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Mixtapes #004

A new selection of free music to get you through the month

Another month, we recommend a healthy dose of hip hop mixtapes for you; it’s the genre that is taking the greatest pleasure in putting out free material with the impact of an album, so you can enjoy it without paying a penny and without having a guilty conscience. So hop to it.

A new batch of free mixtapes is here so that you can face the weekend in the best possible mood. As usual in this section, we try to put references with different trajectories in the selection, new cats who are on the rise and promising newcomers who still need some work and growth, but who have a style. Ten albums that are only a click away from you. And your conscience can rest easy.

1. Children Of The Night: “Queens… Revisited”

This was buried underneath the avalanche of releases in April, but it is never too late to pick it back up: “Queens… Revisited” is a firm candidate for one of the top 20 mixtapes of 2012 so far. The good thing about it is how easily the Queens trio Children Of The Night integrates a variety of references and allusions to pop culture–they are obsessed with “Star Wars”, that’s one clue– into a discourse that is as hedonistic as it is bizarre, festive, but also strange and unclassifiable. They have personality and a lot of cheek. They draw on 90s boom bap, but passed through their own sound filter, sometimes influenced by nerd-rap, other times by psychedelic rap like Outkast, but always imaginative and fresh; the result is an exultant album that handles a variety of expressive angles with the same passion and vocation.

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2. DMX: “The Weigh In”

Under normal circumstances, I couldn’t care less about the return of DMX. His musical proposal stopped being interesting to me a long time ago. But due to the Baltimore rapper’s personal downfall in recent years –problems with drugs, trials, prison stays, community service, participation in reality shows– the appearance of the EP “The Weigh In” arouses more curiosity and expectation than you might think. Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg or even Dr. Dre, who gave him one of his beats, all help him pull himself up by the bootstraps, and I have to admit that the first impression is better than I expected. He is the same old DMX, thrashed by his inner torment and the usual demons, but now his pain sounds more sincere and credible. And the soulfully-inspired, epic production style goes along with it.

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3. Jadakiss: “The Consignment”

For those of us who have always had a special weakness for The Lox, even knowing their creative limitations, each new mixtape by one of its members is news. Even today, in 2012, when Styles P, Sheek Louch and Jadakiss are practically prehistoric names for the new generations, their releases still give you that little tingle that won’t let you just give them up for dead. In general terms, “The Consignment” is a very irregular mixtape, to full of insignificant featurings–Yung Joc, Fabolous, Ace Hood, Future or Waka Flocka have nothing at all on Jadakiss– and it is musically bland, without any punch, but moments like “Without You”, a big soulful hit, “Cuz We Paid” or “Street Knock” make it worth downloading.

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4. Kool A.D.: “51”

From the leftfield sector of current hip hop, Das Racist is by far one of the most instructive points of reference. One of the members, rapper Kool A.D., proves this once again in “51”, his recent mixtape. The main attraction of this street album is the fact that the MC went to Oakland to record it in the company of some up-and-coming names on the California scene. The magnificent result suggests a substantial, evident change from the sounds of Das Racist and it breathes new life into their discourse with a sound somewhere between nerd rap and laboratory rap, an imaginary meeting point between Madlib and El-P. Another of those mixtapes that could cost money and no one would have the right to complain.

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5. Meek Mill: “Dreamchasers 2”

Every time it seems clearer that 2012 will be Maybach Music’s year, at least if they meet the release dates foreseen from now to December. One of the strong points will be the debut of Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, which in theory should be out at the end of August. So the mixtape “Dreamchasers 2”, then, is like the final warm-up and lays the groundwork for it, and as such, he plays his cards close to the chest and only gives us a little hint of what is to come this summer. But it’s enough to get a little of an idea of what Rick Ross’ protégé may have to offer us. Is Meek Mill an MC destined to leave us with our jaws hanging open? It doesn’t look like it. He still looks a little limited to yours truly, anyway, repetitive and single-minded, but he doesn’t have a bad nose for beats and for coming up with a sound faithful to the Maybach emporium, as valid for the radio formula as it is for the streets.

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6. Naledge & Tony Baines: “Night At The Elysian”

The latest album from Kidz In The Hall, “Land Of Make Believe”, will go down in history as one of the most resounding and outstanding disappointments in memory. Perhaps aware of this, half of the duo, the rapper Naledge, wants to get the bad taste out of his mouth quickly with this free mini-album that he has cooked up with Chicago producer Tony Baines. The result is a solid exercise in style that recovers part of the essence and idiosyncrasy of the music that characterised the interesting beginnings of Kidz In The Hall. It includes “Bar Louie”, with a clear sample of The Sylvers’ “Only One Can Win”, which should really be interpreted as an homage to J Dilla and his “Two Can Win”.

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7. Showbiz & A.G.: “Mugshot Music: Preloaded”

It was fair to think that if Showbiz & A.G. had decided to get together again in a studio to go ahead with “Goodfellas”, it was with the intention of releasing an album that would live up to their legacy and name. Seventeen years have passed since then – “Full Scale” was a long, overblown EP, so it doesn’t count– and it wouldn’t have made any sense to tarnish an impeccable career with a decaffeinated comeback. “Mugshot Music: Preloaded”, a mixtape advance of the reunion album that should, in theory, come out in September, eases our minds in the best possible way: the New York duet has come back through the front door, refreshing the raw, hard sound of yesteryear and getting back in touch with the push and adrenalin that were lost along the way. It’s as if time had stood still. For executive production—that is to say, paying out of his own pocket—we have friend DJ Premier. Impossible to ask for a better guarantee.

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8. Sunni Colòn: “Dearly Beloved”

The Drake effect: when you listen to “Dearly Beloved” it is impossible not to think of the Canadian rapper and singer, but not so much because of the stylistic similarities (which are there, although with enough differential nuances), but because thanks to him, people have lost their fear of doing emotionally intense rap. “Dearly Beloved” is a whirlwind, one of the mixtapes of 2012, a new and brilliant episode of post- “808s & Heartbreak” rap, in which this California rapper and producer shows an enormous potential for becoming one of the pop-rap figures of the future. Intimate emo-ambient rap, the kind that strikes a chord with both women and men.

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9. Thee Tom Hardy: “Guerrilla Broadcast”

North Carolina again. Thee Tom Hardy called on 9th Wonder, his godfather and patron, and Green Lantern for support in the release of his first mixtape a couple of years ago, and since then, a buzz of expectation has been constantly growing around him. “Guerrilla Broadcast” arrives, convinces, and triumphs. We are not only looking at one of today’s most promising white rappers, but also at an artist with vision and criteria: for example, the selection of beats that accompanies his aggressive, skilful lyrics. Unknown names from the area’s underground conspire to put together a sound that is compact, agile, and very dynamic. A mixtape recommended for nostalgic fans of Little Brother and derivatives.

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10. Zulu Faz: “The Hill Complex”

Of the hundreds of imitators of Kanye West who have come up in recent years, the producer and rapper born in Zimbabwe Zulu Faz is one of the leaders, as his new mixtape confirms. ‘Ye’s influence is evident in his discourse–flow, beats, aspirations, pop collisions­– and this is going to be a handicap for his career if he doesn’t manage to reinforce his personality; having said that, the contents of “The Hill Complex” are magnificent and addictive. The lack of originality is made up for by a vibrant, very melodically inspired production that draws you in and gets you hooked. And as a rapper we shouldn’t be too hasty to count him out: although you are inevitably reminded of West every time he picks up a mike, the story that he offers of his positioning and rise in the world of rap holds many lyrical resources.

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