Three-Peat is our feature spanning genres and labels to bring you three select releases from the past – whether the past month or the past year – that still deserve your attention.
1. Mike Will Made It – Est. In 1989 Part 2.5
Atlanta’s Mike WiLL Made It, the producer behind “No Lie” and “Turn On The Lights,” has a penchant for mixing heavy trap production with light, twinkly synths and big, dramatic melodies. hHis previous mixtape, “Est. In 1989 Part 2″, was a stacked deck of claustrophobic trap rap, strip club bangers and spaced-out love ballads. Can anyone top a tape that has “Bandz A Make Her Dance” going into “773 Love”? Mike WiLL’s newest mixtape, “Est. In 1989 Part 2.5″, lacks the obvious peaks of its predecessor, but is a more rewarding listen over all. Mike has cut back on the skits which are always endorsements from famous artists and producers, leaving more space for actual music. Mike WiLL has a real knack for R&B production, and his collaborations with Kelly Rowland and Brandy are among the strongest on the mixtape. Conversely, Mike WiLL’s sense of melody seems a good counter balance to for Chief Keef–both of his contributions, Finally Rich’s “No Tomorrow” and “On It,” an a exclusive track featuring Young Scooter, are excellent. A track reuniting the old school Cash Money line-up finds Juvenile and Birdman out-rapping Wayne; we’ve come full circle to 1998. Even 2 Chainz has something of a return to form here; after a few months of phoning it in, he’s actually funny again! His best verse appears on “Marble Floors,” a track that recreates the “Pop That” line up and features one of the best Rick Ross hooks in recent memory: “got your bitch tip-toeing on my marble floors / red-bottoms only for the centerfold.”
Stream: Chief Keef feat. Young Scooter – On It (Prod. by Mike Will Made It)
Download: Mike WiLL Made It – Est. In 1989 Part 2.5.
2. Rich Boy – Gold Kilo$
Twenty-twelve came and went with barely a peep from Rich Boy and the year was just a bit poorer for it. It’s a new year though and Rich Boy seems poised to actually drop a mixtape before the month is out and the long-promised sophomore album later in the year. “Gold Kilo$” is one of the excellent tapes he dropped forever ago (internet time) in twenty-eleven that went mostly ignored (mentioned here) and almost two years it’s hard to understand why. Production is varied, featuring low frequency thumpers like “Cover Girl” to the sunny eighties analog synth sound of “So Slow” which features, of all things, a Twin Shadow sample. Where “12 Diamonds” featured a more menacing sound overall, “Gold Kilo$” has a far brighter tone. The tape closer, a wonderful guitar sample fueled track about getting money playas and the finest of bottom bitches from the perspective of both sexes sends you out on a somber but luxurious note but will hopefully serve as a great segue into future project/s.
Stream: Rich Boy – Gutta ft. Shug (Mixtape)
3. Gunplay – Cops & Robbers
“Gunplay a different kind of artist, he a different kind of dude, he don’t care about awards, he don’t care about whoever. He not into that.” Our favourite Maybach Music mouthpiece, the raving mad Gunplay is particularly good at a number of things: being a delinquent on the track as well as in the real world, stealing the show when featuring on other artist’s tracks, snorting cocaine, and every time new material comes out he either completely overwhelms or fails to make any impact whatsoever. With his unhinged personality, provocative tattoos and stentorian vocals, Richard Morales Jr. is a rapper that people either love or to hate, and the same thing seems to apply to his mixtapes. Quite frankly, the tracklisting of his newest Maybach Music Group mixtape “Cops & Robbers” reads like a desperate attempt to let the people know that Gunplay is ready to pick up the pace again, after his anticlimactic finale of last year involving legal issues followed by a sudden disappearance. For the Gunplay diehards the tracklisting might seem all filler, following the classic recipe of constructing mixtapes in an era before the internet existed – the majority of the tracks on the tape have seen the light of day already (e.g. his collaborations with Yo Gotti and the A$AP boys) or are obvious choices of remixes (e.g. “Clique” and “Hold Me Back”). But who can blame him for it? Let it be known to the world that Don Logan is out and about, ready to drop his studio full-length “Medellin” this year.
