The Month in Mixtapes: January 2017

Month In Mixtapes

Given the massive number of hip-hop mixtapes released on Bandcamp, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Each month, Marvin Lin will help ease you into this bounty of music by spotlighting releases by rappers and beatmakers using the Bandcamp “mixtape” tag.

R-pugnantez, hikuri

With hikuri, Tape Invader—a German label and rap collective—has released one of the most intriguing beat tapes in recent memory from R-pugnantez. The two-sided, 15-track cassette reps an overwhelmingly suffocating aesthetic: all charming hiss, blanket filters and stuttering loops, from the school of DJ Screw pitch-shifting and DIY bedroom experimentation à la aaronmaxwell and Knxwledge. Each of R-pugnantez’s members—RomeuRocha, Ray, Tech Flips, proud.palms, and Lespa—offer two beats and one remix. The result? A psychoactive delight that showcases the warm excavations and warped worldviews of a crop of highly talented, fearless producers.

Mixtapekid, Blessed To Be Real: The Album

Mixtapekid has been on a tear. The offbeat rapper and industry outsider has been dropping mixtapes left and right, three in January alone. Blessed To Be Real: The Album is his most fully realized yet, which might sound funny considering how loose, rough, and gritty the tape is. But alongside its relatively cheerful, Swim Team-esque aesthetic—an anomaly among his recent tapes—its roughness is part of its larger charm. With Mixtapekid, it can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not; a quick scan of his Twitter, for example, shows ignored beefs, a premature retirement, and other delusions of grandeur. But what’s conveyed through the music itself is unmistakable: weird quick-panned rhymes mixed with silly-putty melodies—all produced with a light, cartoonish shine. Here’s hoping he continues the vibe here on future tapes.

Whaleboy, s p o o o k s t r u m e n t a l s

In just eight tracks and 14 minutes, Whaleboy—Olympia denizen and member of the Tall Goblin crew—teases out an impressive collage of retro beats and movie clips. This one’s got a Captain Murphy sort of touch—a loose, myth-based throughline of satan, sorcerers and aliens, all bad-ass beats and comic appropriations. Its kinetic, forward-motion momentum is maintained by Whaleboy’s impeccable ear for transition and flow. Whaleboy’s created his own tumultuous, ever-changing world, and we’re just lucky that we can look through the porthole from afar.

NOFACE RECORD$, DEAD INSIDE VIBE

Following last year’s excellent debut mixtape $OUTH$IDE$WA666, NOFACE RECORD$ returns with a lengthy showcase of the Philippine label’s impressive roster, which includes the likes of skinxbones, LEXI HEX, Yung $imon, Riyo Washington, and many more. These artists take cloud rap to the extreme, doubling-down on the bizarre, left-leaning aesthetics that have characterized one section of the Internet hip-hop underground as of late: pitch-shifted rhymes, minimalistic beats, and an overriding sense of despair. But while the comp is being billed as a billet-doux to self-deterioration, it actually evokes a vibrant, community-based urgency that will be necessary to combat the very cultural and political implosion that the label (and many citizens of the U.S.) fear for 2017.

Spit Gemz, See Me When I Die

In and out with the aplomb of a pro, NYC rapper Spit Gemz pummels through 14 tracks of boom-bap throwbacks on See Me When I Die, only taking breaths to recalibrate before his next gruff attack. This tape is a vicious stream of tongue-twister rhymes and rapid-fire deliveries, with Gemz’ dark musings flanked by guest spitting from the likes of Banga K, Aye Wun, and Mitchell Aimss. No muss, no fuss, except for destroyed vocal chords, slayed ears, and the good ol’ thrashing provided by Gemz’ excellent rework of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “Deep Cover.”

D3M4ND, 93′

93′ is a beat tape, sure, but when the beats are toyed with to the degree that D3M4ND desires, the rhythms swiftly recede into the background while the effects and filters come to the fore. In this state, the musician’s hand isn’t heard in the beats themselves, but in what happens to those beats in real-time, made clear here through D3M4ND’s incessant pitch manipulations, tempo shifts, and grotesque loop-building. There’s no pretense about mood here, no post-apocalyptic darkness or violent shake-ups. In fact, the kitsch factor and the seemingly campy self-awareness put the tape in a somewhat similar sphere as a microgenre like vaporwave: the detached methodology itself serves as the primary compositional tool.

Main St., The Joint Enterprise

Sprouting out from deep within the Sydney rap underground, Main St. arrive with their debut mixtape, appropriately titled The Joint Enterprise—the collective’s modus operandi feels like a decidedly family affair. Produced largely by I Digress and R. Söze (the latter of whom also drops bars on standout track “Young Kings”), the tape flaunts a variety of delivery styles and inflections, courtesy of Bentley B, Knarley, Choppa, Persona, and Sarok. Here, the West Sydney rappers nestle themselves together in the comforting confines of Atlanta-style trap and grime, and while it won’t change the game worldwide, it should make an impact in their city.

Ally Mobbs, SUMS

One of my favorite things about Bandcamp is the ability for artists to release older music with ease. Sometimes, older gems just appear out of the blue. Ally Mobbs’s SUMS is a perfect example. The tracks here were “lost under the bed,” as the Kyoto producer puts it, but with technology’s ability to do all but destroy traditional concepts of time, it doesn’t really matter when they were made. These 15 beats, heavy on the boom-bap, range from the ecstatic (“Linden”) and life-affirming (“Sankaku”) to the ambient (“hmmm”) and explosive (“Buck”). This  collection of exacting sound design, solid beats truly feels timeless.

Marvin Lin 

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