August was a crazy month in hip-hop. Between the flood of mixtapes released and Kendrick’s bar-raising verse, there was a lot to take in and sort through. Not to worry though, as we’ve corralled the heatwave of hip-hop here at Truants so you don’t get lost in the sauce. Here’s the notable drops of the month in our new feature that summarizes the mixtapes of the month.
A$AP Ferg stepped into the spotlight last year on A$AP Mob’s “Lords Never Worry”, specifically with his infectious hit “Work“. Over time, his highly anticipated debut mixtape-turned-album “Trap Lord” began to see the kind of blog-buzz seen previously with A$AP Rocky’s “LiveLoveA$AP”. While similar aesthetics are shared between the two rappers, Ferg brings his own delivery and flair that can only be wholly described as unique. A$AP Ferg raps like he’s straight off the streets of Gotham, with the imagery and storytelling to match.
Thoughts: It’s nice to hear Bone Thugs can still rap on “Lord”. “Shabba” has an uncanny way of getting stuck in your head; muttering “Shabba Shabba Ranks” to yourself as you complete mundane chores of the day. The “Work” remix featuring French Montana, Trinidad James, Schoolboy Q, and A$AP Rocky brought out all the stops but Schoolboy Q is the only one who truly raises any eyebrows with his verse. The album carries the electric current and dark streetlife aesthetic felt through “Lords Never Worry” one step further.
Recommended Songs: Let It Go, Murda Something (featuring Waka Flocka), Make a Scene
Is this Chief Keef’s auto-tune phase? It’s a pitfall (or an innovation, depending on the artist) seen previously among the likes of Kanye, Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and many others (but definitely not Jay-Z) til they revert back to normal delivery or strike a balance between auto-tune & normalcy. “Bang Part 2” could very well be Keef’s exercise in experimentation. Keep in mind this is only his 3rd mixtape and the 1st post-“Finally Rich” release. Should we expect more of robo-Keef? Hard to say. It’s likely, but we’re still in the beginning phases of (what should be) a long rap career for Keith Cozart. Overall, Bang Pt. 2 isn’t nearly as special as Chief Keef’s last two releases, but it does grow on the listener with each listen and is acceptable filler until his next release–which is titled Almighty So and rumored to drop in September.
Thoughts: A lot of the songs sound like they could be successors to songs off “Finally Rich”–whether it’s because of their lyrics or beats. On “Buy It”, Keef sounds like he’s doing his best Gucci Mane impression…which makes sense now that he’s signed to Guwap’s label. “No It Don’t” is all too similar to “They Know” (a Youtube smash that never saw a proper release) but not quite as good. The beat is still on point nonetheless. “Hard Way” sounds like a track left off “Back From the Dead” while “3” sounds like “Finally Rich Part 2″; I only wish it was longer. Most of the songs don’t even clock in at 2 minutes on “Bang Part 2″. Perhaps Keef is learning the beauty of brevity? “Gotta Glo Up One Day” is a grand track complete with horns that sound like a triumphant blend of “Back From the Dead” and “Finally Rich”. It treads close to pop territory for Keef and has become my favorite song on the mixtape. “Bank Closed” is one of the more playful and experimental tracks, sounding more true to the Chief Keef we know and love. “Hoz n Oz” is Keef at his laziest, muttering about a situation with a girl and something about Lady Gaga having an ass like Nicki Minaj. It’s the highest song on the mixtape, for sure.
Recommended Songs: “Gotta Glo Up One Day”, “Bank Closed”, “Chiefin’ Keef”
Curtis Williams is one part of Atlanta’s Two9 hip-hop collective. “Half Forgotten Daydreams” is his hazy mixtape clouded with weed smoke. It’s one of the best & most cohesive among the crop featured here.
Thoughts: “Automatic” is a stand-out track and a song capable of standing on its own without the rest of the mixtape. “1000 More Blunts” is an ode to weed (obviously) and is a complimentary tune to any smoke session; sounds like it samples and slows down that XXYYXX track “About You“. “Paradise” is a real nice, easy-going song that would fit any summer night. “Saturday Night” sounds like a Schoolboy Q track…which isn’t a bad thing.
