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Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: May's Hip-Hop Mixtapes Reviewed by Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , June 1st, 2015 10:16

This month Gary Suarez ponders the ever-thorny issue of the "institutional disadvantage" facing LGBT rappers, before considering new tapes by DT Blanco, B.I.C. (Bitches Is Crazy), Towkio, Rich Homie Quan and Cities Aviv

Despite all the speculative and wishful talk around Makonnen and Young Thug's sexual orientation, for the time being we still live in a world where openly LGBT rappers operate at an institutional disadvantage. Unless there are some behind-closed-doors deals underway we're all unaware of, major labels don't appear particularly eager to sign independent talents like Cakes Da Killa or Mykki Blanco. Yet every month there seems to be another heteronormative signing to Def Jam or Motown or some other such place. Some would argue that they're just giving the public what it wants, but in a time where YouTube and Soundcloud plays yield record deals, this seems a convenient blind spot.

One of the adverse effects of this continuing phenomenon is the way categorisation subcategorisation effectively ghettoises LGBT artists and their allies into the margins of hip-hop. You're not likely to see Troy Ave on the same track or the same bill as Le1f, and truth be told, that might be the wishes of both parties. Both Angel Haze and Azealia Banks managed to break into the majors, but had to brawl their way onto the blacklist just to get their albums dropped. Their respective cautionary tales remind that independence remains a better option than most any A&R can provide.

DT Blanco doesn't hide her sexuality, by which I mean more than how she identifies on a dating site. Male rappers get away with this sort of loose talk all time, whereas artists like Foxy Brown or Lil Kim were branded and ultimately stigmatised for expressing themselves better than their Y-chromosome peers. The typically direct songs on this Austinite's dynamic debut mixtape, the cleverly named Vanity, present her as someone bold enough to steal both your man and your girl, should she see fit.

From hypnagogic opener 'Kill Bill' onwards, Blanco spits lethal lava level realness, be it about her persuasive bedroom prowess ('Madmoiselle”) or streetwise hustle ('Flexa$'). Producers here favour the chill side of the hip-hop spectrum, letting her intelligent yet nonchalant flow fill and optimise the space. Of these, Peso Piddy seems most attuned to Blanco's frequency, letting her ride euphoric atmospheres and bassy kicks ('Bonjour,' 'Bothways'). No matter who's on the beat, Blanco's candour refreshes.

B.I.C. (Bitches Is Crazy) - RED

The Bronx is responsible for two of the greatest rap groups of all time: Boogie Down Productions and Terror Squad. So this four man millennial crew have quite a bit of history to ignore on their recent tape. B.I.C. seem more concerned with being the next A$AP Mob, including copping Rocky's deep voice modulation on the amusing 'Pussy.' You can't fault the fellas for trying to sound like what's on - the Future Hendrix impression on 'New Money,' for example - but it'd be nice if they made it a bit harder for a critic to make such obvious analogies. Though RED has above average production and a few secret bangers like 'Everything Gucci', none of the guys demonstrate standout potential. be that in verse or flow. Instead, the tape does what it does without bothering anybody. Still, the random swing on still-rehabilitating Tracey Morgan on 'YEAHIKNOW' is in almost as poor taste as the album art.

Cities Aviv - Your Discretion Is Trust

Last year, this Memphis artist didn't make hip-hop so much as he manipulated it, as evidenced on the mangled yet mellifluous Come To Life. Though it often revisits that mutagenic aesthetic, Cities Aviv's latest takes further liberties and provides vastly fewer reference points. On the immersively industrial cuts 'Discrimination,' he's a millennial Alan Vega, muttering secular gospel directly into the ear. But minutes earlier, on 'Is This Alright,' he was The Weeknd dosed with quaaludes. With a bark more pained than Maco's, he thunders through the stuttering sampletronica of 'Act Up'. Your Discretion Is Trust starts to dismantle itself on the back half, so much so that, at times, you can almost hear the robot ripping its own limbs off. Case in point, 'Puncture' disorients and disjoints, with submersive guitar fuzz and subversive vocals. Though Cities Aviv's dedication to experimentation makes him a most interesting artist, some of these ideas ought to have stayed unreleased.

Rich Homie Quan - If You Ever Think I Will Stop Goin' In Ask Royal Rich

Eventually someone will be able to tell us what the hell happened to YMCMB in 2014 and 2015. The collapse of Rich Gang remains perhaps the biggest of all the Birdman Mysteries. Those curious of what more could've come from pairing Young Thug with Rich Homie Quan can consult the recent leaks. But the latter seems to have moved on nicely with his latest tape in the informal Goin In series. More cohesive and lucid than Thugger's recent Barter 6, this trumps most of what they did together on Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1 He's suffering from success like DJ Khaled on 'Now I Know', but genuinely suffering on tearjerker 'Daddy.' For 'Sorry,' DT Spacely swipes from the intro to 'Across 110th Street' while our hero pleads for forgiveness. On 'Take My Hand' and 'Throw It Back,' Izze The Producer sets Speedboat Quan on the path to his next big single, while hitmaker London On The Track brings a beautiful Bone Thugs style background to 'Forever Millions' for the sing-rapper to preach over.

Towkio - .wav Theory

It's become an especially tiresome narrative that everything in Chance The Rapper's universe should be taken as both exciting and excellent. It's no coincidence that Towkio's tape is frontloaded with vocal features from Savemoney colleagues like Donnie Trumpet, Vic Mensa, and the aforementioned acid rapper. Hell, it's hard to really get much of a feel for his voice until midway through the jubilant .wav Theory. Judging by the high tempos and bright funk of cuts like 'RN', everyone's supposed to be having a real good time. Yet so much of Towkio's grand unveiling exposes his lack of originality, especially in terms of production. He's a second rate Pharrell at best, fumbling through synth banks like a real daft punk on 'Reflection.' His barely legal attempt at knowledge drop, 'Break You Off” half-asses that Meek Mill escalation, cutting it short for a really quite gratifying sample drop. At least send Kanye some royalties for 'Heaven Only Knows.'

BONUS: One Hitters:

Remy Banks - Higher Spinning off the World's Fair collective, this Queens spitter plays intently in the studio sandbox yet comes out no more or less dusty than before.

French Montana - Casino Life 2: Brown Bag Legend The best kind of stopgap, the Coke Boys leader forms a coalition of the willing for this deeply dope sequel.

Gucci Mane - King Gucci Though much of his incarceration-era output of late has suffered from a dearth of quality control, this one proves Guwop is still the mixtape plug.

Que - The 6th Man While 'OG Bobby Johnson' put him on the map and on Atlantic Records, Que's lifeless latest leaves you wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place.