#DeepCuts is back in business, now in a single-page format.
There's a whole lot of generic mixtape music out there. The purpose of this column, which runs once per month, is to sort the best from the boring.
We might not write up your favorite tape; we will cover regions or artists that don't get that much play online, draw attention to rappers doing something new or unusual, and help hip-hop fans keep on top of the constant, relentless stream of free music that bombards the Internet on a daily basis.
In other words, we separate the strong from the #struggle, so you don't have to.
This week, we check out the best from rising Washington, D.C. star Lightshow, St. Pete's No. 1 (or 2?) Spring Breakers inspiration Dangeruss, look into the music of new Gucci Mane affiliate Peewee Longway, and more.
Release: Get Well Soon
Song: "This Morning"
Lightshow is a Washington, D.C.-based street rapper, and he's apparently recovered from a shooting that took place during an attempted robbery last summer. His recent tape, Get Well Soon, has an aggressive feel, epitomized by the high drama of "Chicken Nuggets & Fries." But "This Morning"'s relaxed, blues-y style is something special. It relies on a muscular guitar line, Lightshow's striking, urgent vocal style, and an incredibly catchy chorus. Watch out for this guy.
It's too bad that Spree Wilson's sleek modernization of classic Atlanta bass hasn't received more attention, especially in light of his accusation that the idea for Ciara's "My Boo"-sampling "Body Party" was lifted directly from Spree's "All I Need." Ciara was probably a more chart-friendly vehicle for that concept, but he and The Flush production team are making some of the most effervescently flawless music out right now. "Right One Wrong Time," which we highlighted as one of the 25 songs that should have blown up in 2012, appears on this tape. It was a warning shot for the smooth, tasteful versions of a '90s throwback sounds on this tape, which couldn't be more zeitgeist-friendlyâ€”he even got DJ Jelly to host it. "Right One" remains the EP's best song, but the Big K.R.I.T. featuring "All Night Long" nearly matches it for shimmering late-night glamour.
Release: The Ingredients
OK, so by now, you've heard the story about Dangeruss, James Franco and Riff Raff. Maybe you think Franco was just trolling Riff Raff; maybe you think Franco really did model his character on Dangeruss. The truth is that both of these theories probably have some merit. But most people probably also think Dangeruss' music is something of an authenticity-fetishizing novelty. Certainly, that's part of the reason why we're paying attention in the first place. But The Ingredients, his new tape, actually does kinda jam. The opener, "Glass," isn't quite a "My Fork"-level classic, but it definitely shows a renewed focus and a surprising level of street-rap lyricism. The producers on this tape are also unexpectedly punching above their weight class. He might have lucked out with the Spring Breakers cosign, but it's hard to deny that this song lightweight knocks.
Artist: Scotty f/ Miloh Smith
Song: "Mama Ain't Raise No Fool"
Atlantan Scotty has been making Southern-fried comfort food raps in Atlanta with renowned DJ Burn One for some time, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that this record might be more of the same. Spiritually, it isn't far off from his older material, which isn't a good or bad thing, per se; musically, this is operating on a much stronger level than his previous releases. His beat selection is more varied (with help from Cardo, Beanz N Kornbread, and Soundz) without losing his core sound, and everything seems to have just a little more TLC. The beat on "Mama Ain't Raise No Fool," in particular, is more dynamic, giving his "country rap tunes" approach a little more bounce and diversity.
Artist: Casino f/ Dr. Phil
Release: Ex Drug Dealer
Song: "Stone Mountain"
Producer: Metro Boomin
In the grand tradition of thuggish ruggish No. 2s like Fredo Santana, Casino is all about dropping inept verses that charm through personality. His lack of polish is balanced by spirit and audacity. Casino's Ex Drug Dealer is hard to process in full; like many rappers who excel at producing Terrible Rap Verses, Casino's work is best experienced in bits and pieces. "Stone Mountain" arrives near the end of the tape, and features a rapper named Dr. Phil, which is already funny. The song is basically a thunderous trap house anthem, and Casino's hook makes him sound like Gunplay without the dexterity or jokes. Sometimes, you want to hear a rapper who is clever. Other times, you want someone to smash things with a musical hammer.
Artist: Peewee Longway
Release: Money, Pounds, Ammunition
Song: "Don't Blow My Capsule"
Is it too much to say this beat sounds like El-P doing cod-reggae? Well, it does. Peewee Longway drops some pretty fast bars that sound like if Magoo was decent at rapping, and it's a welcome break among the hypermelodic post-Rich Kidz/Future/Roscoe Dash molly-abuse anthems (even if it is still about drug abuse) that seem to dominate young ATLien tapes these days.
Artist: DJ Nate AKA Bakaman
Release: "13" The Mixtape
Song: "Gucci Gogglez"
Producer: DJ Nate
DGainz, the Chicago music video director behind classics like "I Don't Like" and "Love Sosa," as well as videos for other Chicago hip-hop stars like Lil Durk and King Louie, first put me onto this song in the fall of last year. "Chief Keef should get on the remix," he said at the time. Months later: Chief Keef is getting on the yet-to-be-released remix. The original song has reportedly been getting radio spins on Chicago's Power 92, and DJ Nate just released a mixtape of similarly euphoric drill pop, melodic and perfect for spring and summer. Another thing about DJ Nate: he's actually an established recording artist who made a big impression internationally with his footwork production a few years back, even releasing a compilation of that work for Planet Mu records, a UK label.
Artist: Papa Reu
Release: Reu'd Boy
Papa Reu doesn't have a huge profile; the singing rapping hook man probably reached the peak of his fame with the release of the 504 Boyz' "Tight Whips" back in 2002 (Reu did the chorus). Based in Houston and born in Trinidad & Tobago, Reu has been known for adding a Caribbean lilt to hip-hop hooks. His latest release, Reu'd Boy, isn't his best, but album closer "Creepin'" is a catchy lil' melodic jam, and the perfect closer for this edition of #DeepCuts. This is also an excuse to remind you all to check out his underrated 2006 LP Life and Music and its highlights "Mr. Goodbye" and "Ridin' Old School."