The process of making a mixtape must be strenuous. Between getting enough star power and putting one's own crew on, it is quite a task. Throw in various "exclusive" freestyles, and the average mixtape is upwards of twenty-five tracks. Also, in a very competitive field, only the people who can pull in the hot names survive. With artists like Clue and Kay Slay making their fame in the streets this way, the mixtape has evolved into quite a phenomenon.
Over time, there is a formula that these DJs have fallen into. There have always been the "new! exclusive!" shouts before each track, and freestyles are found in abundance on most tapes. In addition, because of the fact that most are just trying to move units, there is often a distinct lack of originality. Despite this, the mixtape is the medium many people turn to for new music.
DJ A-Beats and DJ Lynch's "Street Hop" claims to be "the mixtape of champions." They have the personnel to back it up as well. Kanye West, Cam'ron, Beanie Sigel, Nas, and M.O.P. make appearances. Even underground staples such as Jean Grae and Slum Village are featured. The names are here, but that doesn't just magically produce a great collection. The artists featured have to bring the heat, or it is just an empty promise.
The disc starts off right with "Food" by newcomer Graph, who also hosts the tape. "Too Hood," by Jin and Kanye West, follows. With Kanye's name attached to it, especially in the production credits, you know it's gonna be hot. Of course, this one doesn't disappoint. A groovy beat and catchy hook make it a standout.
There is no shortage of notable tracks on this mix, which runs 32 cuts deep. Jean Grae brings a refreshingly conversational flow to "Don't Rush Me," produced by 9th Wonder, and her lamenting makes it worthy of a look. A couple of M.O.P. joints pick up where "Warriorz" left off, and will leave their fans fiending for the new one. Masta Ace's contribution, "Beautiful," lives up to its name, with the Juice Crew alum spitting over a wonderful beat:
"I got a lot to say
usually my smile stay locked away
but not today, I have to laugh
on the real my Aftermath's kinda ill like I'm Dr. Dre
sometimes I run to the club and get faded
it's funny how you get jaded
I just hate it
but the song gives a different kind of feeling
it's a new kind of dealing
it's a special kind of feeling"
Due to their encompassing nature, on any mixtape, there will also be plenty of music you just aren't feeling. There is lots of it here as well. Beanie Sigel and Cam'ron contribute a lifeless collabo with "Dead or Alive." The production, flipping another of those trendy high-pitched samples, is actually interesting. The emcees, though, just don't have anything interesting to say. The combination of the two monotonous flows is just plain dull.
The same fate befalls Slum Village's "Reunion," as the staggered, lurching beat doesn't really fit any of their styles. This is surprising considering their penchant for understated grooves. Similarly, "Thief's Theme" is vintage Nas from a lyrical standpoint, but the track doesn't really fit his style, and is also painfully short.
Most of the rest of the 32 tracks are either nondescript freestyles or mediocre song snippets. Save a standout here and there (Skills' "Take it Back"), much of the tape serves only to pass the time between the gems. It should be noted that spoken intros accompany most of the songs, in place of the shouting normally seen on mixtapes. While irritating in its own special way, this is a welcome change from the abrasiveness of the mixtape DJ's typical noisy advertising.
DJ Lynch and DJ A-Beats have crafted a tape that while not outstanding is worth a look. There is a focus on underground artists, which provides the album with a musical integrity that is lost on other mixes. Masta Ace and Jean Grae's contributions, at the very least, should be heard. In addition, there is far too much music to absorb in one listen, which adds to the replay value. There is a lot to wade through, but what you find will be rewarding. While maybe not the "mixtape of champions" that they claim, this isn't a bad way to start out your day.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: June 1, 2004