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Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: October’s Hip Hop Mixtapes Reviewed By Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , October 29th, 2015 08:34

The United States of trap is in disarray, as Young Thug cosigns falter while one of Chicago’s brightest ascends. Your intrepid mixtape critic Gary Suarez investigates

Despite two mixtape projects so far in 2015 and the looming albeit dubious promise of two more - a Slime Season sequel and a collaborative one with Migos, respectively - due by month’s end, much of Young Thug’s sanctioned output this year actually appeared on other people’s tapes. In the spiritual absence of Gucci Mane, the 1017 protégé has followed in his footsteps with a growing social network of spitters, a sort of diaspora of hungry rap affiliates with sometimes changing monikers. Those who’ve been paying attention no doubt copped releases from MPA Duke and Yakki Divioshi this year from DatPiff or another comparable service. Those who have not are missing the full picture of one of the year’s most obsessed over rap artists.

Yak Gotti briefly featured on Barter 6’s bass swaddled minimal cut ‘Dream’, which juxtaposed his tempered croak with Thugger’s pitch shifting. Apart from Migos’ Yung Rich Nation outtake ‘Wrist In The Water’ and a couple of mixtape placements alongside Hoodrich Pablo Juan, the rapper hasn’t done much to capitalize his raised profile this year. A lean ten tracks long, Mind Of A Maniac probably won’t help a ton.

Incredibly, the sole Young Thug appearance comes in a straight reprise of the long available ‘Dream’. Despite representing his patron’s Young Stoner Life from the cover art to the opening bars, Gotti apparently doesn’t merit another track with his purported patron. On roughly a third of the remaining nine, Lil Duke - or is it MPA Duke? - appears for what I assume is moral support. Judging by the rest of the tape, Gotti sure can use it. Still trying to find his voice, he attempts a range of them on the plodding ‘Drip’. Production here only compounds the problem. The beat on ‘They Don’t Understand’ evokes what one might endure on a Saturday afternoon in the keyboards section at some suburban Guitar Center. Though it doesn’t bode well for expanding his YSL brand, perhaps Thugger was right to steer clear of this one.

G Herbo - Ballin Like I’m Kobe

At its best, trap is beautiful music preoccupied with the ugliness of life. 2015 has yielded several superlative examples, including the profane piano anthems of Future’s Beast Mode and the more hypnagogic moments on Lil Silk’s Son Of A Hustler 2. While the American South remains its primary exporter, Chicago’s colder climes continue to yield similar tapes of unrest, greed, despair, and, sometimes, even hope. Having quickly surpassed his second wave drill peer Bibby, the artist fka Lil Herb manifests all of these throughout Ballin Like I’m Kobe (‘Ls’, ‘Struggle’). On the pensive and somewhat poppy ‘Peace Of Mind’, he battles with the personal paradox of success in an atmosphere of empathetic guilt. Here, Herb brags like a jetsetter, scowls like a killer, and repents like a parishioner. From locals like DJ L and DP Beats to 56 Nights’ audio architect Southside, his production choices bridge his city’s soulful streetwise rap tradition with its more modern millennial Chiraqi synth bangers (‘No Limit’, ‘Rollin’).

Shy Glizzy - For Trappers Only

Seeing how his underground single 'Funeral' flipped gospel harder than Meek Mill's 'Amen', it seems appropriate that the D.C. spitter’s latest solo tape teams him with one of rap’s most evocative contemporary beatmakers. Sure, Zaytoven’s ivory tickling futurism soundtracks a Shy Glizzy dozen, but their partnership scarcely matches the elegiac feeling of his boastful self-eulogy. Somehow, the duo put their extraordinary heads together and put out a truly ordinary trap tape. Sonically, ‘Long Time’ comes closest to that of Beast Mode, yet the rapper doesn’t appear to know what to do with the kind of track Future would otherwise dominate. While Glizzy deserves credit for mostly not resorting to simple hooks, his lengthy choruses just drag and drag (‘No Sleep’, ‘Take A While’). From Ty Dolla $ign’s salacious ‘Lil Mama’ verse to Sauce Walka’s jocular ‘Cancel That Bitch’ one, the guests cream Glizzy like so much corn. Boosie upstages him twice, on ‘Going Thru It’ and ‘Hunnit Hunnit’, respectively. ‘Winning’ sounds like its polar opposite.

Ty Dolla $ign - Airplane Mode

There’s a lot riding on next month’s Free TC, Ty Dolla Sign’s long-awaited major label album debut. Time has not been on his side, and in this big year for prurient pop Future and The Weeknd more or less stole his thunder as hip hop’s most druggy and debauched. But as fans of the Beach House series will recall, TyS was a brazen perv even before Nayvadius popped the question to Ciara. While there’s no guarantee that we’ll see as much of that libertine lyricism on his high stakes album, his hedonistic high-quality Airplane Mode tape does the trick. A potent precursor bolstered by beats courtesy of top tier producers including DJ Mustard and Mike Will Made It, it kicks off with one stained raincoat of a title track, cataloguing his contorted sexual resentment and directly quoting from ‘March Madness’. What his optimism on ‘Back In The City’ and cocksure prowess on ‘Sex On Drugs’ lacks in subtlety he makes up for in unapologetic self-absorption.

C White - Southside Willie Nelson

In case his mixtape's title was somehow unclear, C White is Southern as fuck, his sound indebted to both the Cash Money legacy ('I Ain't Know') as well as the modern Auto-tuners cooking candied meth below the Mason-Dixon ('Layin On Me'). He sports a nasal cadence somewhere on the spectrum between Lil Wayne and Young Thug, rubbing his adenoids together like Birdman’s hands on catchy cuts like ‘Brick Money’ and ‘Crank Up.’ Given White’s vocal tone, KTeezy's piano led beats on 'Click Like Mine' and 'Problems And Money' would've sounded at home on an early Tha Carter album. Signed to 2 Chainz's TRU vanity imprint, White's mic skills are sometimes notable and regularly passable, mostly blending in with any number of repetitive trap spitters crowding the rap marketplace right now. But there are highlights and even memorable hooks. 'They Know I Serve' simmers its title into a delicious mumbled gumbo, while breezy closer 'Cruisin' hints that he could touch the pop charts with the right producer.

BONUS: One Hitters:

Eearz - Eearz To Da Streets, Vol. 1 Mike Will Made It’s Ear Drummer Records scored big with Rae Sremmurd, yet judging by this moderately entertaining first installment the producer’s latest signing probably won’t have the same effect.

Jeezy - Politically Correct The proverbial silver lining behind the release of this otherwise deeply disappointing and thankfully brief mixtape is the inherent assurance that none of these songs will appear on his next album.

Vivians - Vivians Given the high number of laugh-tracked samples and winking lyrical references here, Will Smith’s iconic family-friendly sitcom serves as more than mere jumping off point for this exquisite albeit inherently quirky team-up of The Koreatown Oddity and Mndsgn.

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