The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: October's Hip Hop Mixtapes Reviewed By Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , October 20th, 2014 11:51

Gary Suarez may have four score and nineteen problems but a cogent position on all of this month's key hip hop mix tapes ain't one

Meek Mill's incarceration threw a gold-plated wrench into the Maybach Music works. Exemplified by Mastermind's March misfire, Rick Ross' imprint had already spent much of 2014 whiffing well before his most respected artist's anticipated new record got understandably shelved. Neither of last year's promising signings Fat Trel or Tracy T have broken out and Wale's long-promised The Album About Nothing has yet to materialize. Having lost the summer to DJ Mustard, MMG has tried to recover with a desperate Q4 hail mary, dumping out singles from Rockie Fresh and Wale, pushing up Stalley's album release, and announcing Rozay's own Hood Billionaire, his second full-length in eight months.

Whether or not MMG is in freefall remains to be seen, but anyone who recalls G-Unit's very public descent spiral can recognize the signs. Mustard's radio dominance these past twelve months makes Rozay's production preferences just sound old, the worst possible qualifier to affix to a major label hip-hop artist or imprint. French Montana's 'Don't Panic' was blessed with a Dijon McFarlane beat, but neither Ross nor Stalley have yet to release anything off their imminent records that even resembles what's hot in the streets right now.

And then there's Gunplay. Hell, we've been owed a full-length from the label's most cocaine credible talent for so long that its planned title of Living Legend became downright pertinent. Judging from his eponymous new mixtape, Gunplay hasn't been idle. He's spitting over everything 2013-2014, from Khaled's 'They Don't Love You No More' and Pusha's 'Numbers On The Board' to Shmurda's 'Hot N*gga' and Weezy/Dreezy's 'Believe Me.' The beats may change, but this is familiar territory for the Floridian, his comfort level dangerously approaching complacency.

Showing his age with guests slots from solid vets Cormega ('Savages') and N.O.R.E. ('J.O.B.'), the only MMG member he appears to have time for is Rozay, who features strong on 'Aiight'. Purportedly Living Legend's lead single, the cut offers superior coke allusions than 'Elvis Presley Blvd' and far more compelling crime stories than 'Jackin Chevys'. Given Gunplay's reputation and record, MMG and its rotund leadership can't be held accountable for all the unkept promises, but the Don Logan-shaped void in MMG's year-end album push might be even more glaring than that of Meek.

Frenchie - Fukk Fame

It's not easy being Frenchie. Those persistent conservative debates about bringing New York back never seem to mention his name (favouring instead a different faux-francophile) and the acrimony between 1017 Brick Squad and Brick Squad Monopoly threatens to turn him into another vanity label casualty. To his credit, Fukk Fame has all the trappings of a BSM tape even without the logo, thanks to slick beats by the familiar likes of Sonny Digital and members of 808 Mafia. There are exceptions, however, and they're mostly worth hearing. Tape opener 'So Long' rejiggers last year's Kanye-warbling Pusha T single 'Hold On' into something more pensive than we'd expect from a trapaholic. Features from Bloody Jay and Trae Tha Truth appear voluntary, though 'Birds & Keys' and 'Fun' make unwitting collaborators of Feist and Lana Del Rey, respectively. Hopefully Frenchie doesn't take personally Gucci Mane's ice cold 'You're A Nobody' verse/chorus, a meta contender for sneak diss of the year.

Jet Life - Organized Crime

It must be strange for Curren$y now that Wiz Khalifa broke out of the cloud rap ghetto. (He even took the good rapper named Ty with him.) This crew compilation seeks a way forward for his Jet Life collective of weed carriers and above average weed carriers. A star waiting to explode, Young Roddy continues to stand out from the pack, his Lord Quas-reminiscent dulcet-toned flow lifting 'Boost Mobile' as well as 'Dirty Money', the best 'Hot N*gga' remix this side of Shmurda's cap. Sadly, his shine exposes the inherent dullness of TY and Le$, both of whom take up a disproportionate amount of the running time. Curren$y unsuccessfully attempts to bolster the former on 'See Me Ball,' but it isn't until the sizzurp soul sensations of 'Brand New' that Le$ begins to mount an appeal. Closer to the recent pair of Saturday Night Car Tunes EPs, 'It's Over With' regresses to pleasantly airy synthwork but at that point it's more an admission of defeat. Fiend's apparent absence is distressing.

Omelly - Gunz And Butter

A noted William Jennings Bryant scholar, this street macroeconomist claims to see the big picture. Cousin to Meek Mill, Omelly wastes no time with silly things like lyricism or originality or differentiation but rather goes straight to by-the-numbers Auto-Tune pop goonery. Over standardised beats by Jay Cornell and O.G. Bobby Johnson, he vacillates between amorous sensitive thug ('Break Me Down'), seething misogynist piggy ('Fuck You Gon Say') and strapped hustler ('Mission'). Is he any of these things? Does he even know anymore? Lacking an identity of his own, he gloms on to those of his guests, including French Montana, Jadakiss and Lil Durk. There's no trap meme Omelly's too modest to appropriate ('1Hunnit') into meaninglessness. Even when he's calling out the fakes it sounds disingenuous. By the end of the tape, he's taken advantage of his listeners, having tried on just about every contemporary rap stereotype. When it comes to Gunz And Butter, there's really nothing to it. No really, there's nothing to see here folks. Move along.

Rome Fortune - Small VVorld

Gazing out from the bathtub scene of the cover artwork, Rome Fortune looks like someone who demands to be taken very seriously. Yet much of his latest project sounds like the work of an artist enjoying his freedom. A favourite of Yung Lean, beatmaker Suicide Year covers a third of the tape, though the bonus track produced by Four Tet will assuredly delight older hipsters too. Spoken with a sharp millennial tongue, his aptitude at wordplay is more nuanced than one might anticipate. '5 Second Rule' accomplishes this masterfully, turning the juvenile eating policy into a strip club heckle. His peccadillos are nothing new to the rap game, but he's a better spokesman for this sort of vice than the narrow-minded. OG Maco appears on multiple cuts, suggesting Fortune has intentions of bringing his boy up with him.

BONUS - One Hitters:

Big Baby Gandhi - N.H.J.I.C.
Funkmaster Flex be damned, the confidently esoteric Queens emcee spits six gleefully linked freestyles peppered with the Hot 97 DJ's own drops.

Capo - Can't Leave The Streets
The last thing Rick Ross' fantasy football team needs right now is another kicker.

Guilty Simpson - The Simpson Tape
Much like when big brother Madlib paired with Freddie Gibbs earlier this year, Oh No teams up with the Detroit spitter and gives album-worthy results.

Birdman / Rich Homie Quan / Young Thug - Rich Gang Tha Tour: Pt. 1
An exhaustive and exhausting twenty-track slog, this trio incredibly expect to find new truffles by rooting for them repeatedly in the same barren plot of land.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.