Lil Keke, Album Before The Album 3
Lil Keke is fed up.
Well, not in the literal sense. He's quite fed; well-fed even. He's practically the thesaurus of Houston rap slang, thanks to his vault on top of a vault of freestyles amassed during the early part of his career. In the metaphorical sense? Oh, Lil Keke has been ornery in a good way for a little while.
Either someone has been messing with his money, a common occurrence, or paying far too much attention to what he's doing while lacking any business sense of their own, another familiar scenario. Keke's Money Don't Sleep project has been resting in the same kind of limbo that befell some prior albums, so fans have been once more tossed a quality filler in its please. Album Before The Album 3, which arrived last week, takes every Keke subject known to man -- the streets, money, hustling and a combination of all three -- and builds upon them through solid production and not a single ounce of compromise.
When you have only nine tracks and adhere to the actual "sampler" idea of a mixtape, why bullshit? Keke only gives four full tracks the light of day: "Worry Bout You" with Kirko Bangz is effortless radio work for both men; "Everything I Love" with Yung Redd is a twisted-up freestyle with Killa Kyleon; closer, "By My Self" with Orange Mound, Tennessee's Eightball and Baton Rouge's Kevin Gates. The rest is broken up into shiny synthed-out sixteens and warmup tracks with the likes of Yo Gotti.
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Best Track: "By My Self," and it's not exactly that close of a race. Here, the man who shouted out Keke on "Don't Flex" and one of rap's most interesting voices get to do what they do best over an idle guitar/bass line and syncopated drum pattern. "Me and my 45 so I'm really not alone," Ball notes to remind us that even in his three-decade career he's still not all that trusting of anyone besides maybe MJG.
Also of importance here: Kevin Gates is a goddamn star in the same vein of Z-Ro, a cold-hearted storyteller with a distinctive gravelly singing voice. 'Ro may go gospel but Gates, at least here? Low enough to sound like a lost member of the trap Temptations. You can download Keke's Album Before The Album III via DatPiff.
OTHER NOTABLE MIXTAPES
Anti-Lilly & Phoniks, Stories From The Brass Section One of Houston's best storytellers finds his muse and creates some of the best-laid back smoke-and-ride music available. With Le$ currently taking his certain indelible talents over to Curren$y's Jet Life imprint as the alpha dog, Anti-Lilly can most certainly be the beta, a long-winded, wide-eyed, Afro'd rapper who is far more precocious than you'd think. Stories From The Brass Section links him together with Phoniks, a ME producer who did some of the best work on Lilly's Memoirs & The '90s mixtape from a year ago.
It was spotlighted as one of the best tapes of 2013 and on Stories, their relationship grows even bigger. There's "14 Til," a guitar-frolicking, drum-slicing take on Souls of Mischief's "'93 Til Infinity" that's a hell of a lot more engaging than Rick Ross' Mastermind version; "Everyman," where Lilly's storytelling shines bright; and more cushiony jazz-rap for us to reminisce on as if we were digging on a Texas slice of the Native Tongues. Download the tape via Audiomack.
Vic-D, Negus: Becoming a King Plenty of warble and bass is tucked inside of Vic-D's fluid Negus: Becoming a King tape. From his voice, which sounds like a rapper touching a megaphone but lacks Meek Mill's wild theatrics, to the bottom-heavy production, Negus reveals a hungry and ambitious everyman Texas rapper. A bit of spoken word is tossed in here and there to balance out all the tough talk and contemplation of the fairer sex, but where Vic shines is when he digs into militancy and carefully manicured manifesto rap such as "Fuck America" and the pulsating "King Enslaved." Download Negus Becoming A King via DatPiff.
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Doeman, DYNA EP Propain's Forever Trill imprint has its first official artist, the wiry Hispanic rapper Doeman, who discusses his favorite musical subjects (Nas, 2Pac) with his own dashing self-confidence. Through only five tracks, his new EP places itself dead in the middle of Houston's modern dependence on brawny lyricism with its traditional sense of being both rugged and simple. DYNA follows this binary code to a T, reaching its apex on Propain features "Jodeci" and "How Can I Lose." Download it via DatPiff.
Tony Dark, The Grey Season Producers need love too, and Tony Dark -- one of the city's more intriguing personalities thanks to sample-based production and love for his Wyatt Family-esque beard -- might have crafted one of his best $5 tapes yet. The Grey Season opens with "Undisputed," a flip of Dionne Warwick's thin-voiced "Walk On By" alongside guitar licks reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang." From samples of Reg Tilsley Orchestra to just flat-out brooding murky '90s fisticuffs possibly made for the Wu, Tony's on his game here. Buy it via BandCamp.
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