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Mixtape Monthly #12

(03/20/13 4:00am)

HS87 - All I've Ever Dreamed Of He created Jay-Z and Kanye West's "In Paris." He produced "Clique," "Goldie" and "Drop the World." And most recently, he brought you the vicious return of Beyonce as she told you all to "Bow Down." Rapper/producer Hit-Boy has been birthing hip-hop hits for the last two years and the mainstream couldn't be more unaware of his presence until now. Last summer, he released his first rap "Jay-Z Interview," along with his first solo mixtape HITstory, and the gem went over the heads of hypebeasts everywhere. All I've Ever Dreamed Of is a collaborative mixtape featuring Hit-Boy and the artists on his HS87 record label. While obscure, the artists show no fright; they deliver like veterans, giving listeners doses of hardcore, heavy bass trap music, soft piano-ridden R&B and even the pop-infused rap music that most artists tend to stay away from. "Enormous," featuring Hit-Boy, Travi$ Scott, Cocaine80's and Kenny M$NEY, works as the quintessential bravado rap. Hit-Boy enlists Travi$ Scott, who most recently has been featured on G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer, the sweet sounds of Cocaine80's and rapper Kenny M$NEY for an ode to "money, music and marijuana." "T.U." and "Fan" are the two standout tracks on the mixtape, mainly for their notable features. Hit-Boy collaborates with his G.O.O.D. Music cohort 2 Chainz on "Fan," a track that could easily soundtrack a Twerk Team YouTube video. "T.U.," featuring Juicy J, Hit-Boy, Problem and Audio Push, serves as one of many club bangers, a feat Hit-Boy crushes on the regular and having Juicy J on the track only solidifies that. "Juicy be keepin' that trap right/Got a bad b***h, that ass tight/Smoking on kick and my eyes tight/And I don't do no talking, man, cause bandz gone make her act right," Juicy J raps. The most pleasant surprise on the mixtape is "Tonight," featuring K. Roosevelt. The sound sticks to rap basics with the light snare drum and metronome ticks Hit-Boy is known for but with pop and R&B fusion mixed in. All I've Ever Dreamed Of is the ideal rookie tape for a group like HS87. The artists might not be fully developed and their lyricism might still focus on predictable topics but they do "predictable" flawlessly. It's safe to say Hit-Boy's influence is painted all over the mixtape, and his beats might've been better off given to established artists, but like his mentor Kanye West, he probably forgets better beats than we've ever thought of. Mac Miller - Run On Sentences Vol. 1 Mac Miller has had a great 2013 so far. His MTV2 show Mac Miller and The Most Dope Family has made its way into 20-something-year-old men's Tuesday nights and winning Complex's Man of the Year isn't something anybody should look over, either. Miller's newfound confidence led him to release his first mixtape of the year, Run On Sentences Volume 1, an instrumental tape with tracks Miller produced under the alias Larry Fisherman. The eight-track project serves as a portfolio of sorts for how far Miller has come as a producer. And while it is essential for rappers to learn the ins and outs of mixing, it seems Miller can only produce for himself. Run On Sentences embraces the sounds we typically hear for Mac Miller, quirky, sometimes serene but always charismatic. All but one track on the mixtape obtain no lyrics, just from soundbytes used as samples, (think the conclusion of Frank Ocean's "Lovecrimes") and the track names do not pertain to any type of theme, despite flowing together decently but awkwardly, like most run-on sentences do. The majority of the tracks on the mixtape would resonate better with Miller's rambunctious rhymes, so they come across very lackluster. "Birthday," "Novice Space Travel," "I Am Actually a Fish Alien" and "She Used To Love Me" each complement their titles nicely. Oddly enough, each instrumental helps portray the mental image the title presents, but with no lyrics the songs still fall short. New Mac Miller fans likely would skip forward to songs with more upbeat tempos. On "If Poseidon Had a Surfboard," Miller incorporates a simple drumbeat, synth sounds and random soundbytes that include profanity turned into a musical element. "Gelato Party" would make for perfect background music in a Forever 21 or H&M store with its upbeat tempo, space