Midterm Mixtapes

01 December 2014 Comments Off on Midterm Mixtapes


The midterm weeks have arrived, and that’s why I haven’t been able to spare time to properly listen to or discover music for quite a while. I can only listen to music while studying, which makes for quite a narrow selection. “Studying music” needs to be put on in the background and shouldn’t include many interruptions or sudden shifts that can distract you. In addition—unlike the majority of those who have put together online study playlists—I think that studying music should be rhythmic and rich in terms of sound, because I always find myself studying at the pace of the song I’m listening to. Rich sounds keep my mind busy enough to prevent any distracting thoughts, forcing me to focus on the task at hand.

For these reasons, I find hip-hop tracks with rich productions the best fit for studying, and here I have picked a few albums that I have been listening to recently.

Joey Bada$$ – 1999

Joey Bada$$ is a young and ambitious rapper from New York. His second mixtape, “1999,” was released in June 2012, two months after his first, and immediately got the underground scene’s attention and received many positive reviews. I listened to this album the week it was released, and I still go back and listen to it quite frequently.

“1999” features many iconic producers from the underground hip-hop scene, such as MF DOOM, Lord Finesse and J Dilla. Along with their stylistic contributions, Joey comes up with very diverse, catchy samples, and great rhymes on top of it all. The productions are quite varied and strongly characteristic of the styles of their creators, but they all have the old-school, 90s hip-hop vibe. Joey’s vocals are very dynamic and go with all the listed artists’ work, proving his MCing talent.

Throughout the album, the productions are almost always repetitive and not very digital—they feel quite natural. Because of this, the album is a great choice for studying music. Its dynamic flow and repetitive rhythms keep the studying tempo high. Bada$$’s two subsequent releases, “Rejex” and “Summer Knights,” have the same general character, but in my opinion, “1999” is the absolute best release by Bada$$ so far.

A$AP Rocky – Live.Love.A$AP

A$AP Rocky is also a young hip-hop prodigy from New York. “Live.Love.A$AP” was his first mixtape, released in 2011, and it got a great reception from many music critics. I think it was one of the best hip-hop releases of the year.

The mixtape was produced mostly by Clams Casino and has a consistent, harmonious production style. There is a lot of usage of dark, low-tempo, bass-oriented electronic production, along with distorted voice samples and drum machine tracks to tie them all together. Rocky’s flows are very suitable with this style, which is probably why he still sticks with it in his later releases.

Lyrically, this album doesn’t provide much depth. In fact, I don’t really enjoy Rocky’s performance that much, but the production is so creative and so satisfying that I don’t mind the vocals. The stereo mixing is great, the transitions between beats are very smooth and the progression of the sound throughout the album is worth analyzing. If you are interested in dark electronic music, definitely give this mixtape a listen.

Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

Killer Mike is a Southern hip-hop artist, known for his socially conscious and blunt, straightforward lyrics, as well as his unique dark vocal style. Killer Mike is currently working as one half of a very famous hip-hop duo, Run The Jewels, along with El-P, who is also the producer of “R.A.P. Music.” In fact, they once commented that Run The Jewels came into being after the positive reception of their first collaboration, this album. R.A.P. is an acronym for “Rebellious African People,” which gives a hint as to what to expect from the album. By the standards of his genre, El-P is quite an aggressive and experimental producer. The collaboration of these two artists gives birth to a very satisfying and complete album.

In terms of its lyrical content, “R.A.P. Music” features many diverse topics. There are tracks that focus solely on sociopolitical messages, some personal songs about Mike and also some more general songs about love, life, etc. All of these are combined in a cohesive and consistent album, which truly shows us the talent of both artists and their harmony as a team. If you enjoy dark lyrics, hard-hitting vocals and satisfying, decent production, this album might be what you are looking for.

Note: I got some feedback regarding my previous column. Apparently there is a converter for cassette players that enables them to play AUX sound input. I will buy myself one as soon as possible.

Also, I will be in Istanbul for two weekends in a row to see Kiasmos and Kadebostany live. Expect a detailed double concert review in my next column.