Mixtape Review-The Cooligan by Scotty ATL
Being cool has nothing to do with style or taste. The icon of cool for a lot of Americans was Fonz on Happy Days but stylistically he wasn’t cool at all. He was set in the forties during the sixties; he looked silly to that audience. What made him cool was trust and reliability. You could always count on Fonz not to dress cool or act cool but to be cool. This is the definition of cool and the mission statement for Scotty ATL’s new mixtape The Cooligan. He wants you to know that not only has he gotten progressively better (this mixtape has some real storytelling happening: see Three Steps Forward) but you can always count on him to be heading in the right direction.
It’s no accident that Killer Mike always shouts out Scotty as a “who’s next” dude. The Cooligan gives you the best version of any kind of song you could like. If you’re a Future/Drake sing-rap guy just load up Neva Switch Up where he spits and sings at top notch levels over a 40-esque piano based beat that KE On The Track could have gotten placed on Drake’s Take Care. Scotty sounds perfectly reasonable next to two of my hero’s, 8 Ball & Devin The Dude, on the epic sex brag song I Needs Mine. Unlike previous projects he doesn’t have to rely on the genius of DJ Burn One, only produces two tracks, and it’s not because the relationship has frayed. Scotty now has more options than ever. Legions of fans are all new and just hearing him for the first time.
The running conversation with a beautiful female voice throughout the mixtape, about giving up the dream and moving on, about people’s faith in you being tested…is a big part of who Scotty is. The last song is Neva Fall Off and Scotty is still talking about family and people around him changing, the world around him switching from poverty to wealth and after all that elaboration he wraps those fears up neatly “they gave me reason and motivation to murder that @$$ be the man in my city and stack a bowl of that cash”. Scotty’s determination is not grim, he doesn’t stew in the negative sides of situations; he announces them and predicts their defeat. Maybe that’s why he gets such great guest verses from people. His reliability stabilizes the sometimes divergent talents of B.O.B on Fantasies and creates the comfort needed to get the very best Cyhi The Prince verse on Ni**a Concentrate. I need to talk about that song for a second. It might be one of the year’s very best collaborations. M16 laces a warm beat with looped background soul cooing and piano keys moving at the right upbeat Bill Withers pace. Cyhi’s verse is funny and personable and charming while Scotty’s (that come before it) is 100% heartfelt. When Scotty says “Everybody actin’ like they trappin'” you know it’s not general (by the tenor of his voice) that he tastes the names on the tip of his tongue but it wouldn’t be cool to say them. So he doesn’t.
If you need a succinct explanation of why and how Scotty will take over the world I only need two words. Speed Up. The song features no one and is an absolute smash hit, gets me in trouble at work for how excited I am under my headphones, produced by Black Metaphor. Scotty nails a perfect chorus, stays on beat and owns every inch of it. It’s a song Gucci Mane couldn’t have made. A lot of the drudging dark trap slithers by and doesn’t have an anthem gear. A lot of anthem level hip hop is as cheesy as in flight movie romantic comedy. Speed Up moves like lightning with its chest out, carrying authority and you know what? It’s still cool.
stream or download The Cooligan below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Atlanta hip hop, B.O.B., Burn One Collective, Cyhi The Prince, datpiff, Dj Burn One, Happy Days, mixtape review, Scotty ATL, The Cooligan, The Fonz
Mixtape Review-Politically End Correct by Sy Ari Da Kid x Teauxny
Fans of Sy Ari Da Kid are not in it for the production (typically mid tempo soul sample banger) or wild Jeezy like ad-libs. Sy isn’t trying to make music that plays in the background while you twerk. Those of us that rep his brand do so because he says things no one will. The cover image will tell you that just by showing you a black dude wiping his butt with the American flag (which would be fine but its touching the ground…gotta burn it now, right?). He doesn’t just do a Michael Brown song or Eric Garner dedication; on Current Events he ties all the events together to bring you into the hopelessness of hearing these headlines over and over. The feeling of defeat these tragedies create has never been captured as well on song (that I’ve heard).
