About once a week some bum rapper emails me wanting me to listen to his mixtape. I almost never do – not because I don’t have the time, but because why the fuck would I want to listen to a mixtape? Lately though, I’ve come across a few mixtapes that I genuinely enjoy, as much if not even more so than some of the better albums being released officially these days. Which I realize is not saying a whole lot, but still. Without further ado, here’s my thoughts on a few mixtapes I’ve enjoyed recently.
Wale – 100 Miles and Running
I’d call Wale the thinking man’s Lil’ Wayne, but that would be giving him a bit more credit than he deserves. Like Lil’ Wayne, he can rap seemingly endlessly about… well, nothing in particular. A few differences would be that a) as far as I know, Wale doesn’t kiss guys; b) he doesn’t seem to have nearly as bad of a drug problem; and, perhaps most importantly, c) Wale raps over the kind of shit a hater such as myself might actually want to listen to. And I’m assuming the latter, which is this mixtape’s real feat as far as I’m concerned, is primarily the work of hipster svengali Nick Catchdubs, who put this Native Tongues-esque mix together. It’s a trick not unlike what Clinton Sparks pulled on those Clipse mixtapes: find some capable (but interesting mostly only to white people) rapper, have him rap over a buncha songs that were already good to begin with, and then present it to the world as if he’s the next Biggie Smalls.
Rhymefest – Man in the Mirror
Whenever a rapper puts out a mixtape and it sounds like he put more time into it than most rappers put into their albums, I can’t help but wonder: Why not spend that time working on something you can actually sell and hence make money from? To hear the rumors tell it, it might be a matter of Rhymefest figuring he might as well give his shit away for free, since any money he could make from it would just have to be paid in tribute to some street gang. Also, there’s the matter of him probably not being able to release this officially anyway, since it would be a bitch to try to get all of these samples cleared, let alone to try to have this approved by the King of Pop. Man in the Mirror samples a few Michael Jackson songs, as well as a few rap songs that sample Micheal Jackson songs (note the difference). It also features these hilarious skits where Rhymefest pretends he’s having conversations with the singer. And while it’s obvious Rhymefest’s intention wasn’t to mock Michael Jackson or anything, who knows whether or not MJ would grant his approval. He’s obviously gotta be very protective of his image, since he lives to fuck children.
Atmosphere – Strictly Leakage
Meanwhile, you don’t get the idea that Atmosphere spent that much time working on Strictly Leakage, which is not to say that it’s any less worthy of a mixtape. If anything, it’s probably better just for how reckless it all seems. Slug spends a lot of time rapping about how other rappers are fake, and how badass his live show is, and about getting wasted, and about scoring with random-ass broads (and how this is often a matter quantity over quality) – which is the kind of shit you want to hear Slug rapping about. And which, you’d have to think, is probably the kind of shit that’s on his mind more often than not anyway. At a few different points, he seems to be making some pretty direct references to 50 Cent. Ha! According to the item about Strictly Leakage at the Rhymesayers website, the mix was conceived as an Atmosphere party album. I suppose these beats are about as party hardy as it gets for Ant productions, which is to say… kinda. It’s probably better suited for sitting around with a frosty cold one, thinking about things that you hate. But that’s pretty much what I like to do while listening to rap music anyway.