Recommended Songs: “Paradise”, “Automatic”, “Philmore Slim”
Fat Trel has been on the come-up since his 2011 mixtape “No Secrets” introduced us to the molly-loving, DMV-representing, young rapper also known as Fat Gleesh. It should be noted DMV stands for the hip-hop scene in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia–the same area MMG rapper Wale reps. Trel’s got a sensibly laid-back approach to most of his flows along with a certain raspiness to his voice that sets him apart from similar rappers like Chief Keef and his GBE crew. It should also be noted “SDMG” stands for sex, drugs, money, and guns. Compared to the rest of his work, “SDMG” has Trel pushing his production comfort zone. While the topics remain the same, it’s a strong testament to the range of this burgeoning rapper.
Thoughts: Fat Trel prefers spacey, synth-heavy beats (his 2011 hit song “Rollin“, most of his last mixtape “Nightmare on E Street“) but performs just as well on traditional street anthems (“Willy Dynamite“, most of his 2011 mixtape “April Foolz“.) The opening track “SDMG” sets the standard for the futuristic production to follow in the mixtape, and it’s one of the most interesting songs on the tape due to the absence of drums for majority the song…only a sweeping, dotty synth to accompany Trel’s prose-like flow. It feels like there’s going to be a climactic moment where a beat drops and shatters the synthscape around Trel’s growl but it never comes. I don’t know who JGramm Beats is (turns out he’s a 19 year old Canadian producer) but he has me interested with his production due to “SDMG” alone. The Harry Fraud produced “Willy Dynamite” feels as East Coast as Smoke DZA’s flow sounds. Danny Brown hops on for some characteristically frenetic & crude bars as well. “Thots” is great not only for capitalizing on every rapper’s favorite new term “thot” (That Ho Out There) but also because of its rattling beat. Similar to “Bang Part 2”, Fat Trel turns a few knobs on the auto-tune with this mixtape, and it works well on a few of the songs.
Recommended Songs: “SDMG”, “Thots”, “Outro”
Radric Davis does not sleep; the man has released NINE albums’-worth of material in 2013 alone, with an album still on the way. For the most part, “WW3” comes off as uninspired “quantity-over-quality” Gucci. There are hints of the prime rapid-delivery, witty-wordplay rapper we admire though–as well as some impressive features–that makes this trilogy a worthy download to add to your Gucci Mane library. We’ve already gone in-depth about WW3 so here’s another brief overview of each tape:
Thoughts on “Gas”: There’s a crazy verse on “Fresh as a Bitch” with Peewee Longway. “Geekin’”s got a characteristically aggressive verse from Waka Flocka. A couple songs (“Bill Cosby”, “Bad Bitch”) sound like an older mid-00’s Gucci and it’s awesome. Not to mention the “whew” ad-lib is something to be missed from modern-day Gucci raps.
On “Molly”: The song “So Much Money” with Chief Keef has the two of them trying to out auto-tune each other and it still manages to work and form a nice track. Keef’s auto-tune sounds like there’s a little too much distortion on it…like it was mixed separately from Gucci’s vocals and maybe even recorded on an iPhone. “Throw That Pussy” shows Gucci is still capable of rapid fire delivery. He says he’s a breast cancer supporter on “Don’t Look at Me”, which is a cleverly veiled reference to the color of some types of codeine (pink).
On “Lean”: “Confused” sounds like a classic Zaytoven track, and Future (in top form here) only adds to its greatness. The way they trade bars on the last verse is magnetic. The beat on “Won’t Change” has Gucci getting more of a grasp on its bounce as it goes. Young Thug absolutely murders the beat on “Intro”. If you don’t know who Young Thug is, it’s time to wake up. There’s shots fired at pretty much every beef Gucci’s partaken in on “Birds of a Feather”. I’ve really been enjoying Gucci’s collabs with R&B singer Verse Simmonds (“It’s Not a Day”, 2012’s “Shake Dat“, Trap God 2‘s “You Gon Love Me“)
There’s nothing all that progressive about “Progression 3”. It’s more of the same for Texas’s Kirko Bangz–crooning about codeine and paying homage to his homestate. For those unfamiliar with Kirko, he rose to fame with the sleeper hit of 2011 “Drank In My Cup” and was selected to the XXL Freshman Class of 2013. His most recent hit was the 2012 collab with Meek Mill, “Young & Gettin’ It” and “Progression 3” is the latest offering from the 24 year old Houstonite. Stylistically, Kirko’s best comparison is fellow rapper-singer Drake. Whereas Drake remains king of the North, Kirko has shown he can handle being the prince of the South and delivers a solid mixtape to hold you over until “Nothing Was the Same” drops.
