Posts Tagged ‘King Louie’

The distinction between albums, LPs, EPs, and mixtapes was at it’s cloudiest point to date in 2012, and there is relatively no chance that any of those distinctions crystallize into something meaningful ever again.  The reality is that these days most rappers put together “projects,” and those projects either get released for free or they get released for a fee.  Among the projects that get released for free are those where a rapper raps over other people’s instrumentals or samples he or she has no intention of trying to clear.  There are also projects labeled as mixtapes or given away for free, that have entirely original production that get released for free and some of those projects ended up on Hardwood Blacktop’s Best 15 Albums of 2012 list.  To be honest, I’m not overly concerned with those distinctions anymore other than the fact that those of us who like to write about rap like to have a way to differentiate between certain types of releases for the purpose of end of the year lists and things like that.  So here are my picks for best mixtapes of 2012, by my own current loosely defined understanding of that term, which does not necessarily take into account whether a rapper deemed something a mixtape or not (but it might).  In general these projects are not of nearly as high quality as the top albums of 2012, otherwise they would’ve made that list, as you can see from that list there are a couple of “albums” that made the cut that most would classify as mixtapes (Sunday School, ParaphernaliaGod of Black EP, MMM Season).  If you’re keeping score at home, those projects would have been at the top of this list.

Meek Mill featuring Big Sean – “Burn”

1. Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 2 – Download

Sometimes a rapper’s (Jadakiss, Fabolous, and Joe Budden just to name a few) game just translates a little bit better to the mixtape circuit than it does to album making.  Whether that has to do with them being better situated to making “street singles” than it does to them making tracks for the club or radio, or whether it has to do with the lack of record label oversight in the mixtape process, or whether the DJs they work with in the mixtape process are actually better A&R’s than their record label A&R’s, the end result is a consistently better free product vs. fee product. It’s too early to say that Meek Mill will always fall into that category as his major label debut Dreams & Nightmares certainly showed promise and contained some great individual songs (“Dreams & Nightmares (Intro)” and “Traumatized”).  There is no doubt though that in 2012, Meek dropped another mixtape (he’s done this a few times before) that was better than a vast majority of the albums that came out in the same year.  Perhaps the most interesting part of Meek as a mixtape artist is that he’s not just someone who drops a flurry of battle-ready sixteens over a bunch of other people’s instrumentals. In fact, some of his best radio singles have been the result of his mixtape work over the last couple of years, hits like last year’s “House Party,” “Tupac Back” and “I’m A Boss” and this year’s “Burn,” “Amen,” and “Flexing” all came from his mixtapes or from the MMG compilations.  By contrast  only  from the first MMG compilation (a mixtape-like project) has really garnered the same buzz.  And while his label has pushed the hell out of “Young and Gettin’ It,” there’s just no way that’s a better direction for Meek than any of the aforementioned tracks.  Dreamchasers 2 was Meek’s most complete offering to date, bringing tracks suitable to almost every type of rap listener and packing plenty of that V-12 energy we’ve come to expect from Philly’s brightest star. While it does drag on a bit as songs begin to run together a little bit after the first nine or ten tracks on the mixtape, there may not have been a better example of hungry street-oriented rapping in 2012.

Choice Cuts: “Burn,” “Amen,” “Ready Or Not,” “A1 Everything

(more…)

When Mikkey Halsted dropped Castro this summer it was a sign of serious preparation for the next level.  Backed by a couple of the biggest names in rap production (No ID & Young Chop), and one of rap’s most influential mixtape DJ’s (Don Cannon), Mikkey dropped a mixtape that showed his potential for mainstream success beyond the kind of “greatest that never made it” barbershop and blog fame he’s held in Chicago for many years now.  Castro wasn’t Mikkey’s deepest effort, but it combined depth with mainstream palatablility through a difficult balancing act, dropping enough witty similes to please the backpack contingent, enough depth to please the coffee shop open mic crowd, enough street imagery to please the hardcore rap fan, and enough gloss to please the labels and the pop crowd.  Ultimately Castro was successful, because it was cohesive, extremely well produced, and well executed on the mic.  That said, it wasn’t exactly the type of Chicago rap that labels are currently chomping at the bit to hawk to the masses.  Despite Mikkey’s assertion that he is “the common denominator between Chief Keef and Common,” the album came off more tinted with the wit, imagery, politics, and soundscapes of the latter in his prime than the cold and gritty callousness of the former.

