Tuesday, September 14, 2010
various artists - 3 years ahead: the cloud rap tape (2010)
(download the mixtape here)
This free mixtape, produced by the rap blog Space Age Hustle, gathers together what they see as a common trend in recent hip-hop: "not the newest sub-sub-sub-genre of rap music we’re tying to forcefully bring to life" but rather "a lot of new artists singularly focused on stepping outside of rap’s comfort zone and doing what they want with beats and lyrics". What links these tracks together seems primarily to be beats that largely disregard rhythm in favor of ambiance and melody, and which are frequently based around whispy female vocal samples. The term "cloud rap" fits well; these songs feel ungrounded, floating free of a low end and without drums or actual beats to anchor them down. The breathy vocal samples remind me of 90's trance and trip-hop, and the overall vibe seems very similar to those genres- drugged out and spacey, very mellow and directionless. For the most part, I think this works fantastically. Lil B is head and shoulders above the rest of the pack (that's a pun you see because he is a member of hyphy rap group The Pack). His unconventional style of rapping is perfectly suited to this: not only are the beats unconventional, but Lil B has a tendency to defy expectations by NOT rhyming half of his verses. The end result is a complete sense of unpredictability, and his two tracks that lead off the mixtape are best examples of the potential of the "cloud rap" sensibility, not to mention the best tracks in the mix. While none of the other tracks succeed in the same way as Lil B does, there are still a few standouts: "Southern Funk" by Inkrowd is lush, and being closer to conventional rap, is catchier than a lot of the songs; the super chilled out "Flinstones" by Lowe & Clova sounds so high it barely manages to maintain consciousness; G-Sides' "Impossible" floats by on a haunting vocal sample. Unfortunately, the rest of the mixtape doesn't hold up quite as well. I didn't really care for Main Attrakionz, who sound as bored by their rapping as I am, and they represent 7 of the 15 tracks on the mixtape. Still, compilations are generally hit-or-miss by nature, and you can't really complain about a free mixtape put together by fans. Despite some shortcomings, this mix has some truly amazing songs that show that rap is still evolving and exploring new territory.