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Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: April's Hip Hop Mixtapes Reviewed by Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , April 29th, 2015 08:47

He gets his bread, he gets some more, he grabs his Jimmy Choos - Gary Suarez always wears the optimum footwear when reviewing the finest hip hop mixtapes April has to offer

There's a very good chance you haven't heard Brodinski's album Brava, which is a real shame given how it presents a paradox facing hip hop culture. Here we have an EDM affair from a French producer distributed by a major label. The cover art is a junk culture Dali orb of vaguely druggy detritus with Louis Rogé and his fashion model beard scruff at its center. Yet beyond this Photoshop hackjob of post-Bjork bougie lies a startling, left-of-center trap album featuring scores of American, mostly Southern, rap artists including Bloody Jay, Slim Thug, and Young Scooter.

I'll leave the appropriation-obsessed outrage gamers to decide the immorality of this international work, as I'm far more interested in examining its merits. For starters, the production is exceptional, easily the best example of EDM and hip hop's unconventional marriage in recent years. But this union bears a stigma, an example of genre miscegenation rejected by puritans, snobs, and turn-up elitists. Labels like Fool's Gold and Mad Decent have been not-at-all-quietly putting out some of the best hip hop music in the world, but you'd be hard pressed to hear any of it on rap radio or even at your favorite blogs. In a time when the beatmakers themselves are the real stars of the rap game, Brodinski's appeal appears unfairly destined for pigeonholing.

But those who did cop Brava undoubtedly got turnt to L.A.-based rapper Bricc Baby Shitro, whose three appearances there are some of the record's most diverse. He's the hypeman and hookmeister dancing around the acid breaks of 'Hector', the dope dealin' dancehall don of 'Bury Me,' and the trap duke of closer 'On Me'. That last track bridges any perceived gaps between what Shitro's done with Brodinski and what he's got going on for his own Nasty Dealer. 'Piano Cracc', featuring the tape's sole gallic beat, is somewhat less conventional than even the most straightlaced of those prior cuts, lyrical content aside.

With artwork perhaps more absurd than Brodinski's, Nasty Dealer doesn't capitalize enough on the variety he's heretofore proven he can deliver, though slow jams 'In Love With A Hater' and 'On The Low' add further depth to his profile. Mostly, Shitro's here to deliver on the promise of his cover art, which he does well on cuts like 'What I Want' and the title track. Familiar mixtape players like Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital make appearances, as do lesser known talents like Epikh and Sam Tiba. Features-wise, Young Thug joins in on 'Thru Wit It,' while radio darling Kid Ink comes through for the suitable 'No Pressure.' Bay Area badass Lil Debbie upstages both of those with her charmed bars on 'Real Love'. Hopefully his next one recognises the value of that EDM plug.

ELWD - Dreamwaves

With the Brainfeeder brand increasingly fixated on jazzy goodtimes, what's a brainwashed b-boy to do? Los Angelenos may be tying off like 1950s Miles Davis, but Sheffield's Bad Taste Records' comes through with this low key fix. Armed with an MPC Renaissance and a budding cinephile's Netflix queue, ELWD drops this mesmeric tape. Presented as one uninterrupted track, both digitally and on covetable cassette, the hypnagogic journey starts with a crackle followed by sparring alt R&B shrieks and moans. There are lingering sleepytime apparitions, heard in the form of copious samples from Ghost Dog, Vanilla Sky, Waking Life, et cetera. The hip hop vibe remains constant but frequently threatens to vapourise and escape back into the ether. Maybe's that's a slopped n' chopped Minnie Riperton vocal thirteen or so minutes in, but it's just as likely to be Jean-Jacques Smoothie. Dreamwaves is a cozy catnap from a producer with the potential to incapacitate us.

Sasha Go Hard - Nutty World 2

Sasha is not fucking around. Though she's never been shy about putting herself first, there's a great deal more anger on this tape than anything she's presented before. Arguably the best of her Chiraqi generation, she lives up to her name once again on impenetrable cuts like 'All I Say' and 'Say To Me.' On the latter, she's quick to distance herself from drill, a subgenre tag that admittedly never quite suited a rapper as versatile and lyrical as Sasha. Having given us some solid tapes since at least 2013, Nutty World 2 presents an artist more than ready to drop an album. Over a brooding beat reminiscent of Havoc, she waves off haters and reiterates her independence, Patron bottle in hand ('Bang That'). Chalk it up to those early days mixing it up with Diplo, but her love for electro slappers continues, with the bouncing 'Today' mirroring last year's Lil Debbie collab 'Feel So Good.'

Sicko Mobb - Super Saiyan Vol 2

Despite all the insular and academic whinging over Future Brown's self-titled conversation starter, the pan-urban album reintroduced bop to the wider conversation about the state of Chicago hip hop. 'Big Homie' featured the chirpy subgenre's signature duo Sicko Mobb dropping singsong hooks over plink plonk melodies and static snares. So the timing of their latest tape couldn't be more perfect. If you're never heard their brand of street level dance pop, think helium Migos or Rae Sremmurd on bennies. Chipmunk-meets-chiptune, their gibberish-speed vocals are made coherent and catchy by way of autotuned repetition ('Penny Hardaway'). On cuts like 'Rolling Stone', their production is straight outta the chop shop, soldering EDM motifs and happy hardcore glee onto a trap chassis. They're just two youngsters having too much fun, celebrating wealth and health with plenty of carefree recreational drug use ('Double Cup'). The deliriously good highlight 'Own Lane' is at least as worthy of incessant radio play as Fetty Wap's 'Trap Queen'.

BONUS: One Hitters:

Father - Who's Gonna Get Fucked First? After exploding with the Makonnen-assisted 'Look At Wrist,' the bright young deviant subsequently shines solo even as he hastily puts as many Awful Records crewmates on as possible.

OG Maco - OGZay No Beast Mode, to be sure, this zippy Zaytoven-produced EP only occasionally strikes a chord.

TM88 x Ethan Sacii - TM88 Presents Sacii Lyfe After publicly distancing himself from the rest of the 808 Mafia, the ATL-based producer turns in a wholly banal trap affair.

Curtis Williams - Zip Skylark Two-9's best known follows last summer's Danco James with this deliberately haphazard collection of freestyles and sneak previews of things to come.

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