Fabolous-Life Is So Exciting ft. Pusha T (Video), and Remix ft. Ryan Leslie

A double whammy for you from Fabolous, with the official visuals being released mere hours after R-Les came through with his contribution to the track from Fab’s Soul Tape 2, which you can grab for free over here.

Big fan of the production, with the soul vocal sample complementing the thudding percussion and uplifting synth work well, the combination giving the beat a roundedness that makes this a great contender for a single. The style of production is a great fit for both artists, with Loso’s laidback delivery riding along smoothly on this, before Pusha’s more aggressive style offers a nice contrast to the former’s flows. The lyricism of both is focused around both their lavish lives and inherent ‘street ways’, facets which are both represented in the audio: luxurious vehicles, art collections and such sit alongside the less glamorous graffitied walls, though there’s clearly more emphasis on the richer elements of their lives throughout. It’s not a clip breaking any new ground, but it fits the audio well enough and that’s about all you can ask for from this sort of track.

Ryan Leslie’s focus on his rap work continues here with a verse tacked onto the front of this. A solid remix with a couple of OK lines, and whilst not hugely notable it’s a listenable nonetheless: Check that one out here.

Kavinsky-Protovision (Video)

I was surprised to find Kavinsky is gearing up to release his debut LP next year. Why is it a surprise? The first tracks I had of his are now almost 7 years old, and given that I’d mostly forgotten about him, I assumed he’d have released an album years ago. Nonetheless, Outrun is on the way, and given that fellow electro act sebastiAn is also on production duty for the LP, there’s a lot of potential in that album.

He’s entered mainstream consciousness for his work on the Drive soundtrack, and now lets his lead single loose, the clip for which is heavily influenced by that film. The audio utilises Kavinsky’s electro sensibilities and mixes them in with a heavy dose of atmosphere, with the combination of sharp, 80′s-esque power synth with slow-paced yet sharp percussion giving the track a bright intensity, and the end result is a cinematic piece that fits the visuals well. The clip is car-heavy, as mentioned above with the Drive influence, featuring Kavinsky roaming around the dark roads being hunted by police, who he proceeds to (spoiler alert) maim at the end. Nothing massively complicated, but a visual full of urgency to accompany the audio, and it’s a good all-round audiovisual that sets his 2013 album up nicely.

Bat For Lashes-A Wall (Video)

The Haunted Man has garnered near-unanimous praise since its release, and this video is a strong close to a great year for Bat For Lashes.

The story behind the album (read it here) and it’s accompanying artwork give the album an incredibly visceral feel before you’ve even listened to the music, and of course that does then extend into the music on giving it a play. This track is a great demonstration of that, with raw lyricism full of inveterate feeling and a production with a nice touch of diversity: the verses are minimal, supported mostly by a relatively lively percussion and the occassional burst of melody, whilst the hook explodes into life courtesy of bright synths and a plethora of electronic sounds and samples. Of course, those distinctive vocals match up to each section excellently, scaling up the emotion for the hook and keeping the verses more muted to throw in a darker, more contemplative vibe for those segments.

The video represents the lyricism well, with her cohort being almost entirely submissive throughot as she essentially leads him through their every encounter. It reflects the ‘you see a wall, I see a door’ hook in an engaging, physical manner, whilst the removal of the blonde wig seems to unveil both a busier, more active portion of the video, and a less controllable and unpredictable side of the male lead. An enjoyable watch, a great listen and be sure to grab that album.

Reef The Lost Cauze-Reef The Lost Cauze Is Dead (Mixtape)

Before meeting Reef at OTU’s debut live gig last December, I hadn’t really listened to much of his music. It wasn’t because I deliberately ignored it, but frankly it was a branch of hip-hop that my cohorts Murray and Chris had covered, and hence I hadn’t really immersed myself in it. After meeting him and watching him perform however (and finding him to be one of the most humble, likeable people in hip-hop history), that changed and I’ve enjoyed the sporadic bursts of material he’s let fly in the year since.

