Favorite Rap Mixtapes of September 2019 From trap gospel to poet-gang mode to an industrial collision of farty bass hits and cartoon sound effects

Xanman

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.)

Far be it for me to bump the OG behind Ghost Dog from our top features spot — and major props to that man for plugging the TMT App — but Mix Tapes gotta mixtape. This month {radio DJ voice}: London, UK; Birmingham, AL; St. Louis, MO; Atlanta, GA; Philadelphia, PA; New York, NY; Prince George’s County and Howard County, MD; Greensboro, NC; and Washington, DC; poet gangs, provocative turns of phrase, pocket passings, blacktop chalkboards, and even a REAL, old-fashioned mixtape? Of course! We do what we do. As per yoozh, it’s “a kaleidoscopic view” — a leg up here, a head down there. Who needs a gospel album when we already have the gospel TRUTH/trap… in mixtape form. “That’s the next strange thing. I can’t just call him up. Instead, he contacts me every day through a bird.” [Pause] “Did you just say he contacts you through a bird? Did I just hear you say that?”


Ruby Yacht - 37 Gems

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There are 15 songs on 37 Gems, so what’s the titular number about? Thirty-seven verses? Video-game coin? Actual stones? Numerological pursuits aside, 37 Gems finds R.A.P. Ferreira, s.al, Signor Benedick The Moor, Eldon Somers, and the rest of the Ruby Yacht roster in full poet gang mode. You’re minding your business, taking in the early autumn chill of your quiet New England hamlet, when suddenly you’re confronted by a crew of hairy rhyme writers verbally accosting passersby with an onslaught of abstract truths. “What does it all mean?” you cry. Well, there’s something of a mission statement, but meaning’s somewhere besides the point. At least you’re headed in the right direction, though.


Gawd Status - Firmamentum

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Just a few bars into Firmamentum, and Joker Starr already starts dropping gems. “Wu-Tang for the babies, that’s it, don’t trust ‘em Catholic priests around kids,” he goes; “Gods in the church different than gods in the streets,” he continues. Low-hanging fruit, maybe, but the casual manner in which Joker summons these rhymes, almost ex nihilo, is uncanny. The effect is heightened in part due to the spacey, occasionally drum-sparing production work of Strange U’s King Kashmere, who also shares a more pensive mic duty throughout Firmamentum. Nevertheless, it’s when the topical matter gets serious that Joker’s provocative turn of phrase really shines — for every “Schwarze-nigga in alloy,” there’s an equal or greater observation regarding the breakdown of black communities, or indeed that of British society at large. Keep your glass-break sound effects at the ready!


Luh Soldier - Naw Fr

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Birmingham rapper and Cinematic Music Group signee Luh Soldier’s mixtape Naw Fr technically came out in late August, but time isn’t real, so here it is on the September faves feature. In plain terms, it’s Southern trap music, the kind that carries the torch Zaytoven/Gucci et al. ignited, and Luh Soldier is pretty good at making it. Indeed, he has referred to his sound as “trap gospel,” usually spitting his verses sans-autotune over melodic piano-driven beats, his lyrical content painting his grim experiences growing up and living in Alabama. Nice features here too, including PeeWee Longway and NLE Choppa. Some tracks stand out more than others, but “Rockin It” and “Premed” alone are good enough to carry the whole tape, so here we are. Naw Fr is far from a magnum opus for Luh Soldier, but it’s a nice preview of what he might offer up someday.


Shy Glizzy - Aloha EP

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Shy Glizzy doesn’t really miss, which can be easy to take for granted. On one hand, it’s a testament to his mastery of the mic; on the other, perhaps a gentle indictment of a stylistic conservatism that can scan as stagnation in a rap landscape that shifts at light speed. Aloha, then, is a welcome break. Born of a trip, imagined or actual, to an island somewhere, it’s a slab of seasonally-appropriate tropicália largely apart from the cold, D.C.-based tenor of Glizzy’s best-known work. (That its most immediate precedent, last year’s sunny “Do You Understand,” was Glizzy’s biggest hit in recent memory is perhaps not coincidental.) Likely too brief for any measurable impact, the EP nevertheless raises interesting future possibilities; closer “Lil Ghetto Kid,” an inspired (and belated) pairing with producer Harry Fraud, feels at once quintessentially Glizzian and like untread territory.


K$upreme & ChaseTheMoney - Caught Fire

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St. Louis beatmaker Chase D. Rose, better known by his pseudonym and producer tag ChaseTheMoney, stacks his roster of collaborators with economical emcees — rappers who punch understated flexes and offhand humblebrags into verses that are, above all, precise. Valee and Lucki, who’ve hopped on the better part of his backlog, might sound markedly emotionless on the mic, but it’s their ability to land just the right image on the perfect 808 that breathes life into ChaseTheMoney’s skeletal thumpers. SoundCloud mainstay K$upreme is the latest pocket passer to get the full CTM mixtape treatment, also opting to play a pocket passer’s role in the booth, as sleepy bars like “fell asleep with the blunt on my jeans, burnt a hole in it” hit their targets with ease. “HOT HAM,” which features Lil Yachty and an unusually-enunciated Chief Keef verse, is appointment listening, but don’t miss “DIAMOND TESTER,” an industrial collision of farty bass hits and cartoon sound effects.


ShrapKnel - Cobalt

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Any release on which the only features belong to Tomorrow Kings is all right in my book, pretty much regardless of other considerations. It just so happens that all of the eight-song debut EP from Wrecking Crewmen PremRock and Curly Castro is right anyway. Castro’s in his element bodying blacktop chalkboard beats, and the duo’s industrial-strength chemistry is obvious, as Prem goes full-on Frankie Aeosp Crocker, culling some of the swinging-est flows of his perpetually slick catalog (see his verse on “Dagger & Cloak”). And there’s a full-length coming produced by Elucid and Willie Green?! Fine, just take my money.


Geng - FACT Mix 726

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Now I know what you’re thinking: a REAL, old-fashioned mixtape? Like, a mixtape in the sense of a mix of SONGS from DIFFERENT ARTISTS?? It’s rather old school, I know, but we’re well aware of our roots here on Tiny MIX Tapes. As such, here we have a FACT mix from NYC-based label PTP founder and “chief weaponizer” Geng, and it’s probably the mixtape-iest mixtape on this list, because, well, it has a lot of vintage cassette recordings on it. I’ve been listening to it a lot these past few days, as it’s highly recyclable from a listening standpoint: lots of twists and turns, “sound collage” moments, live cuts both past and present. Y’know, lots of details and quirks that require a second listen to fully appreciate. Here’s how Geng describes the mix (titled “Time Weapon Radio”): “a kaleidoscopic view of energy and influences, both past and present-past — as they’ve already happened — all which speak power toward a true future.” Peep the original FACT post and description here.


Xanman - Broken

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Xanman made his name on whimsy — endlessly quotable eccentricity, an immediately recognizable IG live presence, a healthy disregard for the strictures of the beat — but that doesn’t mean he can’t get serious. Broken is a loose agglomeration of heavy-hearted laments, coherent enough to adhere to the titular theme without sacrificing Xanman’s trademark style. Even with all-out dirges like “Brick Paper” to break up the monotony, Broken could easily run overlong and oversimilar if not for Xanman’s innate, Gates-like charisma; I’d have thought that the sonic possibilities of piano leads and distorted kicks were pretty limited, too, until I heard “Shooter with glasses look like Lil Tecca/ Lil’ white bitch, hi Becca!


K.A.A.N. & Ski Beatz - Requiem For A Dream Deferred

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Ski Beatz produced the whole thing. Need we say more?

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