The mixtape has always been an integral part of hip hop, yet the past decade has etched out a formula that has shown up time and again in the quick-rise careers of succesful rappers. Kid Cudi released his first tape, A Kid Named Cudi, and a year later was RIAA certified gold with Man on the Moon. A$AP Rocky dropped his first tape Live. Love. and a year later had the number one album in the United States. Unequivocally, particularly today, the mixtape is the spring board to commercial success. It is often also the most vivid display of a rapper’s growth, evolution and search for his muse. Hurricane Sandy by Brooklyn native Youngin may not be the career-steroid that the tapes mentioned above proved to be, but at the very least it allows a sneak peek at an up and coming rapper, with diverse swatches of experimentation.
It takes a minute for Hurricane Sandy to kick off, but the news-swell introduction quickly escalates with a smoothly produced reverb beat and Youngin jumping in at a torrid pace. The verse is all too short, however. The next few tracks are chorus-driven and generally seem out of place with the rest of the album, with lower quality production and less memorable lines. That’s not to say they are throwaways, but the tape would have flowed more smoothly with them distributed throughout, instead of right up front.
Hurricane Sandy picks up again slightly before the halfway point with “In the Beamer”. “Dreaming” builds the momentum with an airy beat that seems to allow Youngin to get into a real groove “I don’t see no racks, you slingin packs, man who the fuck is you g’in, ‘cause it’s not me, I’m too cocky, like who the fuck is you seein, she on all fours like two times two”.
“Success” is perhaps the most notable misstep, centering around wordplay involving s-u-c. The backbeat isn’t anything to complain about, but the song never really moves into another arrangement until the last minute, where the b.p.m. gradually slows and a campy digitized baritone repeats the chorus. While the song detracts from the building momentum of the previous few tracks, it does show a desire on the part of Youngin to experiment.
“Wanna Make It” rights the ship with a build-burst-build beat, allowing Youngin room to establish two memorable verses (“Talkin’ ‘bout same shoes, see if we can match, the kid in the lex where the Luger at”).
“Summer Time” samples Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Madness” and the beat is light enough to avoid clashing with her vocals. This track is absolute gold (“I gotta keep crushin’ all these beats like a damn roach, when you see the flames clear you see the damn smoke”), but clocking in at only 1:34, it leaves the listener wishing for the loop to double over and Youngin to jump on another verse.
“Money Making Millionaires” and “Outro- High School” close out the tape and are two great examples of Youngin’s ability to carve out a unique flow within each beat. As an outro, it would have been nice for the Hurricane Sandy theme to be returned to, but Youngin’s stop-go rhythm within the track helps smooth over any continuity complaints.
Hurricane Sandy has variety in spades. Each track within the tape stands out distinctly from the others, whether it is through arrangement, theme or delivery. The high level of experimentation brings with it hits and misses, although the hits do outnumber the misses. It would have been nice to see the theme carried out throughout the tape, but it really doesn’t take anything away from what is there. “Dreaming” “Wanna Make It” and “Summertime” stand out as highly memorable tracks that deserve quality playing time in any listener’s collection.
Perhaps the most memorable mix tapes aren’t the legend-launching ones, but the foundation-builders. Multiple under-the-radar tapes help document and display a rapper learning to carve out his own niche. There is something to be said for the archives behind rappers such as Weezy or Gucci and the ease with which a listener can observe their personal artistic growth. Hurricane Sandy has it’s ups and downs, but the ups are far more important and lasting. A few tracks read more like a tropical depression, but when Youngin hits his stride, he has no problem putting the listener in the eye of the storm.
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