Holy crap, has this summer been hot or what? Like, hot as in temperature hot. Like, literally hot. Which might be confusing now that Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries as well as Google say “literally” doesn’t necessarily have to mean literally anymore. They literally changed the definition of “literally.” That sucks, if anything, for this one reason alone: It’s now totally feasible that a Kardashian sister will say, “I literally died” and not get made fun of on The Soup. I am not OK with this.
Speaking of people literally dying this summer, there was that one time a kid died at the Gathering of the Juggalos and nobody gave a shit because he was only one person out of thousands at an event where it is widely acceptable behavior by everyone who is not there to wish death upon everyone who is. Juggalo or not, nobody deserves to die in a steamy tent, surrounded by scary clowns and Faygo-soaked hockey jerseys. I am not OK with this either.
Then there was that one time Kendrick saved hip-hop with his verse on “Control,” but everyone quickly forgot about it because Daredevil became Batman, and then Miley twerked on live TV and everybody went insane because a 20 year-old white girl did some 20 year-old white girl stuff. This clearly means one thing: By proxy, Miley Cyrus and her foam finger, with a little help from a soon-to-be washed up superhero, literally killed hip-hop, which was only very recently literally saved from dying. Do the math – it works. Depending on your definition of “literally,” the math literally works. And this, for some reason, I am OK with.
Word definers, dead Juggalos, Kendrick Lamar, Ben Affleck, and Miley Cyrus aren’t the only ones having a hot summer. My shit has been cray-cray too. For example, when I’m not putting out zines, riding my bike, watching Drew League highlights on YouTube while I’m at work, running the Tough Mudder, eating lots of grilled meats, shotgunning beers in a forest with my homies, championing The Challenge: Rivals II to anyone that will listen, getting quasi-arrested for graffiti, hate-watching Total Divas, getting married, penning scatterbrained column intros in which I summise Miley Cyrus killed hip-hop, or writing longwinded self-important lists of things I did this summer, I am literally stressing about stupid things like how there’s too many rappers.
In the Mixtapes department…
Kyle Rapps – SUB
In addition to descriptive terms like, “suburban hood niggas” and “Panera Bread,” the press release for Kyle Rapps’ SUB describes it as “a record for motherfuckers stuntin’ in the cul de sacs of the world.” As an appreciator of good humor, I decide to give it a shot. Sometimes it reminds me of Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy or ‘90s backpackers but mostly it just reminds me that there is way better rap music that I could be listening to instead. There are some notable guest appearances from the likes of Mr. MFN eXquire, Action Bronson, Murs, and Aaron Cohen. Unfortunately for Mr. Rapps though, the best songs on the tape are the result of those features. If you wanted to drop a track or two from this into a mix or a podcast it’d be alright, but otherwise you’re not missing much.
Tree – Sunday School II: When Church Lets Out
Tree has a really distinguishable voice that is part soulful croon, part grayish growl. There’s a lot of emotion in his rapping like he’s always on the verge of meltdown or something. For the uninitiated it might not be the easiest thing to digest on the first spin. The first Sunday School tape took a bit to grow on me but eventually it ended up being one my favorite tapes of 2012. The second edition, When Church Lets Out is even better, and production-wise, more focused. Although a number of producers contribute beats to the tape, it’s Tree’s own brand of “soultrap” that drives the overall sonic direction. As expected, Tree’s songwriting is introspective and inspirational. While that may translate to some rap fans as “not bangin’” there are some tracks that go hard too. Particularly near the end with, “Tree Shit” and “White Girls.” And there are noteworthy guest appearances by Danny Brown on “No Faces” and Roc Marciano on “Trynawin.” The latter of which, is such a unique pairing, it leaves intrigue as to what an entire project from the duo would be like.
Birdman & Rick Ross – The H: The Lost Album, Vol. 1
The H is comprised of songs that were recorded in 2008 and originally intended for a Birdman and Rick Ross duo album that for whatever reason never came to fruition…probably because it turned out to be terrible. The only standout track is “Pop That Pussy,” which stands out mostly because it’s called, you know, “Pop That Pussy.” This is throw away shit. Don’t waste your time. Yes, I feel pretty comfortable saying that from behind my keyboard. If I find myself courtside at any Miami Heat games, I’ll be sure to wear a bulletproof vest though.
Mr. MFN eXquire – Kismet
Kismet, which means “fate” or “destiny”, is also the name of the new tape by New York’s Mr. MFN eXquire. And while it may seem like an odd title choice for a tape whose cover art shows the emcee gripping a naked woman’s rear end in a pose that can’t be construed as anything other than standing coitus, it’s actually very apropos given the direction he’s taken things since his 2011 tape, Lost in Translation. Sure, the raunchiness and wild’n out aspects are still intact, but several tracks are dedicated to personal insights and human growth. On “Vanilla Rainbows” which apes Curtis Mayfield’s “Give Me Your Love (Love Song)”, the emcee displays his genuine love and respect for women. “Cherry Raindrops,” a tale of ill-fated love and all the struggles that go along with falling out of it, shows him being creepily honest, as he raps things like, “I kissed her on the spine and I kissed her thighs/I almost licked her ass but she started to cry.” Even the lone skit here, “She’s Not Fucking With Me” is a far cry from the blow-job-from-a-hoe-caught-on-tape one that appeared on Translation. This time around he and an unidentified woman are lying in bed, whispering I-love-yous to each other. For the most part, Kismet is dare I say, a kinder, gentler eXquire. That is not to say he doesn’t go hard in typical braggadocios rap fashion from time to time—see: “Illest Niggaz Breathin,’” “Tomorrow’s Gone,” and “Orbz a.k.a. Some Wise Quote Drake Never Said”—but overall, the tape is more on the personal revelations tip than anything else. eXquire’s flows and beat selections are as varied as you’d expect from a man who refers to himself as an “avant-garde hood nigga.” “Hoes I Don’t Remember” is the Willie Nelson “For All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” of rap songs, if ever there was one.
