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Fire Starter: Mouse
When the Trill Fam tapped Mouse a few years ago to be the label's in-house producer, it didn't know it'd be getting its own Mannie Fresh. But Mouse had been studying the onetime Cash Money producer since he and rapper Webbie were high school classmates in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It wasn't until Mouse stumbled onto a Casio keyboard at a friend's house that he turned to making beats. He then switched up to a Triton and started knocking out Webbie's breakout tracks "Bad B---h" and "Give Me That." Now, with the "Wipe Me Down" remix in heavy rotation, Mouse has his hands on a ton of projects, including albums by his group 3 Deep (with Lil Phat and Shell). He's also getting into the studio with Juvenile. "Right now, that's what I'm really excited [about]," Mouse said. "But I'm trying to work with a lot of people, anybody."


Mixtape Monday: Gucci Mane Shrugs Off Feud With Young Jeezy; Akon Spits Again

— by Shaheem Reid and Jayson Rodriguez

Collaborators: Kardinal Offishall and Clinton Sparks

Representing: Toronto and Boston, respectively

Mixtape: Do the Right Thing

411: With the second-place Blue Jays hoping to catch their rivals the Red Sox for first place in the American League East this baseball season, chances are Kardinal Offishal and Clinton Sparks are the only people from Toronto and Boston you're going to see acting friendly toward each other this summer.

The two, who go way back, just dropped this new street CD. Kardi, as you know, is highly respected in the backpack hip-hop scene — he's shown he can rap, do the reggae-chatting thing and even carry a tune or two. Akon loves his versatility and has said Offishall will be a star. The Canada native has actually been inked to Konvict Muzik for the past year and a half, and plans to put out his next LP, Not for Sale, this winter. But don't expect Kardi to change his steez too much.

"As far as creativity, my culture, there's no price tag that can be put on me," Offishall said. "No amount of money thus far is enough to make me do some bullsh-- to try and get a #1 hit or get across to the masses. The people that inspired me and my life are people like Bob Marley, KRS-One, Peter Tosh. You can't put a price tag on the feeling you get from these people. Hopefully I can produce that feeling for hip-hop fans around the world."

Kardi and Akon met through a mutual friend when 'Kon got his record deal with SRC/Universal in 2004, and they've been tight ever since. So tight that 'Kon actually ended his decade-plus hiatus from rapping to give Offishall his first bars since he was a teen. The acclaimed singer throws on his MC hat for a record called "Graveyard Shift" that you'll hear on the mixtape.

Offishall, who says he has aspirations of being the "Michael Jordan" of the Konvict Muzik team (at least on the hip-hop/reggae side), has enlisted the multiplatinum 'Kon, as well as T-Pain, to collaborate with him on new material. He's also tracked songs with Lil Wayne and Rihanna, who he also knew before she had a record deal. But before you purists start complaining about all the cameos, Kardi says he's not sure yet which tracks will make the cut on Not for Sale.

"There's a bunch of things, but we'll see what happens at the end of the day," he told Mixtape Monday. "I don't want to sacrifice the flow of the album."

Joints To Check For:

  • "Graveyard Shift" (featuring Akon). "That's actually the first single off the album," Kardinal explained. "We just put that one on the mixtape [at the] last minute. " 'Kon has not rapped like that since high school. That's the first time you gonna hear him get to it and get busy with his 16 [bars] unless you went to high school with him.

    "That 'Graveyard' joint I had since last year," he continued. "We knew it was a monster, and 'Kon's like me — he only works when the vibe is there. If the vibe ain't there, he's not trying to force it or pretend. One day we were on the tour bus after one of the shows. He came and brought the beat up and started getting into a flow. Next thing I know, he's just spitting. Within 10 minutes, he wrote it and spit it one time. I was like, 'You're killing me right now.' "

  • "How I Could Just Kill a Man" (freestyle). "I wrote that on a beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica," the mayor of Toronto detailed. "A lot of the beats you're gonna hear on the mixtape is stuff I grew up with. That joint in particular, we used to have this [club night] in T-Dot called 'Live at the BBQ.' That was strictly hip-hop, sort of like Saint Andrews Hall in Detroit-type of vibe. And that song in particular [Cypress Hill's 'How I Could Just Kill a Man'] used to give me chills every time I heard it."

  • "Rappers Are Still in Danger" (featuring Little Brother). "That whole collab came together 'cause I rocked with them on a mixtape they did with Mick Boogie earlier this year," Kardi explained. "When I was going through beats Clinton sent to me, I called them immediately, like, 'Yo, we gotta rock with this.' I felt rappers are in danger because it's too many street cats that are rhyming and not concerned with rapping or being MCs.