Stream: Gunplay - No Church Freestyle (Maybach Music Group)
The tape starts kicks off with an underwhelming Pusha T collaboration, sounding like an ambient remix of Gunplay’s notorious “Fuck Shit In My Life”, though Gunplay referring to himself as ‘a human cocaine shoestring’ in his first verse makes up for a disappointing start. And all is not lost: the first third of the tape seem to lead to nothing, but the fifth track on the tape “No Church” shows us the Gunplay that we love. The freestyle he released at the very start of the year has him back on his game with his almost off-beat, uncontrolled flow. Then there’s Miami’s Finest Trina providing the hook and a verse on “Daddy”, and the remix of Rick Ross‘ “Ball” off the latest MMG compilation might even be straighter to the point than the original. Everyone will be able to find at least two or three tracks on this tape that they’ll like, as “Cops & Robbers” shows all of Gunplay’s sides and if not, well, Gunplay don’t care about whoever. By no means is “Cops & Robbers” comparable to “Bogota Rich: The Prequel” or “Off Safety“ but it’s a pleasurable experience for what it is – a collection of tracks and freestyles to keep his body of supporters satisfied for the time being. And we’re into it. Now if Rick Ross recruits someone other than Lil B for the audio engineering on Gunplay’s next mixtape, we’re sure we’ll love it.
Stream: Gunplay feat. Trina – Daddy (Maybach Music Group)
Download: Gunplay – Cops & Robbers.
Words by: Donny Marks, Michelle Myers & Soraya Brouwer.
It is not often that the relationship between an artist and its label feels quite as organic as Stroboscopic Artefacts and its Singaporean delegate Xhin have established for themselves. The Berlin-based label, led by its founder Lucy, have continuously exhibited sounds that are motivated by a self-proclaimed curiosity of a scientist and manage to challenge accustomed dancefloor music in a manner most inviting. Xhin’s output and the effect it has on its listeners are no different. His third album and first full-length installment to appear on Stroboscopic Artefacts entitled “Sword“ was released last year, and it displayed exactly those qualities immaculately that draw us towards his sounds. Throughout his work, Xhin possesses an unprecedented expertise in crafting sounds that constantly surprise us and push us towards our boundaries, while simultaneously feeling oddly comfortable all the same. We had the opportunity to speak to Xhin a few weeks back in December in Singapore, covering topics such as his creative process, his narrative perspective in music and what we can expect to emerge from his talent in time to come.
Stream: Lucy & Xhin – LX4 (CLR)
Hi Xhin! What have you been keeping yourself busy with lately? “I’ve mostly been touring, I just came back for Christmas. I’ll be a having a small gig over here in Singapore, which is quite rare. Unfortunately, the general support here is not good enough – not from the people themselves, but from the big boys behind events, which is why I don’t play here very often. After that I’ll be heading over to Europe to tour again in January and February. I currently also need to work on some releases and remixes that need to be done within this year.”
What can you tell us about your creative process? What does it look like, do you follow the same type of pattern each time or does it differ each time? “I would say eighty percent of my creative process depends on my mood. I like to work with things that occur in my everyday lifestyle, so if I’m happy today I’ll probably work on some stuff that’s quite energetic or if I’m very emotional I’ll probably do something along those lines. There is a certain pattern that recurs of course, but parts of it are also very random. I try to keep the same sort of progression throughout my work, not necessarily the same style. I think it’s good for an artist to be like that, not to change things too often. I think as an artist I’m quite stubborn, I like to create things that I can call my own and that I am proud of.”
You’ve mentioned before that you usually embark on creating a body of work with a certain idea behind it beforehand. What type of ideas would you identify with respects to one EP or album? “For each release I try to create some sort of a story, so that people can relate to something in it. They don’t have to relate to what I was thinking exactly throughout creating the whole thing, I think the point is to let people decide. I try to infuse whatever emotions I want to convey by means of things like a title, certain sounds or frequencies. I like the darker side of fairy tales. I like everything that falls within a dark atmosphere actually; forests, trees, elements that are very organic. I like to create music that relate to those kinds of atmospheres. That is for now at least, maybe in the future things will change.” I think many would agree that your music sound very organic. Does nature play an important role as a creative inspiration? “Yeah, pretty much. For example, last year I went for a gig in a city in Germany and I visited a dark forest that surrounded it, I loved being there. There were times that I almost felt like there was something out there chasing me. I think in that respect I’m a very dark person and draw inspiration from that.”