On Mirror Music he says something I’ve been saying for years “How you gon’ diss golddiggers? We all gold digging.” Everything in a Sy verse is in perspective; the tough talk is a dude at the waffle house telling him he’s next. The sex songs always scamper between criticism of the woman involved and himself (“I tell you to shoot for the stars but look how you snorted the gun powder”—Anti Friendzone Interlude). Having released a thousand mixtapes he’s never written a hero in any of them. He’s naturally conversational; the hip hop version of that friend you have who delivers the truth viciously while all your other friends think he’s rude but you need that dude. You need the truth.
He’s certainly not alone. If Sy was the only rapper in this state of mind he wouldn’t be able to string together such massively satisfying posse cuts on ever project. This time its One Life that has a timeless Marvin Gaye sample from I Want You bass’d up and laid smooth (thank you Teauxny)for Sy. The beat switches to something spookier for the guests Bumpy Knuckles, Translee, DaOne, and JID and they all knock it out of the park. Translee’s pinched voice and dazzling word placement perfectly complement Sy’s brash intelligence and Bumpy is Bumpy damn it (“The legacies will never read that rappers was this hard”).
Teauxny does an incredible job at turning minimalism up enough to make it soulful and resonant. Agape is just a single sparkle looped and you can feel it push Sy to deliver a surprisingly complex analysis of love. Teauxny gets Sy in a way I haven’t heard from other collaborative partners. I want this to be part of a longer run of projects they make since they smashed the nail on its head.
Politically End Correct is only nine songs which is smart. Too much of this could wear you down but as it is it’s tight and intense and makes great use of everything that sets Sy apart. If you listen and like what you hear you should follow Sy Ari Day Kid on twitter. He’s as intense about basketball as he is relationships and politics. In fact, to let him tell it…it might all be politics just named different things.
Stream or download Politically End Correct below:
Weekly Hip Hop-up
This week I digested a bunch of promising projects at very different stages of satisfaction. Let’s go over them.
Autotune is a gift with two curses attached, misuse and overuse. While Sean Brown’s nine track project Solitude has the weeks most fascinating and promising individual songs it has some real low points. Rollin is as boring and standard as One Crazy Ass Dream is insane. So which is more important? The high points where you are listening to a sonically huge banger (produced by Sean) where he loses his mind(everyone should hear One Crazy Ass Dream) in verses and laces a flawless hook or the sleepwalking stuff drowned in autotune that rolls right off the 2015 conveyor belt. That’s the thing about Solitude, its only nine songs so it’s too short to judge. We should obey this rule whenever we don’t have sufficient evidence to judge: if you have greatness in you, you can be great; at any time. All he has to do is find out how to mine the focus he has on his best songs (best song on Solitude:Feel Good) for an entire album.
Stream or download Solitude below:
One of the weird things about rap as a genre is how you encounter mixtapes you don’t want to like that MAKE you like them. This Summer is definitely more trap/drill music full of violent imagery strewn about its scorched ecosystem but the choruses are mighty. On songs like YNP (young n_ problems) it’s just flossing and flaunting, sneering and bouncing to the beat but he crafts a melody out of it like a snake charmer. This isn’t to say Issa doesn’t have engaging content, Only God has a moment where his baby’s mother admits she’ll probably never love anyone else and you can tell he doesn’t know what to do with that. He has points where he gives you a doggy door to look at his life and feelings. This doesn’t happen nearly enough (Boomerang gives me a headache…I don’t want to talk about it) over the course of nineteen tracks, however, and by the end you feel like your relationship with This Summer might not be a healthy one.
Stream or download This Summer below:
Ali is probably the mixtape I’m most interested in studying more from these releases. While Philly rappers are known for blistering aggression and scathing flows Tayyib has neither of those. He’s typically at a leisurely pace that doesn’t seem to fits the city’s snarl of a persona. No one could imagine Freeway or Beanie doing a convincingly awesome put-your-red-solo-cups-in-the-air frat anthem like How’s It Supposed To Be (Dave Patten is so great on the hook). Ali talks about days when his clothes didn’t fit right but never drops experiences that would alienate someone living in a different environment(even on Day In The Life which does get quite specific it feels soulfully applicable to you as a listener). He doesn’t fit into a Roots Philly neo-soul category or really anywhere else. 100 Bands doesn’t sound like any song that’s ever had bands in the title.
