At the top of last year’s summer debut mixtape from DJ Mustard, titled Ketchup, an aging Timbaland co-signed an heir: “There’s only one Timbo, and there’s only one Mustard.” It’s fitting that a year later and at his zenith, the cover of Mustard’s proper album debut is a photo of him standing before a posh cabin mirror and gazing not only at his own reflection, but also a reflection of that reflection, and so on, and so on, so it seems: DJ Mustard is everywhere. He's in front of you, he’s behind you, and there’s no pressing Pause.
In this summer of "Fancy" and "Fight Night," where even the copycats are dominating radio playlists, we’re just now hearing Mustard’s long-anticipated 10 Summers, which, it turns out, isn’t a definitive beat tape, nor is it the glorious feature free-for-all it might’ve been. 10 Summers doesn’t punch, nor does it soar. Its many, many features are one big polygamous marriage of convenience, sans passion.
Ketchup was likewise crowded with guests and West Coast princes, sure, but that listening experience was anchored by clever reprises by Ty Dolla $ign and YG; plus the dependable chill of Nipsey Hussle and Clyde Carson, who typically float over the best shit in Mustard’s backpack. With 10 Summers, in contrast, I am scratching my head and wondering who billed Fabolous as a singer.
None of Mustard's guests are quite themselves on 10 Summers, which is perplexing given how malleable Mustard's sound is. His beats are simple if not simplistic, and it's your own damn fault if you can't bend those three piano keys and those 808s to your own steez. Instead, Boosie sheds his country quirk, Ty's pen slips to the floor, and Rick Ross pulls a Snorlax. (I praise Lil Wayne for being uniquely awake, which I myself could barely manage.) Lacking a convening personality, or any personality whatsoever, 10 Summers is a black hole of enthusiasm, innovation, and purpose. Of Mustard's 20-plus guests, plus Mustard himself, this is no one's best work.
10 Summers is more convoluted than needs be, with bedroom bickering interludes, radio DJ playacting, and meta-humorous winks in regard to Mustard's nightclub omnipresence. Despite his crude gestures at R&B, Mustard's street instincts are the album’s strongest. “Throw Your Hood Up” is one great track, a resilient construction that dwarfs “Low Low,” a distant second-best. “Giuseppe” and “Can’t Tell Me” make conspicuous consumption sound boring, exhausting, exhausted; and anyway, if 2 Chainz is here to sell us golden shoes, does he really need Jeezy to help him do it? (And why does Jeezy sound like Swizz Beats these days?) “Face Down” is a remarkably gutless deployment of Wayne, Boosie, Big Sean, and YG for a melange of sex raps; presumably, the sex wasn’t that great. God love him, but Boosie sneers a hook that I can only describe as anti-charismatic. That goes for half of these hooks and most of these verses too.
In a late skit, we get a one-minute snippet of boy-scorned singer Tinashe that had me wondering whether a quarantine session featuring her, Ty, Nipsey, Boosie, and only those guys, could’ve made monty of this project. Given how contagious and irresistable Mustard’s sound is, it’s startling that his biggest solo endeavor yet is so forgettable, perhaps because we’re still drunk off Mustard’s best shit, or else 10 Summers is just bottom-barrel booze.
Timmy is correct, however. Mustard is one of a kind, and after having minted so many hits for so many rappers and singers in the past year, it's a shame they did Mustard no favors in turn for his own project, which doesn't quite need to exist. This isn't a setback, necessarily; rather, an exhaustion. Not that we're tired of hearing Mustard and his signature, inescapable bass; but here we find Mustard depleted, while I suppose his many benefactors simply had better things to do. Yet Trey Songz just bounced back from post-Drizzy oblivion on the strength of a DJ Mustard single—saved for Trey's own album, of course. Just tap your radio right now, this minute. Mustard's there. He's still winning. The sun is still yellow.