Favorite Rap Mixtapes of July 2017 From Yung Lean & Scallops Hotel to DJ Escrow & Dizzy SenZe

Scallops Hotel, your family-friendly rapper

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.)

VIK - Facts of Life


There are a thousand Soundcloud users out there who want to be the next All These Fingers, YungMorgpheus, or Theravada, but like the Highlander, there can be only one. Anybody can fuck up a beat, you see? But it takes a measure of ingenuity to fuck up, in, out, on, and off that beat simultaneously. VIK does these things, and he raps under the name Comfy God. Look, I’m just telling you facts here. Facts of Life is everyman rap as a mostly wordless psychogeography, an anti-happening happening to occur on tape, that type of spontaneity so dope it makes you believe in destiny… and rewind.

Jonatan Leandoer127 - Katla


Looks like someone’s been hitting the books lately. Ditching the Yung Lean moniker for his government name, Jonatan Leandoer127 opens his sophomore effort with an excerpt from Milton’s Paradise Lost. “Immediate are the acts of God, more swift Than time or motion,” he recites, stumbling over a few words. Producer Palmistry washes the missteps with swells muted strings — no drums needed. Save for the occasional flourish of cyborgian autotune, Katla bears little resemblance to Yung Lean’s back catalogue. You’d have better luck shelving tracks like “Hell Rain” and “Cathedral” in a playlist alongside Julee Cruise and Lust For Youth than you would next to cuts from Unknown Death or Warlord. Leandoer’s Swedish spoken-word poems are chanted with liturgical weight atop misty ambience, then strained through a compression filter as tinny as a Nokia Tracfone’s speaker. Imagine This Mortal Coil remixed by Moby or Oneohtrix Point Never grabbing hold of some Sinead O’Connor stems. File this one under “Future Folk.”

Truman Snow - TRUIYASHA


I don’t know why Truman Snow isn’t Tiny Mix Tapes’ favorite rapper, but I can only assume it’s because I’m the one championing him thus far. Sorry, Tru. Let me put it like this, though: If you like Young Thug and Future, you should love Truman Snow. If you love Young Thug and Future, you should move to Norfolk, Connecticut, find Truman Snow and volunteer to mule drugs for him or something. He probably doesn’t even need that service, but it’s the thought that counts. And the drugs count too, so buy Truman Snow ALL the drugs, mule them to him, then buy them back from him. Don’t lend him your ears. Give them to him, like Van Gogh. He may have only released two mixtapes so far this year, but he deserves 10 spots on all our lists.

Godbody Jones - IN GOD WE TRUST


Godbody Jones is an MC/photographer, from Memphis, Tennessee, but his art contains little of the grim aesthetic that have brought horrorcore rappers like Tommy Wright’s 10 Wanted Men and Geto Boys back into the underground spotlight. His lyrics may be typically nihilistic, the product of young frustration directed a crippled nation, but they soar over uniquely melodic beats on “Intro” and “Face It.” Jones has a confident, expressive voice with good range, which is practically a requirement for a successful 2017-era MC. On “Brightness Down,” he puts it all on display, gliding effortlessly between deadpan drawl and slurring vocoder runs. When Jones sings, “Are you down for a ride, or you down for a roll?,” dragging out the “roll” like a he’s skating a steezy rock to fakie, the head instinctually bobs along with him. “Coraline” is a standout — evidence that the Godbody has hitmaker potential alongside being a harbinger of doom.

Scallops Hotel - Over the Carnage Rose a Voice Prophetic


If DJ Escrow’s Universal Soulja is the logical extreme of noise rap, a kind of “Coke La Rock meets Merzbow” alpha-omega point, then Scallops Hotel’s Over the Carnage Rose a Voice Prophetic could be described as alt rap on a similar trajectory; however, the tape’s loose assemblage of experimental one-offs, classic remixes, obscure collabos, and instrumental interludes has such a kid-in-a-sandbox vibe that such microgenre descriptors miss the point. If you want to hear a young mastermind at work, you listen to Milo, but if you want to hear that mastermind at play, working things out and having what sounds like an awesome time doing it, you listen to Milo’s side project Scallops Hotel. This is what a mixtape is supposed to be, but better.

DJ Escrow - Universal Soulja Vol. 1


“Lifted up.” Overdrive, reverb, and more overdrive, in layers like the roll of tinfoil I accidentally peeled unevenly and fucked up even worse trying to fix. Adlibs hollered as if over a heavy wind. A steady, violent burn. “Dipping T-shirts in blood and that.” The “fucking exclusive” WeTransfer link already expired; “you’ve got to get a new connect, find a new plug.” A PROLIFIC DEAMON with nothing to prove, Escrow lacks the easygoing temperament of a Blue Iverson, though I think some of the latter’s cheaply synthesized strings are hiding somewhere, flayed beyond recognition, in his jagged brush. Clearly the spark to balance the cool of right-hand-man Babyfather, his gift to the melting world this July was a mixtape with texture to match the brain-baking heat. The long, empty days of summer can grow around you like a husk; stay alert. “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Knxwledge - HEX.10.8_


The L.A. producer Knxwledge slips a new set of beats onto his bandcamp page on a rigorous schedule (just in time for our Monthly Mixtape Roundup, it would seem). Each of these tapes — about 15-20 minutes in length — sells for $10.88, so artists claiming there’s no money in purchasing music should hit this dude up for some tips, because his beats are hotter and come in more flavors than LaCroix nice-smelling carbonated water. They are not, however, simply nice-smelling water. There’s a delightful crate-digging, compilation quality to them. Knxwledge sorts his beats into different series, the names of which often change (HEX used to be “Hexual_Sealing”). Some songs on HEX.10.8_ end abruptly, others, like “dordie_” and “issaparty_,” are simply heavily side-chained early Millennium R&B. It’s usual Knxwledge fair, the sort that has made him a superstar in the lofi beats scene. When Soundcloud goes to the great silicon server in the sky, taking all its 2-cent producers running circles around “Blue in Green,” at least we can safely hold onto the knowledge that this Stones Throw schxlar will keep us supplied with the essentials.

