Welcome to Mixtape Saturday, a weekly roundup of great rap tapes around the web hosted by FADER contributor Meaghan Garvey. This week, she talks about Meek Mill's could-be album, Kelela's controlled belting, Tink's flexing, Vic Mensa's debut and Waka Flocka's beef. Read more and download the tapes after the drop.
At a listening party in New York last week, Meek Mill didn't sit down once. He bounced around to potential Dreamchasers 3 cuts for a solid two hours, his pride in his work palpable. He also talked about his desire to stay true to street music in spite of his success. Meek's indeed a rare case, whose music hasn't changed much since his pre-fame tapes While I'd argue the first Dreamchasers tape, from 2011, is Meek's best, Dreamchasers 3 comes closest to following up its glory. The truly electrifying moments here, though, have emotional heft rather than party ether; there's nothing as undeniable, club-wise, as "House Party" or "Levels," but the freestyle from Lil Snupe—Meek's 18-year-old protégé, who was murdered in June—and tribute track "Lil Nigga Snupe" are gut-wrenching.
Highlights: Nicki Minaj's purr before her "Dope Dealer" verse. Birdman and Diddy joining forces on "I'm Leanin," resulting in the Watch the Throne of expensive shit-talking. Lil Snupe's freestyle—the dude could seriously rap.
WTF: "Fuckin With Me," featuring Tory Lanez, is produced by Scott Storch, and probably the time I've seen the producer's name in a non-cocaine-related context since 2007.
Is Kingdom's Fade To Mind label the Mad Decent-in-its-prime of 2013? That is to say, an unconventionally sexy, boundary-pushing dance label that's way too weird to be as widely embraced as it is? I expected Cut 4 Me, singer Kelela's Fader To Mind debut, to be a showcase for an incredible production roster—Kingdom, Girl Unit, Bok Bok, Morri$, Jam City, Nguzunguzu, holy shit—but I was absolutely mistaken. Kelela is the one at the helm here. Far from a vessel for cool production, she can belt it out, as she does on "Bank Head," but she's most powerful when exercising restraint; her gauzy murmurs on "Do It Again" are spell-binding.
Tink is Chicago's increasingly-less-secret weapon. She raps, sings and slays at both. But on most of her tapes, she's focused on one skill or the other. Her 2012 debut, Winter's Diary, skewed R&B; Alter Ego showcased her rap skills, leading with "Fingers Up". The ballads stole the spotlight on Blunts & Ballads. Boss Up is a return to Tink's focus on clever, rapping-ass rapping. Unfortunately, despite being technically solid, much of the tape's midsection is a blur of passable but unmemorable tracks. I'll happily wait for something stickier though, that finds the happy medium between rap and R&B that could be Tink's sweet spot. Even if Boss Up isn't the one, she's just too talented not to nail it eventually.
Highlights: "Reasons," a showcase how nimbly Tink flips from singing to rapping within a smooth, sexy framework. "Kilo," her collaboration with ascendent drill babyfaces Lil Herb and Lil Bibby.
WTF: On "Handle Me" she spits, I'm back like a tramp stamp. I mean, true?
Vic Mensa, formerly of Chicago sometimes-rap group Kids These Days, essentially got put on as a solo artist by friend and Save Money crew member Chance the Rapper. His verse on "Cocoa Butter Kisses" is probably why most people downloaded INNANETAPE. If you like Chance (and the crop of young, artsy Chicago rappers who probably don't intend to be marketed as the anti-drill but undoubtedly get painted that way), you're bound to like Mensa too. I actually prefer INNANETAPE to Chance's Acid Rap. Mensa's voice is smoother, with all the quirks but less of the twitchiness. Some of the verses here fall into the "rapping really fast means I'm good, right?" trap. That's a shame—some hilarious, great lines almost get lost in the blur. But Mensa's a smart, honest rapper. With lines like They made a list about Chicago rappers and they skipped me, on "Orange Soda," you start to get to know him.
Highlights:Michael Uzowuru’s bass-rattling beat for "Tweakin." The super-catchy hook of "YNSP," sung by UK Disclosure collaborator Eliza Doolittle. Ab-Soul's verse on "Holy Holy," where he shows the kids how to really do the hyper-contemplative stoner thing.
WTF: When Mensa raps Comeback season, Drake in a peacoat on "Lovely Day."
Hadn't you hoped that Flocka and Gucci's falling out would be patched up by now? As devastating as their breakup is, it's prompted some great music from both sides. I'd argue that Flocka's 2013 output doesn't really hold a candle to Guwop's, but he sounds revived on Roaches to Rollies. It sucks that it took controversy to get him to rap like he means it again, but he's got shit to get off his chest here, and it shows. (Papoose, this is how you do "beef" in 2013.)
Highlights: Flocka scowling Stop Instagramming your traphouse on "Going Off." The beat on "Alpo"—has Fade To Mind been lacing Flocka too? The bitter explosiveness of "Obituary" and "Fuck Shit."
WTF: I really can't look at this album art without shuddering.