Lloyd Banks-F.N.O. (Failure's No Option) (Mixtape)

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If you’re lacking that little bit of bite on your car playlist, or you just want something to make a screwface too, Lloyd Banks is your man. His mixtape work over the last few years has been impeccable in that sense, serving up powerful, speaker-rattling beats under his gristly, versatile raps on a fairly consistent basis. That being said, he’s quietened slightly this year, but pulls through in the final quarter with this overdue mixtape release.

Features are minimal, and that’s just fine. Appearances from Raekwon, Vado and Styles P are about as far as it goes, and across 16 tracks that gives Banks plenty of breathing space to once again show his worth and remind all who are smart enough that he’s about the only G-Unit member left with any shred of relevance in hip-hop (yeah, I said it). He has a sound, he knows what it is, and that’s to be respected- many rappers get caught up in whatever today’s fad is, and tend to leave behind their core competencies, to the point that they never truly recover them. Banks can’t be accused of that, and hopefully, this project will reinforce that belief whilst providing us with some head-nodding hip-hop jams to unashamedly throw up unecessary gang signs to. You do it. Don’t lie.

Lloyd Banks-F.N.O.

Mogwai-Remurdered

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As much as I like these guys, they seem to be in a small group of bands that I do really enjoy, but always forget to check out whatever their upcoming album is after its release. I’ll buy into the singles, get on board with the promo, but come crunch time, I’ve forgotten everything I knew. Nightmare customer.

So, let’s do the same dance again. Their newest LP, Rave Tapes, is on the horizon (21st January, for those who aren’t as forgetful as I am), and this single precedes that release in some style. It’s a very slow build, opening in a much less rock-oriented manner than some might expect, and instead relying heavily on dark synth lines, crisp yet light percussion, and a general sense of sombreness mixed with menace. That is, until the second half springs right into life: a bubbly electro melody enters the fray, alongside much more vibrant, lively percussion work, and eventually a hint of grungy guitar can be heard propping up the soundscape in the background. It’s a lovely build that ends up actually becoming quite the head-nodding affair, and as far as I’m aware, seems to be a change of direction for the band- it works for me, and it’s probably going to help me keep better pace with their upcoming album.

Jhene Aiko-Bed Peace ft. Childish Gambino (Video)

Having enjoyed this song on its release, it’s good to see Jhene give the fun single a further push with this easygoing, simple visual that pays homage to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Bed Ins For Peace’.

A gentle, relaxing track of this nature doesn’t need too much complexity to be fully utilised visually, and they’ve got it just right here with a laidback video but with enough subtly happening to keep your interest. The parallels with the Lennon/Ono events are pretty clear, with the inclusion of not only the “media”, but also the little slogans above their heads on the hotel window- it’s a fun throwback concept, but clearly done in a more modern way that doesn’t make it feel overly outdated. The mostly-white colour palette throughout adds further calm to each scene, whilst also enhancing the more ‘innocent’ aspects of the song and much like the production, almost hiding some of Jhene’s more risque lyrical sections.

There are some neat touches and subtleties with the duo’s body language and expressions, with Gambino remaining almost completely serious throughout, whilst Jhene is much more animated and friendly, clearly giving her the video’s focus and a sense of power in the relationship. The occasional shared glances and light-hearted moments make for quite fun watching too- look out for Gambino miming Jhene’s vocals at around 4:20. Worth a watch and obviously worth a listen (I have developed an unhealthy fixation with her voice).

Mickey Factz-Zen ft. Yelawolf

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Mickey’s debut LP The Achievement, is due in February, and to get things moving he lets this single out. It’s an interesting situation he’s in: the massive buzz from a few years ago has quietened down, and yet arguably his work has actually improved since then. An example: Mickey Mause was released around 18 months ago to less fanfare than previous works, and yet plenty of it still gets regular play in my world, which is as indicative of a time-tested mixtape as you could want.