MIKE - May God Bless Your Hustle


I hesitate to even include May God Bless Your Hustle in this column, because although we should be well beyond that whole album vs. mixtape / high vs. low art bullshit, I fear it remains embedded in the back of our minds, but since I’m going in hard this month anyway, let’s get it. MIKE’s is a young voice and an old soul helping each other make the most of each day and night. May God Bless Your Hustle, easily his most complete, cohesive, coalescing project to date by my summation, might well be called a new kind of hustle altogether if it didn’t feel so damn familiar. Not derivative nor redundant, but well-informed and engaged, it’s like natural syndicalism. It just makes sense.

Ski Mask the Slump God - YouWillRegret


“I’m not lyrical, but I’m lyrical,” said Ski Mask the Slump God in an interview with Power 105.1’s DJ Self. “I just like saying stuff to make people say ‘wow.’” You’d be hard pressed to find a better quote that could serve as the Broward County emcee’s artist’s statement — like Lil Uzi Vert admitted to his fellow XXL Freshman Class panelists in 2016, he eschews narrative to focus entirely on “getting in the booth and making it sound good.” On his official debut LP, Ski Mask trades in his usual samples of cartoon theme songs for gothic compositions trimmed with church organ and detuned synths. Despite sharing a blown-out bass tone with fellow members of Florida’s Soundcloud scene, he bears more of a resemblance to early-80s minimal wave acts like Oppenheimer Analysis and Solid Space than his geographical neighbors. The drastic timbral shift pays off: with more room to breathe, Ski Mask’s zig-zagging, triple-knotted flows are clearly on display from all angles. The long-awaited “Bird Is The Word” is queasily dissonant, pairing a heaved delivery with creeping chords. “Gone” is ethereal enough to fit next to BeeDeeGee and Holly Herndon on a 4AD compilation. “Adventure Time” still sounds as ahead of its time as it did when dropped on Boxing Day, seven months ago. Even at his least gimmicky, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who sounds as fresh as Ski Mask the Slump God does on YouWillRegret. Don’t sleep.

Dizzy SenZe - Hueman Vertigo


The problem with nostalgia and novelties is that they can get old quick. I’m not naming names, but maybe, just maybe, there are more than a few throwback rappers du jure who wouldn’t have been given the time du jure when their style was actually hot. Plus, this being New York, I could literally walk down the street, point to a person, and get a verse doper than most of what’s sent my way by the PR goons who flood my inbox daily, but I digress. To America, Dizzy SenZe may be New York to a fault, but it’s no fault of her own. When you’re this good at what you do, it’d be foolish to do otherwise. Dizzy does the Bronx justice simply by doing herself. This is how it’s done.

Trouble - 16


Like a thief in the night, Trouble has seized the next spot in line. Finally. Since 2011, he’s been perpetually on the verge of a breakthrough, a walking renegade whose show-stealing features simply couldn’t translate to sustained popularity when it came time to drop his own shit. Starting with last year’s Skoobzilla, that might finally be changing. Trouble’s greatest strength is his versatility, and he’s wasted no time adapting his style to the ever-evolving rap zeitgeist. Remarkably, 16 is just a teaser, collecting a handful of tracks that evidently won’t make Trouble’s forthcoming album EdgeWood. Given the quality of 16, that’s a very good sign. EdgeWood will be entirely produced by Mike WiLL Made-It, with Drake and The Weeknd headlining an already impressive list of features. Fool me once, etc., but if 16 is any indication, then Trouble’s coming for real this time.

Warhol.SS - 3200


Warhol.SS arrived at his namesake through Basquiat, the genius artist/celebrity who practically invented the nature of hype, rising in the public eye at a Migos pace, before dying from a heroin overdose with Cobain expediency. His paintings now sell for eye-watering suitcases of money. We’re talking over 550 lbs in $100 bills. Basquiat was admittedly with Andy, or maybe, like many of the King of Pop-Art’s hangers on, he sees the association as a conduit to success. 3200 is compiled of Soundcloud tracks (probably a smart move, considering the platform’s uncertain future). Warhol’s flow is amusing off-kilter on “Mac Up” and “In The Field,” as if the dude is jumping around in the booth while he records. He sounds like a less nihilistic Chief Keef, riding explosive sub bass like he held the engineer at gun point and made him turn it the fuck up, levels be damned. “Bag it 2” pairs this King Kong kick to some bouncy 8-bit synths — it’s by far the standout on a tape that shows progress.

Secret Museum of Mankind - The Masculine Dignity of Mountain Tribesmen


Das Racist was a delusion of grandeur turned actually grandiose. Kool AD’s solo work, on the other hand, is more like a grand delusion. Dude is rapping so much and recording so many of those raps, his catalog basically amounts to a transient’s travelogue, if that travelogue was the direct transcript of an inner-monologue. Long story short, the man is logging some serious time in booths. Secret Museum of Mankind finds that wanderer work ethic in a kind of supergroup setting, with freestyles so hifalutin they ought to be engraved in metal slabs and stuck on walls for future passersby. Kool AD + Quelle Chris + these other dudes x Steel Tipped Dove = historic bruh.

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