This tape’s got 16 tracks of new material, and the brief listen I gave it suggests that hip-hop fans who had once done the same as me and overlooked the talented MC should do so no longer, with a collection of enjoyable and stylistically varied beats supporting Reef’s unquestionable gift as a rapper. 16 free tracks from one of the underground’s finest is rarely an offer you should pass up, and the stream and grab are available below.

Reef The Lost Cauze-Reef The Lost Cauze Is Dead

A$AP Rocky-Long Live A$AP (Video)

Time to catch up on some more bits that have dropped over this Christmas period. The official stream for Rocky’s debut album title track was put out a short while ago, and that’s followed up with these visuals ahead of that 15th January release date.

Rocky’s video work is generally enjoyable, and this is one that seems to capture the audio absolutely perfectly. The monochromatics add a sense of unease to the video, one which plays on the song’s production to bring out an urgent, dark and almost horror-esque quality, and that all impacts on the activities that take place: from the woman oddly creeping out of a bathtub to Rocky’s general setting surrounded by static TVs flashing unusual (but lyrically contextual) message, there’s almost a hidden, underworldly feel to this. The now-customary ‘illuminati’ cues are all in there too, along with occasional blurring effects, and both serve to enhance that unknown, devilishly mystical vibe that encases the video, and drag the audio along with it to give it a slightly different spin. Watchable for sure, and credit to Rocky for trying something unexpected with this.

Mike WiLL Made It-Est. In 1989 2.5 (Mixtape)

Along with Hit-Boy, this guy’s been one of the legitimate breakout stars in the production world over the last 18 months, and here he collates some of his more well-known beats alongside some brand new original material for a massive 25-track free release.

The track’s he’s produced for others include names such as Rihanna, Future, Kelly Rowland and B.o.B, whilst his original additions to the tape benefit from some rather popular guests, including Young Jeezy, Chief Keef, Jim Jones and many more. Whether you’re a fan of his beat style or not, I’m sure there’ll be a few heavy-hitting party joints on this one to add to those new year playlists. Stream and download below at your leisure.

Mike WiLL Made It-Est. In 1989 2.5

Wale-Folarin (Mixtape)

One of a whole host of projects that got released over these past few days, but arguably the most anticipated in more mainstream circles. There’s nothing like a bit of mixtape Wale, and whilst it’s a shame that the division exists between the album and mixtape work, the sheer depth in quantity of his mixtapes makes his lesser work a bit easier to ignore.

This one comes in at a huge 21 tracks, with over half of them featuring some rather notable names: look out for contributions from Jhene Aiko, 2 Chainz, man of the moment Trinidad James, labelmates Rick Ross and French Montana, and many more. The diversity of the features suggests that this will be packed with a good variety of styles, and that’s also evident in the producer lineup, featuring Nottz, Diplo, Apple Juice Kid and Key Wane amongst others. Plenty to suggest this will be worth a go, and the grab is free below.


Sebastian Mikael-Take Me Higher

The introduction to this very talented upcomer came just over a month ago, and now comes the follow up release to solidify that ‘one to watch’ status.

It’s a bright, uptempo pop track that’s definitely as good as anything from that genre in recent months. The production is perfect for a mainstream breakout, combining a midtempo percussion with soft yet urgent key hits and anchoring itself around the synth-heavy hook. The vocal performance is as good as the aforementioned introductory release, with Mikael allowed to show off his range from the gentler work in the verses to the superbly-executed high notes on the hook. The best comparison I can make is somewhere between an early Bruno Mars and Lloyd, and this is a chart-friendly track that should have some appeal to the purists too.

Frank Ocean-Wise Man

Quentin Tarantino: Frank Ocean wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way, there just wasn’t a scene for it, I could have thrown it in quickly just to have it, but that’s not why he wrote it and not his intention. So I didn’t want to cheapen his effort. But, the song is fantastic, and when Frank decides to unleash it on the public, they’ll realize it then.