On to this one- it’s a promising track, and will definitely get a few casual fans interested again. The production starts off in an upbeat, jazzy manner, before quickly moving to a thunderous, atmospheric beat that builds an intimidating soundwall out of bassy percussion, spacy synths and distant, light melodies. It adds a ton of gravitas to the verses, whilst the slight speed-up on the hook helps inject a touch of energy to proceedings, and finishes off what is a strong backdrop. Mickey’s raps are delivered with a quiet intensity throughout, working well with the beat for a focused performance that packs in a couple of typically-smart lines, along with the self-confidence that he’s rarely short of. his half-sung hook has a catchy, rather anthemic vibe to it, whilst Yela closes out with a good reminder of what he’s capable of, tongue-twisting his way through a solid contribution, and both finish off what is a very solid all-round jam. Worth grabbing, which you can do here.

Snoop Dogg-That's My Work 2 (Mixtape)

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A (presumably) unintentional consequence of Snoop changing personas more than he changes underwear (we’re at Snoopzilla now, after Snoop Lion) is that when he reverts back to hip-hop under the regular Dogg guise, it’s almost a relief and has much more of an appeal than it did before the name-switching.

This project is seemingly a bit of a pit stop before he launches into the Snoopzilla project, as Snoop and DJ Drama come together for an unexpected burst of 19 tracks, packing in features from Method Man, Erick Sermon and Suga Free. The list of features certainly hints at a more old school direction, and fingers crossed Snoop has got all the genre-blending out of his system with his alter egos, and this project packs in some good old fashioned rap work. Either way, 19 free Snoop Doggy Dogg tracks aren’t usually something you’re going to pass up, so head below for the stream/download.

Snoop Dogg-That’s My Work 2

Linkin Park-I'll Be Gone (Vice Remix) ft. Pusha T

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Can you believe Hybrid Theory came out 13 years ago?

LP’s decision to remix that entire album for the Reanimation project was an interesting one at the time that I slightly struggled with. The years have been kind though (puberty eventually passed), and some of its highlights have become top tier pieces in the Linkin Park back catalogue. The band are revisiting the concept with Recharged, an album of Living Things remixes- for fans who have strayed, it’s worth noting that Living Things was a huge improvement on its predecessor and half of the album before it too.

This effort is the remix album’s first single, and features hip-hop’s man-of-the-moment with a good contribution. The original track was a strong effort with powerful, rousing instrumentation, and here those guts are removed and replaced by a glitchy, electro-style backdrop that packs in plenty of energy of its own, though it does retain some of the melodies from the original as well as fragments of its pacing. Chester’s vocals initially don’t quite have the raw, primal effect over such a beat, but the inclusion of more edgy work for his final hook towards the end works well, whilst the production does certainly lend a hand to Pusha and Mike Shinoda’s rapped verses. A decent effort, and probably a good indicator of how that album will shape up in terms of sound.

Childish Gambino-3005

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Assumedly, this is the latest release from his upcoming Because the Internet album, and it’s one longtime Gambino fans should quite enjoy.

The production has an interesting rawness to it- the melody for the first third is almost (this isn’t meant negatively) amateurish in nature, and creates a throwback vibe. The beat’s progression to a more lavish style for the hook ends up being a clever contrast (see, I went somewhere with the amateur thing), and makes Gambino’s vocals on that chorus far more impactful by completely filling out the soundscape with crisp percussion and airy synths.

The lyricism is introspective, as much of his more recent work has been, and has Gambino again demonstrating an in-depth self-awareness that often flirts with sadness and depression, and has a nice structuring: as the verses continue down a downbeat route, they pick up toward the end as he recalls the lady of his affections, seguing into the relationship-focused hook. It may seem like obvious structuring, but a quick listen to 90% of mainstream hip-hop tracks will reveal verses that have almost no tie-back to the hook that anchors them, and hence that lyrical juxtaposition is a subtle and welcomed touch. Throw that all in with Childish heading back to a sung hook, and it’s a good all-rounder that should keep fans satiated for the meantime.

Holy Ghost!-Hold On, We're Going Home (Cover)

A lot of readers won’t like this at all, but there’s something about the retro funk take on the ubiquitous Drake single that’s quite endearing. It’s not technically perfect or the cleanest cover in the world, but instead is a rough-around-the-edges slice of bouncy alt pop that makes for fun listening.

Stripping out the R&B-styled production, Holy Ghost! throw in a set of chunky synths, some airy and some disco-esque, taking the track from being geared around a teenage girl’s alone time listening (not criticism as I listen to it too, but then I’m essentially a teenage girl) and to a teenage girl’s pre-night out listening. The vocal work is fairly laidback, though opts against the whispery tones Drake went with, and instead for a clearer, crisper style that plays off the buzzing synth work well.

