LIL JON & THE EASTSIDE BOYZ
We Run the South
Kon the Louis Vuitton Don
Southern Smoke Vol. 10: We Still Smokin'
These handy mixtapes (with no annoying DJ talkover) are a greatest-body-blows that render the filler-packed solo albums from everyone here fairly redundant. We Run the South reveals Lil Jon (he of the Muppet-of-the-apocalypse routine) to be a surprisingly witty producer, whether sampling the Donnie Darko soundtrack, referencing old-school Miami bass, or just nimbly orchestrating those flutes on "Salt Shaker." It's also funny as hell, even if the laffs are sometimes questionable.
Kanye West may have a spark of genius, but his complete lack of humility, about both his talent and his good fortune, is guaranteed to have us all hating him before 2006 rolls around. West has tons of mixtapes out, most released before he became a celebrity, mostly full of alternate takes and rarities. But this one, released concurrently with The College Dropout, is the absolute bomb, collecting nearly all of his hit productions from the last 12 months plus some hot underground joints and freestyles, and, thankfully, going light on his own rapping.
Hosted by everyone's favorite fat Southern white guy—Bubba Sparxxx—the latest in DJ Smallz's seemingly endless, utterly invaluable Southern Smoke series is the best retort yet to those (sometimes including this author) who claim rap sucks in '04. Do you want to hear Eminem with Lil Jon? Do you want Lil Flip's awesome ode to the Atari 2600, "Game Over," without dropping 20 bucks on his awful album? Are you confused as to what a "Nola Clap" is? Do you mix up the Ying Yang Twins? Do you have a crush on Bubba like I do? Then Smallz is your pusherman. At an average of eight bucks each, is it any wonder that mixtapes are outselling some albums these days? Try www.mixtapekings.com.
Aim High Vol. 1
(Aim High, U.K.)
One of the things that makes grime different from the older U.K. pirate radio styles (hardcore rave, jungle, 2-step garage) is that MCs will often freestyle over current U.S. rap instrumentals. (Here, it's Young Gunz's "No Better Love," Kelis' "Milkshake," and Missy's "Pass That Dutch.") Which is, in some ways, a step backward: Not since the early days of acid house has U.K. dance music been dependent on U.S. records. It's especially sad, since "No Better Love" in particular lags leagues behind homegrown productions like the stinging triplets of "Scorpion," the bleary fog of "Chosen One," and the keening orientalisms of "War Wid." On the other hand, the inclusion of "Pass That Dutch" and "Milkshake" reveal how much both grime and current U.S. rap owe to dancehall.
Riddim Driven: Dreamweaver
Greensleeves Rhythm Album #48: Tunda Klap
Stephen "Lenky" Marsden's follow-up to the riddim that got the whole world clapping ("Diwali," known to you perhaps as the beat from Sean Paul's "Get Busy") wants to buy the whole world a Coke . . . in a diamond-encrusted glass bottle. Like a Javanese gamelan played on said bottles (or icicles), "Dreamweaver" fills the sound field, as Lenky subtly modulates it (steel drums here, Omni Trio–style synth whooshes there) for each of the 20 or so MCs—which is good for maintaining interest in what basically amounts to listening to one beat for an hour. Similarly, Delano Thomas' "Tunda Klap" riddim is very sexy, albeit in an abstract, robo-hips sort of way. A spongy, squishy kick drum (possibly reversed) and a flute that skids across the mix like a taxi in the rain—and that's about it. So boredom eventually wins out, but it's still quite a gooshy-yet-clinical rush.
DJ /RUPTURE VS. MUTAMASSIK
Shotgun Wedding Vol. 1: The Bidoun Sessions
These two post-everything DJs, who divide this hour-long disc between each of their mix sets, come off as damn near revolutionaries these days—their decidedly not post-geographical mixes invoke the Middle East. At a time when "average citizens" are calling for the deaths of those with a different melanin count, /rupture's and Mutamassik's music—funny, funky, haunting, obnoxious—is a sign that there are other responses to tragedy besides apathy and depression. /rupture goes from 0 to 200 in one track, blowing through German dancehall, U.S. hip-hop, rivet-gun breakcore, and Dubya speeches. Slower and, yes, sadder, Mutamassik's half is an elegy woven out of Moroccan rai, hardstep drum and bass, and underground MCs partying at ground zero.
World of Dynamite
MC Dynamite's debut album is, take your pick, either a conceptual coup or a cheap gimmick. A history of his/my/our world in a little over an hour, World of Dynamite starts with hip-hop, moves onto tribal 2-step, through pounding breakcore, and finally to the drum and bass where he made his name. The producer's chair is occupied by a revolving who's who of the post-rave elite: DJ Zinc, Wookie, Skitz, Roni Size, Origin Unknown, and Dynamite himself. His range and delivery are that of a D&B MC—fast, well-enunciated, and very meta—but it's amazing how much a catchy vocal lick can do for otherwise plodding neo-jungle. Just check the dystopian crunk of Zinc's "Topped Up," the hailstorm of Dynamite's own "Rush the DJ," or Origin Unknown's "Hotness," one of 2003's best singles.