Hip-hop haul: Gifts from Clams Casino, Fabolous, Smoke DZA, more
While the rest of of the world was gifting iPads, "Call of Duty" and enough socks to fill up Staples Center, the hip-hop world continued its nascent tradition of doling out free music to fans. Despite Christmas tradition, there were few turkeys handed out, with some of the most promising young rappers and producers offering downloadable feasts. Here are highlights of the haul.
Earlier this year, the producer for Lil B and Soulja Boy opted to remove the raps from his beats and offer the instrumentals in their raw orchestral glory. It kick-started Casino's rise to become one of the most sought after beatmakers in the underground, earning a deal with vaunted British imprint Tri Angle, and calls to produce A$AP Rocky and most recently the Weeknd.
Thankfully, the "Instrumental Mixtape" is more creative than its name would imply. Though Clams' hyperbole-prone advocates define it as a stark break from previous instrumental hip-hop tradition, it bears a close resemblance to the three-minute symphonies done by New York-based producer Blockhead and other artists on the Ninja Tune imprint. Nonetheless, you won't find many albums this year as skilled at creating a mood of eerie, disembodied float.
In his breakout single, "Huzzah," the Brooklynite said his gimmick was "going in." He continues that aesthetic on his "Merry eX-Mas" tape, slurred and strong rapping about sex, vodka, money and hunger. Just the basics. The tape compiles both odds and sods leaked over the last few months and previously unheard tracks, including the insanely rewindable "Killah Tofu," featuring fellow rising star Danny Brown.
It's unlikely that anyone was lit up on Christmas morning more than Smoke DZA, the affiliate of Curren$y's Jets Crew, who dropped his new EP without any advance promo. The result is even more of a welcome surprise, with nine ultra-mellow, sun and spliff-lit grooves featuring the likes of Odd Future's Domo Genesis, A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and Action Bronson. There's even a beat heisted from the likes of L.A.'s own Flying Lotus. Recommended for anyone who likes their Christmas the way they like their ham: heavily smoked.
Over the last decade, Fabolous has maintained an enviable consistency. You know what you're getting when you download a F-A-B-O mixtape: slick-talking punchline rap, guest spots from the Lox and talk of crime and luxury goods. His latest is little different.
Photo: Clams Casino Instrumentals cover