I understand you’re interested in watching films and documentaries on historical people and war. What is it about these that you find fascinating? “I find that hard to explain. I suppose it’s just life and death. Nostalgia of people, the way they live, the way that we use things.” Do you think that there is a link between the creativity behind both film and music, is the storytelling element you describe in your music something similar to that of films and documentaries? “No, I wouldn’t say so. I just get some ideas and inspirations from films and documentaries, but in the end I just describe myself in the story of my music. You could say that I am the lead character. So maybe it’s about friendships, family, relationships within my life and I try to bring that back in my production. I want my audience to know that electronic music has soul. It’s not just about music for the dancefloor, you can listen to it at home and reflect on things from your past or your own emotions.”
What would you describe as the most important influence on your creative process aside from your own mood? “My friends. Within the conversations that I have with them, within the situations that I share with them, I am inspired by that a lot. It’s very hard to describe but I think when I’m inspired by that, the music and frequencies that I create reflect on what I’ve shared with them.”
Do you ever worry about the intentions behind your music being lost in translation to the listeners, or possible misinterpretations? ”No, I don’t really care about that. It’s up to them whether they want to enter my world or not. Maybe some people can actually describe you through your songs, but some people don’t have that capacity and that’s okay too. As long as I have songs to deliver that can trigger people to think about the music and form their own interpretations.”
Stream: Xhin – Elliptic (Token Records)
What about when you work on a remix for someone else, is the process similar? Do you identify an idea to incorporate into the piece beforehand or do you work with elements from the original to take you to an idea? “Oh yeah, I definitely work with whatever elements I already have when it comes to a remix. But it also depends on the original piece of music, and what that sounds like. If I don’t really like the original I won’t do it to begin with. I would say that I try to rework the original and try to have a balance that fifty percent still keeps close to elements from the original, and the other half I try to sound like myself.”
You’ve had a number of reworks of your own work done by other artists, for example as we could prominently see on the Cutlass EP. What has been your favourite reinterpretation of your own work done by another artist to date and could you tell us why? “For now it’s the Surgeon remix of my track “Teeth”. That has to be a remix coming from an artist that I really admire and that I love what he’s doing, what he has done in the past and how it inspired me. It was an honour for him to remix one of my tracks and he did a really great job.”
Up until now you haven’t collaborated with many other artists in creating releases. Can you tell us a little bit about your collaborations with artists and what you find important when collaborating with other musicians? “It’s important for us both to have the same habits in creating music. I’ve had fun working with Lucy, maybe that was because we were already friends for many years prior to our collaboration. But for myself in general, I don’t really enjoy collaborating with someone else. I like to work with myself more than anybody so that I can have more freedom and I don’t have to compromise so much, or agree or disagree with another person. I guess I’m just happy working alone.”
You say that for now you’re happy working alone, but is there still a collaboration you hope to see happen in the future? “Maybe a collaboration outside of club music. I wanted to do something different a long time ago, I just didn’t find the right people to do it with. I’d like to do something else outside of club music.” Do you ever feel confined by the sounds that are attached to your name by what you’ve already released thus far? Do you take your previous work as a starting point when creating new music? ”No, actually I don’t worry about that. No matter what kind of stuff I put out, it’s always going to have my own sound to it. I guess it’s just a habit of how I do things. It’s like getting up, going to eat and sleep, you have to do it. Whenever I go to the studio, I have to do it my distinctive way as well. It’s always going to sound like me.”
Stream: Function & Jerome Sydenham – Drift (Xhin Remix) (Ibadan)
In a past interview Lucy stated “that the more I get close to my artists and give them the respect they deserve, the more and more they act in the same way with me and with the platform.” How has your relationship grown with him and Stroboscopic Artifacts? ”Both me and Lucy were very unknown in the past and we were both signed to this German label and we became colleagues. Because of that, we started talking a lot through Skype as we liked each other’s output. At some point, the label we were signed on wasn’t doing very well so he decided to create his own label. One day, in the morning when I was in Singapore, he told me that he was going to start a label and asked me whether I’d be keen on that. I was, and I sent some tracks over to him and he liked it, and from there it grew into Stroboscopic Artefacts.” What values do you and Stroboscopic Artefacts share to make your collaboration such a successful one? “With Stroboscopic Artefacts, it’s not about business. It’s more about friendship. We’re very close and we all respect one another and there is a lot of mutual trust, it’s just very instinctive.”
