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Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: July's Hip-Hop Mixtapes Reviewed By Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , July 7th, 2015 13:19

The Quietus' resident hip-hop columnist gets to grips with Lil Wayne's The Free Weezy Album and the best (and worst) of this month's mixtapes, with offerings from the likes of Boogie and Mane Mane

Declaring the death of Lil Wayne's career has been something of a pre-emptive pastime for some time among music writers and other self-appointed tastemakers, not to mention social media busybodies. Save for the most sinister of revisionists who'd dare suggest an earlier record, 2010's Rebirth seems to be the point at which the Weezy deadpool turned potentially lucrative. There's been water cooler speculation about the man's mental stability, or lack thereof. Some simply think he's washed, giddily throwing his new verses back in his face.

But there's another reason, one that's not actually his fault. Lil Wayne, that beacon of unapologetic masculinity, doesn't jibe with today's trap pin-ups like Fetty Wap and Future nor with the curlicue dandyism of Jidenna. His ghost phallus, to cop a term from Norman Mailer, is imperilled by a seemingly shifting tide, a diverting of tastes away from the chest-beating sexuality of his rap music. (Forget, if you can, the failure of the more negative aspects of Future's post-Ciara narrative to take hold.) It's admittedly a subtle departure, at least at first glance. Those who still bemoan the genre's inherent misogyny, with wagging fingers planted in waxwork ears, might not notice it at all, especially since most of those fail to pay much considered attention to anything beyond their talking points.

Yet we can hear it in the character of rap radio, in the return to romance of 'My Way' and 'Trap Queen' or the approachability of all things Drake. Sure, that menace Chris Brown still persists on his singles and those of others, but the dude at least delivers his venomous virility in silvery tones rather than nasal singsong. The gruffness of Weezy, Rozay and their generation of machismo addicts just doesn't cut it any more. There's truly no country for these old men in hip hop.

Still, it would be a hell of a lot easier to stand up for Wayne if he wasn't currently making some of his most tepid music yet. The so-called Free Weezy Album, a mixtape stopgap to fill the vacuum of Tha Carter V amid protracted legal battles, delivers the half-hearted pelvic thrusts of middle age in place of his reckless ribaldry ('I Feel Good', 'Psycho'). The rampant scatology of 'Glory' revisits familiar punchline terrain, but the substance is more cute than clever. He's still living that rock star life, he urges, but the bragging now feels more like a defence mechanism designed to keep us from getting too close ('Living Right'). As with Drake's If You're Reading This It's Too Late, there are plenty of hostile verses here to interpret as directed at Birdman, as on 'He's Dead' or the fervent fist shaking of 'White Girl'. On closer 'Pick Up Your Heart' - incidentally his best work here - his frustration feels palpable and above board as he spits his disgust with the game over a melodious Cool & Dre beat. But defeatism doesn't suit Weezy, which is why he'll continue to outlive whatever flavour of the moment has the attention.

Boogie - The Reach

From the moment Mike Zombie and Keyel chop and screw Route 94's 'My Love' into filter funk, expectations are set high for this new tape. Yet Boogie's set even greater ones for himself, as made clear throughout this exceptional set of tunes. Like the cover art implies, we're given a look into the window of a complicated life. 'Further' and 'Make Me Over' tell uncomfortable truths amid tragedy, bitterly lamenting the shooting death of Tiana Ricks while fretting over the world his own child is growing up in. Though it's challenging not to compare 'Oh My' with Bobby Shmurda's Jahlil Beats single, the similarities are in aesthetics not execution. Boogie goes beyond bars to show off a lovely if limited singing voice, wearing his heart on his sleeve for 'Found You' and the D'anna Stewart duet 'Find Me'. Still, there's depth mixed in with his sentiments, which differentiates him from the pool of lesser rappers trying to catch that wave from the shallow end.

Mane Mane - 4CG2

Nobody listens to Glo Gang tapes for the lyricism. There's not much in the way of punchline rap either, unless you're the sick sort that giggles during home invasion horror flicks. If his verses are to be believed, this Chicagoan might fall into that latter category of laughing sociopath. On 'Co Caine,' Mane Mane gloats with pure glee about kicking down doors while reciting a litany of drug dealing crimes over DP Beats' dramatic production. You'll recall that same producer gave us Almighty DP, Chief Keef's best project since Finally Rich, and applies a similar sense of pervasive dread for these contributions here ('GoldChainRockin,' 'KuKuGang'). Yet Sosa himself trumps that erstwhile collaborator with 4CG2's most infectious beat, the squirming looted trance of 'California'. And yes, you've assuredly heard bars like these on the last several Glo tapes, but Mane Mane does it marginally better than most of those.

Retchy P - Finesse The World

Retchy P isn't your friend. He makes that abundantly clear on 'Product Of The Block,' a deeply descriptive banger set to V Don's creeping death march. He also isn't Macklemore, Iggy Azalea, Wale, or anyone else he calls out on 'Disclaimer'. Retch is, however, one of the most brutally honest men to grab the mic in some time. Such bluntness can prove divisive in today's increasingly chummy rap climate, but separating himself from those sorts of people pretty much his m.o. on the furious Finesse The World. He's apparently disinterested in playing it cool, taking aim at whomever he sees fit to put on blast ('Affiliation'). Some cuts like 'Amedei Porcelana' might seem akin to a lot of what we've been hearing on the mixtape circuit for ages, but that's only when taken out of the context of the full tape, which exudes a refreshingly holistic nastiness.

Snow Tha Product - The Rest Comes Later

Signed to Atlantic since 2012, Snow Tha Product comes back with some of the slickest production quality of any mixtape I've heard lately. So there's gotta be a single here somewhere, right? Yet if the Ty Dolla $ign assisted '1 Time' aims for radio it misses the mark by a mile. Perhaps 'No Hoe' comes closer, but The Rest Comes Later doesn't need to produce a chart topper for her to succeed. Bilingual and badass, Snow fills her poignant tracks with direct verses and exquisite wit. She believably conjures up her mother's nagging - in Spanish, claro que si - on bass booming opener 'AyAyAy' and brilliantly weaponises ugly stereotypes on 'Bet That I Will'. Lyrically, her 'Suavemente' interpolation is more substantive than most of the convenient cover versions lurking along the radio dial. Some of the strongest work here comes from DJ Pumba's EDM hybrids like 'Hold Me Back' and 'What You Like'.