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Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: July's Hip Hop Mixtapes Reviewed By Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , August 15th, 2013 07:17

Gary Suarez gets stuck into the last month's mixtapes, with offerings from Jeremiah Jae (pictured), Joey Bada$$, Cory Gunz and Spenzo

Joey Bada$$ - Summer Knights

After riding the 2012 hype train into 2013, it's about time somebody checks the validity of Joey Bada$$' ticket. A neo-backpacker that doesn't read his schoolbooks so much as memorize them, the teenage Brooklynite's retro rap game malegaze is pleasant enough but rarely, if ever, measures up to the era he so clearly fetishizes. He even cops to his stunted growth on 'Sweet Dreams,' his naively proud hook admitting he's "stuck in the Nineties." References abound like bad Family Guy jokes, with Joey citing 112, Newport Longs, and former New York governor George Pataki as part of a laundry list nostalgia for times he barely lived through. At least punchline rap intends to be funny.

Joey's indistinct flow lacks standout character, which unintentionally shifts focus away from his stilted puns and towards his taste in producers. He's got some known quantities in the bunch, including The Alchemist ('Trap Dour'), MF Doom ('Amethyst Rockstar'), and Statik Selektah ('Word Is Bond'). With a fine-ass beat courtesy of the legendary DJ Premier, 'Unorthodox' melds past and present and arguably best achieves the aesthetic ideal Joey strives for.

Arguably the strongest link in the Pro Era chain, Chuck Strangers oversees two of the tape's few highlights, the cool, cloudy “Reign” and the irie stepper 'My Yout' featuring white rasta where-you-been Collie Buddz. Conversely, Bruce Leekix's spare 'Death Of YOLO' is bound to have as little a measurable impact as Jigga's 'Death Of Autotune.' Ultimately, Summer Knightz reveals there's no abracadabra to Joey's jazzmatazz.

Bishop Nehru - Strictly Flowz

Roughly an hour's drive away in Rockland Country sits young Bishop Nehru, positioned on the brink of underground stardom. Given how many of today's young rappers sweat MF Doom, it's impressive that Viktor Vaughn himself sought fit to pluck this 16-year-old out from the murky mixtape abyss. The rapper's latest draws convenient comparisons to Joey given their shared affinity for the '96 boom bap. 'Exhale' exudes Wu-Tang classicism, while Toronto producer Raz Fresco's 'Mob Dizzle' displays Nehru's obvious appreciation for a certain Queensbridge duo. But unlike the Brooklyn boy, this kid keeps it loose, respecting the classic mixtape form at multiple opportunities with shoutouts and skits. Truncated to prevent bloat, and closing with rambling praise from rap radio personality Peter Rosenberg, Strictly Flowz is precisely the teaser Bishop needed to drop right now.

Cory Gunz - Datz WTF I'm Talkin Bout

If your only notable talent is the ability to rap fast, getting Busta Rhymes to feature on your track is less a coup for you than a coup d'état. So when the shogun shows up on 'Kan't See Me,' Cory Gunz comparatively falters like Young Grasshopper. After some high profile opportunities in Lil Wayne's world (including a primo spot on '6 Foot 7 Foot'), this Young Money affiliate doesn't have much to show for it. Tired premises and delusional notions about hooks - the title track repeats with a vigilance that'd irk Migos - infest this plodding, largely forgettable tape. When Gunz scraps the acrobatics he's as constrained as an acrostic ('Go Slow,' 'Voices In My Head'), though D-Roc's tough beat jacks Young Chop's style enough to make 'Baraka' palatable.

Jeremiah Jae - Bad Jokes

Not exactly lauded for his Raw Money Raps LP, a caustic outing guaranteed to irk even the most forgiving of girlfriends, Jeremiah Jae follows his Brainfeeder boss Steven 'Flying Lotus' Ellison to Warp Records, a place where such weirdness finds aid and comfort. Coinciding with that signing announcement, Bad Jokes is decidedly more lucid than the preceding LP, and occasionally translucent and even pretty. Some of that, admittedly, comes from outside producers. Jonwayne drops some drippy funk on 'Seventy 8,' while FlyLo breaks Jae off a piece on the jagged and affectionately janky 'Oatmeal Face.' But Jae deserves credit for expanding the brightness of his color palate a bit more, notable with the title track's soul snippet voodoo. Of course, there's still some outre flavor to be found on the woozy 'King Raid' and the stuttering 'Guns N Butter.'

Spenzo - In Spenzo We Trust

Much like his neighbors Chance The Rapper and Chief Keef, Spenzo came up in the high schools ready to blow up on the blogs. By 2013 standards, his new tape is better than most proper albums, a popwise and street smart collection teeming with earworms. The barely legal spitter has his ear to the ground and to the radio, with his swaggering vibe suitable for both. Cuts like 'Shake Me Down' and 'Swiper' go hard, with just enough grit to commingle with the gloss of the music. Young Chop bestows a bright trap beat on 'Wife Er', to which Spenzo indulges with Autotuned drill delivery. His big breakthrough has yet to come, and if this isn't that moment than that's more our fault than his.