The Mixtape Roundup scours the web for the latest free drops. In this edition, we look at new releases by prolific Internet heroes Gucci Mane and Curren$y, Southern slangers Project Pat and Nasty Mane and Jackie Chain, and weirdo rap newcomer Deniro Farrar.
Gucci Mane – Trap Back
Easily the most anticipated mixtape of the current cycle, Gucci Mane’s Trap Back dropped on Super Bowl Sunday, his first release since the mostly disastrous collaboration with V-Nasty, BAYTL, and first official mixtape since last year’s The Writing’s on the Wall II. By all accounts Gucci had a rough 2011. Both out of natural goodwill and a selfish desire to have his brilliantly nutty verses back in the world, rap fans are rooting hard for a Gucci Mane comeback. Trap Back may not find the peaks of 2007-08 on-fire Gucci -- there’s nothing to compare with “Wonderful” or “Gorgeous” -- but Gucci sounds more dialed-in here than he’s been in a while. Production-wise Gucci moves away from the busy Lex Luger synths of his recent tapes and back to the smoldering, slow-boom sounds he used to thrive on. Rumbling over beats from Mike Will, Southside, Zaytoven, and others, Gucci raps in his sluggishly charming drawl about his diamonds-cars-drugs triple obsession and little else. The album isn’t excellent front to back, but there are plenty of moments that’ll get your attention: the autobiographical verses on “Back in ‘95”; the line about “serving pizza pies and all my pies got extra topping” on “Quiet”: the “Sir Mix-a-Lot/ Serves bricks a lot” rhyme on “Opposition”; the spotlight-stealing appearances by 2 Chainz, on “Get It Back” and “Okay with Me.” Like a NFL running back who’s clearly lost a step but who is still capable breaking it open down the field every now and then, Gucci doesn’t seem likely to regain the power he had during his own prime, but he’s still better than much of the competition.
Standout tracks: “Back in ’95”; “Get it Back”; “Opposite”; “Brick Fair”; “Okay with Me”.
Curren$y – Here
How to interpret the title of the freebie EP Curren$y just dropped? Here as a bold title indicating the locus of super-stoned bliss-hop? Or, you haven’t heard new Curren$y in nearly six months? (His last mixtape was Verde Terrace back in August ’11.) OK, Here. Given Here’s brevity and its overall thrown-together nature, I have to suspect the latter explanation. Even if the only reason for this Curren$y release is to give the internet something, anything, it’s still a Curren$y release and therefore full of the effortless magic we’ve come to expect over the past couple of years. The opener, “Pay Attention,” is pure recumbent swagger, with Spitta giving himself lyrical high-fives (“Told the man in the mirror, ‘You's a fucking cold blooded nigga’”) over a simple, buzz-organ beat. The weakest moment here is “#Cruiselife,” where Curren$y revs up over Kanye’s “Drive Slow” but eventually sputters, leaving what seems like a half-finished song. On “Livin” Curren$y takes a soul-sample boom-bap and brags about the size of the drapes in his bedroom and calling shots from a solid-gold rotary phone. That song also has an illuminating observation about how Spitta lives in order to populate his raps, “This bitch rubbing on my car seat, she fucking rolling / I do my thang and then write about it in the morning,” which partially explains his prolific output. Curren$y lives to rap, and raps to live. Here is definitely the most disappointing thing he’s dropped in a while but this guy has been on such a roll that nobody should complain. A commercial album, Muscle Car Chronicles, is supposedly on the way, as is Pilot Talk III. Here will have to do for now.
Standout tracks: “Pay Attention”; “Livin”.
