Favorite Rap Mixtapes of March 2018 From Valee & 03 Greedo to GRIMM DOZA & Elucid

03 Greedo

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.)

In addition to being part of every drama club director’s parlance, the word “range” used to refer to a row of townships between two successive meridian lines six miles apart. The term derives from the French “rang,” meaning a row or line, or alternately, a rank or position in a series. Etymologically speaking then, every list and listee is a range. However, in the dramatical sense, there is particularly impressive range on display in this month’s column; tones from Barry White bass to T-Pain tenor and feels from Max B gruff to Myka 9 gentle. None of those artists are in this list, but all of them are in range.


Elucid - Shit Don’t Rhyme No More

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Originally conceived to be a tour cassette for the “Daytrip to Chapel Perilous” Elucid embarked upon earlier this year with Milo and JPEGMAFIA, Shit Don’t Rhyme No More ended up missing the van, so to speak, and instead (im)materalized as the latest signpost on Elucid’s Bandcamp (which, if you haven’t already, is easily the best thing you’ll click today). Nevertheless, the ethos of fellow Nostrum Grocer Milo’s Ruby Yacht is just about tangible here, as Elucid mixes oracle-like verses and fragments with enrapturing instrumental asides, tour diary entries, love songs for his wife, and an early contender for bar of the year in — SPOILER — “25 percent of your fans are sex bots.” For those whose followers wear high heels and don’t exist.


03 Greedo - The Wolf of Grape Street

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“I’m not really conscious when I’m making music,” 03 Greedo told Noisey in a January interview. “It’s like I’m a vessel.”

Whatever spirits may be possessing the Californian’s hardened shell, it’s evident they’re the type to keep busy. Greedo’s back catalog of mixtapes, largely self-produced, comes from a singularity of street-rap sonics, held together by a uniform West Coast bounce that’s able to eke locality out of a post-local ethos. He defies the “sameness” that can saturate the work of like-minded contemporaries such as Cookie Money and FrostyDaSnowmann while remaining ambitious enough to stretch past two hours a tape. Massive tracklists can sometimes signify filler or half-baked experimentation, especially when they’re backed by labels like Quality Control, but Greedo’s The Wolf of Grape Street (21 tracks long) is only marked by its level consistency. You play it on car rides over the aux, letting the lines between songs blur. Whether Greedo is belting choked melodies atop sultry smooth jazz samples on “Rude” or waxing Three Six Mafia on the muffled production of “If I Wasn’t Rappin’,” there’s a sleepy, immersive quality to his music that you can’t help but let swallow you up.


DWN2EARTH- DWN2EARTH

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I’d be remiss to omit a discussion of car-driving music with respect to this DWN2EARTH self-titled joint, because his delivery & production style remind of the sound(s) popularized by the OVO camp. Drake, on more than one occasion, has said that he makes music for “nighttime driving,” especially alone. I’d be curious to ask if solitary cruising has any influence on the gestation of DWN2EARTH’s music, because it’s as introverted and atmospheric as Take Care, Trilogy, and Party’s first EP. Rather than “stealing” the auto-friendly (and auto-tune) style of their predecessors, DWN2EARTH and his Private Club (24hrs’s ATL label) contemporaries are blending hip-hop/R&B their own way. Pop this in on a late night with the windows down.


Valee - GOOD Job, You Found Me

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As G.O.O.D. Music’s first certifiably next-generation signee, it’s fitting Valee’s introductory EP for the label would include a smattering of sketched-out song concepts in addition to the obligatory (and more distinctly formed) singles, the earwormy year-old YouTube smash “Shell” and the phraseological similar “Miami,” which features (an also obligatory) Pusha T trying to figure out how to rap alongside someone with Valee’s talent for revelry in the less-is-more, pure style approach to wordplay. Considering the Chicago rapper was a near-unknown a year ago, it shouldn’t be surprising he’s still figuring out what to do here. Doubtless, it will be interesting to see where he and the label go next.


Mozzy - Spiritual Conversations

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Mozzy made the most quotable album of last year, but his real strength remains the voice he gives to the real people whose real concerns simply don’t make for good end-of-year-list bait. The critic is is in an odd spot with regards to the long tradition of gangsta rap; how could one possibly pin the blame for seemingly repetitious subject matter on the rapper whose circumstance is inevitable? That “you don’t wanna live like this, let it sink in / another premature body drop before the weekend” rings familiar only makes the line hit harder. Mozzy is phenomenal at establishing a consistent and immersive frame for his verses; lines like the above pay off without the listener having ever been conscious they were experiencing a build-up. The formal designation of Mozzy’s various releases is basically irrelevant, but Spiritual Conversations functions perfectly as an EP, a brief and aptly titled meditation on the existential toll of Mozzy’s lifestyle with little concession to the commercial considerations that shape full-length releases.


