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Welcome back to #DeepCuts.
May was a slow month for mixtape releases on the whole, with the exception of a few larger artists (J. Cole, Chance the Rapper) and growing national awareness of buzzing Atlanta artists like Rich Homie Quan and Migos (the former was even featured in The New York Times). Neither of those artists released new solo material, although they began to make their presence known on releases from other artists.
As usual, quite a few mixtapes slipped under the radar, and even the ones that didn't (like Rick Ross and Birdman's lost album The H) deserve another look here, because why the hell not? Check out the latest deep cuts from artists like Birdman and Rick Ross, Chicago auteur Tree, long-slept-on DTE rapper Big Bank Black, and recently-freed Hot Boy Turk, among others.
Birdman and Rick Ross f/ Mack Maine "Money to Make"
Mixtape: The H
So how could a Birdman and Rick Ross release qualify as a "deep cut" in 2013? It helps to be a track off a mixtape dropped on DatPiff with less than a week's notice, recorded five years earlier, that most didn't even know existed previously. This tape is better than it has any right to be, and leads listeners to ponder what other vaulted supergroup releases are out there somewhere (and can we get that long-promised Birdman/R. Kelly Best of Both Worlds II record?)
Picking a highlight off The H is difficult enough; "Sun Come Up" is a throwback pop-rap sunshine funk. "Why" finds Birdman and Ross spitting over the same loop as Cormega's classic "They Forced My Hand." But the best track is probably the swaggering swamp rap of "Money to Make," featuring the ever-underrated Mack Maine. The song's best verse belongs to Birdman, whose verse sounds suspiciously Curren$y-esque.
Big Bank Black f/ Alley Boy "Tears & Fears"
Mixtape: The Godfather
The New York Times might be up on Rich Homie Quan, but The New Yorker beat everyone to DTE rapper Big Bank Black back in 2009. It was around that time that the melodic rapper dropped two regional singles: the Zaytoven-produced "Try It Out," which features a sing-song autotuned flow, and the insanely catchy "Stop Playin," which featured a then-little known rapper named Future—although not on the hook.
"Stop Playin," now at minimum three years old, makes an appearance on Big Bank Black's excellent The Godfather tape, which dropped this past month. The tape has a number of highlights and is worth hearing in full. Continually-underrated producer Lil Neal drops three standout jams, including "Poppin'," which is about a stripper who "provides for her children" with a hook interpolating the melody of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."
There's also a soulful Zaytoven-produced song called "Secret Lover" that features Trouble and Gucci, and a Mike Will-produced track featuring Kevin Gates ("Animal"). But the best track is "Tears & Fears," the powerful soul-sampling Alley Boy feature that closes out the record.
Young Moe "I Don't Trust A Smile"
Mixtape: Humble Hustle 2
Producer: Basshead Music Group
Alexandria, VA rapper Young Moe has received cosigns from rappers like Fat Trel and Chief Keef. His new tape, Humble Hustle 2, features both rappers, but the highlight is solo cut "I Don't Trust a Smile," with its lyrics-driven story and murky production.
These kind of underclass narratives don't seem to make much noise these days, but it's refreshing to hear a rapper who seems interested in writing compelling stories from that perspective, in an era where rappers seem obsessed with the everyman hustle rather than the everyday struggle.
Bo$$ Woo "064 Boy"
Mixtape: All Doped Up
Producer: Trillion Billion Dollar Beats
Chicago MC Bo$$ Woo is an affiliate of King Louie, and has appeared on a handful of the rapper's best tracks. The final track from his latest mixtape All Doped Up kicks in after a few seconds of silence and cuts out suddenly. It's a narrative stream about life on 64th street in Dro City, laid over an addictive loop: "Murdertown back in the day, but now it's Dro City/Yeah they took his body, but woo! They left his soul with us."
Cousin Fik f/ E-40 and Rocko "Rice"
Mixtape: Trap Me Out (Hosted by E-40)
Producer: Pabbi Brown
Cousin Fik is E-40's artist, and this swirling, vaguely-exotic chime-driven beat from his latest tape Trap Me Out finds the typically isolated Bay Area scene connecting with Rocko and the Trap-A-Holics. Rocko spits with a strange drawn-out flow, and E-40 steals the show. The rest of the tape shows the increasing influence of Atlanta's sound on the Bay, give or take a strange flip like Purps' for "Magician."
Mixtape: Sunday School II: When Church Lets Out
Producer: Illinois Jones
Tree's elevator pitch isn't the easiest sell; put "sui generis" in the thesaurus and repeat. Sunday School II stands out for being a better-mastered project than, well, the entire rest of his catalog. Highlights include the Tree-produced "Fame," the Bink!-assisted single "Devotion," and "Project Parties," a strong storytelling track about his younger days.
This song, though, is one of the tape's best. Although produced by Illinois Jones, its ramshackle, rough-edged feel is a perfect fit for Tree's flinty delivery, and guest Lili K's vocals are a nicely smooth balance to Tree's gruffer approach on the anxious chorus.
Turk f/ The Hot Boys "Zip It"
Producer: Lil Lody
The Hot Boys had a reunion and U.O.E.N.O. it. Of course, B.G.—currently imprisoned for 14 years for weapons and witness tampering charges—was forced to record his opening verse acapella over the telephone. But the formidable foursome reunited nonetheless. Wayne's verse is particularly vicious, enough to make you wonder when it was recorded, "I'm fly like a zipper, but that ain't the point/A bullet fat as a joint, ya head crack like a voice."
YG f/ Rich Homie Quan and Young Jeezy "My Niggas"
Mixtape: #ItsThaWorld EP
Producer: DJ Mustard
Jeezy's CTE records recently signed Detroit crew Doughboyz Cashout, and after the success of "R.I.P.," it looks like Jeezy's continued working with Compton gangster rapper YG and his producer DJ Mustard. His latest compilation tape, the 5-track #ItsThaWorld EP, was a showcase, largely, for these two entities, with the occasional guest verse from, say, Yo Gotti.
"My Niggas" is most interesting because it is, to this writer's knowledge, the first time Rich Homie Quan has appeared over one of DJ Mustard's self-styled "ratchet" beats, taking the role that would normally be performed by a singer like Ty Dolla $ign or T-Lanez.