Atlantaâ€™s had an eventful couple of months by any measure, fraught with cold fronts, pepper spray dust-ups, UFO landings and spontaneous combustion. Itâ€™s been a transitional period, an uneasy give-and-take: my car got impounded a few weeks ago, but, then again, one of my baseball cards may have doubled in value, etc.
On the hip-hop front, things came to a head with the A3C Festival in mid-October, where a typical night found Witchdoctor sharing a stage with Organized Noize at Star Bar while Devin the Dude was down the street upsetting the smoke alarms at the Five Spot. Meanwhile, the rap radio wars only escalated, with upstart station Streetz 94.5 still not living up to its mandate, and Hot 107.9 still refusing to acknowledge its existence. Weâ€™ve come a long way since Larry Cohenâ€™s The Stuff, the 1985 horror film in which Atlanta radio saves the world from extraterrestrial yogurt. Not to put too fine a point on it, but in 2012, the yogurt is winning. If you only caught the mid-day rotation, youâ€™d hardly even notice that a lot of good music (and not just G.O.O.D. Music) has come out lately.
Here, in the latest installment of Flagpoleâ€™s Georgia Mixtape Roundup, are the five tapes Iâ€™ve been going back to the most, the kind of stuff that Camâ€™ron once called â€œthat get-ready-for-the-winter music.â€
Dro, the onetime hitmaker who rhymed â€œArm & Hammer propagandaâ€ with â€œsalamander sandalsâ€ on the biggest song of his career, has had a dry spell since his still-great 2006 debut Best Thang Smokinâ€™. His mixtape output has been relatively steady but mostly underwhelming in the interim, a dull streak that Ralph Lauren Reefa promises to break. This is partly due to a series of uncharacteristically great artistic decisions, like recruiting tape circuit guru DJ Burn One and Atlanta upstart Young Thug, but you also have to credit Droâ€™s writing, here reaffirmed on tracks like â€œAmoreâ€ and â€œOne Thing Bout Me.â€ Not safe for work, and certainly not safe for home.
With album art and a title that seem more appropriate for a Mountain Goats record, The Gift of Discernment could easily dupe the uninitiated into a false sense of security. Take note: this is a volatile collection of material prone to bursts of cathartic cruelty, hyperbolic self-confidence and references to “The Jetsons.” Alley Boy and his Duct Tape Entertainment affiliate Trouble have been cultivating their noir-like tragic hero personas for a few years now, angling for the same sonic territory and hard-won credibility as Brick Squad and Jeezyâ€™s CTE World. The Gift of Discernment feels like a victory in these terms, even if its bleak slice-of-life narratives havenâ€™t translated into much radio play.
Etherealâ€™s Abstractica was one of last yearâ€™s best and strangest local records, a sprawling, stoner triumph that split the difference between the futurism of early Star Trak and the outsider sloppiness of Operation: Doomsday. Da Etherbeets EB is the Atlanta rapper-producerâ€™s first real follow-up, a collaboration with Supreme INKâ€™s Kosherbeets, who swears heâ€™s the reincarnation of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on tape opener â€œBrett Favre.â€ The jokes mostly land, the downtempo stuff never gets mawkish, and, it seems worth mentioning, they sample entire conversations from Rambo: First Blood. At its most extreme, it reminds me of Joe Meekâ€™s I Hear a New World, or that scene in “Cheers” where Ted Danson shoves Shelley Long off a boat and asks, â€œWhatâ€™s a nice girl like you doing in an ocean like this?â€
Having survived multiple jail stints, 15 minutes of fame and a generation of derivative disciples, Gucci has more than secured his spot in the Atlanta rap Mount Rushmore, ice cream cone face tattoo and all. So it doesnâ€™t seem all that important that Trap God isnâ€™t his best workâ€”isnâ€™t even the best tape heâ€™s released this yearâ€”of course itâ€™s worth listening to. Like Slick Rick or late-career Lou Reed, his tone and sense of humor have become increasingly inscrutable, and his sinus-clogged, absurdist delivery is as compelling as ever. On the other hand, some of the best moments here are contributions from younger, featured artists, like the handful of verses from Young Scooter or the devastating hook on â€œFawk the World,â€ courtesy of Future, who, true to form, sing-raps like an android dreaming of electric sheep.
The first solo release from rapper and locally renowned tattoo artist Tuki Carter finds him linked up with Wiz Khalifaâ€™s Taylor Gang, which, you know, good for him. His old group Hollyweerd has been laying low since its 2010 tape Edible Phat 2.0, and Atlantafornication marks the most weâ€™ve heard from that camp since. Former groupmate Go Dreamer shows up on â€œGin Faceâ€ to trade verses over a beat built from what sounds like an electronic rainstick, while â€œDouble Upâ€ is a nervous hyphy homage, complete with Carterâ€™s best E-40 impression.
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