The Astronauts, DJ Gumble, and Ben Rosen do a great job giving Ali a completely unique sound. One based in bass and drums but not in a boom bap way, in a D’Angelo Black Messiah way. Ali is a mixtape bound to get more interesting the more you listen. At first you may be overcome by how slow the flow is and think not enough is being done but over the course of sixteen tracks you have to admit you’re having a very different experience from any other mixtape released this year and that’s something that demands attention.
Steam or download Ali below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Ali, autotune, Beanie Sigel, Ben Rosen, chicago drill scene, datpiff, DJ Booth, DJ Gumble, Freeway, Issa, Philadelphia hip hop, Philly hip hop, Sean Brown, Solitude, Tayyib Ali, The Astronauts, This Summer, Trap Music
Mixtape Review-The Good Vibe Tribe by Audio Push
The Good Vibe Tribe mixtape is as close as I am going to get to a return trip into LabCabinCalifornia. Pharcyde were so special because they managed everything, they were passionately fun, aggressively lyrical, excellently produced and always experimenting. Audio Push don’t just give off that feeling they actively create it this time. For fourteen tracks this mixtape feels like two projects because it has two projects worth of written verse, songs that bleed over into 7 or 8 minutes long without you ever regretting it.
If I was to pick at it I would want much less of the end-of-song-spoken-word. Most of the time they don’t come across as Kendrick style poetry but real raps delivered acapella. I’m a curmudgeony song’s over next song type and would rather cut out any stray stuff. That being said Oktane and Pricetag are beasts and give more than enough for me to enjoy with memorable lines that don’t even hit you until the third or fourth listen. I can skip to the next song no issue.
Hit-Boy is still a guiding force, producing or co-producing five of the fourteen tracks present on The Good Vibe Tribe but the high profile beats aren’t really the draw. When Cardo and Hit-Boy team up for Sweep it’s a pretty basic second single strip club song (the interlude at the end is a smoked out conversation about the D.W. Griffith film Birth of A Nation and might be more interesting than the song which definitely contradicts my complaint about end of song non-song material so that’s how reliable I am). Normally (also co-produced by Hit-Boy) has a hypnotizing pace even though it covers largely the same material. All throughout the production is clean and crisp so the worst you’ll get are songs with well-constructed raps over professional beats (that will never have you lamenting mixing issues) that you don’t connect with.
Audio Push doesn’t traffic in digestible deep penetration hits. My favorite song is track five: Mary Jane & Sixty One Impala. The sweetness of the love ballad to dank is so well done and the transition between the two songs is great (Sixty One Impala starts with a blast of funk and the words “I need the James Brown light right quick, Roger Troutman to write my sh#t, a hit wick to ignite my spliff, and some college girls to come supply my fix…”) but most of all its one of those songs I heard and felt like I’d always known. Under the good vibe they supply is a righteous indignation, a secret they know that they feel none of us do…and it’s how good they are. This is a mixtape that vibes out but it ends with Peace Pipe, a vicious attack on rappers that suck. It’s a problem they spit out all throughout The Good Vibe Tribe and it traces back to the love of the craft. The welcoming Native Tongues vibe of Bonfire (thank you Coryayo) not just in production but saluting peace and happiness directly in verse still takes time to obstinately state “don’t play this on the radio” affirming that being this good validates itself. Don’t go up to Audio Push and tell them they should be as popular as ___ they don’t need that.
While the familiarity of Mary Jane & Sixty One Impala is my favorite it’s not the peak of the party. Audio Push repurpose Westside Connections legendary track Bow Down and throw everyone on it with them. What comes out is B.O.W. Down where Oktane sounds his happiest and Fat Trel gives one of his very best performances alongside Turtle Nojoke, Seriious, T Clacc & B-Nice. It’s a monster moment you can’t replay enough.
If Audio Push demand anything it’s that you always watch for the difference between people who love the art and people who don’t. Ice-T called himself just a hustler but he was lying he loves the art from coast to coast and beyond and Audio Push do as well. They don’t need to say it, the right ear can just tell.
stream or download The Good Vibe Tribe below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Audio Push, B-Nice, Coryayo, datpiff, Fat Trel, Hip Hop is art, Hit Boy, mixtape review, Native Tongues, Oktane, Pharcyde, Pricetag, Seriious, T Clacc, The Good Vibe Tribe, Turtle Nojoke, west coast hip hop
Mixtape Review-The Iron Way by T-Pain
T-Pain is the Mozart of strip club music. No matter how many changes he has gone through I’ve never given up on him because I know that to be true. I know he is capable of stifling musical intelligence and flawless execution on very silly songs about strippers and butts, even if he does go into the more silly than genius realm on occasion. Just listen to the T-Pain produced Booty Butt Ass off of his new The Iron Way mixtape with DJ Drama; I just kept picturing Luther Campbell from 2 Live Crew with one single tear coming down his face like “that was beautiful.” He has more range with his autotune usage than anyone else in music (proof of this starts two minutes and fifty eight seconds in and goes till the end).
