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Mixtapes #003

New fix for the free music download junkies

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6. Statik Selektah & Lord Sear: “Open Bar Classics Volume 3: New Jack Swing”

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Let's bring back the quiffs, blazers, turtlenecks, gold chains, trousers tucked inside Timberland boots, sun glasses and gym room choreographies: my friends, new jack swing is here again. Or at least it is on this fun, cultured and frantic mixtape manufactured by Boston producer Statik Selektah and New York DJ Lord Sear. They show their excellent taste even in the artwork, a magnificent tribute to the golden age of the genre that was almost patented by Teddy Riley, who, at the end of the 80s, wreaked havoc in the USA. The highly recommendable feast of up-tempo beats, soul vocals and hot lyrics features some classics by Guy, Aaron Hall, Bobby Brown, Boyz 2 Men and Wreckx-n-Effect.

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7. The Game: “California Republic”

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A new display of power, means and possibilities from The Game; who's been giving new value to the concept of the mixtape, with huge releases full of previously unreleased material and dozens of collaborations that somehow didn't make it to the official albums. On “California Republic”, the Californian is basically recycling beats from his hits of the past fifteen months or so, inviting a string of friends to this party (which, fair's fair, goes on a little bit too long). Rick Ross, Snoop, Lupe Fiasco, Busta Rhymes and Nipsey Hussle are featured on a mixtape that doesn't reveal anything regarding his upcoming album, but serves, once again, as a little who's who in The Game’s address book.

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8. True 2 Life Music: “Every Dream Has A Price”

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This is another of those mixtape that could just as well be sold as a proper album, because of its high standard, seriousness and intention. Brooklyn group True 2 Life Music deliver a surprising release that is interestingly eclectic: a smooth and melodic flow and tone, the influence of Houston rap in a more global and pop context, and a positive and combative attitude. Their sound is still irregular (“Almost Unreal” and “Every Dream Has A Price” want to be hits, but they get stuck on the way there), and they need the support of a good (known) producer who can get them heard outside the mixtape B-circuit, but there's enough talent here to expect a bright future.

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9. Uno Hype x DJ Black Diamond: “FXCK THE HYPE”

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At the tender age of 18, Maryland rapper Uno Hype honours his role as future promise with a second mixtape, this time in the company of DJ Black Diamond. The latter produced the whole release, on which the foundations of Uno's sound are reinforced: productions with powerful melodies and fresh beats, emotional introspection, and a lyrical register that is much more mature and aware than his age would have you expect. “FXCK THE HYPE” isn't only the best mixtape we've heard around here in recent weeks, it's also proof that it's going to be easier than we thought to find a proper replacement for the now definitely failed Lupe Fiasco.

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10. Various Artists: “2012 XXL Freshman Class”

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Like every year around this time, XXL magazine is releasing a mixtape dedicated to the great hopes of the season. The idea has lost some of its impact and relevance over the years, now that the public hear about the future stars way before they appear on the magazine's cover - through all the social networks and other new, online PR channels. Nevertheless, the mixtape is still a good way for those who haven't been paying 100% attention over the past six months to learn about the new stuff. Of the 2012 selection, three names clearly stand out: Danny Brown, basically because he's pretty established already; French Montana, Diddy's latest signing for Bad Boy; and, of course, Iggy Azalea, T.I.'s protégé and the only one able to battle for the throne with Nicki Minaj.

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