Favorite Rap Mixtapes of April 2017 From Playboi Carti & Section Boyz to cupcakKe & Babyfather

Playboi Carti

With a daunting cascade of releases spewing 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 free-to-stream) digital releases — but we’ll keep things loose enough to branch out if/when we feel it necessary. (Check out last month’s installment here.)


cupcakKe - Queen Elizabitch

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On “Scraps,” cupcakKe pulls up to the periphery with an uncharacteristically cogent indictment of our times: “Babies killing babies, people starving in Haiti/ Men nutting in women then disappear for the baby.” Not that it’s for me to say whether the rest of Queen Elizabitch problematizes the social commentary of its opening gambit, but it’s all quite besides the point: the sexual calisthenics that pervade cupcakKe’s bars here are lurid, perverse, utterly filthy, and, in a weirdly voyeuristic sorta way, all the more captivating for it. Paint the town pink, or maybe ketchup-red. Agency never seemed so damn wrong.


Playboi Carti - Playboi Carti

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Although Awful Records alum Cash Carti may officially rep ASAP Mob, the Atlanta-based trapper-turned-rockstar more closely adheres to Dean Blunt’s creative ethos than the boisterous cloud-rap of ASAP Rocky and Company. Atop spartan, MIDI-esque instrumentals, Carti’s self-titled debut trims meat from the fat, furnishing roomy production with ad-libs and halfhearted choruses that seek to haunt, not occupy. He doesn’t seek permanence, just ease of digestion ― a quick 16 bars to soak into the sonic sandwich bread, sauced-up as au jus. Standout cuts like “Location” and “Wokeuplikethis” are as savory as they are Blunt-ian, the former dripping with post-vaporwave hypnogogia while the latter topped with a slaw of simulated pop-punk guitaristry. Carti’s music is oily, addictive consumption ― the kind of intake that alters your brain chemistry as it dissolves on your tongue, flooding your neural network with twee-trap euphoria. If Blunt’s series of Babyfather mixtapes serve as a deconstruction of British pride, then Playboi Carti is as American as music can get: efficiently crafted, consumable, and tinged with summertime nostalgia.


Valee - 1988

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It’s impossible to listen to 1988 without recalling the woozy balladry of iLoveMakonnen, the trap everyman who made the rap lifestyle seem attainable by sheer force of goofiness. While he hails from Chicago, Valee’s music is occupied with the universal, if crude, concerns of the day-to-day. Central to Valee’s appeal is the simplicity of his method; armed only with Fruity Loops and vocal chops achievable by anyone with a smoking habit, he forges an immediately identifiable sound with charisma to match. In the saturated SoundCloud landscape, individuality is worth its weight in pills, coming a memorable one-liner or hooky earworm at a time on 1988. With a few tutorials, most anyone could sing Valee hooks or churn out Valee beats after the fact; there is, however, just one man on Earth who can be Valee.


Geechi Suede - Fishnet Skyscrapers

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My dad always says about my mom’s Italian cooking that she “could Parmesan a shoe” and it’d still taste delicious. That’s essentially how I feel about Geechi Suede’s rapping — it could go over anything from tap dancing to country western, and I’d still enjoy it — which is not to say the beats on Fishnet Skyscraper are bad. They’re not. They’re probably more Short Eyes than Uptown Saturday Night, but that’s still not bad, and at the end of the day, does it even matter? Geechi Suede could rap over a shoe, and it’d still taste delicious.


DIRTYFACESMOOK - Uzumaki9

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In the Floridian trap mythos that springs forth from Spaceghostpurrp’s evil seed, SKI MASK THE SLUMP GOD’s protégé DIRTYFACESMOOK acts as his mentor’s dramatic foil. Although the pair share a penchant for cartoon samples and frenetic flows, Smook’s ultra-syllabic delivery drips hints of calculated malevolence into Slump’s usual blend of quick-witted fun. On his debut tape, Uzumaki9, the Orlando emcee plays the straight man ― a source gravity that tugs his collaborators’ stream-of-conscious ramblings back toward the Earth ― while taking care to conceal his own restrained ambition. Whether Smook’s rapping over Oompa Loompa chants or what sounds like a chopped-and-slopped recorder cover of Darude’s “Sandstorm,” he feels seconds away from erupting into a burst of kinetic energy, firing lyrical Beast Balls in all directions. It is not yet quite time for Smook to open his inner chakra gates, though. He’s frugal with his stored power, taking care to reserve his full potential for the moment it’s needed most. For now, we can admire Smook’s menacing restraint as he whispers atop the harrowing string arrangements of “KYLIE JENNER” or weaves his way through the “U SEEM READY” with gymnastic G-Funk finesse, measuring out the perfect combination of griminess and polish.


