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Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: June's Hip Hop Mixtapes Reviewed By Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , July 3rd, 2013 05:45

Back! It's the one you've been waiting for! Hardcore! Mixtapes galore! Gary Suarez looks at June's notable DLs both good and bad

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June administered a lifesaving shock to the system for hip hop, thanks to a quartet of buzzed about album releases that made the month’s second half meaningful.

The excitement around Born Sinner, The Gifted, Watching Movies With The Sound Off and Yeezus combined to make one formidable jolt. It resulted in the beginning of summertime arms race, with everyone from Ace Hood to Big Sean to 2 Chainz to Jay-Z staking claim to release dates and fostering the sort of competition on which hip hop truly thrives.

Inadvertently, these activities often overshadow mixtape coverage. Fortunately for you, you can read about (and listen to) the tapes you have have missed from Maybach Music misfit Gunplay, drill scene queen Katie Got Bandz, Bad Boy protege Machine Gun Kelly, hardscrabble G-Unit vet Tony Yayo, and, uhhh, Migos.

Migos - Y.R.N.

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Gucci Mane must celebrate Father’s Day all year round. He certainly beams like a proud papa during his feature for 'Dennis Rodman', a scarce highlight on this Fisher Price trap playset of a mixtape. An Atlanta-based trio comprised of Offset, Quavo and Takeoff, Migos revel monosyllabically in their goonery, the variety of which will no doubt satisfy those Southern aficionados that (at least passively) dismiss lyricism as an antiquated measure of quality.

Several of the tracks on Y.R.N. follow a facile formula: repeat one-or-two words over and over on the hook until they either lose or gain meaning. Admittedly, there are a handful of times when this dime store hypnosis takes hold, as on the tooth-sucking dealer swag anthems 'Hannah Montana' and 'Versace'. More often than not, however, the three emcees sound winded and mush-mouthed, losing the very plot they’re meant to be conveying.

From the sheltered ethnic misfires of 'China Town' to the goofy Nextel ringtone impressions of 'Chirpin', clumsy metaphors make for lousy crutches. Eyeing the success of their neighbor Future, Migos employ Auto-Tune liberally and lumpenly ('Bakers Man', 'Finesser'). Possibly the tape’s nadir, 'Adios' short circuits with android error messages and B-movie ethnic stereotypes.

Something beautiful and sombre happens on 'Thank You God', a seemingly genuine expression of stunned gratitude over Stack Boy Twuan’s music box shuffle. Humble and honest, the moving track nearly compels a reassessment of all that came before as perhaps something more than mere bravado. Fortunately, such sentiment washes off in carefree waves of 'Versace Versace Versace'.

Gunplay - Acquitted

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Considering the transparent Rap Game Fantasia that Rick Ross has constructed around himself, the continued presence of a real grimey-ass hood spitter in the Maybach Music Group is cause for concern. However, Gunplay’s reputation for living the life, from multiple run-ins with the law to a history on both sides of the coke trade, lend authenticity to tapes like 601 & Snort and Bogotá Rich. With a proper solo debut planned for the year’s end, his latest reinforces everything we’ve come to expect from him -- and not much else. Nobody really wants Gunplay to play it any other way though. Self-explanatory narcotic narratives ('Cocaina Que Linda', 'Pyrex') deliver more reliably than that guy on your speed dial. Perhaps weary from all the inconvenient collect calls, Rozay deigns to appear on the Triple C’s reunion 'D.O.P.E.'

Katie Got Bandz - Drillary Clinton

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Despite having possibly the coolest mixtape title of 2013, Drillary Clinton essentially secures the artist’s dubious distinction as the drill scene’s most one-note rapper. Smothered by lopsided production from BlockOnDaTrakk on eleven out of the sixteen songs, it exposes the banality of this adolescent’s purported evil. Nothing here sets Katie Got Bandz on a path to power outside that of her neighborhood fiefdom, save of course for 'In The Field', a renamed bait-and-switch of her popular pairing with trap beatsmith Carnage. Her tedious and toneless tirades about as interesting as any teenager’s text messages, she inadvertently summarizes her failings best during 'Bandz', which boasts the telling lyric "Bandz! Bandz! / All I talk about is bandz!” Such unwavering vapidity breaks only when King Louie drops in on 'Pop Out'.

Machine Gun Kelly - Black Flag

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As if there weren’t enough confusion already about the duelling Black Flag reunions, here comes Diddy’s bright young thing to further muck up the works. Known for his Apollo Theater triumphs and rapid-fire flow, the artist formerly known as MGK continues to jockey for position in the Bad Boy roster with this new tape. Straddling minor league fame and underground struggle can prove tricky, yet Machine Gun Kelly demonstrates effective flexibility, albeit not all that memorably. Referential cues to better songs elicit brief Pavlovian responses on cuts like 'D&G' and 'Pe$o'. While not as guest-dependent as his major label outing Lace Up, Black Flag sports assists from the likes of French Montana, Meek Mill, and Pusha T, as well as an almost unrecognizable chorus bow from Wiz Khalifa ('Mind of a Stoner').

Tony Yayo - Godfather Of The Ghetto

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His career deferred by an untimely incarceration, Tony Yayo has long struggled to find his footing and his following in the waning years of 50 Cent’s empire. Unlike his brethren Lloyd Banks and Young Buck, he barely enjoyed the crew’s zenith save for one well-received solo single 'So Seductive'. Some eight years since his middling debut, the Queens native once again fails to live up to the 'Free Yayo' sloganeering hype, though not for lack of trying. The fickleness of rap fans aside, Godfather Of The Ghetto suffers from unremarkable production and uninspired delivery. Over-reaching pop attempts ('Girlfriend') rub up against dealer realness ('Selling Keys') yet the friction yields no fire. 'Lean Molly', Yayo’s ill-advised attempt at trap crossover, dumps a bucket of cold water over everything else. A cynical G-Unit reunion seems almost inevitable.