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 Ibn Inglor's sophomore triumph, The Devil's gutwrenching multimedia provocations, Shyst Red picking up where Young Scooter left off, and Willie Neal adding a much-needed new voice to Chicago r&b.
Ibn Inglor'sNew Wave 2 may seem an out-of-nowhere entry for Best Chicago Thing of 2014 (joining Lil Herb's Welcome to Fazoland and Dreezy's Schizo) if you missed last year's unheralded gem, New Wave. It flung the dead-eyed angst of drill to ambitious new heights, grinding through the industrial mechanics of Yeezus with sparks flying, though Inglor began recording the project well before Kanye's release. It was a project as steely and unflinching as the unwelcoming gray of the Chicago skyline, with the metallic aftertaste of blood. But New Wave 2 makes its predecessor feel like mere sketches, which Inglor's the first to acknowledge: Fuck the New Wave, that project was shit, yea that project wasn't it but you probably loved it. Inglor does a lot of that: redirection of spite, from something seriously tragic (his imploding hometown, his feelings of isolation) to an easier target (the audience, a girl), as a coping mechanism. But there are glimmers of brightness here: "Chambers" is his closest thing to a pop song, even as it scurries back into the dark in its second half, and on closing track "I Love You," he finally lays all his cards on the table, and it cuts deep: We lost it all, we never won, but it's our time, 'cause we are strong, and we love you. And the production here—handled by Mhone Glor (the duo of Inglor and friend Brandon Mahone)—is unlike anything else in Chicago right now, or anywhere for that matter.
Highlights: "Damaged," a thrashing, knee-jerk sort of mission statement—you hurt me, now I hurt you—Inglor's voice nearly cracking with pain. "Ruler," which stomps along cockily before devolving into a raw, freestyled interpolation of Foreigner's "Cold As Ice."
I typically call bullshit at designating something a "challenging listen"—aw, you may not get this, dear reader, like I do—but if any projects over the last year fit the distinction, it's Harbinger and VIOLENCE, the pair of mixtapes from The Devil, née Derek Schklar. Schklar came up as manager to Atlanta rappers Pill and Trouble. He's now a producer, but to call that his "thing" that feels hilariously dismissive; rather, production is one facet of a fairly ineffable grander scheme which includes short films, a completely entrancing website, and the most meticulously curated Instagram in existence. Last year's Harbinger felt unlike any rap mixtape I'd ever heard, because it wasn't, really; it felt more like a socio-political thesis, supported by a jarring collage of doomsday news clips, jolts of harsh noise, and raw, angry Southern rap. VIOLENCE follows in its footsteps: meticulously arranged to feel almost accidental, seethingly nihilistic, practically begging you to turn it off. It's actually a touch more recognizable as a Rap Tape than Harbinger, with less jarring interruptions in its icy, hunched-shoulder raps from DTE's Alley Boy, Pesci, and more (and as always, a handful of poetic licensed "guests" like "Horrific Acts" and "A Small Pocket Knife"), but this barely makes the project easier to swallow; there's still the horrified whimper of a man possessed with fear, and the reviling friction of someone furiously fapping to Obama debriefings. This is worlds away from the post-OFWGKTA Tumblr-Satanism of an upside-down cross tank top. This stuff is pure, unmistakeable loathing on record—frothing hatred of a world where you're evil or you're fucked.
Highlights: "Kill Radio Kill / The Ride," the tape's most elaborate collage, which shoves stutters of Johnny Cash, Converge, The Dillinger Escape plan, and this stupid shit against frothing verses from Alley Boy and Pesci.
WTF: The day Jaden Smith gets a hold of this tape is the day everything changes.
South Carolina's Shyst Red is part of Young Scooter's Black Migo Gang, dudes who've mastered the art of the straightforward street narrative. Black Migo Shyst is pretty bloated, weighed down by a generous handful of filler, but its best songs fill the void Scooter, the Rap Game Eeyore, left with his disappointing Street Lottery 2, this year's dreary follow-up to its excellent predecessor. Where Scooter's sounded deflated lately, Shyst buzzes with energy, though their deliveries share a slightly-off melodicism that makes their verses feel like epics orated by gritty bards of the trap. It's always a pleasant irony when the type of guys who insist they're not rappers, just people telling their story and trying to get some money, turn out to be damn good rappers—easy, real, unpressured. Shyst is one of these guys. And though the beats here primarily do what they're supposed to do, without straying too far from the ordinary, he's recruited the best: Metro Boomin, C Note, K.E. On The Track, MPC Cartel, and a whole bunch of Zaytoven.
Highlights: "Water Diamonds," the tape's weirdest, gruffest beat—like droplets of condensation sweating off a dirty Sprite 2-liter, pulsating under booming speakers—which has Shyst holding his own against a wily Young Thug feature. "Shine Now," its nasal stomp an ode to Trill Entertainment, with a verse from the late Lil Phat.
WTF: Putting Kevin Gates and Wale on the same track is like making a peanut butter and ass sandwich.
Willie Neal's a relatively new face on Chicago's young r&b scene (which is weirdly scant, aside from Jeremih, crown prince to Kells' king, and r&b-mode Tink), but with his Russian Drums tape, he proves his worth the second the vocals hit on intro track "The Drill." The dude can sing, somewhere between Trey Songz' rich throatiness and Jeremih's casual lilt. But there's a definite toughness here, despite its romanticism; Neal produced the entirety of the tape, and the influence of drill at its lushest sneaks in every so often, especially on the first three tracks ("Roll It," in particular, bears the mark of Young Chop). Elsewhere there's the Travis Porter-esque ratchet lurch of "The One," and swoony "Ready," with a riffy midsection reminsicent of The-Dream's best interludes. Chicago needs more guys like Neal.
Highlights: "The Drill," a frosty, breathtaking intro that tastefully channels drill's gun-cocking themes into a full-on fuck jam. "Just Wanna Love You," which holds up against most anything on Trey Songz' Passion, Pain, and Pleasure album and makes Jeremih's "Birthday Sex" pleas a little more egalitarian (while you're treating him like it's his birthday, he'll make it so every day is Valentine's).
WTF: The only unbelievable thing here is that Neal isn't ten times more famous.