There was a time when the best place to hear new music was Hot 97, when the sound of bombs going off would signal a song debuting across the city. But if anyone wanted those songs for themselves, they’d have to buy a whole damn album or sit around and wait until it came on the radio again. Yes, these were dark days indeed.
Until knights in shiny faux-velour Coogi sweats rode in to save the day. They were called mixtape DJs, and they offered collections of hard-to-find songs and mixes. They were awesome humanitarians snubbed from Nobel consideration due to dirty politics. But the Internet, like it tends to do to great things, basically killed that whole operation. Now, the iPod has made the mixtape an endlessly personal idea, blogs have songs the minute they’re released, and Funkmaster Flex and DJ Clue are fighting like starving hyenas over scraps for the chance to “debut” a song on live radio.
Some DJs, though, still have enough restraint to hold on to a few gems long enough and turn them into a full-on compilation of quality unreleased music. Mick Boogie is one of the best of the remaining traditional mixtape DJs, and his latest, Represent The Stripes, is a hip-hop ode to the U.S. Olympic team. I’m not quite sure exactly how the collection as a whole ties into the Olympics, but if Mick Boogie says it does, then it does. Here are the songs that would best go along with cheering on the country’s pole-vaulters and handballers.
1. OnCue, “Represent”
When it comes to ballsy moves that rappers can make, there’s not one much closer to the top of the list than tackling a beat from one of the greatest rap albums of all time. But that’s exactly what OnCue does on this track, where he spits over an interpolation of “Represent” from Nas’ Illmatic. Producer Chi Duly does his part to flip the beat enough to make it discernable from the Nas original, while Cue uses his moment to show off his charismatic flow. Bonus points: he also namedropped Dragonball Z‘s Goku. That’s always a win.
2. Action Bronson, “Midget Cough”
The rap game Bam Bam Bigelow is easily one of the most entertaining entities in hip-hop right now. It’s pretty clear that he’s the second coming of Supreme Clientele-era Ghostface with a few dashes of Emeril Lagasse thrown in. Bronson’s project with Party Supplies from earlier this year is a rap tour de force, and this track from the cutting-room floor is a gem. As only he can, Action pairs raps about sauces for sautéing rabbit with braggadocio lyrics about car seats that are “softer than a midget cough.” At least we get a few Olympic references for posterity’s sake.
3. Troy Ave, “I Know Why You Mad”
Mark these words: there’s a chart-topping hit in Troy Ave’s future. He’s just that good at whipping together unforgettably catchy hooks. The should-be-a-smash “I Know Why You Mad” is highlighted by the proclamation that “yo daddy ain’t shit, you ain’t gonna be shit.” Ouch. (One can only hope that the USA Curling team got its hand on this track and screamed that hook in Denmark’s direction.) Troy Ave has had a big 2012, releasing a barrage of hood anthems that place one foot firmly in the traditional NY school of grimy hip-hop and the other in Atlanta’s trap houses, and being one of the few MCs who can stay true to his roots while appealing to the masses.
4. Rilgood, “NY Times”
There’s probably a joke somewhere here about how the song called “NY Times” should offer the first 30 seconds for free before making listeners pay to hear the rest. The horns on this track damn near steal the show, offering a silky smooth backdrop for Rilgood to pour his story onto. As he raps, name-dropping each borough and every corner of the city, Rilgood comes off like a paperboy tossing raps onto every welcome mat in the Big Apple.
5. Iman Shumpert, “My Adidas”
Yes, that Iman Shumpert. Between Amar’e Stoudemire’s finals fashion choices, the Jeremy Lin fiasco, and Jason Kidd’s joyriding, the Knicks have had a horrible offseason. The last thing they need is their second-year blue chipper entering the annals of horribly failed ballers-turned-rappers the NBA has had to offer over the years. (FYI: Kobe Bryant was the worst by far.) Thankfully, Shumpert holds his own; he doesn’t try to overstep his talent, instead floating over the classic Run DMC track with a tribute to his favorite kicks. Nothing offensive about that. Shumpert won’t necessarily wow rap fans, but spitting a few bars without embarrassment is a definite win for an NBA player.