Joey Bada$$ - Summer Knights
Summer Knights is the latest from NYC boom-bap revivalist wonderkid Joey Bada$$. This is his fourth mixtape (counting the Pro Era crew tape) since 2012. Over the course of 17 tracks, the emcee proves once again that he’s more advanced than many of his peers, and deserving of the praise heaped upon him. The majority of the production is handled by Pro Era crewmates Lee Bannon, Chuck Strangers, and Kirk Knight, who acted in accordance to give the tape a cohesive resonance. As I ride my bike around the city with Summer Knights bumping in the earbuds, I recall memories of summer days during my youth, listening to A Tribe Called Quest cassette tapes on my Walkman. In addition to the previously mentioned beatsmiths, the tape gets a little extra mileage thanks to singular contributions from Statik Selektah, MF Doom, Oddisee, and DJ Premier.
Rapsody – She Got Game
After sifting through endless amounts of horrendous auto-tuned, hook-driven trap, it’s a rewarding experience when a skilled artist like Rapsody drops a new tape. She Got Game marks Rapsody’s full emergence as one of the genres flyest emcees. Even though the tape is ripe with soulful beats by fellow North Carolinians 9th Wonder and Khrysis, and some guest spots from the likes of Raekwon and Chance the Rapper, she fully owns the project. Showcasing her ever-flowing breath of lyrical acrobatics and impeccable songwriting, She Got Game is an album-worthy collection of songs. She touches on a number of subjects—love, basketball, education, family, etc.—from a personal point of view, rather than speaking in hypothetical or metaphorical terms. DJ Premier lends one of his signature cut-laden, sample-heavy beats for “Kingship,” which is one of the tape’s harder-hitting songs. The pairing is so natural; I’d love to see a whole project by the two. The only real drawback to the tape is that sometimes it goes a little too hard on the R&B hooks. Well, that and Rapsody is a diehard Kobe Bryant/Lakers supporter; something I am just the opposite of. All jokes aside, this deserves to be in consideration when measuring the year’s best mixtapes.
Spark Master Tape – The #SWOUP Serengeti
I won’t lie; I have no idea who the fuck Spark Master Tape is. In addition I have no idea why he misspells, hashtags, and all caps a word that sounds exactly like “swoop." (A Twitter search shows all uses of #SWOUP are directly related to this mixtape.) But what I do know is that this tape is absolutely tremendous. Considering that I downloaded this based purely on the punk rock imagery alone, I couldn’t be more impressed. There are all types of things going on here and the whole thing bangs. Because all of the vocals are chopped and screwed, at times it’s hard to tell if who’s rapping; whether it’s the mysterious Spark Master Tape or if it’s samples of like, Busta Rhymes or MC Lyte or something. Although it would appear SMT is a skilled emcee, he is also obviously hyperaware of all of hip-hops various stereotypes, as he and producer Paper Platoon exploit them to the fullest. The beats are reverb-heavy, as if they were constructed amidst a thick cloud of sour diesel while syrup dripped all over the 808s. As to the identity of SMT, I have no interest in playing the guessing game; I’m too busy bumping the shit out of this in my imaginary jeep.
Fat Trel – SDMG
A new Fat Trel mixtape! Perhaps the exclamation point is a little overzealous, but whatever. For unexplained and partially troubling reasons I get really excited when a guy who calls himself Fat Trel comes out with a new tape; the title of that tape is an acronym for Sex, Drugs, Money, Guns; and on that tape he raps about strip clubs, doing and/or selling narcotics, stacking paper, and killing dudes. Admittedly I like Fat Trel for the same reasons I dislike a lot of other rappers. Take for example the hook from “Shoot.” It goes, “Who dat nigga?/Get dat nigga/Kill dat nigga/Shoot dat nigga.” And Miley Cyrus is the problem? People that were mistakenly thinking this was going to be some deeply introspective story of how sex, drugs, money, and guns have negatively impacted the Washington D.C. community, in which he resides, are people that have never heard a Fat Trel tape.
In the Goofy Yet Clever Rappers department…
Check out this dude Freddy Flow from Chicago, IL. He’s funny as hell, and definitely on the Paul Barman tip. His delivery is on the oddball side of things, but he’s a very skilled songwriter. Plus he follows me on Twitter, which is a clear path to my heart. Below are his latest two tracks "Constantinopli" and "Czech Your Yugo," as well as links to his various social media.
In the Shameless Self-Promotion department…
My partners in crime and I have somehow managed to put out two more new zine issues – HotDogDayz #4 and The Soda Killers #4. Both are available for free, trade, or donation. HotDogDayz is purely goofy stuff – dating profiles, art, photos, news clippings, jokes, found items, rail monikers, etc. The Soda Killers is a Punk, Rap & Graffiti labor of love. This issue rounds up the best hip-hop releases of 2012 and has some think pieces on Neutral Milk Hotel and Slayer, as well as some punk show reviews and graff flicks.
If you want to get into any of it, shoot me an email at: Nathan@ScenePointBlank.com
Or hit me up on Twitter at: @OMG_NOB. I (almost) always follow back!