Coming off the back of listening to what feels like one-hundred drill mixtapes it's the January retrospective. What up. It feels like Mr. Hip Hop and THE RAP GAME PLC is still suffering from a Christmas hangover, as this month has been very slow. The Major Labels all got their offerings in before the end of year listomania, and all the minors? Well apart from the incessant stream of Dat Piff pseudo-mixtapes (a.k.a. 'DJ mixes') and general spammy, click-bait nonsense it's been bare. Or maybe that's just the author, feeling more Blue Monday than Blue Chips 2. Let's change that, huh?



This Month's Mixtapes

Amine - Odyssey To Me

This incredibly personal mixtape continues a lovely line in introspective projects which blur the lines between Hip-Hop and R&B. Yet to see this tape as simply an attack on genre boundaries would be unfairly simplistic. In reality Amine's sound is a product of much more. Incorporating Ethiopian nuances into the dark narrative, Odyssey To Me displays a broad spectrum of influences, leaning on low frequencies and slower tempos as he explores the struggles of life, both his own and those surrounding him. The various productions fit beautifully whilst not blending seamlessly, signalling different chapters in Amine's emotional journey and give him the perfect setting in which to display his lyrical competence - although it is clear that technical proficiency was the last thing on his mind, it's all about the story.

Horseshoe Gang - Mixtape Monthly Vol. 3

The four grimey ghouls from Long Beach, CA blast back with their newest tape this month complete with a slew of 'world premiere[s] from DJ Far' - something he relishes telling you at every opportunity. But all his nonsense interruptions are forgiven for the sheer excellence of his beats. The Gang themselves aren't half bad either. Blending less than subtle digs at their dad (Fuck Sorry) with a bizarre look at their treatment of women ('before you open your legs I can open some doors for ya' on Chivalry) there's a huge sense of self-awareness and playfulness which, when combined with Far's bouncing beats, make for an all round fun mixtape.

Joey Fattz - Bazooka Joe

Joey Fattz has been dipping round the Pittsburgh scene for some time and (re)released his latest mixtape this January (having previously released it last summer). Despite projecting the hackneyed real rapper, real gangster shit he gets away more than most in the underground by actually having some pretty good verses, especially on tracks such as Taken By Surprise. He succeeds most when he relies on stories rather than punchlines to hang his verses on and although he certainly won't win any awards for wordplay, with the helping hand of JBG and Big C on the buttons, he comes out the other side with a solid collection of tracks.



In Other News

Ratking - 'Canal'

Hardcore punx-cum-emcees Ratking had a pretty good year last year and seem to be continually on the ascent. The XL quad streamed 'Canal' as a sample of their new record - the Vonnegut inspired So It Goes - and it kills. Blending clipped trap percussion with intrusive sampling builds on their releases from last year and means 8th April can't come soon enough.

ScHoolboy Q - 'Break The Bank'

The TDE staple has been slowly eeking out the release of his new record Oxymoron, releasing the tracklisting then the two artwork variations as well a single. This Alchemist produced track resounds around your head as the synths flow along in direct contrast with his year-ending, boom-blasting Man Of The Year. On top of this he's announced a world tour hitting up Dublin, Glasgow, London Birmingham and Manchester between the 27th May and 1st June and is bringing along Isaiah Rashad. See you there!

Smoke DZA - 'Black Independence' ft. J Ivy

Sean Pompey released details of his new record Dream.ZONE.Achieve replete with a statement of intent, of his own independence and complemented by a track off the record: 'Black Independence'.

Danny Brown ft. Purity Ring - '25 Bucks'

Danny Brown and Purity Ring put on a beautiful live rendition of '25 Bucks' from Brown's latest offering: Old for Jimmy Kimmel. Although we can't really bootleg the performance it's a nice excuse to bump an excellent record from last year!

Iggy Azalea - 'Animal Noise'

In a little teaser of what her album later this year may sound like Ziggy, Bro Safari and UFO unleashed this moomBROtron assault. 'I wanna take it to a new level'. Mission accomplished.



The Honourable Mention

KOOL A.D. - NOT O.K

It seems like every month something slips through the net. This month it was another solo release from the idiosyncratic Kool A.D. As one of the more astute rappers out there he plays around with a range of typical tropes, the heavy repetition of A$AP-rap, the deconstruction of Anticon-esque releases and his consistent parody of Braggadocio. Although his style comes across as heavily blunted which, as those familiar with his previous solo and Das Racist work will know, masks the true complexity of the lyricism and content. But it always feels like that's half the fun, cleverly taking down other styles only to poke fun at his own style. And it works. From the Trap-happy 'Trippy Girl' to the reversed 'Psychotropical' this mixtape is an excellent blend of heady lyricism and playful delivery.

Also, Phil Collins turned 63. Happy Birthday Phil Collins. You're the man.