Billyracxx - Flamingos and Finches

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Texas is not only #1 in capital punishment, but, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts® 2017 Edition, also #1 in unintentional-injury-related deaths (with 9,815 in 2014), fatal occupational injuries (527 in 2015), and total motor-vehicle deaths (3,722 in 2015), edging out California in the latter category by just one death (take that, hippies!). Of late, one bright spot in the otherwise-moribund Lone Star State has been Missouri City rapper/designer/filmmaker/transplant-by-way-of-Orlando Billyracxx. After dropping two super-streamed music projects in 2016, A Week In Houston and Billy Ocean 2, Billy started off 2017 with a 20-minute short film titled Flamingos and Finches. This month, he returns with its soundtrack, a technicolor trip through Everywhere, USA’s desert wastes and deathscapes.


Section Boyz - Soundcheck

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Another year, another expansive mixtape from the internationally connected six-member crew from South London. Section Boyz gained fame over the past 12 months thanks to the award-winning Don’t Panic mixtape and teaching Drake cool British slang like “on road” and “blem.” Soundcheck, their new tape, continues to shovel coal into the engine. Not to push the Section Train to any peak, but to keep a moderate pace, as there are too many Firemen in the cab. I exhausted that locomotive metaphor, but the point stands: the songs tend to over-pack themselves. But this is grime, and the beats on Soundcheck are murderous, with its two best tracks —“I Like,” “Mee Too” — produced by theheavytrackerz. This isn’t an indictment against Section Boyz. They aren’t leading the growing Grime congregation right now, but they’re damn near the front, and with their track record of one project a year, I’ll take anything they dish out.


FastMusic954 - Painting Pictures (Kodak Black)

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“Fast music nine-five-four, let’s run it!” So begins every track from Broward County’s FastMusic954 crew, whose star has risen rapidly ever since the national breakthrough of South Florida’s own Kodak Black. Although deeply rooted in Florida’s dance music scene, (FAST) mixes were both entirely new and entirely impossible to avoid for the crowds of outside listeners mining YouTube for early and unheard rarities from Lil Kodak. While the barriers to entry are low (take an MP3 and… speed it up), the iconic FastMusic954 tag and near-instant turnaround for new tracks have given the group a vice grip on the scene, making their multiple YouTube and SoundCloud accounts a must-visit for any Floridian DJ looking to arm themselves with a new hit for the weekend. It’s fitting, then, that FastMusic954 should have first dibs at a treatment of Kodak’s major-label debut Painting Pictures; as much a statement for them as it is for Kodak himself, it’s a bid to turn their jittery, club-ready sound into a nationwide phenomenon. Let’s run it!


Babyfather - Cypher

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The first Dean Blunt-related tape I really felt was Skin Fade. This came out around the same time as some of his best-received solo work, which had heads spinning in all different directions, attempting to decipher Hype-Will-glyphics as if TMT’s search button could function as a Rosetta Stone. I had a slightly different take… specifically, that the beats are dope. Cyphers are for rappers to stand in and for rap fans to stand around at an unsafe distance (the less you can hear, the safer you should feel), so here are some rap lines I heard: “Son I sit inside my residence/ And thank God I’m blessed with this poetical gift/ Evident in every ghetto like graffiti and crack sales/ And cabs that won’t stop for black males/ Undercovers giving younger brothers bad stares/ Fours clap, dogs crap in the grass here/ You love to hear the story son, the saga began here/ MCs are fictitious yet the actual facts here/ Like the Bible said, Jesus had napped hair.” Babyfather’s Cypher needs more MCs. Anybody got a line on Mega?

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