As Yung Lip Gloss pointed out yesterday, we're about six weeks into 2007, and there's yet to be a wealth of great rap music released. Even the beef records have been kinda meh. I can't say that I'm surprised (4th quarter '06 was a lot more questionable than we'd all like to think), but still.

Meanwhile, so far this year has already seen rock albums by the likes of the Shins, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bloc Party, and the Arcade Fire. Granted, all of them have been kinda underwhelming, but the combined effect of hearing them all in quick succession has been genuinely exhilarating. As Al Pacino would say, I feel like a motherfucking teenager.

If you're still holding on to that whole "I don't listen to anything other than rap music and Justin Timberlake" thing, what do you do at times like these, twiddle your thumbs? (I suppose that would still beat listening to the motherfucking Red Hot Chili Peppers!) Because I think we all know that listening to rap music any more than six months old is for white people and Asians.

There is a pretty good album by this kid named Black Milk, whom you may recall from those post-J Dilla (but before he was actually dead) Slum Village albums. But it's outside in my car, and it's not going to be out until next month anyway. Other than that, maybe the most notable rap releases so far this year have been these free Internets-only mixtapes.

Obviously the title free mixtape is a misnomer in the sense that the vast majority of these things are ostensibly free. They even say so right there on the front, as if DJ Such N Such would've spent the time it took to put the damn thing together if there wasn't a dollar to be made. Pshaw!

But as far as I know Talib Kweli and Madlib's Liberation, the new Stones Throw compilation Chrome Children Vol. 2 and Little Brother's ...And Justus for All (this whole court room is out of order!) are genuinely free. I wouldn't put it past a room full of chinamen to be pressing up copies of them as we speak, but their intended purpose is to promote various other commercial releases.

My thoughts on the three of them:

The Talib Kweli: Liked it, though it could've been better. Why not just scrap whatever R&B bullshit's supposed to be on Ear Drum and do a proper full length with Madlib? It's not like he stands to sell very many copies either way.

The Little Brother: I'm glad to see Phonte and Big Pooh are still giving it a go, but I didn't even like this one as much as Separate But Equal. As was the case with The Minstrel Show, the interludes were a lot more amusing than the actual rap songs.

The Stones Throw: Sounds like leftovers from the first Chrome Children, which is genuinely a pretty enjoyable listen. They should've just given that away for free and trolled for donations.

In general, you get the idea that these would be an ever better form of promotion if they were actually that good, but I suppose they at least serve the purpose of keeping these people's names hot on the Internets while they come to grips with the fact that they'll never have much of a career as a major label recording artist. Ha!

No but really, as much as I like the idea of free shit, I don't know that I'm sold on the idea of genuinely free mixtapes. It seems like quite a bit of work for something you're not going to make any money from. I understand the idea of the mixtape as album promotion, but I thought rappers were just saying that to throw off the scent. What do you 'bags think?