What is the most important thing that you have learned during the process of recording and releasing your “Sword” album last year? “That album is actually very important to me, because I put a lot of emotion into it. The whole album reflects my mind and everything that I’ve been through. It’s kind of boring to tell people straight up what happened, but I don’t have to. Electronic music has no words but the best way for people to understand is through the music itself, perhaps its song title as well. I’m actually quite proud of making “Sword”, it took me a year, it’s very emotional and I’m just really happy with what I’ve done.”
You’ve mentioned before that you like flirting with genres during your set and not playing strictly what people might expect from you. How do you usually go about this genre flirting, do you consciously try to make an effort to play various genres each night or is it just a matter of what’s currently on your radar? ”I like to play whatever tracks I really like and listen to every day. I think it’s more fun to work that way in a club. Because I’m a DJ, but of course I’m a club-goer as well. I go to every club and at each club there’s people playing the same kind of songs and I get bored and only end up dancing for like five to ten minutes and stay bored the rest of the night. So the question is what can we do to make the clubbers themselves enjoy and be the centre of the night? Maybe not all clubbers know who the DJ is, or even buy music or take it as seriously as others might. Some people might hate the track that you play, but what can you do? You can’t please every listener. I always try to look at the reaction of the audience nonetheless, whether they’re still dancing or have stopped dancing and what the reason it for it. It’s just like listening to music on your iPhone, I listen to different kinds of music every day.” Do you ever feel like you need to draw a line between what’s acceptable on the dancefloor, do you think that there’s a border between those two fields? “There’s definitely a risk to be taken. I just take the risk to do it. If you do not take the risk, you will never know what might happen if you do. And I feel that not many artists take risks. But I don’t believe that there is such a category as “music that is acceptable for the dancefloor”, it really depends on the people that are present and the risks you are willing to take.”
When we think about categories of music, especially when it comes to dance music, we’re lead to consider the function of music – how much does the intentionality of audience or the functionality of music for DJs play a role in your work? ”There will always be this kind of idea of “dance music”, and it has to be able to make people dance. But in my theory, I don’t draw those lines and I don’t do that. I want to try to make people dance through “non-dance” music.” Do you consider what you make as “dance music”? “Yeah, I mean it depends on you. Some people like to dance to a 4×4 beat, but some people like to dance to broken beat, to breakbeat or drum & bass, while others could never dance to drum & bass. You can’t really argue about what dance music really is.”
How would you define a good DJ set when seeing others play? “I like DJs that give you a feeling of not really knowing what to expect. You might not know what tracks he plays each evening, and he just surprises you each time. I like DJs like that, there aren’t many of them out there. When I see DJs like that perform, I begin to love clubbing again.”
Your location in Singapore has been often discussed and you’ve previously stated that you see it as irrelevant with respects to your own production process. I did, however, want to ask whether you see any advantages you gain in being located in a growing music scene as opposed to for example your peers in much more settled musical environments such as Berlin? “I don’t know about other people, but when I speak for myself I can say that I like being here because it’s a way for me to get back to reality. I travel, I play in other cities, but I don’t want to be in a city that involves so much music, I’d get sick of it. I like to be here and to be able to feel “normal” again. To have my coffee and breakfast in the morning, literally in the morning, not in the afternoon. For me it’s just to get off the working line into reality again and just be a commoner, going clubbing, just be with my close friends etcetera.” So would you say that you like to keep your professional and personal lives separate? ”Yes, certainly.”
