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Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: February's Hip-Hop Mixtapes Reviewed by Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , February 18th, 2015 09:58

Odd Future Rib Eye Steak Eat It All capo Gary Suarez puts down the porterhouse and picks up a bag of mix tapes.

Artists develop in strange ways sometimes, defying the labels, narratives and assumptions affixed to them like so many Post-It Notes. Dylan went electric, then gospel, then whatever. Neil Young took so many sharp lefts in the 80s that we nearly lost him. Risk taking has been far less apparent in hip hop, especially given just how fast things move in this part of the music business. Some young kid comes around with a hot new sound and suddenly that rapper selling out clubs six months prior can't get a track to work at radio anymore. By the time someone like Lil Wayne takes a change and dabbles in rock music, he's already bombarded by loud whispers of how washed he is.

Human after all, Drake has spent the last 14 months tenaciously boxing his way out of the sadsack stereotype and making a real play for the sort of unabashed cocksureness that has defined Kanye West in recent years. And while If You're Reading This You're Too Late isn't his Yeezus, it is the logical and fruitful conclusion to this campaign of social media surprise drone attacks. Though there's only minimal overlaps between this self-described mixtape and the sensational Soundcloud drops that preceded it, he's made the best and most consistent work of his career here.

Despite all the braggadocio, he hasn't done it alone. OVO's heir apparent, Partynextdoor wields both production prowess and hooky vocal chops on several cuts, including the brooding opener 'Legend' and the resplendent 'Preach,' which ought to receive single treatment. On 'Now & Forever', relative OVO newcomer Eric Dingus builds an ominous yet beauteous backdrop for self-confident mantra. Conspiracy theorizing annotators have hastily mapped out that this whole record is a plot to free Drake from the Cash Money Inc. shackles. Though there are clear shots taken at CEO Birdman's experience ('Star67'), Aubrey's hardly obsessing over his boss. Even if this happens to fulfill his contract, he's hardly half-assed his way out the door. '6 God' and '10 Bands' are both just as provocative as 'Trophies' was. '6PM In New York' upstages Kendrick's 'Control' verse without even uttering his name. This is next level, new OS upgrade, game-changing music.

Cyhi The Prynce - BHP 2: N.A.A.C.P.

With G.O.O.D. Music positioned to have a tremendous release year courtesy of Big Sean, Kanye West, and Pusha T, Cyhi's Hardway Musical remains, at best, a languishing myth. Following last year's well-intentioned but poorly executed Black Hystori Project, this acronymically excessive sequel improbably soars. If this is the Cyhi we've been promised all these years then it's about damn time. Lyrically, he mixes metaphors and builds Babel towers, dropping a Venn Diagram of references to black culture and pop culture. 'TV' turns his predilection for the ol' idiot box into a stunning and sexualized collection of character names and programs. In the tradition of Marvin, Cyhi sees the connection between love and liberation as he shames deadbeat dads and woos potential wifeys ('One Woman Man,' 'What We Have'). Nimbly sampling Jodeci and Keith Sweat, the Tec Beatz-produced 'Forever' is Pepe Le Pew levitation. Speech snippets from black leaders keep the sociopolitical undercurrent flowing throughout, but with nods to Cheryl Lynn and Sly Stone ('Everyday People') this project is way more fun than any history lesson.

Yakki Divioshi - Load Da Clip

Hip hop often takes on the quality of an onion, revealing layer after unexpected layer. For example, whenever a particularly talented artist emerges he or she tends to put on the rest of the crew, who in turn will do the same in their come up - and so on. Gucci Mane begat Young Thug who now begets Atlanta's Yakki Divioshi, a shouty trappist in the 1017 Brick Squad tradition. Whether or not ATL needs yet another screamer after O.G. Maco raised both the bar and the decibel level these past few months is up for debate. Nonetheless, Load Da Clip is among the better trap tapes of 2015, all melodious muzzleflash and ceaseless aerobics. 'Juug Music' lays out his criminal minded modus operandi, but Divioshi's got hooks for days elsewhere ('D.R.A.K.E.') A London On Da Track has given Thugger some of his biggest hits including 'Lifestyle' and 'Hookah', and he's smartly slotted in here for Divioshi's benefit. Among his contributions to the tape, 'Tired' is all keyboard horror and deep bassy beats, while 'Yah Yah' takes that same aesthetic and makes it nearly single-worthy.

Yo Gotti - Concealed

Having topped approximately no one's list in 2014, the major label Memphis rapper follows his accurately rated I Am with a feature-heavy tape loaded with glossy trap. Gotti's not undeserving of his moderate success, but he seems to understand that he's not a hit maker on his own ('11,' 'Trap Queen Freestyle'). Guests from Boosie and Jadakiss to Pee Wee Longway and Shy Glizzy help the time pass throughout this high quality / low pressure affair. Kevin Gates gets sufficiently froggy on 'Ion Feel Em,' while Rich Homie Quan delivers a mildly memorable hook on 'Ooh'. The bookends happen to be some of the most rewarding of the baker's dozen. The opening title track bumps that 808 hard yet gives Gotti lots of room to change up his flows and subject matter. With the aid of MeKanics, 'Never Changed' brings trap into the aether and lets Gotti and Lil Bibby float weightlessly while pushing weight. But the biggest curveball comes on 'Fuck Em' when producer Greedy Money mutates Route 94's Eurodance hit 'My Love' into something closer to Rozay's 'FuckWitMeYouKnowIGotIt'.

Your Old Droog - Kinison

Now that we've moved past the silly speculative nonsense where a subset of lazy listeners and lazier music writers mistook him for Nas, this Coney Island Baby can get the spotlight he deserves. A standout in the seemingly stagnating New New York scene, Droog contains multitudes on this alt rock themed tape. Even with some songs named after 90s bands ('Rage Against The Machine', 'Sonic Youth'), he's fortunately not attempting some rap metal hybrid. On 'Porno For Pyros,' he drops references to Death Row and death metal, Papa Roach and Joan Baez, before closing with a Clerks sample. From the soul blasting 'Homicide' to the psyched out 'Freeway Fire', Droog's got the kind of beats that Bronson would presumably dig. But that's where comparisons between the two ought to end. Droog stays being himself even when adapting to the occasion, sounding just as real on the Rubin-esque boom bap of 'Get The Paper' as he does on the 80s smooth jazz of 'Gentrify My Hood'. Kinison gives us plenty to look forward to as he continues to build his brand in the crowded marketplace of rap.

BONUS: One Hitters:

Bloody Jay - Blatlanta 3: Respect Despite last year's mixtape-length co-sign from Young Thug, this time B.J. goes it alone without The Bear and boy does it show.

Bones - SoThereWeStood The TeamSesh rep mumblesings and croakily spits promethazine over emotive instrumentals that draw you closer to the dark.

Knxwledge - Hexual Sealings Prt.8 On this mutant R&B set, the prodigious beatmaker mucks with legends and makes modern muddy monuments to the past.

Ras G & The Koreatown Oddity - 5 Chuckles A millennial def jukie spits laid back brainiac bars over eight of the Brainfeeder/Leaving Records dude's spacey disjointed cuts.