Favorite Rap Mixtapes of April 2019 From Rico Nasty & POTHEAD to Supa Bwe & Slauson Malone

Rico Nasty

With a 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 March’s installment here.)

For my day job, I work on a trade magazine, so I’m always looking one month ahead. For this column, we look back at the month that just ended (or about to end when we’re better with deadlines). On one hand, this keeps me balanced. On the other hand, time is a social construct. Some clocks have three hands, one of which is a second hand. “Had we but enough world and time,” says TMT writer Cirrus Slump, who didn’t otherwise contribute to this column. It turns out he’s just paraphrasing “To His Coy Mistress” by metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell. In this moment, I can see Mr P plugging last-minute edits into the Google doc on which this column is created each month.

All of this is to say: time for some mixtapes, baby. (And hey, at least we avoided April showers/spring renewal metaphors, right?)


Supa Bwe - Just Say Thank You

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Raised on nu-metal and molded by Chicago’s burgeoning neo-soul scene, Supa Bwe occupies the inner folds of rap’s sonic Venn diagram. There’s little doubt that his yowling vocal delivery and baroque-trap production significantly predate a whole genus of SoundCloud soundalikes (Trippie Redd and Juice WRLD among them), though he’s yet to receive his due credit for it save for the occasional Reddit comment. To his own benefit, Supa Bwe leans into his more melodic sensibilities on Just Say Thank You. While still writing circles around his progeny, he quickly runs through eight tracks’ worth of replayable hooks and soundscapes inventive enough to double as ambient music. “BOOM BOOM BOOM” is Bwe’s best showing, somehow seamlessly melding a Boards of Canada-esque sample, howled melodies, and an intricately-spit Duffle Bag Duru feature that forces the beat to perform impressive contortions. Chance The Rapper turns in a swoon-worthy slice of twee R&B on “Rememory,” but he’s overshadowed by his host’s equally charming flirtation with dancehall delivery, voice-cracks melting into soaring high notes.


Pivot Gang - You Can’t Sit With Us

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In a way, Pivot Gang has been making group albums for years. The crew, formally consisting of MfnMelo and brothers Saba and Joseph Chilliams (as well as the deceased John Walt, who appears on “Bible”), has a long list of affiliates, all years into their own intertwined paths that have, collectively, formed a sort of creative core of Chicago rap’s post-drill era. You Can’t Sit With Us is different, though. Too crowded to be weighed down by self-centered ambition, the tape is far closer to rap for sport, every verse a challenge to the rest. Lean by the standards of the streaming era, the album’s 40-minute runtime belies its sprawling patchwork of voices and styles. While the feature list might read like a Spotify playlist for fans of Chance The Rapper, the chemistry here is far more organic, the cypher always more than the sum of its parts.


Slauson Malone - A Quiet Farwell, Twenty Sixteen to Twenty Eighteen

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Forgive me for my blinkered expectations before pressing play. Upon seeing Twenty Sixteen to Twenty Eighteen suffixed to this here tape, I was thinking A Quiet Farwell would be a mere anthology, the burnt ends and loosies that could’ve never sat easily elsewhere. Listening closely, though, got me thinking: two years is a mighty long time. Circumstances change; relationships begin, blossom, and/or end; little (and large) stories and narratives emerge. So, no, an odds-and-ends comp this ain’t. Slauson Malone’s looping state of mind is presented as a logical, if somewhat dense, totality, buoyed along the way by un/familiar voices, be it Medhane buried beneath the deep, Maxo and Caleb Giles smiling at the past, or snatches of speech passim. Whether bent beyond recognition or laid bare, Slauson’s desires and struggles reverberate around the very framework of A Quiet Farwell, within every beat, bar, and sample. If it all seems a bit heavy, the message bears repeating — twice over, in fact: No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop him, us, now.


Rhys Langston - Master Fader on Speed Dial

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At the beginning of Canibus’s “Poet Laureate II,” off the Rip the Jacker album with DJ Stoupe (highly recommended, if you missed it), poet and novelist James Dickey, speaking as a disembodied, unidentified vocal sample, says, “I don’t know how a writer would ever get writer’s block so-called,” but it sounds like “so cold” because of his old-timey Southern accent that’s almost British. “My problem is having too much and being unable to get it down,” he continues. Word, disembodied James Dickey! Poet and rapper Rhys Langston has an easy solution for this: dreaming up a one-man world of creative thought-entities, Langstonia, wherein he is but a vassal to the estate of the Lord Chocolate Davis, supported by a complete cabinet of other such imagined personages (peace to Muckraker Jones, Operator of Rakes). Zoom out: Rhys Langston, the self-proclaimed “poet laureate of his living room” stares off-camera, but at what? The phone? A computer screen? Is that god calling, or is this a sex thing? Probably both. Cue classy jazz loops, Kató.


