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.
Atlanta’s had another big one this week, with a face-off from two of the city’s most recognizable voices – the unstoppable Gucci Mane and relative newcomer Young Thug. We’ve got nothing to complain about on the mix front either, with Berlin heavyweight Marcel Dettmann dropping off a face-melting two-hour Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1, and NYC-based ex-pat Celestial Trax making sure instrumental grime takes in as much outside influence as possible in a sizzling exclusive production mix.
GUCCI MANE & YOUNG THUG
YOUNG THUGGA MANE LA FLARE
The rap titans drop their long-awaited collaborative tape and somehow live up to the lofty expectations. Young Thugga Mane La Flare is a surprisingly tight and endlessly entertaining effort from the Atlanta vanguard: 13 songs of trapstravagance – all mile-high beats and metallic synths. Gucci and Thug shout out the Hot Boys, write bando-meets-Dr. Seuss rhymes (“Some of these bricks are white / some of the bricks are tan / Sixty percent are wrong / hundred percent get gone”) and threaten to shoot you while you’re shitting — and that’s just the first three tracks.
While the producers involved certainly stepped up their games here (including a resurgent Lex Luger on the amazing ‘OMG BRO’), it’s the rappers’ personalities and vocal quirks that shine, as always with these two. Listen to the disdain in Gucci’s voice on ‘Need’: “and I ain’t fuckin’ with her no more ’cause she’s ugh,” or how Thug drags “skrr” into a heavy metal growl on ‘Ride Around the City’. Thug channels Lil Wayne on ‘Siblings’, the title of which he pronounces as something between “sibilant” and “syphilis,” and if that wasn’t weird enough, he practically melts his voice on ‘OMG’ (a complete version with Iamsu! has since surfaced).
But it’s not all jokes: the palm-muted ‘Stoner 2 Times’ features not only Gucci’s offhand “RIP to Jimi Hendrix” but a sobering admission from a lean-less Thug: “If I don’t got none I don’t have no dreams.” RIP Actavis.
Recent Rinse signee Celestial Trax has turned in a blinder of a mix for Mixmag, and it’s far from your expected collection of hype grime and Boxed anthems. Instead, the mysterious NY-based producer (don’t worry purists, he’s a Brit at heart) has welded together a set of original productions, but nothing fans might have heard from recent Rinse drop Paroxysm or last year’s slew of Bandcamp-released EPs. It’s all killer material too, striking a middle ground between the eerie experimental tropes of mid-era Autechre (before they got too abstract) or Aphex Twin (those metallic clangs are very welcome) and the current wave of cavernous, halogen-assisted grime.
If you haven’t come across Celestial Trax before then you probably need to remedy that, and if you have, here’s over half an hour of music you likely haven’t come across before. You can’t fault the guy for his generosity here.
Techno fans shouldn’t need any reminder of why they need to be paying attention to a rare recorded mix from Marcel Dettmann. The Berghain veteran has long been a staple of Berlin’s minimal techno scene, and has never deviated from a level of quality that’s got to be difficult to maintain. This two-hour monster of a mix is no different, and Dettmann guides us through his refined collection with a surprisingly light touch. It might not be a particularly surprising mix (it’s minimal techno, c’mon) but when you’ve got Rolando, Laibach, Conforce and Planetary Assault Systems sitting together, you’re doing something right.
It’s Dettmann’s narrative that truly sets his mixes apart from the competition – he’s able to make two hours go by in a flash, and it’s not with music that’s usually considered particularly gripping. With a masterful grasp of his craft he manages to drag you into a place usually reserved for darkened Central European rooms at 3am, which isn’t anywhere near as bad as it sounds.
BLACK LABEL/PURPLE LABEL
Atlanta might be experiencing something of renaissance right now, but Young Dro’s hardly a newcomer. The Hustle Gang veteran has been instrumental in Atlanta’s development, and his very particular rapping style has informed a horde of younger mixtape rappers. It sounds, then, as if this double drop is an attempt to beat the kids at their own game.
He’s certainly got help from the right people – New Atlanta production kingpins Dun Deal, DJ Spinz and FKi make their obligatory appearances, giving both tapes a woozy neon sheen that reveals the ATL provenance instantly. It’s Dro’s unshakable personality however that gives him an edge over his peers. Even with solid guest verses from Zuse, T.I. and Trae the Truth (among others), drunken lines like “y’all niggas goin’ crazy/I run around with nigga used to microwave babies” (from his freestyle over Tyga’s ‘Hookah’) assert a quirky dominance that’s hard to fault.
Two tapes might seem like heavy going, but with each clocking it at a well-trimmed 45 minutes it doesn’t feel anywhere near as much of a heavy slog as you might expect. Dro knows his strengths, and while he has a habit of shoehorning in the customary oldschool nod (wazzup ‘Complicated’), both Black Label and Purple Label act as timely reminders that he’s not ready to pack it in just yet.