synths that serve as a melody for the song and more random soundbytes. The most redeeming factor about "Gelato Party" is its length. Timed at six minutes and 11 seconds, "Gelato Party" takes a trance-like turn at approximately the two-minute mark as a break for listeners (and possibly a sick guest verse) and then another switch up two minutes later to close the song. It's obvious Miller put a lot of thought into Run On Sentences; the outcome wouldn't have been so short had he not done so. And although Miller has been exposed to the genius of producers like Pharrell Williams, it's still not safe to say whether he could ever measure up to his collaborator. If Miller's experimentations with sound stem from a desire to create his music entirely, then he's in luck. However, his beats should remain in-house until he's honed his craft more. Gucci Mane - Trap Back 2 Coincidentally, the same night Gucci Mane and Waka Flocka Flame got into their minor Twitter beef, the sequel to 2012's Trap Back was unleashed on the people via mixtape website Datpiff.com. Trap Back 2 is a reminder for those who are about that "trapping ain't dead" life. Metaphors and high-grade wordplay are never the primary focus for this here trap music; what's going to stand out are the beats that'll rattle your loose trunk and recipes for cooking up that powder. Compared to when the trap first came back, Trap Back 2 is a sophomore slump - it tries hard to live up to last year but doesn't reach that bar. Gucci can always find good beats, but he at least had decent bars plus a few guest features thrown into the original Trap Back. This tape either had beats that didn't do the job of covering up the funk from the lyrics or lyrics so atrocious that there really was no saving to begin with. The opening track, "Don't Deserve It," is probably the toughest song on the whole tape. The first verse was cool, starting off with Gucci setting his own rules and doing as he pleases: "I walk in wit' my skrap, I give a f*** if n****s searchin'/Don't keep it in the car, I got that pistol on person," Gucci raps. Second verse is all about Gucci and gunplay. After getting off with self-defense after killing a hired gunman, Gucci has been letting the people know that he'll pull that trigger if anyone comes and tests him. The hook and these unfiltered lines just reinforce that he isn't playing: "Put that on my squad, I ain't gon' let no n**** hurt me/My gun do all my talkin' and I know you n****s heard me," Gucci raps. For the next 11 tracks - yes, 11 - finding a song worth playing from start to finish becomes a struggle. "Playin With the Money," "Thirsty," "Hood B****es," "Can't Walk" and "That Pack" are the only songs worth listening to. Beats that could pass for a jingle from an ice cream truck are what easily get passed over on this tape, which is exactly what happens when "Like I Used 2" comes on. The first notable mainstream feature arises toward the end of the tape with French Montana on "Done With Her." Not that it's much of a feat, but French actually came out victorious with the best verse on the song: "She be tweeking, we be s***ting on your furniture/Christopher Rios, backshots/ Im'a punish her," French raps. This is good riding music with the windows down, but it will never hit radio or nightlife. It might be, however, the best bar that French has rapped in his entire career with his reference to the late Big Pun. The last four songs are where all the legendary beats and energy reside. Ending on a good note must've been the plan the whole time. Is Trap Back 2 better than the original Trap Back? No, but it is tolerable. There is only so much to expect from listening to the Gucci Mane, so standards are already low. For the most part, the tape does its job. The middle gets shaky, but that's what the "next" button is for. The tape finishes strong, but let this be the last time the trap rises from the crypts. Email: arts@ubspectrum.com












More than lyrics

(10/02/12 4:00am)

Music, like sports, has been regularly used as a medium for competition for as long as egos have been in existence. Who's the best, who's the hottest, who has more money - all questions that are used to designate the top from the bottom. But in all competitive scenarios, there is a very thin line where situations can get personal and turn into something else. In hip-hop, we call that "something else" beef.