The most educated critic had to feel that roller coaster nervousness during the first listen of The Iron Way. The Jay-z song D.O.A. changed T-Pain in a big way. It wasn’t a diss to him at all, Jay clearly took to task people ripping him off, but T-Pain took the hit and became unfashionable. Part of this was that he was already over exposed; part of this is that he’s a goof. This is the dude who complimented Ray J’s dick size on live radio when the Kim K sex tape leaked. People were ready to turn their back before they did. So when the first track ,Kill These N_’s, started and fed into the blistering rap diss Trust Issues we didn’t know if this was all angry rap T-Pain. Little did we know the supremely zoned out and darn near tranquil Sun Goes Down(Audio Push are perfect guests on this one) and Need To Be Smokin were to come. Really every kind of song was to come; this mixtape is twenty songs long. If you like enormous rap anthems with rewindable bars you need to hear King where Bun B goes bananas and Big Krit sounds like Denzel looks in Man On Fire. If your into braggadocio reggae influenced finger snap hip hop then play Disa My Ting. He also drops the really sticky sweet club love song Heartbeat where he says “I can’t control it; it’s like your running electricity through me!”
As cheesy and novelty as Hashtag is the story of the relationships straining is very engaging and well-constructed. It’s a perfect example of what The Iron Way gives you. Its genius; well sung, super listenable and genuinely evocative but cheesy as all get out. You have to find a way to embrace both to enjoy it. Like forgetting while watching a genuinely brilliant Kung Fu movie that these are dudes fighting on strings. By the way Pain can rap too; his verse at the end of 15 is acrobatic and venomous.
T-Pain is not in a position to fade out because he can do too much. He’s a very good rapper, producer, and the king of autotune singing. Dude can construct incredible melodies that sticks in your head and this T-Pain ,the post-D.O.A. edition, has a bit of an edge. He understandably feels betrayed by an industry that shuns him while re-purposing his sound. That means the gushy booty music like Ever comes alongside fiery anti-industry anthems like Personal Business. The imbalance is a perfect balance.
stream or download The Iron Way below:
P.S. I wanted to give you my favorite silly lines from The Iron Way mixtape since T-Pain just can’t help himself.
“She make me bite my fist, I guarantee you ain’t seen a booty quite like this” Booty Butt Ass
“Put my face in her booty like a vanilla cake” Did It Anyway
Best line is “You actin’ like your style fell from the sky. The good news is…you got it from a hell of a guy.” Relax
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Audio Push, autotune, Big K.R.I.T., Booty Butt Ass, Bun-B, D.O.A., datpiff, Dj Drama, mixtape review, T-Pain, The Iron Way
Mixtape Review-Humble Hustle 3 by Young Moe
When I tell people that I adore Young Moe’s music they look at me cross-eyed. This is fully attributable to the fact that most people don’t know his music and he has a stupid name. The first time I was told of Moe’s awesomeness I certainly had my doubts based on the name. In order to comprehend the connection his Humble Hustle mixtape series has with its listeners you need to dive in.
The strained vocals birth imagery that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the lyrical spectrum of rap. You can hear it on the pulsing All I Got Is Me when he’s kissing his mothers tears away and losing his money in a crap game. He can make a drug deal a personal journey of fear and terror. You can feel the rain coming down on him as he’s selling on the corner and you know he feels for the people sleeping in urine infested hallways
Nothing about the interlocking tragedies of jealousy articulated on Tino 2 is conscious rap. Moe is just as happy to jump on a song with Fat Trel and churn out mid tempo head nod rider music (see Souljah). The clearest verse illustration of what Moe does different than anyone comes at the very beginning of Freedom “We been living in apartments, lighting candles in the darkness. Coming from the bottom be the hardest, when you trying to get a dream out of the garbage.” These first two lines are so poignantly striking they show a level of emotional investment and premeditated poeticism in his lyrics that most MC’s just fast forward through. He talks about looking after peoples kids after they get locked up, hugging their mother to make her feel like he’s still around. Who else would even want to discuss that side of the life? Young Moe isn’t just rapping about selling drugs he’s rapping about selling drugs in a coat not warm enough for the weather, missing his kid during a long stretch on the corner. He turned drug dealing rap away from Scarface (the movie) and pointed it towards The Wire.
