The Weeknd


Given its title, I couldn’t resist spending today’s post on The Weeknd’s amazing new mixtape, Thursday. While a few other blogs could very well be doing the same thing today, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say few of them can claim the following fun fact: The very first You Hear That post was about The Weeknd’s first mixtape, House of Balloons. It’s true — hearing that album made me get off my blogger laurels and start writing about music. Clearly House of Balloons struck some inspirational chord for me, but when I stop to think about it, that connection is somewhat bizarre. The dark vignettes that Abel Tesfaye’s songs sketch are genuinely creepy to me, and R&B has never been my wheelhouse. So why am I drawn to his music? What does it meeeean?!? I think the connection may stem from the fact that The Weeknd’s creepiness seems profoundly honest to me. So many artists glorify the drug-addled club scene, but songs like “Life of the Party” make it sound as scary as it probably is in real life. Can you imagine listening to these songs while performing the acts they describe? Wouldn’t that be wildly depressing? I don’t mean to suggest he makes public service announcements, just that he’s the documentarian of something that people normally write fiction about. To me, that’s fascinating, and I can see why Drake was so quick to jump on Tesfaye’s bandwagon. Check out “Life of the Party” below, along with the rest of Thursday, and download the whole thing for free here.



Mixtape Week: Day 4. The Artist: Raaaaaaaandy. The Song: Aaaaaaaangry.”

How could I dedicate a week to mixtapes without throwing in a diss track? Insult-hurling songs are a time-honored mixtape tradition, and I can think of no better artist to kick off the weekend than Raaaaaaaandy (aka “Randy with eight As”), the Soulja Boy-inspired alter ego of one of my favorite comedians, Aziz Ansari. The character first appeared in the movie Funny People, and was so beloved that Ansari did a tour in character, performing raunchy stand-up with a backing DJ. But Raaaaaaaandy has a problem. He wants to release a mixtape, but can’t because none of his collaborators will send him their verses. So he does what any reasonable fictitious comedian/rapper would do – record a monster diss track. It’s called “Aaaaaaaangry” and takes a shot at pretty much every rapper in the game, from newcomers Kid Cudi and Drake to seasoned vets like Eminem and Wu Tang. He knocks Clipse for their clothing line, Dr. Dre for his line of headphones, and asks Jay-Z, “Did Coldplay have to wait this long?” Awwwwwwww shit – with eight Ws! Give a listen to “Aaaaaaaangry,” and if you haven’t seen clips of Raaaaaaaandy’s standup, I highly recommend checking a few out (all are NotevenclosetoSFW).


Covert Coup

Mixtape Week: Day 3. The Artist: Curren$y. The Tape: Covert Coup.

It’s easy to see why people would be so confused about how to classify Covert Coup, the most recent offering from New Orleans rapper Curren$y. He called it an EP, and at just 28 minutes, that seems plausible. Then again, it was free, so it’s understandable why people would call it a mixtape. But it’s so damn good, and is so packed with lyrical ingenuity, it feels more like a stripped-down version of a full-length, high quality studio album. My Hip Hop Advisory Committee (HHAC) Chairman and friend J Clyde was kind enough to clue me into this albumixtapEP, and I just couldn’t resist including it as an official part of Mixtape Week. Covert Coup was produced entirely by Alchemist, and it’s beats fit Curren$y’s characteristically laid back mood perfectly – quite an accomplishment, given the recording’s two-minute-a-song, rapid-fire format. My favorite of the tape’s quick hits (the quickest, at just 2:09) is “Success Is My Cologne,” but the longest track, “The Type,” provides the tape’s most memorable moment: an extended study of a single phrase from Outkast’s classic, “Skew It On The Bar-B.” Check it out below to feel the contemplative irony for yourself, and click here for a free download of this album-worthy mixtape.

The Very Best

Super Mom Mixtape

Mixtape Week: Day 2. The Artist: The Very Best. The Tape: Super Mom Mixtape.

What pops to mind when you think of Mother’s Day? 1-800-Flowers? Crowded brunches? Thoughtful cards with handwritten notes inside? WRONG! The right answer is, of course, mixtapes. To celebrate Mother’s Day 2011, The Very Best generously offered up the Super Mom Mixtape, a collection of 12 songs that are super fun, even if you yourself haven’t given birth to human children. Singer Esau Mwamwaya lends his crazy hypnotic voice to songs by Kanye West, Billy Idol, and Cee-Lo, among others, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that his vocals belong pretty much everywhere (sorry T. Pain, I think we should see other people). The tape also gives us two brand new songs, including the ridiculously catchy title track. My far-and-away favorite, however, is the “Africa to California Anthem,” in which producer Johan Hugo deftly takes the iconic sample from 2Pac’s classic, “California Love,” for an international joyride. From personal experience, this one is best enjoyed in the car, at full volume, with a single hand at 12 o’clock on the steering wheel. Check it out below and download the rest of the tape for free here. And don’t forget to send the link to your mom, especially if she likes LCD Soundsystem and 3-weeks-late Mother’s Day presents.


Road to Till the Casket Drops

Mixtape Week: Day 1. The Artist: Clipse. The Tape: Road to Till the Casket Drops.

If collaborations are the glue that holds the world of hip hop together, mixtapes are the solvent that throws everything back into chaos. Hastily produced, legally questionable and often free of cost, these pseudo-albums typically find rappers appropriating each others’ beats as they spit a few lines in an effort to build hype for upcoming projects. They’re also a great way to get a feel for rappers you haven’t heard before (or simply haven’t heard from in a while). The latter was the case when I first read on Pitchfork about Clipse’s mixtape, Road to Till the Casket Drops. I hadn’t been keeping up with the duo, which is comprised of Virginia-based artists Malice and Pusha T, but I took notice when they released this tape in December of 2008 to promote their Play Cloths clothing line and upcoming album. Highlights include a very tight track in “Addiction,” as well as two songs, “Swagga Like Us” and “Swing Ya Rag,” that borrow beats from T.I.’s commercially successful album Paper Trail. I’d say that both of Clipse’s renditions surpass the originals, but Jay-Z appears on the original version of “Swagga Like Us,” and I’m not about to anger the music gods by insulting the great H to the Izzo V to the Izzay. Let’s just say it’s an awesome mixtape and leave it at that. Check out Clipse’s version of “Swagga Like Us” and click here to download the rest.