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Mixtape Round-up: Future, 808 Mafia, Visionist, Adrian Marcel, and more

With each passing week, listening to the deluge of mixtapes, radio shows, and live sets from electronic producers and hip-hop artists alike becomes an even more insurmountable task. Quality offerings can fly under the radar, either added to our ever-growing “to listen” list or — more often than not – disregarded all together.

As always, Atlanta looms large in the mixtape round-up, but there’s also Alabama rap, Bay Area R&B, and club music from around the globe, along with pupil-dilating mixes by artists from Chicago, Tokyo, and London.

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Another “soundtrack” to a movie that doesn’t exist from Future and his Free Band Gang crew. Apart from the narrative-boosting skits, this tape is wall-to-wall Southern rap bangers. There’s dour trap like Future’s ‘We Made Our Own’, his ‘Take This 4 Granted’, and ‘Big Diamonds’ by Mexico Rann and Casino, along with the jubilant ‘Blow Them Bands’ by Stuey Rock (with an assist by Future).

The rapper-of-the-moment dominates the effort, which is probably a good thing: the Drumma Boy-produced ‘Rehab (Amy Winehouse)’ is the most Futuristic track in the collection, as Ciara’s better half catalogs his drug use and tags it with “rest in peace Amy Winehouse” and an “I need to go to rehab” refrain. Likewise, his Autotuned gargle makes slow jam ‘Hands On U’ and syrup-soaked ‘Brain on Drugs’ stand-out. Unfortunately, a dark cloud hovers over some of the tape, as ‘Automatic’ is by the recently-incarcerated Young Scooter, and it closes with a track by OG Double Dee, who was murdered earlier this month.

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808 Mafia’s first self-titled mixtape was one of last year’s finest, and its sequel is no disappointment. The Waka-affiliated production outfit was founded by Lex Luger and Southside, and now has a sprawling presence throughout rap’s mainstream. Their signature sound, for better or worse, has come to define what most would class as ‘trap’, but love it or hate it you have to admit that 808 Mafia do it better than the rest.

Thankfully this second tape does plenty to shift the focus from the aggressive bass drops and 16th note snares of Waka’s breakout Flockaveli and actually manages to push things forward a little in the process. Whilst opener ‘3 Ninjas’ might make you think it’s simply business as usual, before long we’re treated to ‘Dreamland’ from the Mafia’s secret weapon, Purps. The LA producer has a knack for sound design, crafting a gut-churning slow-burner of a weapon, dripping with neon synths and the kind of snapping reversed snares you just don’t hear enough in rap. Elsewhere Terentino keeps it cloudy and ominious with ‘Kill Bill Vol. 808’, and Drowning Angels manages to do the unthinkable, flipping a snippet of Madonna’s William Orbit-produced ‘Frozen’ and emerging with a genuinely dark, moody beat. It’s not all good; crew cut ‘Cashmere Socks’ is a real crime against the genre, pretty much summing up everything that’s bad about mainstream hip hop right now, but the hits far outweigh the misses, and you can always use the delete key.

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Mixed for DIS Magazine, the South London badman explores the far-reaches of grime, as he has on releases for Keysound and 92 Points. Along with plenty of originals, there’s a handful of Zomby, a Nguzunguzu remix of Fatima Al Qadiri, a collaboration between Netishists LOL Gulrz and 5kin & Bone5, and a Ciara/Young Dot bootleg from Fade to Mind’s Total Freedom. Expect nearly an hour of off-kilter, paranoia-inducing electronic music, and be sure to head over to DIS to view their visualization of the mix.

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Bay Area new kid Adrian Marcel might not have a lot of tunes to his name, but co-signed by the legendary Raphael Saadiq he’s got to be doing something right. 7 Days of Weak comes across as either very good marketing or a happy accident, it’s basically a proper album – mastered, sequenced and minus the usual DJ bumps you’d expect on a real mixtape. Marcel (or more likely Saadiq) probably realized that putting this out as a debut album on a major would have achieved very little, so we’re treated to what sounds like a major label release for absolutely free, which is not a bad deal for us.

Musically it’s solid stuff, blurring the lines between ice-cool post-Drake slow jams, Miguel’s booty calls and the kind of street savvy rap ‘n b of Trey Songz or Chris Brown. It might not sound particularly singular and it’s not, but Marcel is an artist who from the sounds of it is putting in his time and grinding to make it happen – 7 Days of Weak is a solid, well produced record from an artist whose identity is still developing. Let’s just hope Wale doesn’t have to appear on record number two.

