Mic Check Vol. I

The rap world revolves at such a sickening pace, the rate at which new records are dropped is sure to turn even the most tough livered of listeners’ stomachs. Simply staying abreast of your favourite artists’ latest releases can be migraine-inducing, thanks in no small part to the internet – it being the weird, wild and heady place that it is; a loud, mad boom-box constantly blaring shiny new songs. We over here at Bonafide are all too happy to don our scrubs and white coats to fulfil our doctorly duties, abiding to the hip-hop take on the Hippocratic oath to prescribe a little something something for the pain.

Mic Check, our monthly round-up of the most notable and noteworthy mixtapes and free releases racking up the clicks, views and best reviews, is our antidote to all your suffering. Lay back, relax and cool out as we hook up a time- (if not life-) saving drip to your music-loving veins, ensuring you’re fighting fit and in tip-top shape as far as the latest cuts are concerned.This, ladies and gentlemen, is Mic Check. 1, 2. 1, 2.


Allan Kingdom – Northern Lights
Hitting the studio with ‘Ye must have felt like Training Day for young Allan Kingdom; the G.O.O.D Music impresario playing Denzel Washington to the up-and-coming rapper’s Ethan Hawke. The 22 year-old would have gained several years’ worth of know-how from just one recording session with the veteran Chicagoan – working on last year’s All Day. Having turned out a few notable performances over the course of his burgeoning career, the gifted emcee is on the verge of stardom, with Northern Lights likely his breakout record.

Just under 45 minutes long, Northern Lights showcases the Canadian emcee’s precociousness, with the craftsmanship of damn near every song on the record belying the rapper’s meagre years. The rookie writes like a vet, making songs like a wise old crooner rocking out in his rocking chair. Northern Lights is teeming with top-notch songs, the clever Disconnect and brilliant Renovate standing out.

The songs are all marked by a dreamy, hopeful quality; each song refreshingly upbeat in tone, subject matter and sheer effervescence. The very fact that Kingdom was born in Winnipeg, Canada to a South African father and Tanzanian mother – and grew up in Minnesota – probably speaks to his eclectic sound. “I’m overseas and put on for Africa, Canada, wherever,” he proudly declares on Interruption, showing off the adventurous range of a well-travelled man. Northern Lights sees the ambitious rapper taking several more strides on his journey to success, his compass pointing true north. Without a doubt, the only way is up.

Listen to Northern Lights here



Cozz – Nothin Personal
Young, hungry and determined to succeed, Cozz – from sunny L.A., is the most rambunctious steed in J Cole’s stable of promising acts, as his first ever mixtape, Nothin Personal, attests.

His is a style far rougher than any of his Dreamville label-mates; catering to fans of the more hardened and hardboiled variety of hip-hop. With his rugged wisecracks and slick rhymes about a life of hardship and struggle, he is something of a Californian Dave East – defiantly eschewing the game’s glitz and glamour in favour of a sound more gutter and gully.

Who Said – a gruff, uncompromising banger – bullies its way past several songs to top a sizeable list of hard, head-bopping records. The grimy song finds Cozz at his boisterous best, his sinister flow – aided by Meez’s villainous beat – lacing us with a bad ass song to turn up to; with cuts like City of God, Guiness and Wake Up Call very much in the same vein.

Offering some variety, Grey Goose is a fun, intoxicating boozer’s jam demonstrating Cozz is capable of partying and bullshiting with the best of them; his inebriated delivery, a slurry, drunk drawl, striking a strong resemblance to a Weezy or Young Thug chart topper. On the opposite end of the scale, Choice Today is more thoughtful and introspective, whilst Grow hints at a facility for storytelling.

Cozz shows us just about enough on these songs to suggest he’s a rapper worth keeping an eye on. Nothin Personal paints a deceptively intimate portrait of an intriguing artist as a young man, every rhyme and bar a striking brushstroke deserving of no small praise. A little more of Nothin would certainly be welcome.

Listen to Nothin Personal here



Curren$y – The Owners Manual
Curren$y – aka Spitta Andretti – is one of those matryoskhka musicians: the man might be cocky to the point of hilariousness – endearingly full of himself – but he is also full of surprises. A Jack-in-the-box rapper, the New Orleans native possesses an uncanny ability to pop up out of nowhere with some audio dope to have fans hooked and high on life as he raps it.