Where do you primarily look for other sources of inspiration outside of Singapore? ”I travel a lot, most of my gigs are in Europe so I am there often. I guess I get it from different cities across Europe. Germany is quite inspirational to me, and it’s not just Berlin. For me a place becomes inspirational due to the people within the location and the dynamics of how those people work.” Is there some place that you would like to visit still where you haven’t been yet? ”I’d like to go to different cities in Italy. I’ve played Venice, and every time I play cities like that I don’t really get to visit the city itself due to having to leave the immediate morning after playing. I absolutely enjoy sightseeing as a part of my travels as a DJ, but unfortunately there’s often not much time to do it. I’d love to stay at places for two or three days, but sometimes time does not allow me to do that.”
Yeah, it unfortunately doesn’t seem like DJ schedules allow for a lot of free time in distant places. Moving on, what projects can we expect from you in the near future? “There will be two EPs early next year, maybe more later. There will be a remix for Oscar Mulero coming out next year as well. Hopefully I’ll see myself touring the States and Australia again.” What things are you looking forward to in the new year, music wise? “Like I said, I’d like to do something outside of club music. Perhaps next year you will see me do something like that.”
Finally, when was the last time you danced and why? “The last time I danced was in Berghain! I guess the DJ played my favourite sound, I can’t remember what that was at the time. I do dance though, I mean I know that some DJs claim that they don’t dance, but I’m not like that. I don’t care whether it’s techno, house, disco or eighties seventies or sixties music, as long as it’s good music and good vibes among friends, why not? You are human after all.”
Words by Sindhuja Shyam, 23 January 2013. 1 comment
There are a lot of reasons we like Jacques Renault – first off, he shares his name with a particularly insidious “Twin Peaks” character. He’s also responsible for some of our favourite remixes from the past few years, most notably his anthemic take on Midnight Magic’s “Beam Me Up” and the haunting revision of CFCF’s “Frozen Forest”. On top of that, he runs the party-slash-record label Let’s Play House with Nik Mercer, known for its life-affirming house and disco and recently featured on Pitchfork’s New Brookyn Underground spotlight alongside Truants friends and family L.I.E.S., Mr Saturday Night and UNO. For their first release of the year they’ve got something special – “Back To You”, Renault’s first original track in three years. It’s built around an unassuming but unquestionably jacking kick and hard-edged percussion that takes no prisoners on the dancefloor. This leads off towards a smooth, gated horn riff and some Chic-esque guitar licks, while hummed vocals and a bassline that just hints towards Stardust wink and nod at similar styles across different eras. Those congas on the top are really the icing, and while it all seems to drift in and out of tune, that’s just your mind playing tricks on you. Well played, Jacques.
Stream: Jacques Renault – Back To You (Paradis Remix) (Let’s Play House)
On the flip we have a debut remix from Parisian duo Paradis, who’ve already released two sublime 12″s on Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space Records It’s a delectable nine minutes of melancholy house groove. It’s faster than the original, yet takes it down a more emotional route with breathy, mournful lyrics added by the Frenchmen. It calls to mind the emotive house jams you’ll find on Permanent Vacation (where, let’s not forget, we discovered Renault’s aforementioned Midnight Magic remix) – a great look for any label. If that’s not enough for you, there’s a remix EP to follow later in the year. In the meantime, be sure to check out the inaugural LPH podcast, mixed by Dead Rose Music Company, while New York fam can Play House with Jacques and HNNY at The Woods in Brooklyn tomorrow. It’s all part of the experience, right?
Jacques Renault’s Back To You is out now on Let’s Play House.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 23 January 2013. 2 comments
It’s been about three and a half years since Jason Chung, better known as Nosaj Thing, unleashed his debut album “Drift” onto the world. Hailing from leftfield beat capital of the USA, Los Angeles, Chung initially made a name for himself through his self-released “Views / Octopus EP”, which saw him toying with glitch sounds, bit crushers, abrasive melodies, and live filtering. After one listen his linage as a boy brought up on golden age hip-hop is apparent. “Views / Octopus EP” was bursting from its seams with color and noise and though it was beautiful at the same time it was wearing and unsustainable. His debut gave us fan favorites such as “IOIO”, “1685/Bach”, and “Voices” and as an album one phrase in particular came to mind; chaotic refinement. On his LP he presented a more polished version of his vision which worked, becoming a 2009 favorite among critics and fans. In the time since he has built a visually stunning live show and worked in the studio with the likes of Kendrick Lamar. Now, after three and a half years and a couple of false alarms, he has released his sophomore album, “Home”. Time has steadied his focus and brought about maturity, artistically; again, the word refinement comes to mind.
