Houston exists largely as its own market. As such, the rappers here tend to not like to - on the record, anyway - rank themselves or their albums or songs against each other or each other's. So we'll do it for them.
D. Coleman Mixtape is the debut outing from Scooby (or Scooyunda, if you prefer), 33 percent of the G.R.I.T. Boys.
It's Lil Ray People Vol. 4 is the - surprise - fourth installment of Lil Ray's It's Lil Ray People mixtape series.
The Better Title: Easy. D. Coleman Mixtape takes this category. It's simple and direct, but also a little elegant, which is typically a good way to handle any situation. If the people haven't figured out that it's Lil Ray after the third volume, maybe you go a different route?
The Better Guest Feature: Yung Redd manages to outduel Slim Thug on It's Lil Ray People for the best feature on that tape, but Mistah Fab outduels Yung Redd, who appears on D. Coleman as well, for the best feature on Scooby's tape. Point to the D. Coleman Mixtape.
Obvious Side Note: If there's one thing to be learned here, it's that Yung Redd is worth whatever he's charging for guest verses these days.
The Better Cover: It's Lil Ray's, people. You can look at it and tell exactly what kind of CD it's going to be. That's important.
The Better Song: Here's where it's a bit tricky. "Fill Me" (D. Coleman) should be the best song of the bunch; Mistah Fab is solid, Scooby is solid, the beat is solid, albeit a polished retread. For the first 2:15, it's clearly the standout track.
But there's just too much down time. The song sort of wanders on for about a minute and a half after the last verse. Which means that "Pages," which features all three G.R.I.T. Boys and a hook from Yung Redd, slides in at the top spot for the D. Coleman Mixtape.
And the earnest delivery there is outpaced just enough by Lil Ray's headlong passion for black in "Black Everythang" to tilt the category towards him. Winner: It's Lil Ray, people. (That, by the way, will never get old).
If You Can Only Buy One, It Should Be: It's Lil Ray People Vol. 4 does plenty of things right, particularly within the context of the type rap that it places itself in, but the D. Coleman Mixtape is just a bit taller than it when you line them up back to back.
A lot of times, guys who have only ever been known for being in groups, especially successful groups, come out a bit too eager to prove their mettle as a solo artist on their debut album and get tripped up by their own intentions. Scooby doesn't. Matter of fact, he very nearly sidesteps the J.C. Chasez Connundrum entirely.
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More surprising than that though, is that he actually flourishes in all of the extra space.
His rap voice has always seemed like it was dragging itself out of his mouth, which produces a slight variation of that same numbing effect that Cudi flashes. And that's nice, and all, but you knew that going in because of his previous work. What's more impressive is how deft he shows himself to be at exaggerating or toning it back depending on each track's production. It's quality you never got to fully appreciate (or even notice, really) while he was thirding songs with the other two G.R.I.T. Boys.
There are maybe five songs that could've been left off of D. Coleman's 21-song track listing ("Same Ol G," "Choosen Me," "Pop Dat," "Amazing" and "Make A Scence"; none of them feel particularly vital) and that could've helped tighten things up a bit.
But all in all, it's a proper showing by the grittiest of the G.R.I.T. Boys.