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On Sunday, the Numbers co-founder and Tokyo resident manned the decks for the label’s Rinse FM show. Allow this two-hour mix to serve as a warmup for this weekend’s absurdly-stacked Pleasure Principle festival, or a sad reminder of what you’ll be missing if you’re not making the trip to Cornwall. No tracklist on this one, but Soundcloud promises forthcoming tracks by MMM, Helix, and Visionist.

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G-Side are destined to be one of rap’s most unjust near-misses, and while the Huntsville, Alabama duo managed to rake up a whole gang of devoted fans, it was never quite enough to translate into tangible, monetized success. Upper Echelon could be perceived as a massive stylistic side-step for Yung Clova, but it retains plenty of that unshakable personality that made G-Side so damned essential back on The One… Cohesive.

Clova (like everyone else) clearly has love for Future-patented auto-tuned Mike WiLL bangers, but while Upper Echelon skates very close to simply being yet another good pastiche, it’s the odd moments of brilliance that remind you why you’re bothering. ‘Murder’ is a bright, buzzing triumph, and almost beats Future at his own game with its neck snapping percussion and unshakable synths. The real highlight though comes when Clova decides to pull back a little with the woozy ‘Surfacing’, a track that excels without having to resort to Young Chop-style snares or Lex Luger-patented ascending synths.

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Sich Mang might not receive as much coverage as contemporaries Supreme Cuts and The-Drum, but the Chicago duo continue to make noise — often literally. As the title suggests, this mix had celebrating stoners in mind, but fans of bass-drenched footwork, raunchy club music, and mind-numbing hardcore will find something to like, sober or not. Over thirty tracks are contorted and melted for this free-wheeling mix, and while a tracklist is included, it probably won’t help in deciphering it. With something this untethered, we’d usually suggest letting it “wash over you,” but there’s nothing serene about this one.

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Higher Caliber is far more than simply a taster of Gene the Southern Child & Parallel Thought’s forthcoming full-length Artillery Splurgin’. It might be made up of B-sides and album offcuts, but each track has enough personality from Gene and innovation from producers Parallel Thought that its 20 minutes is better than most rappers’ 74. Opener ‘Snatchin’’ is our pick, and is carried by some blisteringly good production from Parallel Thought, who manage to bring to mind El-P’s post-Vangelis sci fi vibes without ever aping any of his distinctive production traits. This is smart stuff, neither retro nor slipping into any typical contemporary pitfalls. Gene’s smart, often referential Southern raps are confident but not boastful, and drag us in and keep us there with richly colored tales of his Alabama home. If these are the tracks that were left over, Atillery Splurgin’ should be jaw dropping.

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Parisian club music obsessives Moveltraxx present the second volume in their series of free compilations. This edition contains 13 club-wise creations from around the globe, both vintage and forward-leaning. Among the highlights: Jersey Club legend DJ Tameil flips ‘Baby Got Back’, Distal shares his latest kitchen-sink raver ‘I Was Ten’, and footwork wunderkind DJ Earl takes on Lil Wayne on ‘I’m Doin It Big’. Newcomers Jurassic Fightclub and Maskarado add a tropical vibe on ‘Kina’, and Madrid’s ‘Ima Work’ revels in bed-squeaking Jersey club-meets-trap menace. Nothing groundbreaking here, but everyone needs some barebones club music in their lives (and in their crates).

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Soulja Boy is kind of a joke at this point; he’s always been a poor man’s Gucci – not quite as mad and minus the huge tunes – but right now even his relevance as some sort of voice of the youth is in jeopardy. Now we have that whole shtick handled with a little more conviction from Keef, we’ve got Issue holding it down for the weirdos and if we wanna go truly out there, hell there’s always RiFF RAFF . Still, it’s somewhat comforting to know that six years after ‘Crank That’ Soulja is still at least trying to keep himself on the development mode.

On Foreign 2 that means absorbing elements of Waka and Keef’s signature flows, and while that might sound like grounds to totally ignore the mixtape in favour of, well, pretty much anything else, Soulja misses the mark so much that it ends up actually functioning for him. You see, Soulja can only really do Soulja, and his lazy, inept flow is probably his biggest asset. Most of the time it sounds as if he’s struggling to keep up, but when it works (‘Yea Yea’, ‘Ask Around’) it almost frames him as the trap Jandek, seemingly oblivious to everything that’s happening around him. It’s about as technical as Play-Doh, but Foreign 2 excels simply at being way off base, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

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