The art of mixtape engineering is slightly out of place in the world of hip-hop. The skill that is actually involved in the creation of exclusive mixtapes is always secondary to the gathering of willing artists. After all, though a DJ’s name is plastered all over his mixtape, the names appearing within are almost always the unit movers. Because of this, industry connections can easily mean as much as visible skill on the turntables. As long as the scratching and blending isn’t downright sloppy, the focus of any mixtape lies completely in the personnel assembled. Quantity is nearly as important as quality in this circumstance.
Having said all that, let me subject you to a few of the names featured on DJ Juice’s “Hip-Hop Mixtape Vol. 15.” Bun B, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Mannie Fresh, Slim Thug, Cassidy, The Game, DMX, 50 Cent, David Banner, and Fat Joe are among the artists that make appearances. Throw in a guest hosting gig from Twista and the Speedknot Mobstas and the track listing of twenty nine songs is absolutely stuffed with star power. Most of this material has become available in the past, and current favorites such as Slim Thug’s “I Ain’t Heard of That (remix)” receive attention. In fact, anyone who has been watching TV or listening to the radio regularly will recognize at least a handful of the tracks compiled here, if not more. Boyz N Da Hood provide their hit “Dem Boyz,” and Mike Jones comes through with “Back Then.” Mannie Fresh and Young Jeezy’s duet “And Then What” and the “I’m a Hustla Remix” from Cassidy and Mary J. Blige have also been burning up the airwaves. For those not quite as acquainted with the commercial state of hip-hop, especially the South, this mixtape is perfect.
The freestyles, an ancient staple of the mixtape, only serve to clutter the already packed album, and there are no big names rocking on the freestyle tracks. The album belongs to the full songs, because there are about twenty legitimate singles that are featured. The subtitle of the tape is “From the Chi to the Bay,” referencing Twista and DJ Juice’s heritage, but most of the artists hail from the South. Houston receives heavy attention, with Mike Jones popping up three times and Paul Wall twice in addition to Slim Thug and Bun B.
Webbie and Bun B’s “Give Me That” opens the album strongly with a buttery beat reminiscent of “I Got 5 On It.” By Paul Wall’s “Sittin’ Sidewayz,” the lack of lyrical dexterity might begin to wear, but each cut is so energetic and funky that only the most discriminating listener will mind. Only a few songs disappoint, the first of which is “Highbeams” by Stat Quo featuring The Game, which simply cannot get off the ground with a plodding beat. The short running time prevents any forward motion from taking place. DMX’s return, “Give Them What They Want” suffers from his typical barking without any real bite, and the production is remarkably simplistic. Tony Yayo and 50 Cent provide no real thrills with “So Seductive,” which appears to suffer from assembly-line syndrome down at the G-Unit factory.
The expanse of nearly thirty tracks expectedly reveals some gold beneath it all as well. Bishop Lamont’s “New West Order” is fueled by someone’s very best Dre impression, and the shit seriously thumps. Lamont isn’t a slouch on the mic either, and the song as a whole is an instant rewind. David Banner’s new one, “Play,” should get just that throughout the nation when some buzz gets behind it. Aside from these, there are plenty of nice cuts to be found, but on a disc of such encompassing length they are lost in a jumble. When purchasing a mixtape, a coherent collection of songs is less desirable than a mass of slamming music, and DJ Juice provides this amply. Plenty of cuts could have been left off, especially the exclusive freestyles, but for the most part, he does it right. The blends are rather inconspicuous, although a few too many songs are begun with the end of the previous track. Both Juice and the SpeedKnot Mobstaz play the background instead of shouting up a storm, so there are no complaints there. To a mixtape fan, this is a must, and for those of us who generally stay away, it’s worth a look as well. Both sides will be pleased, because the quality and the quantity are both plentiful.