Every day, dozens of free rap releases hit the Web. These are the moment’s most interesting and resonant—and this week one jailed rap superstar is all over the best stuff.
1) DJ Clue – Banned from CD 2015
Prior to being a collection of 20-plus MP3s in a download folder, a mixtape was an actual physical object that people could hold in their hands. Mixtapes have always been so inextricably linked to rap music that no one bothered to change the name as they evolved from Maxell cassette tapes with Sharpie written on them to CDs with cheap cover art, but maybe the most well-known version of mixtapes were the bootlegs, compilations, and demos that circulated from New York City around the world in the late ‘90s. And if anyone has a case as the most important person in that scene it’s Queens’ finest, DJ Clue.
Clue has continued to release mixtapes as they migrated to the Internet, even as the power of DJs who exclusively make rap songs has diminished along with his own relevance. So while this new Internet tape Banned from CD 2015 shouldn’t be compared to classics like Desert Storm 98, it is a pretty good compilation in the current year. It features some New York mixtape veterans rapping as well as expected, some remixes to radio hits, and French Montana rapping over La Bouche’s everlong “Be My Lover.” It’s neither a throwback nor does it try anything new. The few standouts are the tape-era beat for “Basic Bitch” by longtime Philly collaborators Meek Mill and producer Jahlil Beats, and recently murdered Queens rapper Chinx hitting wavy triplets on “Two on Me.” There’s at least five songs that are really good and a lot of filler, which shows how well DJ Clue has adapted to the state of rap mixtapes in 2015.
Remarkable reference: “I’m harder than Charles Dutton/That’s Roc, my n***a”
2) Gucci Mane – King Gucci
Gucci Mane is in jail. Since going to jail roughly a year ago, he’s released seven mixtapes and 11 albums on iTunes (15 if counting each of the two triple albums) of the varying quality I’d expect from all the unreleased Gucci verses archived by the one intern who currently runs his record company. That said, that same intern seems to have done a pretty good job compiling and A&R-ing King Gucci, all things considered. There are features recruited from poppington trap rappers Fetty Wap and the Migos, as well as Gucci’s longtime associates PeeWee Longway and Young Scooter, who always complement each other. The tape is also shorter than most of Gucci’s other incarcerated releases, and thus feels more essential.
Halfway through the tape, nothing stood out to me. The song with Fetty Wap is the most realized, but that’s not saying much. It’s the second half of the tape, however, that makes this tape the best I’ve heard since he got locked up. “Put Some Wood in Her” starts off with some bouncy synths and contains some of Gucci’s best rapping in recent memory. Lines like “Took her to the closet fucked her right where the broom be/Here’s a room key baby girl you can meet me/We ain’t gotta talk you can freak me discretely” remind me of the wordplay from Gucci’s ridiculous mixtape run in 2008. The song after that features the rowdy Chicago teenager Chief Keef—who’s matched Gucci well stylistically in their songs in the—over a crazy piano-driven beat by Keef himself. The final track drops an old-school hydraulic beat for Gucci to go off on. The way he splits up the bar “Bitches say/I’m stuck up” is vintage Guwop. If Gucci’s camp held back on releasing everything he’s recorded and used a little quality control, I think more people would be eagerly awaiting his release date in late 2016.
Remarkable reference: “I ball but I ain’t hooping you can call me Mark Cuban”
3) Migos & Rich the Kid – Still on Lock
Despite no longer keeping an official count, this is the fourth mixtape between Atlanta rappers Rich the Kid and the trio Migos. Their first came out just as the Migos found national fame, and it quickly becomes evident why they continue to collab and why Rich is signed to the Migos’s label. They work well together and share an affinity for similar bass-heavy beats with big pockets of empty space, but they rarely actually rap together on the same song on this release. On all four of their mixtapes, the tracklist will go back and forth between a Rich the Kid and a Migos song. As with their other joint albums (split EPs?), the point is not to experiment or find their next hit, but have fun in the studio and get out some half-baked ideas that can’t stand alone fully worked out.
On the Migos-helmed “People’s Elbow,” the song comes to life like a cartoon drawing itself from scratch. It almost sounds like the whole thing was made up in a single listen when Quavo utters the line, “My wrist like the Rock People’s Elbow” and slowly builds something resembling a song. Meanwhile, Rich the Kid sounds excited to rap like the Migos with the Migos, gaining confidence with the cosign. The most memorable moments on the tape are when guests show up, like when Gucci Mane goes the entire verse rhyming every bar with each other on “Lowest” or when Rich Homie Quan goes full-R&B over a Lord of the Rings flute on “She Ain’t Goin.” I do hope I’m not just being optimistic when I say this tape is mostly throwaway ideas and Migos are still capable of thinking up better ones.
Remarkable reference: “Prescription for lean came from Dr. Phil/Hit a n***a in the crotch/Jermaine O’Neal”
4) Fredo Santana – Ain’t No Money Like Trap Money
I listened to this mixtape three times all the way through and it’s hard to remember specific moments. Sure, I don’t get enough sleep and listen to too much generic street rap music, but there’s a lullabye quality to this tape. The woozy production and repetitive, crawling autotune flows create a hypnotic effect, putting me to sleep—but in a good way like ambient music and not like J. Cole. There are a lot of notable featured guests but not a lot of notable features–just Gucci Mane and Kevin Gates, really. As a Chicago rapper who came up behind Chief Keef, making some type of drone rap must be a success.
Fredo dives a little too deep into R&B on a couple songs and the results are genuinely enjoyable. The song “I’m Going” is a delicate boat sailing on prescription cough syrup, one that sounds like when the Bay Area rapper Lil B had hundreds of his fans making freeform “Based freestyles.” The song with Chief Keef is pretty good as far as Keef songs go, but the best distillation of the sound this seems to be going for is when the song plays with the pitch and tempo at the end of “Pass Me My Double Cup.” Maybe I’m the only one who can fall asleep with Fredo in the cut, but even still some of this stuff that resembles avant garde rap deserves recognition.
Remarkable reference: “When I hopped onto my plane I feel like Lynyrd Skynyrd”
5) Snootie Wild – Ain’t No Stoppin Me
Snootie Wild is the North Memphis rapper responsible for the hits “Yayo” and “Made Me.” He has a great talent for making catchy, bouncy southern rap, which shows up right away with the presence of “Rich or Not.” It has Snootie’s best features: finding unique melodies within a flexible rap scheme, a chorus that’s impossible to evict from your head, and really great ad-libs. Luckily, he also steps out of that formula on the rest of Ain’t No Stoppin Me.
This tape goes all over the place, from the sort of arena trap that’s more parking lot turn-up than anything on the dance floor, to baby-bottom smooth Isley Brothers rhythms. There’s even a West Coast ratchet party track, and that’s not even including the features. Those include fellow Memphian Yo Gotti, late New York rapper Chinx, the recently released from prison Baton Rouge legend Lil Boosie, and the greater Miami area madman Gunplay. In most cases, it sounds more like Snootie is featured rather than the other way around, but it’s good that he’s stepping out of his comfort zone. Snootie Wild’s next big hit may not be on this mixtape, but it’s coming.
Remarkable reference: “Make your bitch cha-cha pussy do the hopscotch”
Screengrab via drteaisback/YouTube