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 Girl Talk and Freeway's wholly unironic collaboration, UNIIQU3's Jersey club primer, Ferrari Smash's just-left-of-center take on New Atlanta and The Guys' supremely versatile debut.
Lit City's one of those labels whose cosign is always trustworthy—I'm willing to put blind, unwavering faith in the guys who made DJ Rashad's iconic TEKLIFE Vol. 1: Welcome To The Chi and Visionist's I'm Fine EP a reality. This time, they've bestowed their illustrious seal of approval on Jersey club queen UNIIQU3; her Soundcloud's long been a trove of bouncy, bed-squeaky rap remixes, but here she focuses her efforts on reframing Northeast club classics. My knowledge of the Jersey club canon is pretty spare, so The New Klassiks serves as an introductory course for staples like "Samir's Theme." Her remixes are all lean muscle, considerate of turn-up efficiency: there's never too much going on at once here, but it still feels big. The collection doesn't beg for overanalyzation—it's fun, occasionally raunchy, physically-oriented party music. If you DJ, don't think, just download.
Highlights: The subtle rework of T2 and Jodie's two-step classic "Heartbroken," simultaneously familiar and fresh. The sparse but effective thump of UNIIQU3 and Rod Lee's "E Pillz," perfect for the current climate of molly fetishization.
Broken Ankles is, above all else, an exercise in getting over yourself. I was more than skeptical anticipating the collaborative EP between former Roc-A-Fella "serious rapper" Freeway and Girl Talk, ambassador of doing too much, soundtracker of dorm parties, pied piper of across-the-forehead-headband-wearin'-ass, shutter-shades-three-years-too-late-ass, no-ostensible-musical-taste-havin'-ass bros and bro-girls. (Fine—I spent some time on the elliptical with Night Ripper. Sue me.) Good news: things that suck don't always suck forever (hi Mac Miller), and it turns out, Greg Gillis is actually pretty great at straightforward rap production. Sure, there's a bit of attempted Just Blaze swagger-jacking, but otherwise, Gillis focuses his typically everything-all-at-once style into controlled chaos. In the process, Freeway sounds like he's having more fun than he's had in years (the Jadakiss verse on "I Can Hear Sweat" is great too). There's no irony to be found here; you can tell this is a labor of love, not a novelty project. I'm not necessarily saying I want Gillis to dive further into rap production—six tracks is the perfect length for something like this—but I'm psyched this collaboration exists, and that's saying something.
Highlights: It's probably the EP's most understated track, but I appreciate the relative simplicity of "Tell Me Yeah," also featuring fellow Philadelphian Young Chris, with its soulful, Purple Haze-era Cam'ron-esque beat—nothing too crazy, but it feels good.
WTF: I can't believe I'm typing this: I kinda want to hear more Flocka and Girl Talk.
Ferrari Smash is one of those producers whose charm isn't immediately articulated, but sneaks up on you over time. He's previously popped up in the production credits for a handful of Young Thug and Bloody Jay songs—including "Let's Go Play," one of their best and strangest collaborations, and Jay and Casino's leering "Murder Cases"—but I could never quite pin down his "thing" until F1, his first compilation tape of primarily unreleased productions for the likes of Thug, Jay, Lil Boosie, Rocko, Jose Guapo, Young Mazi and more. He doesn't have a default production mode, dividing his attention between weighty, drill-influenced numbers ("Gotta B God"); brassy, triumphant and classically Southern cuts ("Same Game"); and sugary, Nard & B-esque euphoria ("Money Don't It"). But over the course of the tape's 22 tracks, a prevailing vibe starts to emerge: he simultaneouly emulates and disrupts the sounds we're used to hearing from Atlanta. He's influenced by the "formulas" of guys like 808 Mafia, Zaytoven, Nard & B, even Young Chop further north, but prefers unexpected, often unsettling sounds, like harsh, cock-rocky synths. And he's a more than competent rapper on top of it all: "Rari Rokket" is his rapper pseudonym. Perhaps most exciting: there are four previously unreleased Black Portland songs here!
Highlights: "Gotta Be Hard," a Black Portland and Ola Playa collaboration that sounds like it'd be at home on a Future mixtapecirca 2011. The celebratory "Money Don't It," the best example of Rari Rokket holding his own as a rapper.
WTF: Where to start with the (admittedly incredible) Peewee Longway, Young Thug and MPA Duke track "Jumanji"—that it's the most brilliantly obvious "Versace" spin-off yet, or that Thug raps about wearing a "Bieber vest"?
The Guys position themselves as Chicago's best kept secret on their debut project, IG:WeTheGuys_ (the 2014 equivalent of Mike Jones' phone number). The duo—Fya Starta (the producer-turned-rapper responsible for Lil Durk's wildest song to date in 2012) and brother Heavy Smelly—emerged last year with their debut single "Flee," a skeletal, steel-drum-centric number which quickly became a favorite of the bop movement. Every move since has come completely out of left field, from "Taxes," the best Pokemon-referencing rap song ever made, to "Still Wanna Kill Sam," a no-frills remake of the Ice Cube classic.IG:WeTheGuys_ solidifies the fact that these dudes are Chicago's most flexible rappers, equally capable of fun-but-fluffy party songs and intricate, thoroughly considered bars. There's no question they can spit—holy hell, the last minute of "Blow"!—but lyricism never gets in the way of songwriting. And Fya, in particular, sure knows how to craft a song; as a producer, he's a master of creating space, letting the beat drop out at just the right moments. But even the turn-up songs come with a wry, smirking secondary layer: take "College Towns," which could soundtrack parties in the same money-filled suburbs The Guys take advantage of. And then there's "Who They Shoot," a poignant, bitter reflection on Chicago's increasingly careless homicide epidemic—little girls dying, little boys dying too, cause niggas don't care bout who they shoot. Considering this collection is meant to be less of a fully-realized project and more of an introductory compilation, it's safe to say The Guys are going to be a problem.
Highlights: "Extortion," which creeps casually along, channeling the semantic satiation of "Versace" into something much icier. "She Know It," a steamy r&b number with an instantly nostalgic Usher sample. "Blow," nearly five minutes of The Guy's best rapping yet, with a finale that deserves a standing ovation.
WTF:"Jessie White" is the most definitively Chicago metaphor for wrist-whipping ever.