Fiend - International Jones: Player Chit

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“Magic man, yeah I can make the summer come.” Remember summer, Sugarman? Remember how you leapt from the electrical box into the August air? Remember how you crashed back into earth? Remember the sting of antiseptic, how Sprite in the hot night was the sweetest antidote you could need? Remember years later, cooing flirt verse across the center console, still trying to fly? Remember how she showed you her teeth, how all of a sudden it was the sun on your bandaged knees all over? Remember Fiend, summer? A voice honeyed by years, the hum of, “I want this forever.” And Fiend cut across the sky: Fiend is for loving remembrances. And Fiend gone home.


Uncle John - The Nightmare Never Ends

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Click through and you’ll find one of the tags on this tape is “Cumbia,” a Colombian folk dance and music. Wikipedia tells my white ass that it was “originally a working-class populist music … frowned upon by the elites, but as the music pervaded, class association with the music subsided in Colombia and cumbia became a shared music in every sector of society.” Sound familiar? The Nightmare Never Ends isn’t a cumbia recording in the traditional sense, but it does showcase Freeport, Long Island’s Uncle John at his most melodic, maybe even danceable, making this three-dart-stirred aperitif an ideal entry point for swords to come. Heads up: just above the tag, you’ll see the words “Lyrical Assassin 3 (Coming Soon).” Which is to say, you’ve been warned.


GRIMM DOZA - SPRIT WORLD

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The blinking lights mounted on carnival rides punctuate the Actavis dusk. Fryer grease’s unmistakable odor weighs heavy in your lungs, spoken into being by the grumble of shifting tides. Folded airbrushed T-shirts beckon from their display frames, daring the p.m. to muffle their Hi-C-stain radiance. The scene’s flooded with a neon ooze that signifies a darkness hidden in its core: a padlocked safe in some vacant corner of the boardwalk traps sentient slime — the stuff that starred in R.L. Stine’s Monster Blood soundtrack. You’ve heard about how plants grow faster when they listen to ambient music? This substance feeds off of the music of its favorite New Jerseyan rapper/producer, GRIMM DOZA. They’re composed of the same viscous textures, DOZA’s jazz-inflected lo-fi production alchemically converting keyboard riffs into sonic algae. His latest tape, SPIRIT WORLD, borrows its sleepy suavity and raw sound quality from Digable Planets, pairing them with the minimalist bounce that beat-makers like ICYTWAT and Ethereal popularized circa 2015. He flows with Carti’s delicate confidence; writes with Tribe’s third eye slightly ajar. DOZA’s for the culture — not the zeitgeist. Make sure to keep “Like Woah” in your respective digital streaming library for heavy rotation: its melodramatic orchestration and menacing griminess transcends categorization. Is it boom-bap? Plug trap? Crunk? Sure, why not?


Trick Papi - The Water Tape

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It starts with a Fear and Loathing clip but quickly transitions to a beat constructed around a sample of that techno song that was in every action movie of the late 90s and early 00s, especially those involving hacking. Ah the days when the layperson’s understanding of computers was such that the internet was best portrayed on screen as light beams soaring by as if in some futuristic hypertube shuttle thing — simpler times. Shift paradigms. Bilingualism is a given, but bars are built to induce panic attacks. The most responsible response then can only be an outright rejection of the existing (bar) structure. Trick Papi puts rhymes in new places; new rhymes at that. To quote NORE, “Aight, Water.”


Fre$h - March Madness 4

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No, no, NO, not BASKETBALL. We’re talking about Houston’s Fre$h here (formerly signed to Young Money as Short Dawg). While YOU were watching UVA lose to UMBC, Fre$h dropped the fourth installment of March Madness. Less a masterpiece than a milestone event in his career as Fre$h, March Madness 4 has the most “damn, he leveled up” features (2 Chainz, DJ Mustard, and… Trinidad James???) of anything he’s put out thus far, along with a handful of tracks I’ll have on repeat. It’s not exactly a riveting listen all the way through, but he’s got *bars* in the conventional sense, which, dare I say it, is refreshing. Anywho, I doubt this will be the crown-jewel in Fre$h’s discography once he’s finished putting out music, but it’s a promising release that makes his future seem bright.

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