Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011

Local Mixtape Round-Up: Gerald Walker, Amerika's Addiction, B*Right

By Evan Rytlewski
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With so many rap mixtapes hitting the Internet every week, it can be difficult to keep up with them all, especially since there's often no easy way to distinguish serious releases from the haphazard C-material drops that clutter Twitter feeds and direct-download sites. Here's a brief round-up of some of the more worthwhile recent local mixtapes.

Gerald Walker throws his name into the Milwaukee rap scene's "potential next big thing" conversation in a big way with his latest release, The Other Half of Letting Go, a late contender for local mixtape of the year. Walker isn't just a double-threat rapper/singer—he's a one man Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, with a smooth croon and a restless, shape-shifting flow that lends an unpredictable, schizophrenic edge to songs that could easily come off as standard, Drake-by-numbers meditations. There are countless rappers trying to pull off this sound right now, but few are doing it with this much individuality and ingenuity.

Amerika's Addiction have never made music that you could call "easy," but their latest mixtape, Blame It on The Drugs, is their harshest, most demented release yet, a confrontational treatise on American values disguised as an exploration (and occasionally glamorization) of mental illness. It's a brutal, exhilarating ride.

B*Right's January debut mixtape, Ditto, was the work of an eager but often amateurish young group making fashion-conscious, post-Soulja Boy party rap. It was a mess, but a lively one, and like so many insurgent young rap acts, the group is improving quickly. Their followup 3D mixtape is a step up in every way, a more coherent, better-produced effort that drops the obnoxious-for-the-sake-of-obnoxiousness mentality of Ditto while beginning to tone the rappers' flabby flows. This is still pretty amateurish stuff, but there's a spark here.

Milwaukee rap producer and Miltown Beat Down veteran the White Russian clears the vaults on his latest mixtape, On The Rocks, a compilation of beats he recorded from 2004 to 2008. There's a little bit of everything here: soul throwbacks, Bollywood kitsch, choppy experiments, funky breaks and blunt, cutthroat hip-hop. 

I don't know much about the Milwaukee experimental hip-hop producer CAME—the Facebook profile linked to from his Bandcamp page mostly showcases his graphic design work, not his music—but his second free album of beats, remixes and abstractions, The Instrumentals 16-30, shows real promise. Sometimes the producer clings a little too closely to his source material, as on a couple of tracks that sample the latest Weeknd mixtape without adding much, but he has a real talent for making minimalist grooves sound mighty full. It'd be great to hear him try producing for some local rappers, if he's interested in going down that path.

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