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Mixtape Monday: Kirko Bangz's Progression IV, etc.

Kirko Bangz, Progression IV A Kirko Bangz mixtape released in the tail end of March exists only to serve two real purposes. One is to keep your little sister at bay while Bangz's Bigger Than Me project continues to be tightened up until its scheduled June release; second, to toss out a handful of new and sort-of old Kirko records for the sake of not overloading your senses with a number of songs that will no doubt own both radio stations for an extended period of time. In short, he's the gaudy prince of Houston rap's Persia, and we're all servants.

But the fourth of these Progression mixtapes (a special edition of the PK4 mixtape that arrived a year ago) is more Kirko freewheeling over industry beats than legitimately rapping with something to prove. That's how you get "Love Rihanna," a ludicrous cut where Drake's "Girls Love Beyoncé" gets remixed into a flat-out twangy ode to doing anything to win Drake's new girlfriend, and "Don't Matter to Me," where Bangz falls for a chick who's pretty much been with every Houston rapper (Doughbeezy, Slim Thug and Propain get name-checked) but much like Justin Bieber's original, he'll still wear his heart out for her.

What separates Bangz from the Toronto rapper he routinely gets compared to is how in most instances he displays a cold heart when it comes to the fairer sex. Not to say he doesn't have any ounce of lothario in him, but he'd rather dismiss something after an initial glance than dip down the rabbit hole. Which, if you're a by-product of anything Pimp C wrote in "The Gospel According to Top-Notch Hoes Getting the Most, Not the Lesser," is de facto rule No. 1. Plus, with him covering both Drake and Jhené Aiko -- who could be considered Diet Drake or Drake Clear, really -- we're thisclose to finally getting the Kirko Bangz Raps Over Nothing But Drake Songs mixtape.

Best Song: "Fuck You" feat. Propain. In the short term, its records like these that have made Kirko who he is to the general public, tightly wounded catchy records that feed his own ego and develop a life of their own. Honorable mention easily goes to "Check Me Out" with Killa Kyleon, a rather rotund chest thump over Nipsey Hussle's "Checc Me Out". Download here.

Le$, Expansion Pack Last month, Le$ made what was arguably the most logical move of his career: he joined Curren$y's Jet Life Recordings imprint. After years of fans comparing the two and saying they should collaborate, now they're together like a car-flipping Starsky and Hutch. Expansion Pack dives directly into a lush realm of laid-back lounge music as it covers as much ground as it possibly can in about six tracks.

There's Spitta showing up as the EP's lone feature for "Comic Books" (with Mick Foley/Hell In a Cell references!), a killer lead single in "Suede" and more stretched-out Texas dabbles with Memphis funk production courtesy of DJ Mr. Rogers. Le$, for all intents and purposes, fully understands his role as a rapper: an everyman who could give you the sort of motivational music that doesn't jump past 90bpm. Download here.

Mixtape Monday continues on the next page with X and DJ Chose.

X, The Houston Museum of Natural Science Want to play a quick six degrees of separation? X (real name Jonathon Jackson) went to North Shore High School with Kirko Bangz. His story, however, feels absolutely nothing like Bangz's come-up: Jackson's tale involves suicide attempts, homelessness, drug addiction, born with Black Panther blood in him and salvation through music.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science dresses itself up in moody piano chords, vocal samples and straightforward storytelling, like an eyewitness account of the ills not only of Houston but what Jackson has faced. Equipped with a voice that teeters on Raekwon (minus the Shaolin mythology), X only lightens up on "Amoir Noir," where he travels through needing wine to chase the stress away through a double-time flow and Spanish strings. Download here.

DJ Chose, Surveillance We'll play Ratchet Advocate here and tell you that DJ Chose's Surveillance mixtape details everything about Texas Club Music you need to know in less than 60 minutes. It differs from the Bay Area/West Coast ratchet sound thanks to its reliance on drums, sexual conquest (and banality), but shares the similarity of simplicity leading to amazing results. You don't need a giant think-piece on the matter, just know that Chose's work ethic rotates in one frame: hard-hitting braggadocio with nary a care for anything else.

There's some Migos-couplet flow ("Bored") tossed in between the absolute synth monster "3rd Level" and "My Season," which pays tribute to E.S.G.'s "Swang & Bang." Don't know how often Chose leaned towards Atlanta -- there are plenty of Future-isms here, chorus-wise -- but it makes for a pretty decent marriage of the two levels of Southern ratchet. Download here.


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