Name: DJ Envy
Mixtape: Blast Off Part 1
Hometown: Queens, New York
Joints to check for: "Fly" by 213, a Freeway freestyle, the "Love & Life" intro by Mary J. Blige featuring Jay-Z and P. Diddy, and "All for Sale" by the A-Team featuring 50 Cent.
Previous mixtapes: Write the Check, Something Like a Rapper
The 411: DJ Envy might have the new formula: If you don't have 20-plus tracks of bangers, there's no need to load your mixtape up with filler. Envy's Blast Off, a lean 14 tracks, is concise and full of heat.
Leading off is Alicia Keys' Big Apple anthem, "Streets of N.Y.," which uses the beat from Nas' classic Illmatic cut "N.Y. State of Mind." As much as the streets will love Keys' tune, it's almost criminal that her two guest stars, Nas and Rakim, didn't have the foresight to team up on a track before this. We've only been waiting 10 years! Nonetheless, God's Son and the MC considered a microphone god by rap disciples have finally come together, rhyming their abstract poetics with a sense of urgency.
"Musician, inflicting compositions of pain/ I'm like Saddam Hussein/ Still alive, looking at his dead children's burnt remains," Nas ruthlessly raps. "I burned the game, learned you lames a new lesson/ Your crew's soft, man/ Y'all need some new weapons."
Rakim follows Nas, mixing feelings of hope and oppression: "Mind stressing, trying to find direction/ Crime spreading, time's precious/ I ain't had rest since 9-11/ I live fast, hustle like today is my last."
Even though Keys' jazzy flow — "It's like a jungle out here/ Too much struggle out here .../ Always feels like a race against Father Time in those streets of New York" — is as smooth as ever, you almost wish the two mic legends were left alone to just rap.
On the other hand, rap's most sought-after guest crooner, Nate Dogg, steals the show on 213's "Fly." The trio, which also includes Snoop Dogg and Warren G, jack Monica's "So Gone" beat, giving Nate the perfect throwback soulful backdrop for admission of relationship foul play.
"Riding in my car," Nate belts, "and I'm listening to the radio/ I'm listening to sad girl sing about how she got her heart broke ... / She let me play with her heart/ I'm working late, I said I'll soon be home/ All the while the girl was home alone/ Let me tell you what she's crying for, 'cause I'm fly."
50 Cent will never give a Nate a run for his money when it comes to crooning, but the leader of the G-Unit does use a sing-song flow on the hook for "All for Sale." Newcomers the A-Team continue to generate buzz, this time rapping about dealing arms, some with firepower similar to Jesse "The Body" Ventura's gun in "Predator."
Name: DJ Whoo Kid
Mixtape: G-Unit Radio Part Three: Takin' It to the Streets
Hometown: Queens, New York
Joints to check for: "Sleep" by Tupac; "Move" by 50 Cent featuring Lloyd Banks; "So Wrong" by Young Buck, Snoop Dogg and Lil' Flip; "D--- Will Do" by Lloyd Banks, Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes; and "Fall Back" by Whoo Kid featuring Brandy, Lloyd Banks and Fabolous.
Previous mixtapes: G-Unit Radio Part I and II
The 411: It seems like a Mixtape Monday doesn't go by with 50 Cent getting his name mentioned in some way. Despite being on tour for the past eight months, the G-Unit's captain has maintained his presence on the streets. His DJ, Whoo Kid, has put together a compilation of exclusives he's been keeping as well as songs that have already hit the streets.
Whoo Kid has one up on some of his DJ contemporaries like Clue and Kay Slay because he's actually on the Rock the Mic tour. So when rappers on the roster get together and make music, "Whoooo Kiiiiid" is the first one to get his hands on the material.
Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Lloyd Banks ride Lil Jon's "Play No Games" track for the X-rated "D--- Will Do." Here the three try to make girls they're having flings with come to grips with the harsh reality that they are through sharing their bodies with the ladies. Snoop laughs about a lady who's flying around the world "trying to find a pimp" while Busta threatens to take out a restraining order against a groupie.
Later Brandy is the one fending off people trying to smother her on "Fall Back." She tells the gossip hounds, "Fall back, I'm trying to breathe and you're killing me/ I understand that your feeling me, I ain't got an attitude/ But I'mma flip if you don't give me room to move." When that doesn't work, she starts throwing in harsher language asking, "What the f---?"
50 Cent isn't too pleased with some of the chitter chatter going on about him, either. When he isn't rapping on the mixtape, he's talking smack, dissing The Source magazine and New York radio personality Wendy Williams. Mixtape co-host LeBron James, meanwhile, sticks mostly to shout-outs.
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."