Most of the production is handled by Tone P, BassHedz, and Sergio Cortez. The wheel is not reinvented by anyone and nor should it be. The beat needs to knock but beyond that, pressure is on Moe to deliver the storylines and character development for each song. Its interesting that Kevin Gates appears (alongside Fat Trel) on On Our Own because he’s done such good work on lyrical discussions of women and betrayal adding expressive intensity to everything he touches. On Our Own has Gates doing much the same burning down the verse with words that all feel true to his heart, like a coaches impassioned half time speech. When Moe’s verse starts he’s Gary Cooper in High Noon; all his friends are gone at the sight of trouble and he’s noticeably distraught but resigned to the fact that making it work is the only option. He talks about putting it all in the mic and he damn sure does. That’s why once you’re a fan your all the way in with no other way to be.
Stream or Dowload Humble Hustle 3 below:
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Tagged Basshedz, datpiff, DMV hip hop, Fat Trel, Humble Hustle, Humble Hustle 3, Kevin Gates, mixtape review, realism, Sergio Cortez, The Wire, Tone P, Young Moe
Mixtape Review-Till The End of Summer by Villz
The post-Weeknd world of R&B can feel narcissistic and slimy. It’s often the reveling and recollecting of nefarious activities involving drugs, violence, and sex. Even the guilt espoused feels like a bit of brag. ALL THESE WOMEN ALL THIS MONEY; IS THIS LIFE? The weight of the content can crush the fun of the music and maybe this should have been the case with Till The End of Summer but it isn’t.
All eight tracks are soaked in autotune and party/post party confession but it works. The Cycle sets the stage elaborating on the addiction to pursuing a party that never ends. Part of what makes the project so special is how snugly each song fits into the next. Villz never sings to impress with Whitney Houston scale jumping. 420AM starts where The Cycle leaves off with the party in full effect and drunk digressions about women and his relation to them as well as his friends.
The positive side of the Weeknd phenomena is that it allows grungy dog dudes living a grungy dog lifestyle to be honest about it rather than trying to write uplifting love songs from a sexed up drug haze. By Myself feels all the way real and raw with frank emotional discussion about violence “I didn’t shoot you wear you stood….yes compassion makes me weak I look back as you flee, the N’s I came with ain’t me” in a way Villz wouldn’t be able to accomplish if he was trying to do shirt off in the rain R&B. The nonsense voicemail skit at the end of the song can be skipped.
The vibe on Till The End of Summer is intoxicating (see Shooter) which keeps it so listenable. I had to listen to it several times before I could recall lyrics. Villz makes hooks that don’t overpower the lyrics or tapestry of layered sound he spits over. It’s a marvelously unified presentation by someone I had never heard of; which could probably be said for most of my favorite mixtapes this year.
The high point of Till The End of Summer is Break Up Song (Break The Rules is so good though) which really showcases the unique writing style of Villz who is great at saying important things with very blunt phrasing like “We don’t want to play no games. I’m a simple person. F#$% me good and I’ll call you again.” When he croons “she stay trippin’ on some simple sh$t” the emotion is still there in his voice even through the croaking robot effects. He charges the words with the sadness he needs them to have.
Making something short succinct and flawless is a great calling card. Villz seems to have an eye for quality control and a big picture ability to structure his thoughts. Eight songs wouldn’t usually cover this kind of ground; from gun violence to dependency. I hope he keeps the people who helped him make this (William Wolf, Ducko McFli, Syksense, Sage Tune, and Mike Ewing) so he can build on it.
stream or download Till The End of Summer below:
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Tagged datpiff, Ducko McFli, mike ewing, mixtape review, R&B, Sage Tune, Syksense, The End of Summer, Till The End Of Summer, Villz, Weeknd, william wolf