Spiffy Global - Only Us

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Add Spiffy Global’s tag to the slew of household watermarks that perk up the ears of any rap fan. He’s been on the map for at least a couple years (he was behind this gem of a beat), but I’m hearing him around a lot more these days, which is welcome news. Indeed, this tape sees an impressive roster of rappers — BlocBoy JB, Johnny Cinco, Gunna, Hoodrich Pablo Juan (whom he’s worked with before, executive producing his Master Sensei tape ) — matching the energy and ingenuity present on Spiffy’s instrumentals. There’s a recognizable Atlanta flavor present, but like any great producer, Spiffy Global’s sound is identifiable as his own. Making a solo tape is a right of passage for producers aspiring toward greatness, and Spiffy Global deserves affirmation.


ThankGod4Cody - Cody of Nazareth

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Songwriters and producers often work by throwing as many ideas onto the wall in order to see what “sticks.” It’s a true numbers game (for more on this, check out Frank Ocean’s recent interview in Gayletter). Though it too capitalizes on the prevailing trends, ThankGod4Cody’s debut release Cody of Nazareth is far from what passes as a conventional hip-hop album. It’s brief and catchy, and songs like “Waist Deep,” “Wait,” and “Feel A Way” present inventive flips of pop samples, all while flirting with punk, rock, and Latin trap sensibilities. The vocals from Cody — whose breakout, by the way, was contributing to SZA’s platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated CTRL, doesn’t get in the way, offering simple, repetitive hooks, like on the hummable “Limitless.” Stick around for closer “Wya,” a genuinely heartfelt campfire sing-along.


Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats - Anger Management

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Leaving behind the stylistic inconsistency of last year’s Nasty, Anger Management is Rico Nasty’s most refined effort yet, split neatly into halves comprising her unmistakable brand of ruckus and a series of dalliances with other corners of rap’s online underground, respectively. Rico’s greatest strength, by far, is her undisputed claim to her own lane; some 18 months after “Key Lime OG” announced her new direction, rap’s prevailing winds have done little to reflect her rise. Consequently, her undeniable synergy with Kenny Beats (a great producer and even better A&R) is markedly more apparent on the tape’s A-side than its “type beat”-driven second half (despite the ill-advised attempt at remaking “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” for “Hatin,” the limp invocation of “Sold Out Dates” on “Sell Out” feels even more uninspired). The tape lasts 18 unrelenting minutes, and it’s exhausting to recall that Nasty ran nearly twice as long; exposure to sounds this potent for any longer must surely pose a severe risk of cardiac arrest.


Chris Crack - The Future Will Be Confusing

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Back like Chris Crack. The guy’s perennially on one, no doubt, and The Future Will Be Confusing arrived just two weeks after previous tape Crackheads Live Longer Than Vegans (which, memorable/memeable title aside, was plenty solid). This is hardly detrimental to Chris’s plight, mind you. Not least because the hip-hop landscape seems ever-skewed toward prolificacy, fair enough, but I’d wager that his output — guest features and all — is a testament to his rather peculiar vision of rap. He’s not out here crafting epics, and unashamedly so; what we get is a set of funny, incisive, and somewhat grounded bars, tossed out with abandon, stitched together with grab bag beats, and cast adrift, ready for whoever the fuck wants to hear it. It’s inchoate and fleeting, but those primo moments (“Nonchalant…” alone would have most punchline rappers beat, and then there’s that TREE clip at the end of “Real Is a Handicap”) are oh so worthwhile. And look, here comes another one! This crack really is moreish.


POTHEAD - 13 Floors

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PUBLICHOUSINGNYC has a more politically correct name than crosstown crew SlumsNYC and a sound so much fucking filthier. Case in point: 13 Floors, the only tape on the crew’s SoundCloud, featuring members POTHEAD (on the mic) and The Builder (on the beats), with liquid cameos from BA Pace on “The Difference” and “G Shit.” POTHEAD hungrily spits metal lungies like a stickup kid reared on D Block. Whether that’s a cell block on Rikers or a rap group, take your pick — just stay out of the neighborhood, or prepare to have all your shit taken. Meanwhile, The Builder brazenly tags his compositions like they’re Verizon vans in broad daylight, telling off an obliviously disapproving passerby before exchanging pleasantries with the equally oblivious cable techs. It’s quality-of-life crime as a way of life. Fuck your personal space.


03 Greedo - Still Summer in the Projects

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I listened to 03 Greedo’s new tape this month with some dejection, knowing he’s behind bars for the foreseeable future in the midst of a well-deserved embrace from fans and critics alike. His versatility, penchant for hooks, and clever wordplay has landed him a spot on this feature a few times before, and I suspect it won’t be the last time in 2019. Before he went to prison, he produced a trove of unreleased tracks and freestyles, knowing his days in the studio were numbered. With this breezy DJ Mustard collaboration, we get a glimpse of what I imagine is a large cache of unreleased material. Like much of Mustard’s work, these beats are light, bouncy, and warm, fully realized here by a harmonious interplay with 03 Greedo’s auto-tuned vocals, usually delivered at moderate-to-high speeds and impressively rhythmically diverse. It’s bittersweet knowing we probably have more 03 Greedo releases to look forward to while he’s behind bars (Gucci Mane, after all, did release nine projects while locked up), but at least he’ll know it wasn’t all for naught.

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