Favorite Rap Mixtapes of August 2017 From Lil B & Lil Tracy to Wifisfuneral & YoungBoy

Wifisfuneral

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 last month’s installment here.)


YoungBoy Never Broke Again - AI YoungBoy

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There are a couple reasons that make me surprised that YoungBoy Never Broke Again (formerly NBA Youngboy) is only 17. First, he burst onto the national scene last year with a near fully-formed sense of melody and songcraft, the vanguard of a Baton Rouge youth movement with seemingly limitless potential. The other is that his life has aged him far beyond his years. The Baton Rouge set like guns, and not just for show; a recent New York Times profile reiterated the message underlying every co-sign from YoungBoy’s more-established peers: leave BR or perish. The comeback record after a prison stint is something of a rite of passage, and yet it’s impossible not to wonder how many more lie in YoungBoy’s future. If you’re looking for “real,” this is it: a promising young star racing against pre-fame charges and a time bomb of an environment that, as all that he’s known, is understandably difficult to abandon.


Deem Spencer - We Think We Alone

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Deem Spencer opened the final Yule Prog. At 22 years old, he might not realize how big of a deal that is. Shit, the world probably doesn’t realize how big of a deal that is. I may be the only person who thinks that’s a very big deal. But history will absolve me too, damn it! I digress. Deem Spencer proved he could rap his ass off with last year’s Sunflower, and his latest, We Think We Alone, is already something totally different. It’s the sound of a guard down, a garden, a gargantuan heart springing hope eternal. It’s really nice.


Wifisfuneral - Boy Who Cried Wolf

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Aesthetically, Wifisfuneral’s second record is standard Floridian fare — it wouldn’t even be a stretch to call it a composite of ideas that have emerged from the peninsula’s SoundCloud scene as of late, scampering across bars at Ski Mask the Slump God’s jawless clip, paving his way with Cris Dinero’s plosive kicks and a menacing presence more akin to a horror flick’s titular spiritual entity than a typical trap-villain. Boy Who Cried Wolf’s a conservative follow-up to the January release of When Hell Falls, an introspective dip into wonky boom-bap production, the sort that populated Pusha T’s King Push prelude, only more dreary and droned-out. This time around, Wifi’s brought bangers by the bushel, immolating synth bells with hypnotically-present bass while nimbly stuffing these brief beats full of triplet flows and the distinctive voices of his featured friends: 458 Keez’s bratty resemblance to Lil Wayne, Danny Towers’s impossibly deep snarl, and CHXPO’s slurred near-giggle, (my personal favorite contribution). This is Wifi’s last nuanced tape to date, but it’s also his most replayable. Even when the 20-year-old emcee’s borrowing sauce, he makes it his own: not many Soundcloud rappers can boast his balance between technical proficiency, artistic merit, and (most importantly?) headbang-inducing aggression.


Eli Sostre - Sleep is For The Week

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Putting together a mixtape of Billboard-quality pop rap in the OVOXO vein is risky these days, considering how many Drake soundalikes have seen their clout evaporate shortly after entering the scene. But Eli Sostre’s lightly-melodyned vocals pose way more of a risk to the competition. His songs are self-serious but not overly self-aware, confident but not mired in cliché. Hailing from the Empire State, he channels a double-cupping club vibe more suitable farther south, but takes heavy visual cues from Basquiat, The Culture’s adopted fallen angel and street spirit of a dead-and-buried NYC. Sostre has a radio-worthy voice, strongest on “New Addy” and “Someone Like You,” that’s complemented well by Soriano’s woozy, vaporous productions. Sleep is For The Week is a great collection of songs to snuggle into.


Lil B - Black Ken

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Black Ken is the most divisive Lil B mixtape yet, which is odd, considering that it’s his most accessible release, swinging between G-funk and horn-/key-driven P-Funk throwback with chilled hyphy sprinkles. While the latter can be heard on the iLoveMakonnen-featuring “Global,” songs like “Free Life” showcase Lil B’s evolution into tight, spaced-out production, with a flow not unlike “The Super Bowl Shuffle” played straight. Club-banger Lil B is present on “Getting Hot” and “Turn up (Till You Can’t),” playing more like singularly twisted versions of “the hits” than bids for mainstream attention. Did I mention that Lil B produced every track on the tape? (As he puts it on “The Real Is Back,” “BasedGod on the beats/ It’s 100% me/ Put my life in this rap.”) Despite its alienating potential, Black Ken, in the end, triumphs as an amalgamation of his past and a sampling of a possible future, and it’s one that would appear to be both expansive and impressive.


