Written by Andre Pettman
This year has been dubbed the "return of the hip-hop album", with artists like Kendrick Lamar and Drake reaching chart-topping success. Due to this mainstream success, there have been many mixtapes and EPs that have unfortunately become overlooked. This blog sheds light on some of these mixtapes and discuss why they deserve more attention.
2015 has been one of the strongest years for hip-hop in recent memory, with releases from some of the biggest names in the game, including Kendrick Lamar’s incredible To Pimp A Butterfly, Drake’s anthemic commercial smash If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and Dr. Dre’s swan song Compton
With 2015 being anointed as the return of the album in hip-hop, there have been numerous mixtapes and EPs that have gone unnoticed or have been given only a fleeting listen. Below, we take a look at a small sampling of the hip-hop releases that you may have missed, but are more than deserving of your ears.
Super Saiyan Vol. 2 - Sicko Mobb
Hip-hop has always been linked with dance, and in the 21st century it is synonymous with the “teach me how to” dance songs. From the Dougie, to the Stanky Legg, to most recently the Nae Nae and the Quan, the Internet age has taken these flash-in-the-pan types of dances and immortalized them in 6-second clips on social media. These songs have stood largely alone, with the artists vanishing into obscurity in a short amount of time; but a new a dance, the Bop, has risen from Chicago and with it has come a bright, auto-tuned brand of music. Bop is the antithesis to the dark, gritty drill movement that reached mainstream status with Chief Keef’s Finally Rich. Bubbly, energetic instrumentals that can border on being sugary sweet and songs that are melodic and chorus-driven are bop’s trademark.
At the forefront of the bop scene is Sicko Mobb, a duo comprised of Lil Ceno and Lil Trav, best friends who have a knack of creating incredibly catchy and infectious songs that will engrain themselves in your head. While they won’t be known for being lyricists, Sicko Mobb keeps it simple and oftentimes humorous, with self-deprecating skits throughout the tape that keep the mood light and show that they don’t take themselves too seriously. There’s plenty of money being spent and weed being smoked on Super Saiyan Vol. 2, and after a couple of listens it might just have you bopping in front of your bedroom mirror.
#AndSeeThatsTheThing – DeJ Loaf
Odds are you’ve heard “Try Me,” the catchy single that served as Detroit rapper DeJ Loaf’s introduction to mainstream hip-hop listeners. If you take a closer look at the track, over an airy, sweet beat from DDS, DeJ raps about killing anyone who steps to her as well as their families. This contrast between her lyrical content and beat choices is what really sets DeJ apart from her peers, as she has the ability to craft very street-oriented songs that aren’t nearly as violent or menacing, at least sonically. She’s also able to get in touch with her more romantic side on some cuts, showcasing her versatility as a songwriter and rapper.
These skills can be seen clearly on her newest EP #AndSeeThatsTheThing. The opening track “Desire” is the prototypical DeJ Loaf song, featuring a flow reminiscent of “Try Me” over an instrumental that gives DeJ room to employ her rap-singing style that feels fresh but also very familiar. Many have been quick to describe DeJ as a female version of Future (who does happen to appear on this EP) without as much auto-tune, but that comparison is misguided as it sells her lyrical abilities short. Her tracks succeed because they give you that “Turn On The Lights” feel, but maintain the catchiness without eschewing lyricism. Furthermore, DeJ has firmly established with her music that she refuses to be submissive or dependent on any man, rapper or not. “Been On My Grind” paints this picture, as she hurls many of the same insults at men that rappers use when talking or dismissing females on their tracks. DeJ states that she doesn’t need a man in order to succeed, and that her individual talents and hard work will ultimately pay off, rejecting the patriarchal stranglehold that exists in hip-hop.
Hip-hop is in a time of rapid progression of not only its sound, but also which types of artists make up the culture. Women are gaining a stronger foothold in the game, no longer simply relegated to singing a hook or serving as the butt of some joke or insult in an interlude; they are stepping to the forefront. DeJ Loaf, along with Rapsody, Tink, and Azealia Banks just to name a few, is cementing herself as an artist to be reckoned with.
High Class Street Music 5: The Plug Best Friend – Young Dolph
As people fret about what hip-hop “is” and decry artists for their lack of lyrical ability and respect for what the art form was during its golden age, young rappers are rising from the streets, bringing with them the music of their blocks and neighborhoods. Young Dolph is a prime example of this, having released a multitude of mixtapes in the past couple of years, along with his biggest hit “Preach,” a song that has been reverberating through the streets and the clubs all the way to mainstream radio. Hailing from South Memphis, Dolph has separated himself from the pack of other mixtape rappers with a brash personality and vocal delivery reminiscent of an up-and-coming Meek Mill. High Class Street Music 5 is his most consistent effort yet, full of catchy hooks, funny punch lines, and booming production designed to be played at full volume in your whip as you ride through your city.
This tape sounds like Atlanta rap pre-2010, before Future discovered Auto-Tune and iLoveMakonnen was singing his way through the trap. Featuring the thick, heavy bass hits of Zaytoven and Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E., amongst others, The Plug Best Friend is an ode to Gucci Mane’s heyday: straightforward bars about money, women, drugs, and violence occasionally delivered in aggressive shouts, while sometimes shrouded in a weed & lean induced slurry haze.
In interviews, Dolph has reiterated that his music is a reflection of his reality coming up, with references to slanging on the corner and smoking weed before the 5th grade. With High Class Street Music 5: The Plug Best Friend he has delivered a soundtrack for the streets, rapping with a brutal honesty that has filled the void left ever since Gucci was placed behind bars.