The servers of rap-mixtape-hosting site Datpiff surge with activity around April 20 as rappers upload mixtapes based around their favorite marijuana-related holiday. Year after year, especially in the Bay Area, rappers profess their love for smoking indo in the form of white clouds drawn on mixtape covers and extra splift-out beat purchases. Rap isn’t the only musical genre that loves pot, but it is the most overt. But once the smoke clears out, what matters is: Can this wave of new releases sustain continued smoke outs well into 2015? Below are the season’s most enduring, rewarding 4/20-themed mixtapes—along with the genus of weed each mixtape elicits.
1) Luniz — High Timez
Luniz made one of the most well-known Bay Area rap songs and one of the most well-known weed rap songs in 1995’s “I Got 5 on It.” But the duo of Yukmouth and Numskull hasn’t charted since the second single from that same 1995 album, Operation Stackola. I remember a couple songs from Silver & Black, their 2002 album, getting on the radio in NorCal. They haven’t dropped anything since then besides a greatest hits album, at least in part because Numskull did seven years in prison for 12 counts of felony rape charges.
Yukmouth has been a formidable solo artist in his own right, and this tape is a lot like his recent output, and not just on account of all the references to reefer. There’s also a certain kind of musicality and maturity to High Timez, like when Cheech and Chong wanted to make Woody Allen movies. On the titular track, Yukmouth shouts out a tongue-twisting number of rappers. There’s a narrator named Linno the Winno, who’s a wino despite the ID tags’ spelling, basically doing a Mike Epps-esque old man character with William DeVaughn and Curtis Mayfield in the background.
The production from the Mekanix gets pretty funky, and the bits of hyphy and mob music make it rattle windows. B-Legit and Dru Down appear right alongside newer Bay mainstays like J-Stalin and Beeda Weeda. It’s laid out like an E-40 album, in other words. B-Real from Cypress Hill and Ras Kass (who I just found out is still rapping) both show up expertly prepared for the occasion. Only when Luniz sound like they’re trying to replicate a Tyga record (reaching for precious gloss and making bad pop in the process) and Yukmouth does a fake patois is the tape unenjoyable.
Strain: The kind of weed you hit after not smoking in years and forgot how much you enjoyed before going back to your children.
2) Audio Push — The Good Vibe Tribe
I kind of gave up on former Jerkers Audio Push by the time they collabed up with one of Kanye’s producers, Hit-Boy. They haven’t put out their own project since 2013, meanwhile being featured on countless Hit-Boy projects. They return here with seemingly no Hit-Boy, and a lot of Atlanta influence. These late-period trap beats suit the duo.
The tape’s running theme is sitting around a campfire with a girl who kicks knowledge and it’s easily the most realistic smoking experience of any of the mixtapes here. A lot of the musicality that was present on the Luniz mixtape is likewise present. The beats are very contemporary, and even when they’re not hitting, they wouldn’t be out of place on a dance floor. The eight-minute centerpiece “Mary Jane/SixtyOneImpala” starts out with a weeded-out R&B joint, and suddenly those skronky horns come out and it’s a bouncy back-and-forth.
G-Eazy shows up early to rap like Macklemore with a blaccent, Fat Trel makes a brief cameo, and OG Maco steals a track. The mixtape is pretty breezy even with the heavy beats, but when Vince Staples opens “Mind Trap,” it’s like a punch to the liver. Casey Veggies and TDE-signee Isaiah Rashad also contribute to the reality check/downer vibe.
The closing song gets a little too navel-gazey—talking too much after the party’s over doesn’t look great on Oktane and Price.
Strain: The kind of weed that makes chatting with your friends about life questions feel like the most important thing in the world.
3) A-Plus – Logrowlize It! Vol. 3
A-Plus is one of the founding members of the legendary rap collective Hieroglyphics. He’s one of the four members of the Souls of Mischief and it’s obvious from this tape that he’s a veteran of weed music. Just like the previous editions of Legrowlize It!, this is mostly instrumental. It doesn’t sound like much more than a beat tape where each beat kinda changes up about somewhere in the middle.
The final song, “Bomb Yo,” features Del the Funky Homosapien and is way too aggressive for a 4/20-themed mixtape. Del sounds bold enough, but A-Plus starts rapping fast and veers dangerously close to militantly sanctimonious Tech 9ine territory.
Strain: The kind of weed that completely evaporates the minute some shit pops off.
4) Street Wiz — 4/20 Vision 3
Street Wiz is not Wiz Khalifa. He’s a weed carrier in Currensy’s New Orleans-based Jet Life crew. The movie he uses to frame his third annual 4/20 tape is Blow, and he sounds like Juicy J on a lot of it.
There are no listed features, but there are other rappers here. Then again, Street Wiz sounded like Slim Thug and Wiz Khalifa in his other 4/20 mixtapes, so maybe it’s all him. As a three-year veteran in the 4/20 mixtape game, he sticks to the theme well by mentioning he smokes weed a rotund amount. The tape sounds best when S. Wiz (the name on his jersey for Currensy’s rec team) changes up his flow or when it sounds like someone else is rapping.
Strain: The kind of weed where you run out of ideas and fall into a groove, like a pregame turning into the whole night because you found enough ingredients to make a decent sandwich. Call it a day.
5) Oun-P — Medication
Oun-P (pronounced Oon P) got on MTV the same way he did on 106th & Park’s Freestyle Friday, but he’s singing a lot on this Medication tape. He’s a battle rapper from the Bronx, and there are parts on the tape where the weed wears off and Oun-P’s temper flares somewhere between Dipset’s pseudo-dictatorship threats and Fabolous’s punchlines. On the other hand, he gets high enough to bust out the Auto-Tune on one track and get his Dom Kennedy on with another.
When Oun-P finds a combination of West Coast everyman rapper and East Coast street rapper, the results are downright interesting. But when the Drake and Wiz Khalifa influences get too obvious, it’s just tiring retread. There’s a lot of bad melodies and tedious weed talk. He even uses the Makonnen “Tuesday” chorus to frame a verse of his ode to marijuana, “Marijuana.”
Strain: The kind of weed where you feel yourself a little too much and sing along to the Weeknd even though everyone has already told you you can’t hit that high tenor.
Illustration by Max Fleishman