Thoughts: There’s a good balance of slow jams and Southern bangers on the mixtape, as well as a suite of features. Kirko’s got a soft spot evident here on slow jams like “Old Ways”, which brings to mind a similar self-loathing you’d find on a Drake record. The 9 minute opus “Came Here For Something” is entirely about keeping a relationship strictly sexual (“I don’t want that serious shit/You don’t want that serious shit”) as the beat progressively gets slower. It almost reaches the levels of impressiveness as Drake & The-Dream’s 7-minute R&B classic “Shut It Down”. In contrast to the downtempo crooning, songs like “Make it Mine” hold a beat that sounds like it came straight out of Chicago’s drill scene with its bone-rattling bass, but Kirko gives it Southern appeal with the help of Trinidad James. Other songs keep with this Southern aesthetic like “Cup Up Top Down” (which features Texan legends Z-Ro, Paul Wall, and Slim Thug) and “Awwready” (produced by Jahlil Beats, the man behind “Young & Gettin’ It” and Meek’s “Burn”.) The song “Versace” featuring French Montana, YG, and G Haze provides us with one of the best DJ Mustard beats of the year while managing to avoid the obvious comparison to Migos’ smash hit of the same name.
Recommended Songs: “Versace”, “Vent 2”, “Awwready”
If you liked Trinidad James’s debut mixtape Don’t Be S.A.F.E, you’ll probably like 10 Piece Mild. There’s no solidified hit like “All Gold Everything” here, but it’s more of the same from the Atlanta rapper with a considerable amount of features that were absent from Trinidad’s first outing.
Thoughts: “Quez” sounds like a Juicy J track without Juicy J. It’s a fun, party track about being too fucked up that takes a surreal 180 degree turn towards the end as a piano comes in and whoever’s rapping continues spitting bars over a nearly entirely different beat. Danny Brown proves he’s always a fun feature on this track. One of the most interesting tracks of the tape is “Hipster Strip Club”. Like Don’t Be S.A.F.E.’s “Females Welcomed”, we find Trinidad dabbling in dubstep-rap and making it work right when you thought the trend was over. K.E. on the Track produced a beautiful beat that samples Imogen Heap (I’m 97% sure about this, mainly because rappers rapping over Imogen has become a “thing”.) Trinidad gets emotional and shows the most sensitivity we’ve seen yet from the rapper in lyrics like “Please don’t leave me alone/’Cause I don’t know where I’d go”. The other appeal of a song like this is its title and wondering if a song like this could actually pass in a strip club. It’s an interesting concept that Trinidad executes artfully, and I actually do think this song could be a stripper anthem in a hipster city like Portland or Austin. “Shut Up” is a good collab with Travis Scott over a Young Chop beat. Travis lends his recognizable auto-tune voice while Trinidad goes crazy on the hook. Both rappers provide lots of energy; evidence Trinidad is just as turnt up on “10 Piece Mild” as he is contemplative.
Recommended Songs: “Eastside” (featuring Gucci Mane, Alley Boy, Childish Gambino, & Young Scooter), “Hipster Strip Club”, “Quez”
Young L is a rapper/producer from California that owes a lot of his sound to the influence of Kanye’s “808’s and Heartbreaks”. He’s known particularly for his work with The Pack (the rap group Lil B used to be in) and has slowly been making a name for himself with his solo efforts. “Atari” and “Powder Blue Pills” have been previous viral hits, and now we are presented with “YFGOD”–which stands for Young Fashion God. In 2013, it seems like the motif of the year is the messiah complex with Yeezus, the Trap God (Gucci Mane), Trap Lord (A$AP Ferg), and of course Young L’s good friend, the Based God, all releasing music this year.
Thoughts: Young L has an eclectic bunch of influences ranging from Crystal Castles to Jay-Z to Bob Dylan, and it’s shown here as he samples artists like Adele on “Turning Tables”. “My 4” flips the script entirely on what you thought you knew about The Weeknd/Drake collab “Crew Love”. The song finds Young L singing about just him and his 4 (his car) in a moment of solitude with codeine as his companion. “Coupe Life” is YFGOD’s most pop sounding track with its Daft Punk-ish beat. He messes with lots of different effects that you’ll either be pleased with or turned off by.
Recommended Songs: “Foil Wheels”, “On Her Face”, “M.H.C.C.”