Huge praise from Tarantino, the director of this song’s original destination, Django Unchained. The sharp, piercing guitar plucks give the track a strong backdrop to start, before Frank cuts loose with some emotional vocals that he seems to deliver with a slight Carribean accent. A great set of synths and strings then jump in, adding a quick burst of positivity and depth and enhancing the ‘your mother would be proud of you’ hook, which itself is part of an excellently-written piece that progresses the track from raw, blunt sections to the harmonised and notably more emotionally connected lines. An excellent all-rounder that genuinely feels cinematic at times, and deserving of Tarantino’s praise.

Pro Era-Peep the Aprocalypse (Mixtape)

Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew close what was a fantastic breakthrough year for them with this brand new collection of material. Whilst it’s always great to have new Joey, his running mates are hugely overlooked for their contribution to his various tracks, and the sporadic material some of them have been involved in has also been enjoyable work.

Joey recently scored another big feature with his appearance on A$AP Rocky’s posse cut 1 Train, and the Pro Era boys look to have kept their own feature list to a minimum here, instead offering the track space internally and giving them the most possible exposure. There are some notable guest producers though, including Statik Selektah, Lee Bannon and Brandun DeShay, whilst the entire thing is executive produced by Joey himself, and hopefully that means we get his distinctively 90s-inspired sound all over this. Free grab below.

Pro Era-Peep the Aprocalypse

Lupe Fiasco-LupeFiascoStore.com

Yes please. Lupe commandeers Common’s Communism instrumental for a quick blast freestyle, designed to promote his web store (can you guess the URL?) ahead of his ‘Twitter account relaunch’ early next year.

Arguably, this is an overlooked track in Common’s stacked back catalogue, and credit to Lupe for bringing this back to the fore. Lupe’s flows are on-point throughout this, switching deliveries a couple of times to good effect, whilst not losing any of his witty wordplay. As ever, there are social commentaries, observations and plenty more in there with a couple of t-shirt plugs, and it’s a freestyle you can’t help but want more of. Parts of his recent Food & Liquor 2 album were excellent, and this is another thoroughly likeable track to add to those standouts. Lupe back?

Jhene Aiko-Wrap Me Up ft. James Fauntleroy

Something with a slight Christmas theme from Jhene, but without sacrificing the supremely atmospheric vibe that makes her music ever-replayable. The Fauntleroy feature doesn’t hurt either.

The production throws airy synths, a slowed-down percussion, superb string work and a couple of festive touches for a beat with plenty of depth, and with enough going on to support the delicate vocals of Jhene. It’s much more positive than her more downcast recent work, with the warming lyricism being complemeneted excellently by the aforementioned vocals: her gentle approach is the perfect accompaniment to that beat style, whilst James’ own softened delivery works equally well with the backdrop. The end product is a lovely little R&B/pop jam that’s probably about as Christmassy as I’ll allow my iTunes sessions to ever get.

J. Cole-2012

If the world ends tomorrow, damn. I would be mad as shit for 2 reasons. First, I’m not with my family. That would suck. What would also be wack is if I never got to drop this song. Summer of 08′. A few special songs I made that summer haven’t dropped yet. This is one of them. Some of the most fun I ever had making a record. Alone in my room, making the beat, writing the raps, Jammin to this. Here we are, Years Later, and right on time. Enjoy

Superb release from J. Cole last night, taken from arguably the highlight period of his career so far, the time around The Warm Up. The production is lightning fast and almost unlike anything we’ve caught Cole on, with a rapid fire percussion driving this track through at a blistering pace, whilst the light synth in the verses adds a touch of depth. The horn work in the hook is an excellent addition, taking a bit of the sting out of that drum line and adding in a bright, uplifting quality. Cole’s raps keep pace excellently throughout, with watertight flows and a generally positive angle that capitalises nicely on the production’s vibe. Good all-rounder that’ll inject some energy into any playlist.

A$AP Rocky-Long Live A$AP (Intro)

It’s now common knowledge that Rocky’s debut album sprung a very early leak this week, and it seems the response is to let the album’s intro loose for a free stream.