DA NEW KOOL
The Slutty Boyz (P-Wild, Boosa, Dew Baby, Meatchi) is a DC crew associated with Fat Trel, and as with their MMG patron, you can expect plenty of street hustle talk over Southern rap bombast on Da New Kool. While often content to ape Atlanta rap tropes, the crew’s best moments are when they look elsewhere for inspiration.
Young Chop is in fine form on ‘I Swear’ and ‘SDMM’, a pair of tracks that feature Trel and fellow DC trapper Yung Gleesh. DC veterans Bassheds live up to their name on low-end-heavy clapper ‘Ya’ll Ain’t Ready’, and ‘Dinner’ benefits from a Rich Homie Quan hook and a radio-ready throwback beat by Pro Reese (Wale also offers a verse). C-Note soundtracks an 8-bit love song on ‘U’ — a perfect fit for Young Thug’s emo-rap warble.
There are a couple confounding moments — something sounds off on the mournful opener ‘Take Em Back’ and the Memphis grind of ‘Pimp Tight’ is out of place — but there are a few tracks where the Boyz break out from the pack.
LIL LODY AND BIGG MIKE
TRAP BOYZ: TALES OF DA TRAP
Memphis rapper/producer Lil Lody is back, this time accompanied by little-known Florida rapper Bigg Mike. Anyone who copped Lody’s massively underrated The Theory 2 from November last year will already know to expect a certain level of quality, and ahead of his imminent full-length Da Street Bible he sounds as if he’s got something to prove.
Both Lody and Mike (who himself just dropped full-length solo tape Sacrifices 2) sound desperate to stake a claim on their patch of rap turf, and they do so with an inspiring hunger. Lody’s rapping is slowly getting more compelling, and Bigg Mike, while clearly not a million miles away from some of his fellow weighty Florida peers, adds just enough hood snap to gift the tape the backbone it needs.
The only complaint (and it’s minor) is that there are only three of Lody’s own productions across the tape’s 14 tracks. He’s made it clear plenty of times before that he’s a rapper first, producer second, and that his production is more of a necessity than a focus, but it’s still disappointing. His beats are always compelling (he did produce ‘Colombia’ after all), and on the rare occasions that he does offer one up (‘Teach You Something’ for example) it takes the tape to another level entirely.
Sacramento weirdo Tynethys is a producer, singer, and MC — and as far as Thyluxe is concerned — in that order. While his smoke-filled lyrics have their moments (“I am so high / like am I on Earth? / if life is a bitch / my hand up her skirt”), his productions are the main attraction here (pun intended). The front half of the tape is dominated by pneumatic, techno-inflected beats (‘Machyne’, ‘Fogthy’) with the tape mellowing out as it goes along. There’s the frazzled electro of ‘Stress’, a Prince impression on ‘Trackstar’s and a few forays into gauzy, grayscale R&B — something for all moods and all highs.
DUMMY MIX 207
The New Jersey club iconoclast stops by Dummy for an hour of “chill emotional music.” If you’re familiar with Physical Therapy, you’ll know that “chill” is relative: this isn’t loungey music for the comedown. Instead, he expertly mixes house and techno of all flavors, including contemporary FACT favorites (Galcher Lustwerk, DJ Richard, MGUN), nostalgia-fueled throwbacks (Jeff Mills, a Chemical Brothers remix of Fatboy Slim), some of his own unreleased originals and forthcoming material on his Allergy Season imprint by newcomers Head Hz and Max McFerren. Thumbs up.
THE RANSOM NOTE SNACK TRAY
It’s hard to fuck with Sherard Ingram, let’s be honest. The Drexciya DJ and electro pioneer has been a crucial part of the Detroit scene since the early 90s (just go back and rediscover those Urban Tribe records if you haven’t already heard ‘em), and he’s still managing to churn out heat on the regular. Last year brought us another 12” for DJ Haus’s Unknown to the Unknown imprint, and this year so far he’s been touring tirelessly, introducing young ravers to the uncut raw shit.
Clocking in at a meager 18:45, this is a bite sized selection (it’s part of Ransom Note’s Snack Tray series) but when you’ve got almost 20 minutes of pure fire, it’s hard to complain about the length. Week in and week out we complain about mixes, and indeed mixtapes, being far too long – here it’s the opposite, and we’re actually almost in tears when it comes to a pounding, post-apocalyptic close.
MIXPAK FM 067
Mixpak’s ever-reliable podcast series enlists Gang Fatale boss Neana, one of our producers to watch in 2014. Despite having very little in the way of released music (and a Soundcloud of radio rips with names like “that time when bok bok played my bootleg of shunji moriwaki’s shirushi o chodai on rinse.”), Neana has caught our attention, and a mix like this only helps. Baltimore and Jersey club action, cascading ballroom urgency, stripped-back grime tracks — the mix mines the most frenetic forms of dance music for a truly arresting set.