Welcome back to Mixtape Saturday, a weekly roundup of great rap tapes around the web hosted by FADER contributor Meaghan Garvey. This week, she talks about 100s' glossy pimp rap, Tory Lanez' of-the-moment interpretations of R&B classics, Kap G reclaiming Atlanta's recent obsession with Mexico, and Key! getting back to basics.
I'll admit, I almost brushed off 100s before my first listen in 2012—in the era of A$AP Rocky's rise to fame, it was easy to mistake the Berkeley rapper's super-slick pimp shtick as a sort of all-aesthetic gimmickry that reigned supreme on tumblr at the time. Man, how wrong I was—and turns out, he's even better when he goes even deeper into glossy, West Coast pimp worship. IVRY, his latest mini-mixtape (a perfectly manageable eight tracks) released through Fool's Gold, is full of egregious talk box effects, blaxpoitation-style funk riffs, and homages to the rubbery slap of 90s Snoop and Too $hort's pimptastic storytelling. He's definitely serious about his dedication to gaudy flamboyance, but he's still a little cheeky too—he's cool with joking about how his hair's prettier than his girl's. There's nothing close to a bad song on here.
Highlights: "Ten Freaky Hoes"—everybody may as well stop trying to make the Olde English-drenched cookout anthem of the summer. I promise nothing's topping this.
You've got to be a brave soul (or a raging egomaniac) to attempt to mess with certain sanctified R&B classics—"Pony," "The Boy Is Mine," and "No Scrubs" among them. But on his latest, Chixtape II (thematically, the sequel to 2011's Chixtape; chronologically, the follow-up to last year's excellent Conflicts Of My Soul) Texas-via-Toronto singer/producer Tory Lanez achieves the near-impossible: re-interpreting the above in a way that doesn't feel disrespectful. He's softened the edges of the sex-over-everything, macho-R&B he mastered on Conflicts; where that was closer to the fuck-your-feelings crooning of Ty Dolla $ign, Chixtape II is closer in style to the elegant but still freaky slinkiness of Jeremih, with its super-slow, dripping-faucet pace, excellent use of open space, and easy, gentle falsettos. For a dude who was likely in preschool when most of these originals came out, he's updated them for 2014 in a way that's preserved their essence remarkably well.
Highlights: "The Girl Is Mine," which flips the Brandy and Monica classic, slows it down to a steamy crawl, and strips it down to its bare bones. "U.N.I.T.Y.," its adult contemporary smooth-jazz serving as a perfect grown-and-sexy tape closer.
WTF: A screwed-down "All That" theme song sample soundtracking a sex jam in a way that somehow doesn't kill the mood? Ok then.
Over the past year or so, Atlanta rap's become increasingly obsessed with Mexico/South America-themed drug dealing imagery, with varying degrees of tact. On Young Scooter's "Columbia," it added charismatic narrative flourish (Isabella and Hector!); Migos and Gucci's "Holmes" felt a little ickier. Kap G—a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Mexico and raised him in Atlanta's College Park neighborhood—not only puts on for Latinos in a genre in which they're grossly underrepresented, but reclaims Atlanta's rampant burrito-extra-beans metaphoric appropriation on new tape Like A Mexican. (Its title alone flips an often deragatory phrase into a proud declaration.) Even with its integration of Spanish catchphrases and plenty of references to his Mexican heritage, he's clued in to the sounds and trends of new Atlanta—this shit goes. The production roster is impressive—Drumma Boy, Bangladesh, fucking Pharrell—and he's recruited guest spots from Jeezy, Spenzo, Fabolous, Young Dolph, Wiz Khalifa, and Kirko Bangz.
Highlights: The laconic rattle of "Cocaina Shawty"—it might be Pharrell's most streetwise production in years. "Fuck La Policia," whose salty but witty lyrics (I know what you're thinking, think I got no green card) float over blissful, Harry Fraud-esque production from Squat Beats.
WTF: The unwavering confidence with which DJ Drama says "authenticism" is his own Adele Dazeem moment.
My introduction to Key! was on last year's excellent Fathers Are The Curse tape, which bridged the gap between Atlanta street rap (his catchiest song yet, "Guess Who") and more whimsical, almost twee-verging touches (the FKi-produced "I Like" sounded like Andrew Bird's trap side project). No One Is Ready II is a more easily digestable, though less ambitious, project following up last year's NOIR; it's a concise six tracks, entirely produced by frequent collaborator Trap Money Benny. The fanciful instrumentation from FATC is drastically toned down, returning to a sound that, though still experimental, fits more neatly into the current Atlanta scene; the production on "OPB" and "I Can't" evokes a lusher, more fleshed-out take on Zaytoven's style. Meanwhile, Key!'s M.O. seems to be proving that even though he doesn't make your typical Atlanta street shit in terms of lyrical content, he's still hard; his delivery here sits somewhere between the tough-guy melodicism of Ferg-via-Bone Thugs and Future at his most lyrically intricate, but his specific self-possessed wittiness is wholly his own. NOIR2 is more of a snack to tide us over until the next release than a full-fledged project, but I'll take it.
Highlights: On the casually spiteful "Retaliate," he pronounces nonchalant "nonchalant-é" and gives the sage(ish) advice: If they try to make you feel small, turn around and make 'em feel small.
WTF: There's a strong Yeezus tour-style rant at the end of "It's Me!," with a heavily autotuned Key! dropping gems like All we do is love God, do drugs, and prevail.