For those avoiding the early leak, this is a good gateway into the album. The thudding bass and intense soundscape are reminiscent of several productions from the A$AP Mob’s mixtape, whilst the rather more gentle yet somewhat haunting hook balances that out with the style of Rocky’s LiveLoveA$AP tape. It’s a solid effort without being enormously spectacular. The beat makes it one worth some time turned up loud, but the raps aren’t hugely notable, and in places are almost directly repeated from previous tracks, and hence it’s not going to get any long-term play time. Still, worth a listen.

Busta Rhymes, Reek Da Villain and J Doe-Catastrophic (Mixtape)

Appropriately-titled given that we’re all meant to die today, but Busta and his crew have put those apocalyptic concerns aside to drop this 17-track mixtape.

These days, I’m not climbing over anyone to get my hands on new Busta, but there’s some potential here. Plenty of recognisable beats are included, with Kendrick’s Poetic Justice, Backseat Freestyle and A$AP Rocky’s Problems on the tracklist with many others, whilst features include Q-Tip and DJ Khaled. Free stream and grab below.

Busta Rhymes and The Conglomerate-Catastrophic

Wale-The Blessings

Some more lively work from Wale, and with that Folarin mixtape due in just a few days on Christmas Eve, it’s one that’ll get his fanbase excited for that release.

The production is upbeat, uplifting and everything in between, with a bright melody that’s complemented well by percussion that runs in and out of a few different styles, driving the track along skilfully. Wale’s raps fit right along too, with a positive inflection that adds an affable quality to his bragger raps, whilst his flows are tightly-packed throughout. Nothing massively new, but a solid all-round jam: no hooks, just straight rapping in a positive vibe, and that’s never a bad thing.

JoJo-Agápē (Mixtape)

JoJo’s stock has slowly risen this year. Her remix of Drake’s Marvin’s Room brought her right back into the spotlight back in 2011, and her sporadic releases this year have capitalised on that buzz piece by piece.

She finally caps all of that off with this 13-track mixtape, which has received unanimous praise from all quarters since its release. If it’s anything like the slow and atmospheric work she’s been putting out, we can expect a thoroughly enjoyable R&B/pop project that may just finally propel her back into mainstream consciousness. You can either stream it here, or grab it for free out here.

Consequence-All Gold Everything Remix

Around October, I was put on to Trinidad James. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to typecast him as just another gold-flaunting, pointless rapper. But I went in for another listen just to make sure. And another. And another.

There’s just something there. Maybe its his throwback recklessness or simply a strange curiosity, but All Gold Everything is just unskippable for me. Whilst its the swagger-laden hook that makes this the breakout hit its becoming, the beat’s got plenty of knock and bounce too and Cons grabs that instrumental for a quick and enjoyable remix. Naturally, the verses are better than the original in terms of technique and wordplay, but Cons doesn’t really have that inherent ostentatiousness that makes Trini’s version so appealing. Worth a go anyway, and I’m sure this won’t be the last remix we get of this track.

Travis Barker Recording Drums for Dogs Eating Dogs EP

Blink-182′s Dogs Eating Dogs EP was released today, a 5-track EP that’s been met with some very good feedback and even features a Yelawolf appearance. Sidenote: Angels & Airwaves also put out their Stomping on the Phantom Brake Pedal EP on their website too.

I’m yet to listen to either (though I plan on doing so after this), and if you’re in the same boat, this clip will get you excited. Travis’ drumming is at its insane best, full of sheer intensity, skill and an unerring accuracy that’s just frightening for a man moving his limbs at that rate. Not only that, but the brief snippets we get of each song suggests an incredibly diverse EP, opening with an Angels & Airwaves-esque track, followed by something a little heavier, and closing on a track that sounds somewhat darker. Travis’ YouTube feed also actually has streams of each of the EP’s tracks, so if you’re not yet committed to that purchasing decision, you can preview everything there. Grab the EP for a mere $3.99 (£2.40 for 5 new Blink tracks? Yes please!) over at Blink-182′s place.

Kid Cudi-King Wizard (Video)

One of the two singles Cudi’s let loose from the Indicud album, set for a release next year, and Cudi keeps the album’s buzz going with its second video in six weeks.