Gunplay - The Fix Tape

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Never one to be sullied or bogged down by rap label politics, Gunplay’s quiet tear across 2017 continues with The Fix Tape. True to form, anthemic trap abounds (“All flake and no shake, shake, shake…”), but the clincher here is an ability to slide through styles — see the G-funk bounce of “Where It At” or the classicist bent of “Hot Plate” and “Patience 2.0” — without compromising on the delivery and storytelling parlance that bought ears to him in the first place. This one’s sharp, polished, and remarkably poised; if Gunplay traded in the incendiary streak that gave us the likes of Bogota Rich: The Prequel, then he got a newfound sense of evenness and quality control in return.


Skye Verbs - Soul Food Eye Candy

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A few weeks back, I visited one of my favorite haunts for a curry burger and vermouth after a rewarding but tedious week of pulling artistic potential out of a bunch of squirmy middle schoolers. I floated in, grabbed a stool, paint under my nails, draped in a floral pullover sweater. Bartender, dripping with neck tattoos, looks me down, recognizes my face, offers: “I love that top, sweetie.” It was a bizarre, yet empowering moment; I don’t often get compliments on my appearance, so when I do, it’s uniquely affirming. Soul Food Eye Candy is rapper/singer Skye Verbs’s attempt at discussing inclusive values through neo-R&B and soul. There are a lot of platitudes here about who deserves who, but what she ultimately advocates is that good people deserve it all. And after a long day, it’s nice that I can throw this on, bob my head, and remember that still frame in which my value was affirmed by a wink. Check this out, know you’re worth it, and tip your wait staff extra when they make you feel it.


Lil Tracy - Life of a Popstar

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Lil Tracy is the son of Digable Planets’ Butterfly and SWV’s Coko, a fact that almost assuredly means nothing to the majority of his fanbase. That’s OK. Of more immediate relevance is his association with Lil Peep, one of the SoundCloud era’s two or three biggest breakouts. Together with the rest of GothBoiClique, they’re the most straightforward example of the emo/rap analogy that has dominated the discourse surrounding rap’s youngest stars. For listeners who came of age at any time but the present, some degree of initial resistance is understandable; it’s been fascinating to watch the critic class balance a play count-mandated obligation to pay attention with the inability to form a personal connection with the music itself. At present, there’s no vision of rap’s future that excludes these kids; the ever-shortening generation gap aside, refusing to engage with a bona fide movement seeks to set the genre’s current conventions in stone. It’s already far too late for that, and yet rap’s hegemony over pop forms is just getting started.


Byou - I’m Gone

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The stylistic outlier of Lil Yachty’s “Sailing Team” collective happens to be the crew’s most consistently exciting contributor. Atlanta’s Byou boasts an unhinged vocal delivery, a knack for hook-writing, and a sense of doggerel humor that’s often laugh-out-loud humor. Although, sonically, his previous output hasn’t strayed far from his maritime mates’ bubblegum trap production, his longest effort to date — titled I’m Gone — revels in its own versatility. “Superstar” dabbles in bossa nova, “Money” throws back to the brass-laden hedonism of OJ Da Juiceman’s peak, and standout track “JK Rowling” pairs a twangy shuffle with one of the best choruses I’ve heard all year: “Smokin’ on that Harry Potter/ JK, rollin’ up.” It’s not one of more polished projects I’ve heard lately, but I’m Gone has charm for days. It’ll win you over if you let it.


Hotel - Have You Ever Tasted Hell Fire

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Hotel caught a lot of attention earlier this year when Mass Appeal posted his track “Hellbound.” Complete with illegible black metal script and a broken-in black metal denim jacket, with hot blood spurting from between his fronts and a black gun (I don’t know shit about guns. This is the best I got.), his latest mixtape Have You Tasted Hell Fire continues to document Hotel’s journey through a grim world. Maybe Hotel realizes what metal kids have known all along: that Satan has all the fun, that the baddest people throw the coolest parties, that embracing darkness and nihilism can be as equal parts kitschy and liberating as Kenny G saxing it up on an airplane. The tape is very short, with scorched, lo-fi samples and high-key energy that begs to be heard live. His voice is labored like a werewolf. “Four Rings” and “Gone” are pitch-perfect Piss Christ exhibitionism. He just finished a tour of the South, so you might be able to catch him before the hellfire swallows him up.


Purple Dialect - Campfire EP

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Purple Dialect paid for his name in burnt hairs, the moniker coming to him in a shamanic vision he experienced while being electrocuted by his SP-404. At least, that’s what I gather from all this. He has bionic limbs and shoots rainbows from his eyes and raps “I’m in a folding chair, I’m eating graham crackers/ I’m in the woods, I’m a literal backpacker” in his latest video. This could all be dismissed as cheap gimmickry if Purp D weren’t so skilled on both the mic and the pads. “Take this L chief, peace cos I don’t even battle/ I just make dope beats over which I casually babble,” he says on “Tent Light,” as if it were so simple anyone could do it, as if this were a folk tradition. And it is. And a Pennsylvanian with robot arms is carrying it onward.

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