Welcome back to Mixtape Saturday, a weekly roundup of great rap tapes around the web hosted by The FADER contributor Meaghan Garvey. This week, she talks about Rome Fortune and Dun Deal letting loose, Kolley finding a balance between small-town storytelling and the popular sounds of the South, Derek King's sweet, poppy ratchet&b, and Kris Henry taking LA noise-rap into dark new corners.
Earlier this year Atlanta's Rome Fortune dropped Beautiful Pimp II, his best project to date: a delicate, intimate collection of songs about all three segments of the Venn diagram of fucking and feelings, the year's best rap album for sunrise. It fully realized the vision its 2013 predecessor hinted at, but that conceptual fat-trimming meant excluding Fortune's less thoughtful, more playful side. On Drive, Thighs & Lies, a six-track EP entirely produced by Dun Deal (of "Stoner" and "Hannah Montana" fame, as well as a handful of tracks on Beautiful Pimp), both parties seem to let their hair down a bit. There's nothing as stellar as BPII's high points here, but there's an obvious playfulness to the project, and it's clear the two prodded the boundaries of their comfort zones: Deal flirts with restrained dubstep on "Come & Get It," and Fortune dives into AutoTune on "Waterfall." Their see-what-sticks attitude doesn't always pay off, but it's cool to see them chase their weird ideas regardless. The guest spots are kept to a well-curated minimum: Brooklyn bad bitch Junglepussy, promising newcomer Relly Jade, Atlanta's next big thing Peewee Longway, and the inimitable Young Thug.
Highlights: "Come & Get It," a coy, slightly twisted foray into poppy dubstep that's way more tasteful than it has any right to be. "Get That," the EP's bubbliest moment, with a scene-stealing, Inspector Gadget-referencing verse from Longway.
WTF: Thug's delirious rendition of "I Believe I Can Fly" on "Smokin' Aladdin" is like a fever dream version of everything I've ever wanted out of life.
On paper, Kolley's calling card is geographic; he's from Bassfield, Mississippi, a town of 235 people, and these small-town roots naturally shape his narratives into stories that sometimes feel from some distant place and time. But once you get over the fact that, yeah, this dude is really out here on his butter-churning grind (150 a quarter, 600 an ounce), what stands out most is his voice—sharp, high-pitched, nasal, in a way that just barely recalls Boosie, a voice that you know has things to say. This is Kolley's first mixtape, and it's remarkably polished, thanks in part to the all-star production roster that spans the gamut of Southern giants: Zaytoven, Metro Boomin, Big K.R.I.T., 808 Mafia, Bobby Johnson. But it seems like he's still figuring out just what kind of rapper he wants to be. Much of the tape dabbles in the hard-edged sounds that reign in Atlanta, the stuff that guys like Que and Gucci can own but feel a bit shoe-horned with Kolley. That's not to say that he can't pull it off—"Jugg" and "Pills" in particular perfectly juxtapose his flair for narrative and the popular sounds of Atlanta street rap—but where he really shines is when he seems to relax and just rap. And he can rap, too: there are an ample handful of intimate, well-wraught but wholly natural moments (a product of disfunctional adolescent problems, but today I'm just comfortable enough to let you all in) where you know this guy just has it. I'm willing to bet in a year's time, he'll be a game-changer.
Highlights: Both of the tape's Big K.R.I.T. productions: "Real Love," the tape's most personal moment, somewhere between early 00's Wayne and Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, and "Poetry In Motion," a slippery, g-funk-tinged slow jam that transcends the obligatory "for-the-ladies" tape slot.
WTF: "That's why I'm shittin' on these niggas like a broken anus." I see.
There’s a tendency to glimpse sideways towards Yeezus with each new instance of gritty, industrial noise-rap, but LA’s been a haven for this kind of clangy fusion for a while, from Death Grips to clipping. But Yeezus actually serves as a good touchstone in the case of LA’s Kris Henry—much like Chicago’s Ibn Inglor, who features on Henry’s new EP 7, a quick and dirty blast of black exhaust clouds and the gnashing of big, scary machinery, he’s captured the essence of the kind of nihilism often found in young Chicago street rap, but channels its damaged, fuck-the-world mentality into lonelier, more esoteric corners. And while acts that get classified as “noise-rap” often lean harder into the “noise” side, particularly on the West coast, Henry seems to be more invested in the rapping part of it. But he favors ugly, intimidating beats, all the better juxtaposed against his fairly straightforward (and more than competent) delivery. It's not all Yeezus-y grit, though; "Fear Of God Pt. 2" is practically boom bap, though a particularly haunted iteration of it. It's wild what this guy can do over only 12 minutes and change.
Another brick in the wall of California dominating rap and r&b in 2014: 19-year-old Bay native Derek King delivers the year's best collection of sugary ratchet r&b. King's something of an easier to like version 2.0 of fellow West coaster Bobby Brackins channeled through HBK Gang's slap-happy slickness (members of which show up for guest spots, including Sage the Gemini, P-Lo, and Iamsu!). King's sweet and earnest—even his thickest-laid come-ons don't feel skeevy—and though he's not exactly reinventing the wheel here, it's a refreshing break from the toot it and boot it mentality that's so pervasive among the current crop of ratchet-r&b bros. The production makes the tape, though—Oakland's T. Kelley handles the entirety of the tape, and though it's certainly in the same family as stuff from HBK Gang and Mustard at his lushest, there's a plushness to these beats that separates them from Mustardwave's utilitarianism. There's a handful of remember the 90's nostalgia thrown in, and while they aren't the tape's most interesting moments, it's done deftly, without bashing you over the head with Kriss Kross worship. Don't overthink it—it's about to be summer.
Highlights: "Foreign," a drunkenly loping lust jam that sounds like a FutureSexx/LoveSounds album cut gone ratchet. "What It Do," a shimmering, super-earnest puppy love ballad—pure bubblegum bliss.
WTF: "Wondercall" finally fills the earth's gaping void of ratchet-&-b interpolations of "Wonderwall."