Admittedly, I haven’t given the track a great deal of play time since its release. Whilst the Ratatat-inspired production is a nice touch, first impressions were a little misleading as the track seemed to be a little schizophrenic: the positive verses don’t quite work with the slightly dark production, though independently they’re good elements.

With that said, the video’s likeable as it not only plays on that dichotomy, but serves to improve the effectiveness of the audio. The eerie, grim backdrop the video’s set on amplifies the darker side of the production, whilst Cudi’s bright outfit and natural charisma contrast that, and offer a visualisation of the motivational and uplifting lyricism. The video doesn’t have much of a theme otherwise, with the clip being solely a performance of the track, but its visual style certainly helps the audio and makes the audio’s duality a much more likeable concept. Indicud coming soon.

The xx-Last Christmas (Live on Radio 1 Live Lounge)

The xx are really doing the rounds, presumably to promote their Night + Day European festival tour, and their latest live performance involved a cover of this Wham! classic.

Truthfully, this is a little bizarre. Their usual aquatic, delayed guitar strums are in, but they’re joined by a piercing percussion and synth work in styles that aren’t usually found in The xx’s music, to add the necessary dose of energy to keep some connectivity to the original. I’m not sure it entirely works though, as it comes off as a little scattered and unorganised, in particular the synth work which seems to change every so often, and the general sharpness of the instrumentation doesn’t quite work with their vocals. With that said, the vocals themselves are excellent, sticking true to the downbeat xx style whilst injecting a good level of emotion to at least attempt parity with the beat. As a package, I’m just not sure it comes off, but credit to the trio for giving a song so far from their style a try.

Asher Roth-Monday Free

A little monday afternoon rhyme. Goes great with grilled cheese & tomato soup.

What an artwork. I wish every song had an accompanying meal. A quick blast from Asher, who lets a freestyle just over the 90 second mark go, over a scratchy, humorously old-school production that sounds like it was recorded on a Texas farm in the 1950′s. Even with that unusual backdrop, Asher’s raps are as nice and tidy as ever, with the tight-packed raps and sharp topic changes making the track feel significantly longer than it is, which is certainly no bad thing. Only short but it’s definitely worth a listen, and let’s hope that sophomore album isn’t far away.

Miguel-On These Wings

With 5 Grammy nominations, Miguel looks to be getting the acclaim he was always capable of earning, and he’s put out two older unreleased tracks this week to keep fans satisfied.

Bawdy didn’t really have much of note to enjoy, and truthfully this one isn’t a mindblower either. However, younger pop fans and heads who like a bit of old school R&B might enjoy this one significantly more than I did, as it’s clean cut music with a shiny, ready-for-everyone veneer.

Soft percussion, gentle keys and light synths combine for an easygoing backdrop, with Miguel delivering spades of emotion with his textbook pop/pop-R&B performance, pulling his usually clever lyricism down a little to a more mainstream-friendly level, and keeping his vocals packed with a positive edge that gives this a squeaky-clean feel. It’s a far cry from his more edgy recent material, but a bit of variety never hurt anyone and this sort of music will only serve to widen his appeal.

Fool's Gold-Loosies (Full Album Stream)

After celebrating five years of groundbreaking music and events, Brooklyn indie powerhouse Fool’s Gold Records puts a giant exclamation point on 2012 with the release of their highly anticipated rap compilation Loosies on December 18th.

Fool’s Gold are one of those labels that a surprising number of well-known acts have had some form of interaction with. From A-Trak being Kanye West’s former tour DJ and Kid Cudi breaking out on the label, to their current roster that boasts Danny Brown, Donnis and many more, they’re one of those labels that don’t force their brand on you, and instead let their acts do their work-an admirable quality.

This LP boasts 23 tracks from their artists and various guests, the latter including Juicy J, Jim Jones and Chuck Inglish, and certainly has some quality about it: an example includes Danny Brown’s thunderous Molly Ringwald, which got plenty of attention back in July. Stream the full thing here, and use the iTunes links in the player to grab the full project for yourself.