In my interview with Mikkey about a month and a half ago, he referred to MMM Season as merely “another side of the same coin.”  With a teaser of “Chopper Music,” his collaboration with drill scene representatives Lil’ Durk and King Louie, and songs like his shades of “You’re All I Need to Get By” collaboration with Tia London, “I Got It,” and an anthem for his new financial perspective on the game, “Money Makin’ Mikkey” it was a little tough to judge the validity of Mikkey’s assessment of the work.  MMM Season seemed like it might have the makings of a cash grab.  And who could blame Halsted for making an attempt to finally cash in on half a dozen missed opportunities at fame and fortune.  The crossover for the sake of it strategy would make more than a little sense given the stable of industry vets that Mikkey has behind him and the fact that MMM Season was to be produced entirely by Multi-platinum producer The Legendary Traxster.  The question was, how would this all play out?  Would Mikkey set up two personalities that would duel for the listeners attention?  Would he set up a drill friendly alter ego and then try to make a project where he balanced the Castro style with the MMM style? Would it be something like a Chi-town version of K.R.I.T. where a third of the album would be dedicated to the strip clubs, a third to the drill kids, and a third to the pew sitting parishioners?   The answer, thankfully is much more simple than that, Money Making Mikkey is thankfully, still the same Halsted.  There’s no doubt that he’s spreading his wings a bit, showing his marketability to different aesthetics, and doing so over fantastic production, but he does it all within the lane that he’s developed for himself over time and artistically he stays true to the principles that have defined his career.

(more…)


Tree “50’s”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m just catching up on Tree, I just got around to reviewing Sunday School last week and have just begun to do my due diligence on his back catalog of mixtapes and EPs.  However, there is something undeniable about his music, his sound, Soul Trap, and the raw energy and emotion he brings to his music.  There’s no doubt that Tree is an emcee and producer on the rise and he’s got a lot of irons in the fire right now, so I was fortunate enough to catch up with him late last week to talk about the Chicago scene, the upcoming Tree featuring the City album, his forthcoming album Soul Trap, the real story behind his musical influences and inspirations, and why he’s not ready to sign on the dotted line on a major label… yet.

JB: For those that are just catching on, take a moment to let people know about yourself and Gutter City Entertainment

TREE:

I’m Tree, @MCTREEG on twitter, I’m a producer, I’m a writer, I’m an affiliate of Project Mayhem, Mayhem Music, and Gutter City Entertainment most of all, which is my production company, my publishing company, and I created Soul Trap, which is soul and trap music infused.  At this moment, I got the number three mixtape in the country via MTVHive, I’m one of Complex’s top ten producers to watch for, Spin magazine’s top five new artists of August 2012, and top ten songs in Chicago as of 2012 via Fakeshoredrive.com. I’m an instrumental piece to Chicago’s success, and you know, you can go on and on.  Most importantly I’m Tree – I make good music that people listen to, over and over again, not just for this summer, but classic material, I think, they think, we’re all starting to think so.

JB: You produce for a lot of other artists, but you also do projects where you just rhyme and someone else does the beats for you.  Do you see yourself as a producer first and an emcee second or do you even think in those terms?

TREE:

I don’t think in those terms, I just do music and try to stay current as much as possible, that’s the reason for the new releases that I have.  I do projects with producers, because I’m still in love with music, it’s a hobby, it’s a love, it’s something that I do.  When I first started doing this, I wasn’t getting paid for it, so it wasn’t for any substantial reason other than to hear great music, make great music, and play it for people, let people hear it, check it out and see what they think.  So I don’t see it in terms of producer or rapper, I’m both, and the fact that I can step away from producing and make a classic EP, which I think I did with The Lit with someone else and their beats and their style is because I still like music and if it sounds good I want to be involved.  Most importantly, as a writer, as a lover of music, I want to be involved with anything that sounds good.  So me stepping out and working with Tony Baines and just rapping over his beats is me as a rapper at my best.  Sunday School, that’s me and my production, and there’s a few other credits, if you ever heard any other Tree product, I try to keep it up to a certain standard of quality.

(more…)