Each new day brings more hours of free or semi-free hip-hop for you to download and enjoy. Keeping up with the latest mixtapes can seem like an overwhelming chore, so Mixtape Roundup is here to help – plucking the gems from the flood and presenting them here. Below find details on some of the best mixtapes to hit the web in the past few weeks, from the likes of the always entertaining Young Dro, up-and-comers Nacho Picasso and Chip Tha Ripper, Oakland cloud-rapper MondreMAN, and DIY impresario Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em.
Young Dro – We Outchea
Atlanta rapper Young Dro has a handful of minor hits to his name, but he’s never really broken out. He’s spent the nearly six years since his debut Best Thang Smokin releasing mixtape after mixtape of workmanlike, pop-infected gangsta-rap, and We Outchea is the umpteenth one promising to be the last before the release of his perennially pushed-back sophomore record (supposedly dropping in 2012). Following the pattern of his 2011 tapes Drocabulry and I Co-Sign Myself, Young Dro fills We Outchea with goofy, ebullient trap hop that you can take as seriously as you want.
Young Dro boasted via Twitter that this mixtape features absolutely no guest rappers, that he’s “doing this thang SOLO,” which is an admirable decision but maybe not the smartest one given that he’s usually able to get features from his Grand Hustle boss T.I., not to mention label-mates B.O.B. and Killer Mike. We Outchea runs a quick 38 minutes, with some nutty bangers at the beginning and more contemplative, R&B-influenced fare at the end.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Dro is much more comfortable in the former genre, and that the mixtape’s first half is its strongest. He takes the perfect approach to the frenetic, Daft Punk-sampling beat of “Upgrade” by rapping in a groggy, just-rolled-out-of-bed flow. “Boomin” has a keyboard line reminiscent of Jeezy’s “My Hood” and some of Dro’s most buoyant rhymes, bragging about wearing a yellow watch the same color as Spongebob Squarepants and riding on rims as high as “Pee-wee Herman feet.” On the one hand Young Dro’s lack of big-time success isn’t right, but he doesn’t seem to care anyway. He’s all about having fun, and We Outchea is a fitting reflection of that feel-good worldview.
Standout tracks: “Upgrade”; “Boomin” “Hey Hey Hey”.
Blue Sky Black Death and Nacho Picasso -- Lord of the Fly
The best-named rapper since Waka Flocka Flame, Nacho Picasso gained attention with last year’s mixtape For the Glory, a potent blend of Weeknd/Drake-stye hedonism and MF Doom-patented nerdistry. Lord of the Fly is the follow-up to that mixtape and largely follows its predecessor’s example, dwelling in hazy trill-wave and showcasing Nacho’s penchant for far-out references and narcotic visions of debauchery. The hook to “Tool Man” exemplifies Nacho’s ability to twist any innocuous pop-culture reference into something salacious and sinister: “I just want to nail her/ Tim the Tool Man Taylor.”
Even for a rapper Nacho comes off as unusually emotionally remote and detached, rapping in the same nasal monotone whether the line is about dealing with his father’s death or wanting to do blow with Bob Saget. Nacho’s lyrics are almost always either hilarious or obscene, but he doesn’t seem to smile or experience guilt. Blue Sky Black Death, who cut about half of For the Glory, feature as this mixtape’s sole producer, and the duo provide Nacho a hazy, pulsing environment, as well the emotional touch his raps often lack.
“Naked Lunch,” which has the psychedelic video featured below, could be a blueprint for the album’s aesthetics and ideas: basically six minutes of Nacho’s stream-of-consciousness flow, with references to Family Guy, a mushroom/Orlando Bloom rhyme, a shout-out to classic-era African-American actress Dorothy Dandridge. The song would be excruciating were it not for the production’s droning, melancholy bump. And so it goes for the rest of Lord of the Fly. Nacho comes off as fascinating if not exactly sympathetic, and you keep listening because you want to hear what he’s going to say next. Meanwhile Blue Sky Black Death’s glistening, spaced-out production gets into your head like a drug.
Standout tracks: “Naked Lunch”; “Tool Man”; “Luca Brasi”; “Tree Tops”.
Chip Tha Ripper – Tell Ya Friends
Cleveland’s Chip Tha Ripper is known as a disciple of Kid Cudi, but he has more in common with another Midwest rapper: Freddie Gibbs. Chip lacks Cudi’s hipster appeal, but like Gibbs, Chip is a talented, versatile rapper who’s as comfortable spitting hood tales as he lying back in weeded-out chill mode. Tell Ya Friends is Chip’s first mixtape since the name-making Gift Raps he released in 2011, and it improves on its predecessor’s solid foundation by presenting a top-shelf roster of producers (Lex Luger, Boi-1da, Chuck Inglish) and guest features (Wale, Bun B, Krazyie Bone, Kid Cudi).