Foals-My Number

An excellent release from Foals, ahead of Holy Fire which is due for a February release.

From the perky guitar riff to the flowing percussion work, this track’s got a lot of instrumentation to love. The two combine for a bright, upbeat soundscape that will surely infect indie dancefloors all over, and certainly makes for an uplifting change of pace during this dismally dark winter. It’s one that’ll sound fantastic in the summer, and the vocal work is a big factor behind that, with the easygoing, mainstream-friendly lyricism and vocals anchored around an infectious hook, and supported well by sharp backing vocals.

Very enjoyable all-round indie jam, and this could very well be a decent hit for Foals. Looking forward to that album release.

MeLo-X-Inside the Mind of MeLo 3 (Mixtape)

Compiled of Remixes MeLo has done through out the year mixed with original tracks, exclusives, and unreleased material this is one of the most extensive collections in the series so far.

This should be an excellent listen. With original tracks such as the superb Live from East Flatbush alongside his exceptional work with Cheri Coke and remixes of songs by Yuna, Azealia Banks, Rihanna and Marvin Gaye, there’s a ton of diversity to enjoy. Add that to the consistency of quality that MeLo brings to the table, and there’s no doubt this will be an enjoyable 14-track journey. Free grab below.

MeLo-X-Inside the Mind of MeLo 3

Mike Posner-Heaven

I wanted to do SOMETHING for the victims’ families. I wrote this song because I didn’t know what else to do.

Borrowing a sample from Ed Sheeran’s Let It Out, Posner to dedicates a little something to the victims and families of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Of course, I’m sure many tribute songs will be pouring out, and it’s good that someone of his stature has taken the time to do this. The slightly positive vibe of the track is a nice touch too, and rather than making something too downbeat, the lively guitars and hopeful lyricism attempt instead to raise the spirits of listeners. There’s only so much a song can do and there’ll never be enough to fill the hole those families have in their lives, but it’s genuinely good of Posner to put this heartfelt release out, and our thoughts here at OTU are with the very same people this is dedicated to.

T.I.-Memories Back Then ft. Kendrick Lamar, B.O.B. and Kris Stephens

Unfortunately, this star-laden track isn’t going to find a home on T.I.’s Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head album, set for release tomorrow, but arguably it’s one that will increase the album’s buzz more than any track that’s preceded it. Apologies for the radio rip, but that’s all that’s doing the rounds at the moment.

The wistful, melodic hook work by Kris Stephens gives this a mainstream-friendly anchor point, whilst also enhancing the introspection of the individual rappers’ lyricism. Tip opens up with some reminiscing bars about a love interest in his past, packaged into a typically-slick flow that sets the track off well before B.o.B follows suit with his own sharp delivery. His verse focuses on a seemingly possessive old flame, and there’s a much more personal vibe about this one, particularly the pregnancy revelation. As is becoming customary with a K Dot feature, hip-hop’s golden boy is on last, and does a nice job with a slightly more bitter recollection of an ex-lady of interest, whilst also throwing a quick shot at Mitt Romney. It’s a nice bit of introspective hip-hop that’s softened by the hook, and hence makes for replayable listening.

Cassie-Trilogy Collection

The response to Cassie’s End of the Line video has been interesting to say the least. The actual video itself is a little unremarkable, but many seem to be impressed with her soft, chillout-driven style on the song and rightfully so. What’s odd is how the majority are seemingly surprised by that style from Cassie, despite her delivering in this sort of vein for the last couple of years (though admittedly, very sporadically).

Understandably however, not everyone can follow the scene quite as tightly as some of us do. So, a dedicated Cassie fan has rounded up the numerous loose tracks that have been released in various ways and places over the past few years, and packaged them into a trilogy of mixtapes. Not only is there some nice Weeknd-themed artwork to go with them, but each one is broken down into one of three styles: either dark and slower tracks, upbeat pop work, or somewhere in between the two. You can grab each one for absolutely free below, and I’d recommend doing so: Cassie’s been underrated in recent times, and I expect that to end soon.

Cassie-Trilogy Collecton