The Single Life: Doeman Elevates; Lyric Michelle Gets Personal

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What the hell is a mixtape?

Before this column goes any further, we need to have a heart-to-heart discussion on what counts as an EP, a mixtape and an album. I've long tried to justify getting a full swath of music by length and cost. For example, Drake just gifted the world with a 17-track new tape that sold more than 500,000 copies in four days. You can pay $12.99 for it. Drake also asked up rather sheepishly, "How do you like my mixtape?"

Mixtape? Mixtape? Look, the last time I legitimately paid for a mixtape was on the back of a school bus in tenth grade, and it was an old Swishahouse compilation. That was before the Internet really took ahold of things and the idea of a mixtape was more that of a free sampler of music before the album came out. It was free promotion. Hell, a free mixtape started the phrase "the mixtape was better," and we hastily lobbed that title at Jadakiss, Big Sean and others.

Now, the mixtape and pretty much any form of music has been reduced to one common phrase -- a project. Any piece of music you choose to issue out that contains original music and production but is for free is a project. An EP can't be any more than seven damn songs, a mixtape is you rapping over somebody else's beats and an album is something you put up for retail purchase. Deal? Can we all follow this and no longer be confused?

I hope so, because I'm not discussing mixtapes or projects today. Nope, we're talking straight-up singles.

Dice Soho feat. Rizzo, Sauce Walka & 5th Ward JP, "Handcuffs" If you've never heard Dice Soho before, think someone who may sound like Propain but without the gruff, easily distinguishable twang. "Handcuffs" is a complete Sauce Factory/Moe Gang moment with plenty of Blood calls, gunshot threats from Sauce Walka and Ferragamo stunting by all parties involved. In other words, your standard "rock with your crew" club track.

DJ B*Ryte feat. Z-Ro, Mike D & GT Garza, "IDFWU (Remix)" Which version of Z-Ro do I like the most? The one who cares very little for love and was a Sadder Day-night special this past Valentine's Day? The jokester whose putdowns cut just as bad as Dolemite's did? Or the soldier who could walk through bullets and measles and scare every member of the Islamic State with just a groan?

They're all quite perfect, but comical 'Ro shows out on "IDFWU," an all-Houston remix commissioned by 97.9 The Box's DJ B*Ryte. She's already picked a couple of her city favorites in Ro and GT Garza, who are coming together for a second time in less than a few weeks. The same chuckle-and-boast routine Big Sean went through on the original gets amped up here in an S.U.C.-meets-"Brown By Honor" way. 'Ro and DJ Mustard really need to hammer something out, because I swear a Z-Ro Valentine's Day card would set the streets on fire. Use this as a prelude to B*Ryte & Z-Ro's upcoming mixtape, if you will.

Doeman, "Elevation" Every time I think Doeman has set a nice little peak for himself, he jumps up and aims a bit higher. "Elevation" is the first track from his upcoming $tereotypes EP with Trakksounds, and it's organs, pianos and bars. This kind of Doeman experience made him the legit star of the Republic of Texas tour that just wrapped up.

Dro Fe feat. Z-Ro, "I'm Just Sayin" Let's have Marco Torres chime in for a little bit of help here with Dro Fe, shall we? "I for one would much rather hear someone like Dro rap about this subject matter (street life), than hear it from a wannabe gangster who once upon a time sold a few grams to his cousin in high school," he says; simplest description of Dro Fe you can get. Tack Z-Ro and Happy Perez here for "I'm Just Sayin," another "Don't Mess With Texas" rap anthem du jour.

Hot Peez, "Cherish"

Like C.I.T.Y. before him, Hot Peez is another New Orleans artist who migrated to Houston to stay. He's also using his

White Hall

tape as a bit of personal confession, and other little notes about family members. On "Cherish," he offers a bit of pride and knowledge passed down from his grandfather and his mother's own omen to him. She wanted great for her son, Peez wants great for himself. Bonus points for this being a NOLA-style flip of The Carpenters' sleepy classic "We've Only Just Begun."

Javon Johnson, "Juan" You find gems, and then some gems just get handed to you. Javon "X" Johnson is one of those acts. Last year we profiled the low-key rapper and his Museum of Natural Science tape. He's MF DOOM-ish with his flow, sharp and clever, and in lieu of his Museum of Fine Arts project (out today), he rocks with his good friend "Juan" over wafting, serene production.

More new rap on the next page.

Lyric Michelle, "The Motive"

The neat thing about "The Motive" is that it hit

Rolling Stone

before it hit anywhere else. It's a love song, another feather in the cap for producer Chris Rockaway in which Lyric gets to trade her usual poetic flair for something far more personal. The video itself is depressing and sobering, with the main character playing a prostitute to an obvious abusive-pimp boyfriend.

Propain, "Triumph" The only downside to being Propain at the moment is that his favorite basketball team may not make the playoffs. However, said basketball team is like Propain in another way -- they share a common purpose of ultimate victory. It may take one a bit longer to get there, but for the most part there's a brain trust making sure everything runs smoothly.

Smooth is the safest description of "Triumph," Pro's latest track from Against All Odds. Yes, the legends are speaking from the heavens to tell him to out-rap everybody and sit proudly at the throne à la Game of Thrones. There's still financial motivation ("made my first hundred thousand / now its on to the second"), but competition and victory are what Pro seeks more than anything. That and any beat given to him by Donnie Houston, because the pair is unde-fucking-feated at this point.

Roosh Williams feat. GT Garza, "Whip It" See, I've gotten privy to the new Roosh Williams tape. It's pretty damn good and we'll get into it a bit more when the time comes. This however, is one of its more awesome moments. Williams and GT Garza are, by and large, two rappers who literally will rap you under the table and then bark at you while you're down there. Trakksounds lifting The Dazz Band's "Let It Whip" is icing on the cake. Sometimes, Houston, you can have silly fun in the booth without trying to make club anthems.

Sauce Walka, "RuLife (Drip Mix)" I've long argued that Sauce Walka cares very little about his past in lieu of the present. He's a Blood in the same way Z-Ro is a Crip. They don't want you to look past it, but instead embrace those facts about them. "RuLife (Drip Mix)" combines karate-kick-style bars with the reality that he used to really bang out here. There might be a few bars of actuality tossed in here, such as his mom's struggle with addiction, but everything else? Thirty-two bars of slapping fools for brownies and switching from running drugs to women; thank Mack 10's "Foe Life" for the inspiration.

Wolf De Mçhls, "Wedding Balloons (Come Home Again)" Vamped-out, reverbed monsters are usually the soundscapes Wolfe De Mçhls works with. Almost a decade ago, he could be found bending his voice in numerous flows and cadences, a student of the mixtape era of rap. Now he enjoys masking his voice behind tons of atmospheric drums and hushed tones. Elevated mood music for the wide-eyed soul.

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