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The Week’s Best Mixtapes and Free Mixes - featuring Rome Fortune, Brodinski and more

Listening to the deluge of mixtapes and free mixes from hip-hop artists and electronic producers alike is often an insurmountable task. That’s why we scour Datpiff, LiveMixtapes and beyond, separating the wheat from the chaff each week.

Valentine’s Day always offers plenty of new music (ahem), but for those not into those lovey-dovey offerings, this round-up should have something for you. Along with a Dilla tribute, off-kilter Opal Tapes fare, and an education in Chicago house, there’s more Atlanta rap than we know what to do with.

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It doesn’t take long to realize that Beautiful Pimp 2 isn’t your average mixtape. For starters, it’s a well trimmed 30 minutes in length, properly mixed and mastered and sounds like it was intended to flow as a continuous piece. You know, like a proper album. There are no lulls, no tracks that you have to skip and no obvious singles, and the whole record was produced by just one guy – New Jersey’s CitoOnTheBeat. It harks back to a simpler time in rap, and despite being a free mixtape in an era where that’s about as distinguishable as a white cat in the snow, Beautiful Pimp 2 manages to sound more ambitious than most high-budget major-label rap albums.

It’s a far more personal record than its breakthrough predecessor, something highlighted by a series of touching vibraphone interludes played by Rome’s grandfather. This, along with a charming appearance from his son, gives the record a warmth and familial arc that neatly offsets the flickering beats and obligatory pregnant pauses. Rome’s well-documented Outkast influence seeps through every crack, and Cito’s production rises to the occasion comfortably. Druggy, FX-drenched female vocals emerge to fill the gaps between Cito’s skeletal rhythms and woozy synths and Rome’s signature sluggish flow paints over the lines with an endearing confidence. He doesn’t even have to say anything at all – his intakes of breath and purposeful pacing speaks volumes.

There aren’t any bangers here, so anyone expecting a sequel to last year’s ‘Get the Guap’ will be sorely disappointed, but they’d also be missing the point. Rome’s strength is in his willingness to move against the grain and Beautiful Pimp 2 is a genuinely successful attempt at pushing his sound forward. If he’d repeated the formula it just wouldn’t have made sense.

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If working on Yeezus didn’t establish Brodinski’s rap credentials, his mixes sure will. Like a more straightforward version of last year’s Purple Ride mixtape, Blue Finessin’ is all blue-dreams-and-lean, running through street rap smashes from across the US. There’s plenty of Atlanta trap from Gucci Mane, Future and Young Thug; Chicago is repped by King Louie (last year’s slept-on ‘Again’), Young Chop, and Johnny May Cash; DC newcomer Shy Glizzy gets two shouts, and so on. This one is essentially a DJed version of the rap tapes we post each week — but an all-killer-no-filler one with a pro at the controls.

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The follow-up to last year’s unimpressive Ex Drug Dealer tape, Frank Matthews shouldn’t be an appealing prospect. Thankfully Casino seems to have refreshed himself with a shot of adrenaline through the chest. The brother of autotune rap superstar Future, he’s always going to be dodging that estimable shadow, so what’s left to do but shout louder? Frank Matthews succeeds because it’s a fair few decibels above anything Future’s crooned over in the last eighteen months, and Casino isn’t afraid to let us know.

As you’d hope considering the obvious connections, Casino has surrounded himself with the right group of collaborators. Frank Matthews is masterfully produced and boasts features that read like a who’s who of the ATL scene. Future’s on there of course, and then we’ve got current voice-du-jour Young Thug, the recently-released Young Scooter, Thug-protégé Lil Silk and polarizing hipster Trinidad James who for the most part turn in solid contributions. It’s Casino himself who holds the tape together though, and in contrast to its predecessor, doesn’t allow himself to get overshadowed. Frank Matthews is well worth a closer look.

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It’s saddening to think that James Yancey (better known as J Dilla) would have been 40 years old this year had he not tragically passed away in 2006, only days after his 32nd birthday. His influence in rap is almost impossible to calculate, but we can safely say that without his crucial groundwork the hip-hop landscape would be very different. Of all the artists who harp on about Dilla’s influence however, few of them actually knew the enigmatic producer, which makes Michael “House Shoes” Buchanan’s work even more crucial. A long-standing Detroit DJ, House Shoes actually went toe-to-toe with Dilla back in the day, and his acclaimed 2008 mixtape The King James Version Vol.1 still stands as one of the most important documents of Dilla’s methods.

Now Buchanan has pulled together a sequel to that tape, and rustled up another selection of weird and wonderful tracks that were dug up and sampled by Dilla in his all-too-short career. All vinyl (obviously), Buchanan blends tunes as disparate as Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Persuasion’ (sampled on Jaylib’s ‘The Heist’) and Electronic Concept Orchestra’s charming Moog version of ‘The Look of Love’ (sampled on Yancey Boys’ ‘Jeep Volume’) with masterful ease. It might only be 45 minutes long (Buchanan claims he’ll be emerging with a third chapter very soon) but we can’t think of a more appropriate way to remember Dilla’s legacy than basking in the music that excited and influenced him.

