The music world has been generous this summer as more and more artists have turned to free releases. Mixtape culture, previously a rap phenomenon, has expanded to include a variety of genres that can use online releases to establish new artists or please old fans. Here are some of the summer’s most interesting happenings in rap, hip-hop, dance and dubstep.
After months of anticipation, hip-hop’s hipster darling Azealia Banks delivered a 19-track mixtape that was well worth the wait. Azealia Banks has tried a variety of musical directions since she released “212” last year, but “Fantasea’s” greatest successes fall into the same category of audacious rap-dance. The best part of the record is its instant and indisputable “quoteability”; “Fantasea” is full of Azealia’s brilliant and not-safe-for-print one-liners.
Essential tracks: “F*ck up the Fun” (produced by Diplo), “L8R”
The Magician–“Magic Tape Twenty-Four”
Riding the wave of disco revival, Belgian producer and D.J. The Magician mixes the smoothest ideas in house and disco on “Magic Tape Twenty-Four.” What makes “Magic Tape Twenty-Four” so enjoyable is the predictability of the Magician’s game–bait the listener with a catchy synth line or vocal lick, build to a pleasant but not ecstatic high, let the track settle and switch it out for the next. Repeat nine or 10 times–works like a charm.
Essential tracks: None (the mixtape is 45 minutes of continuous play).
Cocaine 80s’ collective of musicians display a unique blend of talents on “Erxpress_og,” creating a summery sonic smoothie. The EP moves from straight hip-hop to R&B to guitar-driven pop, excelling at each attempted genre. “Erxpress_og” also feels no need to rely on its star power (the collective’s Common only appears on one track, and Nas is featured on the excellent track “Chainglow”), instead coming together to produce a solid, cohesive record.
Essential tracks: “This Can’t Be A Crime,” “Chainglow”
Dom Kennedy–“Yellow Album”
If you haven’t tired of hearing about fame and females, Dom Kennedy’s “Yellow Album” provides 13 new takes on the subject. Bringing in a variety of producers, “Yellow Album” owes a lot of its success to the varied backing tracks. Between tracks like the chill “1:25” and groovy “Lately,” Dom Kennedy’s release is a great cruising record.
Essential tracks: “Lately,” “Gold Alpinas (feat. Rick Ross)”
Clocking in at 16 minutes, Starkey’s grimy four-track EP “Nucleus” is a versatile exploration of new ideas in dubstep. Starkey cuts right to the chase with the opening track, “Fantasy,” featuring hard-hitting percussion and hefty amounts of street bass. This space-inspired EP may not be very barbecue-friendly, but it’s definitely worth listening to in the darkness of your room late at night.
Essential tracks: “Nucleus,” “Fresh”
Childish Gambino–“R O Y A L T Y”
An Independence Day gift for his fans, Childish Gambino’s “R O Y A L T Y” is an energetic star-studded release that further confirms his knack for wordplay. His eccentric list of guest artists includes Ghostface Killah, Tina Fey (yes, Tina Fey) and Beck. Childish Gambino’s willingness to relinquish creative control is what ultimately renders “R O Y A L T Y” a very successful collaborative project.
Essential tracks: “We Ain’t Them,” “Won’t Stop (feat. Danielle Haim of HAIM)”