through Doggystyle bass lines and squiggly Chronic synths, but also resuses some of the samples, recontextualizes its esoteric references (W Balls, DJ Eazy Dick), and even revamps its imagery (check that beautiful cover art). Yeah, yeah, yeah: an overt pastiche like this usually goes south after a few tracks, but these guys must’ve been smoking the fattest, plumpest blunt in South Central to maintain such an amazingly tripped-out, lovingly-executed strain of G-Funk. HEY DAZ, GIVE ME A LIGHT.

Angel Haze - Back To The Woods

After Dirty Gold wasn’t quite the zeitgeist-capturing crossover smash it promised to be, the release of Back to the Woods was ostensibly low-stakes, matched by a somewhat muted critical reaction. Fuck ‘em, tho. Freed from the shackles of label compromise, Angel Haze’s latest project captures them in fine form, revitalized with unbound energy afforded by working on their terms. With production helmed solely by Tk Kayembe, Back to the Woods is a tightly coiled set, primed for cathartic release in Haze’s lyrical temperament: these sentiments are made absolutely clear in lead single “Impossible,” where they spit “I am a sickness, man, I am a cancer” over a clanging, industrial-esque beat. While it was borne out of personal hardship, it’s the kind of self-mythologizing defiance that makes Woods such a worthy proposition. After all, Haze recently compared themselves to Jean-Michel Basquiat far more convincingly than even the Jigga Man could muster.

Gangsta Boo - Candy, Diamonds, & Pills

Listen to Gangsta Boo’s Candy, Diamonds, & Pills to get all the gossip on her tenuous role in Three 6 Mafia. Her skits and lyrics are explicit on the matter. What’s more interesting here is the subtext of the new-found beat sophistication. In the past couple years, Gangsta Boo has done some incredible collaborations, a forward-thinking approach that’s reflected heavily in her new sound. Evil is a vital aesthetic for anyone repping Three 6, and Candy, Diamonds, & Pills is doing it with a totally unique approach to arrangement. Complex and surprising textures, previous unexplored layers/contrasts of tempo, and a daring approach in general truly set this collection apart. Meanwhile, Gangsta Boo is still as bad-ass as ever. Hopefully the rest of Three 6’s disenfranchised membership isn’t too hard-headed to pay attention.

Lil Don Loyal - Freeband Loyal

Atlanta’s latest rap bar mitzvah happened earlier this month. With father Future Hendrix and the rest of Freebandz Gang looking on, Lil Donald recited scripture from the Books of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and Thug Motivation 101, and, like G Herbo fka Lil Herb, Lil Donald dropped his early rap moniker for the grown-ass tag Lil Don Loyal. The service was lit, Future came out during a Metro Boomin B2B DJ Esco set, and Lil Don Loyal, like any Atlanta rap bar mitzvah honoree, gave thanks to their six-story Uncle Luke statue erected in the parking lot of Magic City with his FBG debut Freeband Loyal. It featured two key Lil Donald hits (“Juice” and “Heeyy”) re-rostered from February’s Falling Apart and 19 new Lil Don Loyal-era tracks. The first few cuts alone elevate Freeband Loyal to a higher plane: we get the dab anthem “Start My Day,” a Bankroll Fresh-type flow in “It’s My Time,” the Rich Homie Quan-featuring trap pact “I Promise,” and Future’s only appearance on “I’m Sure Of It” – yep, Lil Don Loyal’s reintroduction is stacked.

Juicy J - 100% Juice

Juicy J turned 40 this year. The horror-score productions, triplet flows, and drug-fueled nihilism of classic-era Three 6 Mafia have long since bled into the mainstream. The man has an Academy Award in his bedroom. Yet here he stands, with nothing left to prove, doling out another mixtape in a prolific run comparable to hungry MCs half his age. Hell yeah. 100% Juice unites Juicy J with the likes of Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin, and Southside — hi-fi trap-twisting producers who have spearheaded the modern Atlantan aesthetic. Over their cavernous synth beds and rattling hi-hats, Da Juice Mane proves how deep into the idiom his DNA stretches. His mantra choruses lock into loops and drill into our brains (see “Mix It,” whose hook lays out a regimen of lean, molly, coke, weed, pills, and booze). With the exception of standout verses from Lil Herb and Boosie Badazz, guest stars either flail (e.g., Wiz Khalifa), or pay dues (e.g., Lil Wayne shouting out Lord Infamous). Juicy J stands in the booth with shades on. He pauses mid-bar and switches flows at will. He details his encyclopedic debaucheries with crisp articulation. He ran out of fucks to give years ago.

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