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Tape Adapter

Tape Adapter: November’s Hip Hop Mixtapes Reviewed by Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , November 30th, 2015 14:51

As 2015 careens to a close, hop in the Coupe and check out some of the latest mixtapes to weather the imminent winter. Also peep the Top 20 Best Hip Hop Albums of 2015 list below

Death is an evergreen topic in rap music. What makes it such an especially moving and compelling subject in hip hop has a great deal to do with the demographics of who’s on the mic. With cops regularly shooting black people dead in the streets and violence otherwise a looming promise throughout daily life in American urban centres, it’s hard not to see why death pervades so much of the genre’s typically young, typically male rappers.

Perversely, death often brings out the best in a lyricist, his or her experiences with loss and risk of one’s life with any frequency conjuring up emotions that make for impactful poetics. Sometimes, it’s about facing it; other times it’s about defying it. But whether approached as a morose and grave concern or as another obstacle to dodge in the gauntlet of existence, deathly matters produce potent art.

A Virginia Beach-based spitter with a distribution arrangement with 300 Entertainment, DP does more than most to put death at the fore. Beginning with its morbidly humorous title and corresponding cover art, his Designer Casket tape directly addresses the potentially fatal consequences of his trapping lifestyle. Highlight ‘The Burial' kicks things off with a cinematic gangster movie beat and a foreboding swirl of sinister motives, imaginative metaphors, and downward spiralling desperation. On the ominous ‘Pitchin Treachery’, DP goes so far as to propose funeral instructions for his surviving mother and grandmother.

Ultimately, though, Designer Casket is typical dope boy business-as-usual, the kind of boastful drug dealer chatter you might expect from a French Montana associate (‘Jabar’). It’s almost a shame to see him lean on those tropes when he has potential to transcend them. Given that D.R.A.M. is best known for a novelty single about a Dominican darling, his two appearances alongside the brooding hustler DP surprise. Yet he comes through like a minor league Nate Dogg on ‘Coffee Beans Pt. II’ and ‘For The Love Of’, suggesting that if he survives the one-hit wonder stigma he’ll at least have a job singing hooks - which is more than I can say for DP.

G4 Boyz - Control Your Jealousy

Devoted readers of the rap blogosphere might recall the story last year about this Staten Island, New York duo’s possible connection to a shooting in Atlanta, with them as the intended targets. Buggy and Ice unflinchingly address this bit of minor infamy head on with cocksure mixtape opener ‘Bullet Proof Gwalla’, which features a sample of a news report about the incident. Stylistically, Control Your Jealousy is a solid outing that touches on a range of trap styles while occasionally flirting with something bigger. Those who thought GS9’s Bobby Shmurda and Rowdy Rebel were going to the future of New York rap may find ‘Alexander Wang’ helps fill that void. Similarly, ‘Hey Vicky’ rides a trap love vibe not dissimilar from OT Genasis’ ‘Coco’. Whether they’re deathly serious on ‘Church’ or goofing around on ‘No Time’, Buggy and Ice adapt to their surroundings well. Still, their work on King Zarus’ closing beat on ‘Trust Nobody’ leaves one wondering why he wasn’t tasked with more songs on this tape.

Lil Uzi Vert - Luv Is Rage

Whether or not you heard him rapping alongside A$AP mobsters or opening up Slime Season 2, this Philadelphia-based spitter has been making waves for a minute now. Essentially an amalgam of Future, Rich Homie Quan, and Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert covers the spread of contemporary codeine crazy trap music. The end result of this rap game gene splicing, Luv Is Rage skilfully avoids sounding like mimicry of any of those artists. If anything, he’s working towards becoming one of their peers. It certainly helps that he can hold his own over beats from the likes of Sonny Digital, TM88, and Wheezy. While Thugger smothers ‘Yamborghini Dream’, Uzi Vert recovers well in time for his late verse, clearly up for the challenge. Best known nowadays as the production team behind Post Malone, FKI cover a handful of creative cuts here, including the ‘White Iverson’ reminiscent ‘Moist’. Even then, Uzi Vert commendably resists the temptation to copy from his neighbour.

OG Boobie Black - The Boobie Trapp

Apparently Kevin Gates’ mentee, the curiously-named New Orleans rapper reps the city’s Magnolia Projects hard on his first tape. Like the numerous artists that have emerged from there, Boobie’s lyrics reflect on his surroundings with a hustler’s intimacy (‘Godfather’). Perilously up to date with repeated references to El Chapo, The Boobie Trapp follows up his handful of brief appearances on Gates’ projects and Three 6 Mafia don DJ Paul’s Da Light Up, Da Poe Up tape to reveal an above-average spitter. As expected, Boobie spends most of the tape in and around the trap, spitting threats at potential threats while bragging and pondering with streetwise logic (‘Losses’). Production-wise, he mostly leans on Bread Winners Association familiars Go Grizzly and Capo Red, both of whom have blessed Gates with some of his best beats. But like his label boss, his voice meshes remarkably well on poppier cuts like the A Bom produced single ‘Feelin Myself’. Spitting here like a less profane Juicy J, he doesn’t dare change his themes to suit the beat.

Skippa Da Flippa - Still Havin

Two years ago, Quality Control Music appeared to have the next big thing in their hands with Migos. But in the wake of the trio's colossal flop Yung Rich Nation, that status seems little more than a fond memory. Rich The Kid couldn't even eke out minor hits despite teaming with Fetty Wap and Makonnen. Given the quality of Skippa Da Flippa's tapes this year, QCM may want to pay him more mind in 2016. His perpetually aggressive rhythmic flow adorns all kinds of trap beats here, from Zaytoven's piano balladry ('WWYDFM') to TraumaTone's elegant grimness ('Too Much'). He unexpectedly transforms into a Auto Tune crooner for ‘I Know’ and after the relentless shouting it’s a welcome reprieve. In small doses, even Quavo sounds motivated by Skippa's animated attitude ('Look At Me Now', 'Posture'). But there are some glaring weak spots on Still Havin. Loose 2Pac interpolation ‘Ambitions As A Dealer’ falls flat, and the gimmick of ‘Snakes’ wears out its welcome in a hurry.

Tape Adapter's Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2015

20 Dr. Dre - Compton
19 Iglooghost & Mr. Yote - Milk Empire
18 Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
17 Rich Homie Quan - If You Ever Think I Will Stop Goin' In Ask Royal Rich
16 Father - Who's Gonna Get Fucked First
15 Lucki Ecks - X
14 Quelle Chris - Innocent Country
13 White Boiz - Neighborhood Wonderful
12 Future Brown - Future Brown
11 DT Blanco - Vanity
10 Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late
9 Sicko Mobb - Super Saiyan 2
8 Oddisee - The Good Fight
7 Heems - Eat Pray Thug
6 Future - DS2
5 Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside
4 Le1f - Riot Boi
3 Knxwledge - Hud Dreems
2 Milo - So The Flies Don't Come
1 Dr. Yen Lo - Days With Dr. Yen Lo