Around the time of the release of “Drift”, Chung was already openly discussing his plans for the follow-up record. Though he came from a beat-centric world he was no stranger to (and a fan of) vocals. His interest in working with vocalists manifested itself in two of the album’s more memorable cuts – “Eclipse/Blue” featuring Kazu Makino, and “Try” featuring Toro y Moi. Kazu Makino’s (of Blonde Redhead, a band that Chung has cited as one of his favorites) contribution is the type of “skeleton” more people should use when pairing vocals with their instrumentals, in the sense that it compliments the beat. Instead of the typical process of 1+1=2 (although more often than not it becomes less than the sum of its parts) when it comes to vocals, Makino’s ethereal voice adds depth. It also helps that the instrumental feels as though it were built with her voice in mind. “Try” shares many similarities with the former, though the vocal feels slightly less necessary. Behind a skippy beat and woozy synth lines, Chaz Bundick’s voice seems to slide through the center of the song. Even the slight use of autotune seems appropriate. The instrumental itself shows just how much Chung has focused his sound; there are no glaring synths or glitches, it’s just a smooth four-minute ride with Bundick as the co-pilot.
Moving away from the album’s vocal tracks you are given relatively short beats (rarely exceeding four-minutes), which act as a window into the mindset of an artist who we believe has come into his own. As a whole there is an uptick in the use of melodies as opposed to sound design. Gone is the majority of those head-spinning basslines that laced his first releases, instead they are replaced with increasingly complex layering. Though he may lose a few fans – the ones who desired a harder sound from him, the move is in line with the theme of the album. The opener and title track, “Home”, does a lot to foreshadow what’s to come in the subsequent thirty-four minutes. Panning synthesizers that mimic the sound of a distorted vocal are place on top sparse kick drums and organic strings. It wouldn’t be a complete stretch to compare it to beat boxing, albeit an electronic variety. Another standout is “Tell”, which uses some of the simple filter techniques he has become known for in tandem with an almost two-step groove. The melody and patches used on this track are simple and sonically addictive; this is one of the many tracks we left on repeat. “Snap” has one of the most upfront basslines on the album and brings back memories of older tracks, though he pulls the reins in on the synthesizers, showing a vast amount of control, and lets the beat breathe. On a whole Chung’s drum game has always been top notch, but now it feels cleaner and has a rhythm generally associated with other, more dance-orientated genres.
Stream: Nosaj Thing – Try feat. Toro y Moi (Innovative Leisure Records)
The album’s final two tracks, “Phase III” and “Light #3”, could be considered roots stemming from his past. Their names reference tracks from his self-released EP and “Drift”, respectively. It would seem that by phase he means a phase in his musical growth (and possibly personal growth) because this track alludes to its counterpart very little and instead focuses more on headspace (though “Phase II” was one of the more subdued tracks on the EP). The two previous Light tracks leaned on sharp melodies and to an extent so does “Light #3”, especially in its piano intro which uses a repeater in a similar fashion to “Light #1”. Chung seems to be letting the listener know he is aware of his previous work, sound, and the direction he is going now; it’s encouraging to see an artist who is so keenly self aware.
“Home” sounds like a personal album, which may seem obvious given the title. Over the course of the album Chung demonstrates how far he’s come and how comfortable he’s become in the last three and a half years. He’s lived, toured, worked with some of his idols and contemporaries, and appears to have come into his own as an artist. If you approach this album expecting a host of new sounds and experiments you may be disappointed because that is not what it’s about or the image he is trying to leave the listener with. Though his music was never exclusively geared toward dance floors, many of his tracks worked on them; whereas this album feels like he has crafted something geared more for home listening. Like many albums it is a grower, and for some it many feel underwhelming with it’s toned down voice. One of the problems that face many producers from this area of electronic music is putting together an album that has a cohesive theme and voice; we would argue that he has done that. Over the course of 11 tracks nothing feels completely out of place and no one track stands out as the hit - instead it works as one cohesive piece. It appears that he has moved away from (or maybe grown out of) simply making beats to being a more leftfield producer with a vision, and hopefully his audience has and will continue to grow with him.