Worth a go if you liked the original, but not one that will exactly convert those who don’t like the track as it is.

Snoh Aalegra-The Fall

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I heard this for the first time about a month ago, but didn’t really pay proper attention. Having recognised I didn’t seem to dislike it, I still downloaded it but added it to my mountainous backlog- I happened to make a dent in said backlog this weekend, and rediscovered this frankly brilliant piece from a wonderful upcoming talent.

Snoh is currently under the tutelage of the legendary No ID (and assumedly, the Cocaine 80s team), and this first release as part of that relationship is one that really does warrant attention. The production is beautifully structured, opting for a subtle progression between the verse and bridge, before making a rousing, comparatively energetic leap up to the thoroughly addictive hook. The track’s melodies are a sombre combination of lonely guitar plucks and atmospheric synths, which provide the backdrop for Snoh’s haunting yet powerful voice- her performance very quickly wrestles control of the track, keeping things relatively introverted for the verses before matching the hook’s thunderous percussion with a suitably rousing set of vocals. She looks great (comparisons to Eva Mendes aren’t far off the mark), she sounds fantastic and is backed by one of music’s most versatile and talented producers: Snoh Aalegra is most definitely one-to-watch.

Yuna-Someone Who Can

Yuna’s self-titled debut album was an excellent piece of music, combining laidback soul sounds with rousing pop numbers, all held together with her wonderful vocal set.

This effort is taken from her upcoming Nocturnal album, set for release on 29th October, and again demonstrates those addictive, near-hypnotising vocal qualities, with a gentle, mostly mellow performance that actually ends up softening some of the harsher, more rebellious elements of her lyrics. When read on paper, her writing is much more aggressive and ‘jilted’ than much of her back catalogue, making for a nice touch of progression and diversity, and it’s a credit to her inherently relaxing voice that those frustrations can easily go quite unnoticed on first listen.

The production is helmed by the masterful Chad Hugo, who serves up a production that straddles the line between uptempo and chillout very skilfully, pairing a warm, reflective melody (that’s very similar to the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind theme) with a high-speed yet light percussion line for a good blend of styles that comes off as nimble yet delicate. Worth a go, and look out for more from Yuna soon.

Lupe Fiasco-Old School Love ft. Ed Sheeran

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On paper, this is everything an OTU fan could want. Lupe’s first single from the upcoming Tetsuo and Youth album, and a feature from longtime OTU favourite (and once interviewee, of course) Ed Sheeran.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t on paper. This will be really, really divisive.

Ed’s hook is delicate and heartfelt, and realistically that doesn’t stack up to what older Lupe Fiasco fans want from his material. Lasers proved that. On the surface, Lupe’s raps appear similarly ‘emotional’ too, and when combined with this light, easygoing beat, there will be a whole host of people immediately throwing this out. Not necessarily the best move: Lupe’s raps are more self-directed than they first appear, and act more as internal monologues than heartfelt excalamations. Equally, the soft, childlike production clearly fits with the ‘discussion’ he has with his younger self, and of course matches the old school motto in a manner somewhat different to hip-hop’s default perception of old school (hard beats, street raps and such). This is not me claiming I’m a huge fan of this though- frankly, it’s just not the best use of Lupe’s ability and at times, Sheeran’s hook holds the track together so well that it feels more like his song than Lupe’s. That being said, give it time and it might be a grower.

SKATERS-Deadbolt

There isn’t a damn thing wrong with recapturing that Californian punk/skater vibe, especially given that I’m part-way through a rediscovery of the punk genre. SKATERS bring those sounds right back to the fore, blending them with a sense of British indie that will surely give them a much more universal appeal.

It’s energetic, loud and fast-moving, but remains all of those things without compromising on catchy melodies, watertight instrumentation and a sense of wholesome fun. Both the percussion and guitar work is edgy, gritty and progressive, moving from consistent calmness in the verses through to sudden explosiveness in the hook, giving the track a very natural anchor point and allowing the vocals to rely more on a drawn out, singalong delivery and less on lyricism. The vocals follow a similar path too, opting for a grungy, downbeat style in the verses that contrasts well with the pop-punk and indie crossover found in the rousing hook.