    "To me, rappers are in danger," he added. "Witnessing that Oprah mess when she had a very small minority of the hip-hop community trying to defend the whole damn culture — after watching that, I had to do it. As you can check in the verse, I had to bring it to Oprah, the chicks from Spelman [College], the whole nine. To me and a lot of other people that love hip-hop, it was one-sided. They tried to string us up that day."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week
  • Tapemasters Inc. - Welcome to Brooklyn
  • Big Mike and the Empire - The Drought Is Over 3
  • DJ Blazita - Sex & the City
  • DG Yola - Through the Wire

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar
  • Gym Class Heroes (featuring Lil Wayne) - "Viva la White Girl" remix
  • Baby (featuring Lil Wayne) - "Championship Battles"
  • N.O.R.E. and Styles P - "Sour Diesel"
  • 50 Cent - "I Get Money"
  • DJ Felli Fel (featuring Three 6 Mafia) - "We Got Da Club"
  • DJ Felli Fel (featuring Diddy, Ludacris, Akon and Lil Jon) - "Get Buck in Here"
  • Busta Rhymes (featuring Swizz Beatz) - "Watch Your Mouth"
  • Robin Thicke (featuring Stat Quo) - "Cocaine" remix

Celebrity Faves

  Tony Rock
For comedian/actor Tony Rock, home is where the Hov is. Chris' younger brother has been on the road all summer doing standup, but when he stopped in his hometown of New York over the weekend to perform at the Gotham Comedy Club, he said he made sure to listen to his fair share of Jay-Z, something the Brooklyn, New York, native said he misses while on tour.

"It's just good to hear Jay on anything. I'm still feeling him," Rock said. "I'm still in the New York state of mind. I've been on tour the whole summer. And people are always like, 'New York lost it,' or whatever. But people are really making me hate every other type of rap music. 'Cause I was in Atlanta a whole month and didn't hear no New York rap on radio. So they turning me into a region hater! It's like, I want to hear everybody else's stuff. I like Huey and 'Pop, Lock and Drop It.' And I like Lil Wayne's stuff, of course. And I like the stuff coming out of Cali. But when I'm in these different cities, I don't hear no New York rap. So when I go home, I'm bumping nothing but Jay. The joint with him and T.I. ['Watch What You Say to Me'] is crazy. The joint with him and Fabolous, the 'Brooklyn' song — you know I'm a Brooklyn cat, I got to feel that one. I would say Jay is hotter now than he's been in a minute."

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

  Gucci Mane
They say what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, and these days, Gucci Mane looks like he's on steroids. The Atlanta rapper put in time behind bars for a parole violation stemming from an assault case he caught after a run-in with a club promoter. And he also faced a murder rap after a shooting that he claimed was in self-defense. Now, finally free of all his troubles, Gucci is a wanted man for different reasons — he recently inked a deal with Atlantic/Asylum, and Jimmy Henchman's Czar Entertainment is partnering with him to launch his So Icey Records.

"We run the company together, me and my management," Gucci said. "But Czar, they coming with a partnership on my production side, they helping me get big, big features on my album and placements, man. I appreciate them for that; they ain't have to do it like that, but they did. I reached out to them and they reached back."

One feature they didn't need to help out with is Gucci's single, the remix of "Freaky Girl." Ludacris heard the original record and asked to be down on the new version. The two recently shot a video over the weekend for the track, which is set to be the lead single to Gucci's Back to the Trap House. The album is due in about two months, according to Gucci, and thanks to Luda, the scheduled official single, "Bird Flu," will now follow up "Freaky Girl."

But wrapping up the album seems to be the only issue Gucci has to deal with these days. He said things have cooled down between him and Young Jeezy — that beef is old news now.

"I wouldn't even know how to describe that," he said. "I don't even see that guy here. We don't ever bump into each other. Tension would be like if it was stored, something won't go on ... there'll be no incident between me and him."

In the meantime, Gucci is putting together the So Icey Boys, a group featuring himself, OJ, Courtney Money and DG Yola. The project should get some legs after Trap House.

"We just gonna go as hard as we can," Gucci said. "We're like the four horsemen." ...

  Keith Murray
Saying Keith Murray is happy to be putting out his Koch Records debut on July 31 wouldn't exactly be the mother of all understatements, but it doesn't quite capture the Long Island, New York, veteran's joy.

"I'm f---ing elated," he said last week in Manhattan. "I need a hot run."