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K.I.S.S. 2

The Atlanta rapper-singer currently has two singles that are lighting up Atlanta: ‘Money Baby’ (with Kwony Cash) and ‘Cut Her Off’ (which now has a remix with 2 Chainz). With his Auto-Tuned, sing-song style, K Camp is another talent taking his cues from Future, but thanks to his ear for a hook, he has a real shot of breaking out of the pack.

On the heels of his re-released In Due Time tape, K Camp shares K.I.S.S. 2. As the title suggests, this one is a bedroom-focused set for fans of The-Dream, Jeremih, and Drake’s softer moments. Producers Nash B and Big Fruit wrap their beats in warm blankets of filtered synth, and K does the rest: singing, rapping, and turning his syllables into percussive loops. Opener ‘Actin Up’ is like a slow jam take on YG’s ‘This D’; elsewhere, he lays out what he’s looking for in a woman (or women): “I ain’t gotta type / as long as you grown / as long as you bad / you got your own.” What a gentleman.

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Opal Tapes is the perfect cottage industry, and sitting at the head of the dinner table is Stephen Bishop, aka Basic House. Over the last few years Bishop has carved out a niche for himself and his small band of acolytes, emerging with cassette after cassette of after-hours techno and pallid experimental drone, and we’ve quite rightly lapped it up.

On this generous hour-long mix for Electronic Explorations, he exhibits the same meticulousness as he splices together recent and forthcoming tracks galore, resulting in some sort of Opal Tapes megamix (augmented by a few choice gems from further afield). Occasionally brutal and piercing, sometimes dancefloor friendly but always pleasingly murky, it’s probably not music for your customary V Day dinner for two, but dim the lights, adjust your prescription spectacles and crack yourself a bottle of something strong and treat yourself.

Opal Tapes – 284 – Electronic Explorations by Electronic Explorations on Mixcloud

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Atlanta rapper Rocko returns nearly a year after his last mixtape, the ‘U.O.E.N.O.’-spawning Gift of Gab 2. Rocko is a versatile, workmanlike presence in the Atlanta rap scene, and Lingo 4 Dummies has something for all seasons, whether he’s doing sparse street boasts like ‘NunnaYu’ or laidback sex raps ‘Freeky’ or even singing a rap power ballad (‘Her’).

Highlights include the ratchet, Nitti-produced ‘Sucka’ (is it still snap without a finger click?), rap lexicon explainer ‘Slang’, and ‘PhuckUThot’, wherein he borrows Juicy J’s simplistic flow and lays out taunts to his doubters and thots alike over a piano-heavy DJ Spinz beat. Guest spots are well-placed: T.I. turns up on the whispery ‘Put it in my Pocket (P.I.M.P)’, and Jeezy tries out the Migos flow on ‘W1UW’ (which tries to replicate the abbreviated brilliance of ‘U.O.E.N.O’ but doesn’t hit the mark).

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Brussels veterans Kwistax pulled out all the stops on this one, charting the history of booty house from its Chicago origins (chiefly Dance Mania regulars) through to two generations of modern proponents, from Thomas Bangalter and Armand Van Helden through to L-Vis 1990 and Matrixxman. Pure jacking house workout material.

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There’s a moment on Alaska in Atlanta 2 in which OJ Da Juiceman tells the DJ to rewind the track: “Hit those muthafuckas on the head with the hammer; you the hammer, they the nail.” That about sums this mixtape up: a 16-track collection of Atlanta rap that beats you over the head with the one tool in its belt. The one-time Gucci Mane protege/weed-carrier is well-versed in the type of big, dumb trap bangers that his mentor churns out — albeit with less finesse and character than Gucci — and not much more.

Unfortunately, Alaska in Atlanta 2 is way too paint-by-numbers to leave a mark, especially considering how weird and wonderful Atlanta is these days. When it briefly deviates from the formula, results vary: Metro Boomin’s stuttering ‘I Got Work’ works, while the Auto-Tuned, ‘Three Blind Mice’ gurgle of ‘Watch Dez Hoes’ doesn’t. Bloody Jay does his best to resuscitate ‘Real Diamonds’ with a pitch-perfect wrestling reference, and the tape’s best verse comes, as expected, from Gucci. HPG hitmakers C-Note and C4 do their thing on ‘Kick Door’, letting the Brick Squad boss switch up his flow and drop lines like “we put lean in anything / Alka-seltzer, Dr. Pepper.” Gucci Mane forever.

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Floating Points (aka Sam Shepherd) is a confirmed vinyl junkie, so it stands to reason that he’d want to show off his carefully procured selections for five-hours, right? He’s not doing it alone either, and has brought along New York crate digger and DJ Love On The Run to help with the picks. The session was recorded a few weeks ago at London’s Plastic People, but it seems serendipitous that it has arrived online just in time for Valentines day.

The two DJs go back and forth dropping some of the most soulful, romantic sounds this side of Barry White, and remarkably never tumble into mindless, silky cheese. This ain’t no hit parade – the two DJs act like librarians, guiding us through the pitch-black crevices of their vast stacks of wax.

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