You can easily imagine cutting loose to this on your favourite sticky dancefloor (I’ve never been to a rock/indie club that isn’t sticky), and that should give it every chance of making a big impact. No idea when the single is released, but the debut album arrives next February.

Bloc Party-Obscene (Kele Okereke Remix)

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“I’ve been exploring the idea of remixing other people’s music recently and I’m really enjoying it. You can be a lot less precious about things. I turned what is a rather sombre ballad into a jacked-up early ‘90s house track”.

When artists remix their own tracks (and I don’t mean in the hip-hop sense, by adding a new verse), I find it quite interesting. There are always compromises made, and often it can be an outlet to see how a band (or particular member, in this case) envisioned the track originally, or simply just acts as a measure of the adaptability the original piece has. Either way, the transformation undergone here is quite surprising: Kele takes a very slow, downbeat song and flips it into a potential dancefloor favourite. If you’re unfamiliar with the original, click above to understand just how it sits at the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum to this remix.

It’s pretty much old school house done well. The progressive, percussion-heavy build and frequent peaks and troughs are hallmarks of the genre, whilst the distorted vocals add just enough connectivity to the original to make it a remix rather than an entirely new track. Realistically, you don’t need to know or like the original- this is a fun dance number that could concievably be a big club favourite if given the chance.

Lloyd Banks-Drop A Diamond ft. Raekwon

Whilst I’ve proclaimed I’m listening to very little hip-hop these days, one act has endured this and remains a fixture within my go-to playlist. That man is Lloyd Banks, whose mixtape work gets regular play in my car and house, and though he’s been very quiet this year, this release is hopefully a sign that more new work is on the way.

The production is a great mix between opulence and speaker-rattling, throwing together rather gentle, easygoing piano work and bassy, driving percussion for a contrasting blend that works rather well. Not to say either of them suffer with any particular type of production, but it’s the sort of beat that really does suit both acts, allowing them to play up their lavish lifestyles whilst giving them enough hard-hitting elements to still have the gritty factor that sets the two apart. Whilst Banks’ raspy tones are indeed a good fit for the production, it’s probably Rae that swings this one, purely for his slightly offbeat flow and more dulcet tone adding a controlled sense of ‘I literally do not care about you’, and hence makes for entertaining listening. Hopefully, that A.O.N. Vol. 1: Failure’s No Option mixtape is coming soon.

Quadron-Hey Love (Ryan Hemsworth Remix)

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In the weeks leading to Quadron’s Avalanche album release, I was certainly excited about it. However, I got somewhat distracted (probably a shiny light or ball of string) and have only got around to giving it a proper listen in the last few weeks. What it proved was that I’m self-sabotaging: it’s a superb LP that will improve anyone’s day/week/life/girlfriend.

Amongst its highlights was the first single, Hey Love, which has lost none of its addictiveness in the intervening months since its release, and here serial remixer Ryan Hemsworth gets his hands on it for a slightly darker twist. The funk is mostly pulled away from the body of this track, leaving a carcass of only Coco’s vocals, with Ryan substituting in a production built up of atmospheric synths, isolated clicks, and intermittent blasts of samples and effects for a more downbeat, but still wholly laidback effort. It’s a unique take on the track, and plays more on the bittersweet lyricism than the positive nature of the actual vocal delivery and original production, working to make this feel like an entirely new track rather than a rework- that’s definitely a compliment, as for better or worse, at least it shows a modicum of creativity and effort. Worth a go, and might appeal to those who found the original a little too upbeat.

Archer Season 5 (Trailer)

There are several good contenders, but Archer is definitely up there as one of my favourite modern-day comedies. None of the 4 seasons can really be considered weak, and unlike most animated comedies, it doesn’t rely on the format for its laughs- it could easily be adapted into a live action series, and be just as funny.

With the 5th season heading over in January, a fun clip emerges from the show’s creators, and of course, it revolves around the show’s most enduring phrase: DANGER ZONE. Not only that, but they’ve also managed to grab the actual song the phrase originally referred to, Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone, and partly parody the video’s Top Gun clips in the way only Archer can.