Chip Tha Ripper isn’t exactly a force of personality, and he doesn’t do too much to reinvigorate the tired content areas of cars, girls, and money, but he’s enough of an accomplished technician that the blandness of the material doesn’t matter. In a span of three songs on Tell Ya Friends, he turns forceful and intimidating on the slow-rolling “We Ain’t Playing,” enters the stratosphere on the weed-party “Cactus,” and oozes lust and power on the sultry “25 Wives.” One of the best things here is a Lex Luger track, “Out Here,” that doesn’t sound anything like a Lex Luger track: over a spacious, minor-key beat that reminds one more of Ski Beatz’s work for Curren$y than “B.M.F.,” Chip brags about the finer comforts of eating shrimp at Benihana and riding around in a BMW 650i.
“Boomshakalaka” has an intoxicating, swirling boombap beat, from Cudi affiliate Woodro Skillson, and a Bun B feature; the rapping don’t quite rise to the level of the production (Bun B has been autopilot for too long) but the track nevertheless succeeds. In the strength and variety of its production and the consistency and quality of its raps, Tell Ya Friends is another example of a mixtape that, given a music business that wasn’t in rapid decline, would make a more than passable commercial album.
Standout tracks:“Out Here”; “Boomshakalaka”; “Stay Sleep”; “GloryUs”.
MondreM.A.N. – MAN (Remixed)
A member of Oakland’s high-flying Main Attrakionz, MondreM.A.N. has the benefit and the burden of being identified by a singular school of production -- cloud rap, the hazy, blunted aesthetic created by producer Clams Casino and perfected on Main Attrakionz’s mixtape 808s and Dark Grapes II.
Last November MondreM.A.N. released the solo EP MAN, and for whatever reason the album didn’t garner a lot of attention. You could blame it on fickle Internet rap consumers, where the celebration of some albums and disregarding of others seems to follow no rhyme or reason, or it could be the fact that people are getting wise to, and possibly tired of, cloud rap’s indolent pose. Perhaps to reorient attention toward MAN, or to prove that his raps don’t cater to more than ambient skyscapes, MondreM.A.N. has released a remixed version of MAN.
The productions on MAN (Remixed) don’t stray too far from MondreM.A.N.’s preferred palate – it’s not as if his vocals are being laid over aggressive Lugerish synths or stark dance-club beats – but he definitely benefits from the exposure to some new textures, and his lyrics, which have been criticized for being colorless and than personal, stand up on second listen as well. The most pleasantly surprising moments come on “Belly of the Beast,” flipped to a cavernous, almost horrorcore beat that fits well with the song’s grimy themes, and “Fancy,” gets a whimsical, maximalist treatment, with a flurry of flute and xylophone tones, from Yalls.
But the best track on the original MAN is still the best track on MAN (Remixed): the barn-burning “Suffocation,” which has guest spots from Main Attrakionz’s Squadda B and a typically on-fire Danny Brown, gets re-imagined as an early '90s Southern rap anthem. On MAN (Remixed), MondreM.A.N., a capable if inconspicuous emcee, continues to cede the spotlight to his producers.
Standout tracks: “Belly of the Beast”; “Fancy”; “Cloud”; “Suffocation”.
Soulja Boy and Young L – Mario & Domo Vs. The World
Soulja Boy has released three mixtapes since Dec. 30, 2011. Why should you download one of them, much less all three of them? Admittedly that’s a tough question to answer. For the past year or so Mr. Tell ‘Em has been caught in a basedworld holding pattern, rattling off mixtape after mixtape of the same bouncey, low-budget synth jams that owe a whole lot to music Lil B was creating circa 2008. The highlights of Soulja’s recent output are probably his collaboration with his Lil B, Pretty Boy Millionaires, and the Khalifa-indebted 1up, but neither produced a certifiable hit on the level of “Speakers Going Hammer” or “Turn My Swag On,” which is a problem because Soulja Boy thrives on periodically producing these unexpected, weirdly addicting pop-rap anthems.
Like 50/13 and Gold On Deck, its immediate predecessors, Mario & Domo Vs. The World fails to produce a hit, but the album is noteworthy because it presents something more cohesive and entertaining than the genre-hopping 50/13 and the uninspired Gold On Deck. Soulja’s collaborator here is Young L, a rapper/producer who got his start making beats for and rapping with Lil B in the Pack but who has lately been producing some interesting stuff on his own.
Young L and Soulja Boy make a good team because Young L has the discipline Soulja Boy lacks as well as a consistent aesthetic approach: scorching keyboard lines, subterranean basslines, plenty of open space for Soulja’s wobbly vocals. As a rapper Young L also serves as a useful counter, rapping in a hoarse whisper and obviously not challenging Soulja for lyrical primacy – if you’re looking for verbal fireworks, this mixtape is obviously not for you. At its best, like the songs “Ba” and “Money Man,” Mario & Domo Vs. The World offers a conceivable middle ground between left-coast wobble and deep-south wamp.
Standouts: “Ba”; “Money Man”.