Words by Jonathon Alcindor, 22 January 2013. Leave a comment
The new tape from Black Migo leader / Freeband member is here and it’s fantastic. Young Scooter manages to establish a compelling persona across almost all of “Street Lottery’s“ tracks, skillfully maneuvering between winning drug king and flawed, hurt hustler with an understated musicality. The production, especially that from longtime trap genius Zaytoven is outstanding and an overwhelming testament to the positive effects of MDMA; there are so many wonderful airy trance arpeggios and swelling come-ups on this tape. A remastered high quality would be nice.
Rap is all about a voice, and that’s what immediately makes Young Scooter interesting. Rapping in a lazy pinched shout, he cuts through every beat with a suppressed sing-song swing, the slow end-line couplets affording the music plenty of room. The runs of distinct couplets that make up his verses mean that each statement is given plenty of time to generate its impact, so when a particularly sharp image or idea lands, it feels huge. In this way, Young Scooter establishes his on record self quickly and with a close economy of language; true, it helps that street rap stereotypes are the reductive to the point of insanity, but Young Scooter defines himself by deviating from cliches and slipping significant depth and honesty into many of his best verses. Whether evoking the emptiness of city poverty on “Made it through the Struggle“: ‘I couldn’t wait to get to school: that’s my meals all week’, or acknowledging the fragility of a hustler’s life on “Run Ya Bands Up“: ‘I live a dope boy life. When you hustling, some days you can’t get right’, there is enough newness and unexpected turns in his raps to make us listen.
Stream: Young Scooter – Run Ya Bands Up
But for all Young Scooter’s excellent efforts, “Street Lottery” succeeds most often because of the sustained brilliance of its production. Varied, innovative and rarely bogged down by current trends, “Street Lottery” is one of the best produced mixtapes of the past year; Metro Boomin, Izze The Producer and Lil Lody all showing up and doing good. But from the diamond highs of “Julio”, to the neon rooftop night of “Nothin Important Than Money”, to the vintage trap of “Street Lights” (featuring an OJ verse no less!) it is Zaytoven who really defines this tape. He has always been an outstanding producer, most famously during Gucci Mane‘s astonishing mid career run, but he’s never really transitioned from street mixtape king to industry producer du jour. Listening to this tape one wonders why; he sounds as vital and as new as he ever did, almost always landing at the elusive join between practiced craft and experimentation.
Then there’s another fantastic partnership between Future and Young Scooter. As a duo they make perfect sense, each existing as a parallel opposite on the Rapper/Singer spectrum. Their combined efforts make “Julio” one of the standout tracks on “Street Lottery”; Future’s enormous, unstoppable, entirely unique charisma hitting hard despite his restrained verse (honestly, he outshines Young Scooter, but come on, it’s Future). Elsewhere the guests are of an expected mixed quality: Gucci Mane shows up on two tracks with two of the most quotable verses of the tape. “Work“ is stunning and full of rolling squashed assonance: ‘They say crime don’t pay, well if crime don’t pay then I’m lying, not flying, and the sun ain’t shining’, and on “Street Lights“ he slows his flow to a boss’s supreme calm: ‘It don’t bother me that he got more than me // You know it’s loyalty over royalties // Got the bail money for you and the lawyer fees’. And I’m not sure how or why Ma$e has a verse on a 2013 Young Scooter mixtape, but it’s kinda great anyway you approach it. Low points include Chief Keef’s long but lazy verse over an undistinguished Mike Will production and also Bun B having his voice coated in an awkward, aging digital distort on the tape’s eponymous track.
Stream: Young Scooter – Work (feat. Gucci Mane)
Away from these insignificant negatives, perhaps the best verse on the best song of the entire project belongs to Marco on “Nothin Important Than Money“, who, in his sharp croak, tells a story about coping with, and eventually overcoming, childhood lack. His verse ends with the ostentatious triumph of newfound success and that’s typical of “Street Lottery”; it’s filled with moments of unfiltered, apparently inconsequential celebration, but it earns them.
Young Scooter’s Street Lottery is out now, available as a free download.