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 Bloody Jay's slept-on new-Atlanta fusion, the bridge Omarion is building between traditional and trendy R&B, OJ Da Juiceman's quiet consistency and Mike Jone's return to rap.
Bloody Jay, Blatlanta 2, October 31, 2013
Bloody Jay is the best Atlanta rapper you aren't listening to. Maybe he's a harder sell than guys like Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan and Peewee Longway, because he doesn't have easily definable traits. Instead he's broadly talented—with the natural pathos of Quan, the deadly staccato shout of when-he's-angry Future, the avant garde vocal gymnastics of Thug and the traditional lyricism of Longway. Bloody raps like a madman driver, hitting the brakes abruptly, swerving and speeding away. He's just as comfortable on ferocious tracks like "Killa" (picture Future's "Sh!t" flow but more intricate) as on sparkly love songs like "Beat It Up." Blatlanta 2 is a must-hear.
Highlights: "Hoe" and "Blood Sweat N Tears," pained, paranoid tracks that sound like a more pulled-together Young Thug. "Strange World," featuring Rocko, where Bloody sounds like he's Andre 3000 doing the "Karate Chop" flow.
WTF: On "Shootin Blanks" he hilariously calls himself "LL Bool J."
Omarion, Care Package 2, November 5, 2013
Why isn't Omarion as big as Miguel? Last year's Care Package EP was among the best R&B releases in a year loaded with them, and this week's CP2 is a worthy sequel. Starting with the boy band B2K, Omarion's been making R&B since the turn of the century, and now, almost 15 years into his career, he's remarkably open to absorbing elements of the buzzing R&B zeitgeist, letting in some of Ty Dolla $ign's breeziness and Jeremih's use of open space. But CP2 stands out because it doesn't feel trendy. On highlights like "Too Much" and "You're The Only One," he distinguishes himself by playing up his romantic traditionalism. With these free, low-pressure releases, Omarion can honor his old-fashioned roots without getting too stuck in them to have fun.
Highlights: "Diamonds & Hennessy" could be the end-of-the-night-comedown club track of the year. And "Love and Other Drugs" is pop perfection, a glorious cocktail of The-Dream's casual snap and Rustie's glimmering synths.
WTF: "Too Much" gets a bit too Jack Johnson campfire singalong for me.
OJ Da Juiceman, Return Of Da Juiceman, October 31, 2013
Over the past couple of years, Brick Squad's OJ Da Juiceman has ducked out of the spotlight. But this year he's been quietly dropping a steady stream of quality tapes. March's Juice World 2 was an overlooked return to form, packed with undeniable heat like "No Hook." This week's Return Of Da Juiceman, his third tape this year, is just as good. If his delivery is a bit more subdued now than in his "Make Da Trap Say Ay!" heyday, Juice never sounds like he's phoning it in.
Highlights: Lex Luger's best beat in what feels like ages, for operatic "My Time." The Tony Bandz-produced "Life's A Gamble," where Juiceman floats over what sounds like Brenmar playing in Kanye's soul sample collection.
WTF: "Decapitated Donk."
Mike Jones, Back Ballin' Underground, October 31, 2013
Mike Jones announced a hiatus from rap in 2010 and has scarcely been heard from since. Even Slim Thug admitted, in an interview with BET last year, "I don't know where the fuck Mike Jones is." So Back Ballin' Underground, the notorious Houston rapper's first full-length project since 2009, is a welcome but slightly perplexing surprise. It's certainly nice to hear Jones' voice again, but Underground awkwardly leaves behind his signature Swishahouse style, and borrows from recent east coast radio rap instead. If those are not the beats I'm dying to hear him on, they can actually kind of work—who knew he'd sound as good as French Montana over Harry Fraud's "Shot Caller" beat? Still, the best tracks here are true to Jones' purple-tinted, pitched-down wheelhouse. Welcome back; maybe the long-supposed Where Is Mike Jones? album isn't as Detox-level unfathomable now.
Highlights: "Leanin On Dat Butter" and "Riot," featuring Slim Thug, best represent Jones' roots. "Riot" updates that sound, with current, radio-friendly drums.
WTF: Did we really need to hear Mike on A$AP Rocky's "Goldie" and Drake's "No Lie"?