DJ Red :: Grippin Tha Mitten :: Self Made Recordings
as reviewed by William Ketchum III

Mixtape DJ's have a lot of tasks to handle with their releases these days. The streets depend on big-name DJs such as Clue, KaySlay and Flex to supply them with the latest hits from the most popular (or notorious) artists. Record labels that house these DJs look to get publicity for their other artists on the DJs' releases, and no-name artists are constantly trying to land spots on these mixtapes in hopes of the right people hearing their skills. With qualities like these determining a DJ's success, it can bear as difficult for lesser-known DJs to make a name for themselves: the most popular artists are naturally going to go to the most popular DJs to get their records played, and this can constrain DJs—and their music—to their central locations.

Saginaw, MI's DJ Red doesn't seem to have a problem with getting known artists to make appearances on his latest mixtape, "Red Carpet Mission 3: Grippen The Mitten." Universal/Motown's Dina Rae and Shady Records own Swifty McVay (of D12) offer the fluffy "Shoot A Move," and Paradime and Guilty Simpson murder the beat to Pharaohe Monch's "Agent Orange" on "Rap Faggots." Whether it's MC Breed's signature raspy voice on the trunk-rattling "Rap Game," Detroit underground mainstay J. Hill's rowdy street anthem "Nocca" featuring D12's Proof (from J. Hill's criminally slept on "They Want Street Fame!" album), or a surprisingly accessible Esham on "Woo Woo Woo," Red shows that he's got clout in the mitten without overpowering the disc with appearances by Billboard dweller

Red gives his fellow Saginawians a chance to shine as well. Self Made Recordings labelmate Tornatik gets "Nasty" over a slinky, haunting beat, and hometown favorites 1st Dagree teams up with Royce Da 5'9" on the underground banger "Get My Paper." The label's franchise player Astray makes the most of his appearances on the disc, teaming up with Tornatik for the club-friendly "There U Go" and displaying a double-time flow that even rivals Twista's on "PaperChasin," with JaDy. Red even shows his own mic skills on the title track intro and the album-ending "Real."

Lesser-known artists also make notable appearances on the disc. Raz narrates street tales over brash violins and thumping bass on "I Aint Tryin," and Lil Pimp and Chilae tell listeners that "Life's So Hard" to melancholy piano keys. "On Tha Run" lets Young Black and Bootleg of TDF show their rhyming skills, True Budd makes a hometown anthem with "Sag Naw," and Trick Trick brings west coast flavor on "My Name Is."

The disc is a big accomplishment for DJ Red though. Along with covering all of the points that a DJ is supposed to deal with, Red also arranged 21 tracks (not including an 18-second drop by D12's Proof) by mostly different artists in a manner that the mixtape that plays surprisingly well. With "Red Carpet Mission 3: Grippen The Mitten," Red shows that he can hang with the "big boys."

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: June 22, 2004