Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Actually Like: The New Deal Mixtape

One of my favorite things about the internet is zip files of music. I just love the fact that you can download like sixteen or seventeen songs in one pop. Whether any of those songs are good is almost beside the point. This holds especially true for rap mixtapes. Lil Wayne's "Dedication 3"mixtape is pretty much awful, weighed down with too much autotune and weed carriers' empty boasts, but damned if I wasn't slightly thrilled to see the zip file icon pop up as it finished downloading.

So imagine my surprise when "The New Deal," yet another Kanye and His Hipster Friends mixtape, has some of the best rap music I've heard this year. Mixed by DJ Benzi and featuring production by Black Milk, Diplo, 9th Wonder, and Kanye, and rappers Kidz in the Hall, Blu, Skyzoo, Kanye, Common, Jackie Chain, and others, "The New Deal" is the perfect mix of great beats and great (or competent) MCs I so rarely hear anymore.

Here's some highlights (and a few lowlights):

  Benzi ft. Wale and Brother Ali- 2nd Time Around - While shimmering beats with soul samples are nothing new, it would be shocking if this song was bad.  However, Wale's flow always makes me slightly nervous, like he's always threatening to completely forget the beat. "I play the background whole time like Mario 3" is an instant quotable.

  Colin Munroe and Joell Ortiz- Piano Lessons (prod. by Black Milk) - This song brings up a make or break feature of the whole mixtape: hipster white dudes singing the hooks. If the whole idea of "hipster rap" or faux-indie white dudes/rap artists cross-pollination sickens you, there is no way you're going to like this mixtape. The beat from Black Milk is perfect: simple, melodic, and deceptively spare (the quiet keyboard underneath the piano loop gives the beat an airy feel you don't notice until you listen closely).

   Izza Kizza - Back to Miami- Bells, horns, and handclaps can make any decent rapper sound triumphant, so it's tough to give much credit to Izza Kizza for the song's success. The vocoder guitar phrase that appears around 1:55 is brilliant. Izza is apparently a Timbaland protege, so not getting in the way of the beat could be his road to riches (but I doubt it).

  Charles Hamilton -We Major freestyle- For all his talent, Charles Hamilton has one stilted flow. Most of the time he sounds like he's talking over the beat instead of rapping. Like Wale and Bishop Lamont, Hamilton is stuck in Interscope Purgatory and you and I know both know he's not getting out anytime soon.

  Wale and Daniel Merriweather - Pot of Gold (prod. by Mark Ronson) - Wale needs to rap like this all the time, i.e. on beat. Calling the beat "so Premier" is kind of dumb since it calls attention to the fact it's a straight Premier rip-off, er, I mean, "homage." 

  Kid Sister - Get Fresh- I feel slightly defensive about liking this song, but screw it, it's a great song. The keyboards on the hook remind of DJ Toomp and that's never a bad thing. Side note: Remember when Kid Sister was on the cover of The Fader after releasing like two songs? That was ridiculous.

  Kanye West ft. Big Sean and Mr. Hudson - Paranoid (remix)- Kanye:! Bad weed carrier...You left a mess on the remix..Look at the mess you left--look at it! Big Sean: (whimpers, adjusts scarf and fitted cap) Me: I still love this song.
 Common ft. Chester French - What a World - Did Common hit his head and forget how to rap? The "Rapper's Delight" flow is for rapping grandma's and middle managers at the company wide talent show.

 Donnis -Party Works - God, this beat is great. I'm not sure who produced it, but it has this amazing doo-wop sounding sample on the chorus that sounds triumphant and sad at the same time. Donnis is a generic rapper from Atlanta co-signed by Benzi.

 BlaqStarr - Get Off (produced by Diplo) - Whatever filter Diplo is using on the chorus is a monster. This reminds me a lot of the production on 808s and Heartbreak. I don't think Blaqstarr gets enough credit for how weird and moody his music can be.

Mp3s (get 'em before they disappear):