It's been almost a half-decade since Murray's last LP, He's Keith Murray, but it might feel like even longer due to the fact that Murray got released from the label that issued the disc, Def Jam, in the wake of a physical altercation with two of the label's employees. (He had signed with the label shortly after serving more than three years in jail for assault.) This happened near the eve of the album's release — obviously the project came and went with really no backing from the record company.

While recording He's Keith Murray, the "Lyrical Lexicon" of the Def Squad also found himself in quite a quagmire because he says the house that Russell built wanted him to take his music in a more commercial direction, à la the disastrous only single from the LP, "Candy Bar."

"People be like, 'Where you been at for four years?' " he said. "I be like, 'Damn, it's been four years?' I had to go through a mental process with Erick [Sermon] to get to the physical process where we are now. I had to go back to the proper elements that created us. My last situation was undesirable. I had to erase that — which took some time — to get back to the mental elements that created us. I listened to [his 1996 album] Enigma, listened to [his 1994 debut] The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World ... listened to the Redman albums.

"This album didn't take me four years [to record]," he continued about Rapp-Murr-Phobia, which is due July 31. "What took me four years was to get my mind in the proper perspective to come out right. My heart is in this album — I know n---as is gonna love it, so do it right. Sit down and take time and do it right."

Murray says he and Erick Sermon — who's always produced the majority of his records — spent six months just talking about the blueprint for the project. Once they began recording, they took it slowly, step by step.

"We sat down and made it from high-hat to kick to snare to subjects to words to sentences to paragraph, from scratch," he said. "E only used two samples on this album, 'cause you know Koch ain't paying for samples. So it brought the best out of us. I work best with my back against the wall, like, 'This has to pop. This has to be ferocious, so when a mutha----a picks it up, they'll love us.' I wasn't comfortable with $2 million, then [the album] fades. This has to be potent, this has to be what they love me for. So I did homework on myself."

And for whoever needed to brush up on their Keith Murray history, he outlines his career highs — from touring with R. Kelly to making guest appearances with the Bad Boy family and LL Cool J — like a syllabus on the album's first single, "Nobody Do It Better," which features Tyrese.

" 'When I flow, there's no one def-er, make you do the ugly face like Lamont's Aunt Esther,' " he said, reciting some of his lyrics.

"This is a no-brainer," he added of the LP. "I just want people to know Murray is out on July 31 and he got some sh-- that's gonna bump. People be like, 'Yo, Murray, bring that real sh—- back.' I'm bringing it back — now go buy the sh--." ...

The Clipse just wrapped a month-long tour throughout Europe, but now that they're back on U.S. soil, don't expect the brothers Thornton to start relaxing. According to Pusha-T, he and Malice will be busy wrapping up volume three of their mixtape series We Got It 4 Cheap along with the rest of the Re-Up Gang.

"We're right in the final stages [of finishing the mixtape]," Push said. "The only thing that slowed us up is the road. This [past] album [2006's Hell Hath No Fury] was definitely our baby. So what was lacking in major promotion or whatever, we wanted to cover that in the streets, we wanted to cover that in our show. Get in the nooks and crannies of everything. If we not touching the masses, we really wanted to touch our fans. So we really dedicated ourselves to touring."

Push said to expect more of the same on We Got It 4 Cheap: Vol. 3. But instead of being conceptual with throwback beats, or up-to-date with the latest beats — like they did on past efforts — Push said the new one will be strictly about competition.

"We just think we're better and that's all it's about," he explained. "It's about everybody who thinks they the best — we think we're better. And I'm talking about as a collective ... you can put us against whatever four, we're better."

While the fellas are still figuring out whether their next official album will come out on Jive or if they'll move on to another label, they're getting plans together with the Neptunes to start on the follow-up to Hell Hath No Fury. Push said the project is still in the very beginning stages, but he and his brother are gonna travel down to Miami to start going over ideas with Pharrell.

"We trying to find another direction," Push said. "[We'll] go down there and play with the sounds, honestly. We had a long talk, me and P, a couple weeks ago. And we just decided we're gonna lock it with the go-to beats and try to find something new. This next album, we're really, really trying to take it there. Like creatively, just take it ... there and totally reinvent East Coast, fly, drug dealer, club music. I want people to be able to bop to my sh-- as well as spin my sh--.

"I would want to drop the single in '07 sometime," he added, with the album to follow at the top of 2008. "But that's just in a perfect world."

In the meantime, catch the Clipse on a few upcoming projects from Star Trak, like albums by Fam-Lay and Rosco P. Coldchain.

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.

For a full-length feature on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines

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Photo: MTV News

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