Every day, dozens of free rap releases hit the Web. These are the moment’s most interesting and resonant—including the return of Young Jeezy.
1) Young Jeezy, Gangsta Party
It has now been over a decade since the soul of Atlanta trap rap, Young Jeezy, did his first Gangsta Grillz collaboration with mixtape guru DJ Drama, a fact Drama does not shy away from yelling into your ears on their newest in a long series together, Gangsta Party. Jeezy has found a resurgence in the past couple years, teaming up with West Coast-sounding producers like Cardo and DJ Mustard, who gave the Snowman himself his first platinum records in years with “RIP” and “My Nigga.” This tape is a little too incidental to be aiming for another hit, but Jeezy may have carved out a nice lane for himself in the current rap landscape.
I was as surprised as anyone when I found out how good Jeezy sounded when he showed up a few years ago on the spliffed-out “Playin,” off Compton rapper YG’s mixtape. He doesn’t quite kick up his Balmain sandals at Venice Beach like he did there, but he’s evolved his sound somewhat with Cardo, and they find a happy middle-ground between the music they’re both known for. Even on this tape’s song with YG, it sounds geographically closer to Atlanta than SoCal.
Jeezy doesn’t box himself in either. On “Birds Could Talk,” it sounds like he’s been cooking crack in a pigeon coop all night in the best way possible. “I Might” with Rich Homie Quan sounds a lot like Jeezy guesting on his own track, and the Kevin Gates feature really transcends mixtape love songs. The closer, “Wit Me,” perfectly encapsulates Jeezy in 2015. It sounds like a dress-code party in South Central hosted by an unabashed ATLien.
Remarkable reference: “The nigga riding with me give a fuck about Giuseppes, they’ll run up on you in some Cortez/See motherfuckers don’t know shit about Snow, I’ll run up on you in some Hermes” on “Type of Party”
2) Kevin Gates, Murder for Hire
Mixtapes are too damn long. A perfect length is about 10 songs, but three-quarters of Datpiff mixtapes have 20-plus. That makes Baton Rouge’s own Kevin Gates—one of the most exciting people rapping today—dropping a seven-song EP look especially appealing. Unfortunately, Murder for Hire sounds more like odds and sods than lean cohesion. “Puerto Rican Johnny” sounds like an early version of “John Gotti,” which appeared on last year’s Luca Brasi 2 mixtape.
Gates is a brilliant rapper though, one capable of conveying myriad feelings at once, and there’s no shortage on this tape. Even with multiple listens, it’s difficult to get a consistent sense of anything. He can jump from topic to topic without losing momentum, best illustrated on “Khaza,” where he works his way from “Osama Twin Llamas” to “Beyoncé follow me on Instagram, Jigga watch it” to “You tall and you can’t dress, really you annoying.” There are a couple of other highlights, or at least enough to hold over fans until his first proper release of 2015.
Remarkable reference: “I type on my phone while I listen to music” on “Chico”
3) King Louie, Drilluminati 3: God of Drill
Southside Chicago rapper King Louie was already something of an old head in his mid-twenties, when the term “Chiraq” was coined by the burgeoning teenage street rap scene. Years later, after the major labels raided Englewood like they discovered America, King L is steady dropping mixtapes, still to release a debut album. Rather than focusing on the lack of career development (more than partially Epic Records’ fault), King L has experimented musically with Auto-Tune, melodies, and means of release, like in 2013 when he put out a song a day during the month of March.
Louie’s most successful tracks tend to be minimalist anthems like “Michael Jordan” and “Live & Die in Chicago.” I personally prefer when he goes off rapping and sounds like he’ll never stop, like on “I’m Arrogant” or “Bars,” but with his third straight “Rozay Flow” in the Drilluminati mixtape series, it doesn’t look like that’s coming back. On the other hand, he’s still great at making songs that sound like there’s a body in the trunk when played through car speakers.
Most of the tracks on Drilluminati 3 are tuned for maximum knock, with many of the same producers he’s worked with for years. Louie also softens some of his edges with sung choruses, helped out by Fetty Wap, Dreezy, and PartyNextDoor. On “Like Louie,” he wobbles over a shaky piano beat that also sounds like chirps echoed in a robotic birdcage. It might be the best song on the tape. The weirdest song, “My World,” finds King L rapping about his fears and Croc sandals over some laid-back acoustic guitar plucks. He never loses his sense of humor or his ability to evoke imagery.
Remarkable reference: “Bought a glock in February it’s black and proud/You niggas bitch Soo Yung I’m Juntao/P’s steady calling call it Rush Hour” on “My World”
4) RJ, O.M.M.I.O. 2
I still maintain that L.A. rapper RJ’s first mixtape from 2013, O.M.M.I.O. (On My Mama I’m On), was the best collection of West Coast rap beats of the last few years, better than all the other YG, Dom Kennedy, and DJ Mustard full-lengths. That was two years ago, however, and even though the sound has blown up on the radio, RJ hasn’t been able to follow the success of his big bro YG. I don’t want to say that RJ has missed his chance, but as other contemporaries start to evolve from the minimalist ratchet sound that blew up Southern California, and as YG continues to tour the world, this new RJ tape doesn’t contain many new ideas.
There’s a reason why the sound hasn’t left the radio, though: If it ain’t broke, why add sonic flourishes? The piano plinks and 808 farts do start to wear quicker than usual, but the familiar features make it feel like redoing a party rather than cleaning up the first one. Every song is pretty short and the tape sounds somewhat like a DJ set. It all flows together and it’s difficult to remember specifics when it’s over. Luckily, there ain’t no party like a West Coast party ‘cause a West Coast party don’t stop.
Remarkable reference: “CL coupe look red like dead eyes/Pulling up fresh Balmain like ta-da/Laughing to the bank like ha-ha” by Joe Moses on “No Excuses”
5) YT Triz, Dysfunctional
YT Triz is an Orlando, Florida, rapper whom I’d never heard of before he scored a Bobby Shmurda feature right at the peak of “Hot Nigga.” That collaboration, “How Can I Lose,” was some pretty bright, uplifting trap rap, even if not particularly noteworthy. He just showed up again out of nowhere with “Vamanos,” which somehow has guest verses from Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. I have no idea how he got the money to pay for those features, but it certainly wasn’t from rap.
It becomes pretty apparent that YT Triz should be a few years away from getting Wayne and Ross features. There is little that distinguishes himself and he’s just sort of trying on flows for size. But then “Vamanos” pops up halfway through the tape and after that, it’s like years in the future. I can’t be 100 percent sure, but it sounds like the tape progresses after track five, and Triz bought features and rapping classes. He shows a surprisingly deft flow over some menacing harp strings on “Gangsta Party,” an ability to craft something that sounds like it could be a solo single in “Rob the Plug,” and serious songwriting ability on “The Set Up.” Time will tell if YT Triz continues his rapid improvement in rapping and beat selection, or signs with Rick Ross’s MMG record label and gets buried with the rest of the roster.
Remarkable reference: “Pretty pussy popping paint a perfect picture/I pull it puff it pass it fly as caterpillar” on “Vamanos”
Screengrab via YGVEVO/YouTube