Posts Tagged ‘Troy Ave’

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

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Listening to Troy Ave should be refreshing for any fan of New York rap.  In an era where so much of New York rap is either golden age revivalism, or a bit left of center stylistically, it’s nice to hear a New York rapper who is neither beholden to a bygone era, still trying to develop his style and skills, nor caught up in the process of re-inventing the rap wheel.  Troy manages to effectively pick up on the tenants of New York City street rap, emphasize the cocaine dealer angle, and rap over production that manages to sound both current and comfortable within the confines of the Big Apple – an admittedly tough task in today’s rap game where NYC has been removed from mainstream rap dominance for so long that most of the identifiable New York rappers, are well over 30 and frequently rap over production better suited to Jeezy, Rick Ross, or some southern flavor du jour.

Vocally Troy Ave is vaguely reminiscent of AZ, a flow similar to 50 Cent, and elements of Pusha T’s witty coke don condescension.  While he’s pushing the coke rap angle hard in his music, Troy manages, like the Clipse on Hell Hath No Fury, to integrate his lifestyle as purveyor of cocaine into a reasonably wide array of subject matter and manages to create music conveying several moods effectively.  It is in this sense that Troy comes across more dynamically than many simple drug-related mixtape rappers, who focus primarily counting 38’s, referencing appropriate slang, and breaking down the favorable economics of their profession.  Let’s be clear, Troy Ave is not motivated by the concept of blazing a new trail in terms of content or format – the listener is not going to be exposed to a truly innovative approach to rap music – what Troy does do effectively, is add a polish and nuance to the coke rap sub-genre and exhibit the range and depth to suggest he has the ability to create a solid rap album.

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