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5 free, flaming-hot mixtapes that’ll get you through the summer
The definitive rundown of the week’s hottest indie hip-hop.
Every day, dozens of free rap releases hit the Web. These are the moment’s most interesting and resonant. This week, breakout beats from flavorful new artists.
1) Kap G – Real Migo Shit 3
Following a scene-stealing cameo in the coming-of-age film Dope, Kap G dropped his newest mixtape since 2014’s Like a Mexican. Kap is a Mexican-American who was born and raised in Atlanta. He’s signed to Atlantic Records and has had a few popular singles featuring Young Jeezy and Chief Keef, but his best work is “Fuck La Policia,” a slightly Spanglish appeal toward humanity and against law enforcement, from the perspective of someone whose family members are here illegally. Real Migo Shit 3 picks right up after that left off, with a “Fuck La Policia” remix featuring Southern legends David Banner and T.I.
Only Banner really brings it on the remix, but Kap added a new verse of his own, even more politically charged than before. It makes sense, though, when you consider Michael Brown and Eric Garner–both of whom are mentioned in the song–were both murdered by police since the original came out. Nothing else gets as explicit, but the same themes are ever-present throughout Kap’s music.
I don’t hear anything as immediate as “Fuck La Policia,” but each song is fully realized—with Kap getting better and better with melodies and hooks. The production only helps, like on “Andelay,” by Chicago beatmaker Young Chop, which is built around a strumming acoustic guitar and perfectly sets the stage for the pseudo-narcocorrido track. There’s also “If I Want,” which uses Juvenile’s “Slow Motion” and “All Eyes on Me Freestyle,” which is more self-explanatory. Kap murders both tracks. Underneath Atlanta’s most prolifically creative acts like Future and Young Thug, Kap G might be one of the most essential ATLiens.
Remarkable reference: “Came from picking bottles to popping bottles/I got the big head like I’m Hey Arnold”
2) Icewear Vezzo – I Can’t Fall Off
There’s a lightweight rich street rap scene in Detroit. Groups like Doughboyz Cashout and Stunthard Hotboyz are heavily influenced by late-’90s New Orleans rap, and that has created a sort of post-post-regional sound that’s not rooted in the city but sits in its unequivocal backdrop. The city takes influences from anywhere, like the minimal plinking of West Coast rap, and ends up with something all its own.
Icewear Vezzo first came to prominence in Detroit with the song “Money Phone,” a plodding drug dealer anthem. His most-recent mixtape I Can’t Fall Off shows that as his music has become more polished, his purview has stayed the same. The tape is entirely too long, but it still has its rewarding moments. “Ball On My Own” is an ’80s pop song covered in bells and whistles. “My Time” is as close as Vezzo gets to a straightforward narrative and also contains some of the best rapping on the tape. “Codeine Dick” is exactly what is says. For all the tape’s vast creativity, it could’ve gone the same distance with half the tracks.
Remarkable reference: “Bleu cheese all in my pocket I’m on that healthy shit/Bet that chopper catch everything just like a selfie stick”
3) Verse Simmonds – Fuck Your Feelings 3
Some singers are just songwriters with a nice voice. Verse Simmonds has written a few songs for Chris Brown in recent years, as well as the Justin Bieber single “Confident,” but has yet to gain traction as a solo artist despite his best efforts. The Puerto Rican native’s biggest–and pretty much only–successful song was “Boo Thing” with Kelly Rowland, which is owed almost entirely to the featured player. That collaboration makes up Simmonds’ five most-viewed YouTube videos, each uploaded by a different account. That said, he does have a nice voice, this is his third mixtape that jacks beats from popular rap songs, and there’s a couple of original songs that could hint at a more serious solo career.
The first two tracks on Fuck Your Feelings 3 are not retreads, featuring the enigmatic Chicago singer Jeremih and the off-the-wall energy of the Atlanta group Migos. They’re not out of place with the fake freestyles over radio flips, but the biggest problem Simmonds has is even on his own mixtape, he sounds like an accessory. For some reason he keeps some of the original song he’s singing over intact and buries himself somewhere in the second verse. The only song Simmonds really takes over himself is “Ass Everywhere,” which also appeared on Gucci Mane’s Trapology tape. Maybe at some point he’ll be able to hold a track all on his own.
Remarkable reference: “Feeling on your oh nana/Got you saying go papa/Drop me like a soap opera/Give it to you so proper”
4) Young Scooter – Juggathon
Young Scooter might be the only rapper left in his lane. Despite appearances there isn’t much unfiltered gangster rap coming out of Atlanta. It’s either turn-up music or a shift to left field, and a lot of the rappers on Scooter’s early mixtapes have moved on. He’s still great at what he does best, though–creating tableaus with just a few clever, simple turns of phrase. Longtime collaborator Future aids two songs with hooks and there’s a toothless radio grab with Cali rappers E-40 and Kid Ink. A couple highlights are “Irrelevant,” where Scooter deems everything he mentions as such, and “Melrose,” which describes an L.A. vacation more interestingly than seven seasons of Melrose Place.
Remarkable reference: “Tennis racks I got a bitch named Serena/Put her with me I tell her smash her sister Venus”
5) Hyfe Santana – When the Smoke Clears
Bay Area rap has its own entire ecosystem. Rappers can go gold out of their trunk in the East Bay and never get recognized in downtown Los Angeles. This is why local legends like E-40 and Mac Dre are either roundly ridiculed or completely ignored nationally. Within this environment, there are loads of underground rappers filling the Bay with all the sounds of slap.
When the Smoke Clears is the second mixtape from Richmond, California, rapper Hyfe Santana that I can find on the Internet. It’s full of West Coast milieu, from hyphy minimalism to mob music atmospheres. It always surprises me how much better generic Bay Area rappers’ beats and flows are than any other region. “Hit My Line” is one of my favorite songs featured in this column in a minute. There are guest verses from Bay mainstays Beeda Weeda and Young Gully, as well as lesser knowns Coupe Cujo, 3D the BankMan, and the 7up Gang, of which Santana is a member. All 12 songs slap, which is as ambitious as rappers should get on mixtapes.
Remarkable reference: “You can’t hit the weed ‘cause I ain’t with the cool shit/No I ain’t your partner that you used to go to school with/But I’m the same n***a that your sister used to fool with”
Screengrab via WORLDSTARHIPHOP/YouTube