For me personally, there is a considerable difference between listening to hip-hop as a background track, whether it’s at the gym or on the way to class, and listening while giving my full focus to the song or album. In the case of the former, I often find myself simply nodding along to the track, as long as the beat has some bounce to it and the emcee has a strong delivery. If my undivided attention is on the music, though, I dig deeper and focus more on the lyrics themselves, picking up wordplay that I would otherwise miss with a casual listen. This also makes it easier to distinguish between the artists that merely sound good over the track and artists who are true lyricists, and such is the case with Louie Gonz on his latest mixtape “Extras 3.” After a quick listen through, Louie seems to hold his own on the mic, but a more careful examination reveals that, although there are a handful of standout tracks, his smooth flow overshadows the fact that he fails to really bring anything new to the table in terms of lyricism.
Upon first glance, “Extras 3” may seem like a mixtape that’s too long for its own good. Of the 26 tracks, though, only five of them are more than three minutes long, and the mixtape in total clocks in at just under an hour. Although “Extras 3” sees Louie flow over a number of instrumentals borrowed from other artists, many of the lengthier songs are produced specifically for the mixtape and feature a majority of the guest appearances. The standout track from this bunch is “Repeat,” which sees Louie call out fake emcees who populate the hip-hop game today over a simple guitar pluck, as he spits the opening lines:
“Same scenario, it’s just a different day
About a rapper who keeps on acting and how they pushin’ weight
Okay, so lemme get this straight
No subject matter in your tracks, just get the cake”
After recycling the same idea on “Stay True to Yourself,” where Louie once again criticizes artists who falsely claim to represent the streets, he rebounds on the self-produced “Mama I Love You,” which features a soothing vocal sample and light piano keys. Although it’s one of the shortest tracks on the mixtape, Louie still spits an emotion-filled verse, rapping:
“You been strong since day one
As soon as that kid comes
I’ll buy you that house to escape from
The sadness you trapped in, ’cause you deserve the finer things
Nice car, nice clothes with the diamond rings”
The laid back feel of “Mama I Love You,” though, is not present on most of the other original tracks, which feature a more hardcore sound. Whether it’s the aggressive, driving bassline on “Oh Yeah,” the sparse but powerful piano keys on “Posse Cut,” or the violin strings over the heavy drum loop on “Triangle Offense,” there are a handful of tracks that fall under the subgenre of gangster-rap. While Louie manages to hold his own, his flow is better suited for some of the smoother tracks throughout the mixtape, and he is outshined on “Posse Cut” and “Triangle Offense” by guest artists Kas, Iron Bradyz, DJ Snips, Stryfe, and Fokis.
Just as the original songs are somewhat of a mixed bag, so are the tracks where Louie spits over borrowed instrumentals, as he seems to struggle in finding a balance between mainstream, club-oriented tracks and old-school flows. On “Remember the Name,” he spits over Miilkbone’s 1995 instrumental “Keep it Real,” and while he’s no Big L or Jay-Z (the two artists featured on the “7 Minute Freestyle” with the same beat), his straightforward delivery meshes with the soft piano keys. Underground hip-hop fans may recognize “Step Up” as the instrumental from the lead single on the Large Professor and Neek the Exotic 2011 collaboration album, as Louie spits “A true novelist, sanitize your mind from the garbage hits/Take you back to where they started this up in the projects kid.” Then, there’s the uplifting jazzy feel of “Follow Your Dreams,” which sees Louie take a more contemplative look at his life, rapping:
“I’m tryin’ to live my life and start a family
The man is who I plan to be without losin’ my sanity
Smokin’ on a gram got me higher than a canopy
Floatin’ in the sky take a ride where all the planets be”
For every quality track, though, there is another subpar performance to bring “Extras 3” back down to earth, and Louie seems to run out of material by the end of the mixtape. For an artist who claims to represent real hip-hop, there are a fair share of songs that have materialistic lyrics and a mainstream feel, such as “I’mma BoSS,” “The Motto,” and, most of all, “Chain Music.” While he still maintains the steady flow and confident delivery that is present throughout the mixtape, I lost some respect for his lyricism after hearing the repetitive chorus of “chain so big I can’t pop my collar.” There are certainly several tracks worth checking out on “Extras 3,” both original songs and remixes, but top to bottom, there isn’t much in the way of replay value. The lyrical content grows stale after a few listens though, and when you take into account that over half the instrumentals are borrowed, “Extras 3” lacks the depth to make it anything more than an average mixtape.