Separated by nearly 3,000 miles, Charlotte's Deniro Farrar and East Oakland's Shady Blaze seem an unlikely duo, but the rappers share two key attributes: one-of-a-kind voices and relentlessly bleak outlooks. Kill or Be Killed, their collaborative mixtape, makes great use of Farrar's growl and Blaze's frantic double-time, like he's packing in so many words because he fears he's on borrowed time. Ryan Hemsworth, historically Farrar's most reliable producer, is exceptional here. Three of the tape's best tracks are his: "Fallen Soldiers," featuring Shady Blaze's Green Ova crew compatriots Main Attrakionz, a great pitched-up chorus and the tape's thesis statement line (Fallen soldiers rest in paradise, to get away from here must be very nice); "Cold Blood," with its doomsday bells and guest turn by Barbados/Brooklyn's Haleek Maul; and the coolly yawning "43 Hours." There are a few uplifting spots, like "All the Way," enlivened by Lofty305 from Metro Zu's addled singsong, but Kill or Be Killed is largely the sound of a sneer. That's probably not the best sound for every day, but if you're feeling shitty and looking for like minds, these are your guys.
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