French Montana was supposed to take it all last year. At the SXSW he had a thousands of people killing themselves for better of the pudgy arabic MC. It took him some time to release his record and by the time his debut Excuse My French came it out it felt a little lukewarm. While not a bad album, its attempts to broaden French’s appeal away his trademark “Haaahh” sneer and stoned sounding raps was a bad idea. Coke Boys 4, his latest mixtape, rights the ship. Here French stays firmly in his lane but finds better way to play in its corners. You’ve got your trap heavy street anthems but instead of throwing on Niki Minaj and Ne-Yo to give it some variety he uses better & smoother production to give it nuance while keeping it hardcore. Lana Del Ray’s voice hovers in “All For You” while he brags, ‘Niggas made it rain, I made it snow boy” and Harry Fraud continues his streak of making some of the best produced sample based hip-hop currently being made.
Speaking of samples, Ryan Hemsworth had a pretty great 2013. His Guilt Trips record got a Best New Music nod and like Flying Lotus a few weeks earlier he decided to bring in the new year by emptying out his hard drive on RYANPACKv.1 Here he remixes acts like Beyonce and Lorde. My favorite though, him taking Mr. MFN eXquire’s “Illest Nigga’s Breating” and filtering it through a heavy dose of J-Pop by way of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu leading to a bizarre mix of thug bragging and tooth ache inducing melody.
And finally we’ve got Fabolous’s Soul Tape 3. While you will still probably hear more then a handful of his early ’00 hits at the local club, Fabolous work on the mixtape circuit has always been several cuts above his mainstream releases(it even spawned his last big single “You Be Killing Em”). His “Soul Tape” series is built out of, you guessed it, soul tracks. But Fab still hits as hard as ever, and when the songs start to slow down on the last quarter of the album there’s still a sincerity that doesn’t feel forced. It’s a great record to rock on these cold winter nights.