Worth watching for a few laughs, particularly the ending, and it’ll definitely get interest in the series revved back up ahead of that series premiere. If you’re not familiar with the show, get a damn Netflix account and get familiar.

Game-Operation Kill Everything (Mixtape)

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My internet has been out for days, so I apologise for the delay. That being said, hip-hop’s current malaise means even obvious releases like this are completely slipping under my radar. I generally enjoy Game’s material, but even he hasn’t escaped the effects of my boredom with rap as of late.

Nonetheless, it’ll be a project I’m certainly going to give a go, if only for the inevitable handful of car-ready highlights that will emerge. Game’s usual running buddies turn up, alongside some of the newer breed, with features from Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, Nipsey Hu$$le, ScHoolboy Q, Diddy, Elijah Blake and K. Roosevelt amongst many more, whilst the production lineup boasts appearances from Cool & Dre, DJ Mustard and League of Starz. It’s pretty much everything a mainstream hip-hop head needs, and is available to stream and download below.

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Louis M^ttrs-War With Heaven (Catching Flies Remix)

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I’m not familiar with the original, but I’m not really sure that I need to be after this. It’s another great release from an OTU favourite in the past year or so, with upcoming producer Catching Flies dropping off one more strong addition to his growing and reputable back catalogue.

Opening in gentle, atmospheric fashion, the production grows along with the dissolution of the vocals, allowing them to shine unopposed in the introductory section, and replacing them with a funky percussion line, airy synths and a couple of short, snappy samples for a beat that lands somewhere in the hallowed middle ground between laidback and head-nodding. Catching Flies brings things back down to mellow levels around the centre point, again letting the vocal work carry the track along, before once again stepping back in with the aforementioned, livelier beat, but with what seems an even stronger emphasis on the bass- the latter gives this closing section much more impact, and sways it slightly more toward the upbeat side of things, though without losing the mellow sensibilities that make the track such an easy listen. Again, it’s one of those that hits the sweet spot between easygoing and lively, hence making for extremely versatile listening that should hang around your playlists for some time.

Childish Gambino-Yaphet Kotto (Freestyle)

It’s been a couple of years in the making now, but it looks like the follow-up to Camp could be on its way. Because the Internet (yep) is coming this ‘winter break’, which I believe loosely translates to the Christmas holidays for us folk, and assuming it’s an LP rather than a mixtape, it’ll make for very interesting listening given Gambino’s decision to scale back on acting and concentrate more on his music.

This track was originally released in a shortened form as part of the video trailer that accompanies this post, but was unveiled in its entireity around 30 minutes ago. It’s a very enjoyable piece, boasting a vintage-influenced production built on Hendrix-era guitar work, a mixture of synths and vocal samples, and a rolling percussion set that bundles through the track well, switching up and down dynamically through the track’s middle portion for a touch of unpredictability. Gambino’s output pretty much runs through his entire arsenal, opening with sharply delivered lyrics that pack a sense of frustration at being labelled a poor rapper, before moving down into a dulcet tone that offers a little reflectiveness, and heading back into a mixture of the opening third’s rap style and a touch of breathy singing. It’s a really likeable production, and an intense, dynamic performance from Gambino that makes the track seem far shorter than it is. Worth a go, and a good opening release ahead of that album run. Track download available below (or, at least it was when I posted this!).

Nipsey Hu$$le-Crenshaw (Mixtape)

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As good as Kendrick Lamar is, in absolute truth, if you’d asked me before GKMC who my favourite upcoming west coast rapper was, I might have said Nipsey. He’s hugely underrated, but a great talent that is slowly breaking down doors and getting more believers on board with his movement, and doing so purely via his music, with no other PR stunts or shenanigans.

A hefty 21 tracks make this project up, though that extensiveness isn’t used as a device to shoehorn in loads of features; in fact, big name guest appearances aren’t that numerous at all here. Rick Ross, James Fauntleroy, Dom Kennedy and Slim Thug are among the better-known names here, whilst notable producers include 9th Wonder, 1500 or Nothin’, and The Futuristics. It’s been a bit of a dry spell for hip-hop, so hopefully this chunky offering can tie those fans over who are struggling for new work to listen to- free stream and download below, or you can support by grabbing a signed, limited edition hard copy over at Nipsey’s site.

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