Project Pat and Nasty Mane – Belly on Full
Three 6 Mafia and its affiliates have to be the most dependable conveyors of unapologetic depravity in all of hip hop. Obviously, Three 6’s patented horrorcore shout-rap isn’t for everyone: if you’re not interested in hearing DJ Paul rap “Imma be Batman, jumping out the black car with a black dick in my hand” over a beat that samples audio from the Kim Kardashian sextape, move along. Longtime Three Six official-unofficial member and brother of Juicy J, Project Pat doesn’t get nearly the attention he deserves, considering he has one of the best pure voices in hip hop, a guttural groan with a Southern accent capable of bending and stretching vowels like they were rubber bands. Belly on Full is a joint album with Pat and Nasty Mane, an energetic newcomer who makes an effective sidekick even if he doesn't have oodles of personality. Although Pat and Nasty Mane are good at what they do, namely spitting one ign’ant verse after another, they are hindered here by monochromatic, unoriginal beats, basically a series of the same synthy wall-shakers we’ve been hearing for the past two years. It’s a notable disappointment that although Juicy J (“Money Marijuana” and “Middle Finger”) and DJ Paul (the aforementioned “Kim K”) appear on the album, neither has a production credit -- perhaps they’re saving their best stuff for Three 6’s next album. The few exceptions to the monotony include Mouse-on-tha-Track’s “Bounce It Like a Ball,” which lives up to its title, and the mellifluous “Nobody,” which cribs a little from Keith Sweat but has nothing to do with romance. It’s unclear whether Project Pat intended this album to be a coming-out party for Nasty Mane, or if he just brought his buddy along for the ride. In any case, the main effect of Belly Full is to whet our appetites for a Three 6 record featuring all of the group’s principals.
Standout tracks: “Money Marijuana”; “Bounce It Like a Ball”; “Nobody”.
Deniro Farrar – Destiny Altered
The debut mixtape from the barely known Deniro Farrar, Destiny Altered is as notable for Charlotte, NC, emcee’s rapping as it for its impressive roster of producers: Ryan Hemsworth, Keyboard Kid, Blue Sky Black Death, Silky Johnson, and Skywlkr. As Prefixer Andrew Martin has noted, the beats on the tape range from blown-out California cloud-rap to traditional Southern boombap, and Destiny Altered is definitely the best-sounding mixtape to come out recently. Every second is sonic gold, sizzling with left-field samples, deep-plunging bass lines, and swooning stacks of synthesizers. An unfortunate side effect is that Farrar gets kind of lost in all the behind-the-deck magic. He’s a perfectly able rapper, but he has a chameleonlike personality, boasting about cooking and dealing drugs one moment (“Minivan”), critiquing unfair societal conditions at the other (“Prescription”). One of the mixtape’s best tracks, “Acid,” is framed as a response by Farraro to those who’ve called him a conscious rapper, and it’s a hedonist romp with references to impregnating Beyonce, drinking dirty Sprite, and going on shooting sprees. Farrar may not be conceptually coherent yet, but he’s got lyrical talent and a fantastic ear for beats, which should add up to tons of potential in anybody’s book.
Standout tracks: “Walkin’ Out”; “Minivan”; “Prescription”; “Fucking Ridiculous”; “Acid”.
Jackie Chain – After Hours
Huntsville, Ala. rapper Jackie Chain doesn’t have wild-eyed energy of the Paper Route Gangstaz or the grown-man seriousness of G-Side, but that’s OK because all he wants to do is party, and he has the beats to back that up. Jackie Chain celebrates the world of ecstasy-tripping, too-drunk-to-stand club hop on the appropriately titled After Hours, thriving off of woozy, throbbing production from DJ Burn One, DJ Rich, and Block Beataz. Chain raps in a monotone, high-pitched snarl, relaying the characters and situations of hard-partying excess in sinister, photographic detail: in “Role Model” Chain boasts, “Fuck high school/ I went to school high” and argues against safe sex; “Club Chick” describes a party girl who regularly dumps her children on relatives and who will do anything for drugs; “Molly” narrates a long night rolling on ecstasy. Populating Chain’s drug-ravaged environs is a strong cast of guest rappers, including Gangsta Boo, Paper Route Gangstaz, Freddie Gibbs and Big Sant. After Hours doesn’t have the splendor or variety of Huntsville-area classics Fear and Loathing in Hunts Vegas or The One…Cohesive, but it's a potent addition to the ridiculously strong rap canon of this small Southern city.
Standout tracks: “Roll Model”; “Chevy”; “Molly”; “Night is Young”.