Arguably the most prolific emcee rhyming today, the 34-year-old rapper has once again joined forces with the popular production team, Cool & Dre, to deliver yet another surprise of a care package in the form of the six-song EP, The Owners Manual.

True to form, the rapper’s latest is a smooth lesson in flyness: a player’s ball of a listening experience to pop your collar to. The music here has all the cool and style of a blaxploitation movie; each track sounding like something right out of the Dolemite, Cotton Comes to Harlem or Black Caesar OST. Tracks like Sorry For The Wraith, Rain Stunts and Came Up leaving you feeling more and more like Shaft with every single listen.

Mallory Knox, a fine song typical of Curren$y’s soulful, R&B-influenced approach to stoner rap, captures the tone and spirit of much of the emcee’s best work. Flipping Midnight Star’s 80’s classic, Curious, the dope record is an atmospheric, easy-going listen, feeling like good times spent cooling out on a warm summer’s night – precisely the sort of material the rapper’s day one fans gravitate to.

Thankfully, for them, the gravitational pull of all six songs on The Owners Manual proves strong, with Spitta dropping his particular, enigmatic brand of science; physics doing its thing to ensure the rapper’s Stans are pleased.

Listen to The Owners Manual here



Wiz Khalifa – Cabin Fever 3
Long overdue and highly anticipated, Cabin Fever 3 is Wiz Khalifa’s thirteenth mixtape. With famous co-pilots like Juicy J, Curren$y, 2 Chainz and K Camp, Wiz takes for the skies once more, chasing familiar highs and heights with this, the third act of his popular trilogy of mile-high themed records.

As with the previous two Cabin Fever entries, Part 3 is all about life on cloud nine – the indulgence of youth, money, fame and success. It’s a celebration of everything a young, rebellious and happy-go-lucky millionaire could ever find worth celebrating, inviting us as listeners to join in the party.

Laced with 11 songs, CF3 is decked out with all the accoutrements of stoner rap, plumes of weed smoke practically slithering through the speakers when tracks like No Worries come on. The mixtape exhibits the slowed-down, laid-back flow of Khalifa’s hippie persona, the rapper laying down bars like he stole the Big Lebowski’s rhyme book; Wiz being modern-day rap’s answer to The Dude.

The real highlights of the mixtape, however, are songs like Respect and Prequel – those aspirational records that cross the boundaries of being merely materialistic to being actually quite motivational; the best example of this being Gangster 101 – a dope ear-worm of a record replete with Wiz’s melodious crooning, too-cool-for-school tales of awesomeness and an incredible verse by the freestyle king, Los. The B-more rapper absolutely annihilates the beat, assaulting it with his ridiculously intricate rhyme schemes and flow. His bars alone make CF3 worthy of a few listens.

Listen to Cabin Fever 3 here



Busta Rhymes – The Return Of The Dragon: The Abstract Went On Vacation
Busta Bust made last Christmas a memorable one. Dressed in his Santa suit and ably assisted by an impressive line-up of celebrity elves – including Mary J Blige, Jadakiss and Styles P – the veteran rapper rode in on his sled in timely fashion to fill our stockings with some dope new music.

Released on Christmas day, The Return of The Dragon offers up some wintry heat, showcasing what die-hard fans have long appreciated about the 43-year-old rapper.

Hits For Days is the first cut on the mixtape and sets the tone for the rest of the record. It starts the tape off triumphantly, the beat knocking hard and gloriously with an ominous bassline and some searing trumpets; Busta’s rhymes malevolent and mean. Respect My Conglomerate 2 – featuring Jadakiss, Styles P and Fabolous – is just as tough; Busta rocking his Yankees (or Mets) snapback accordingly and putting on for his city.

The Return of The Dragon is heaving with fun treats, like the aforementioned songs, but also shows off the gentler side of the larger-than-life emcee’s gentle-giant persona. This is in full display on the stellar In The Streets. BJ The Chicago Kid is as soulful as ever on this great piece of pavement poetry; MF Doom adding a brilliant stanza or two to really elevate Busta’s musings on street life and provide a panoramic view of inner-city toil.

All in all, Return is an entertaining Christmas cracker Busta fans should relish pulling apart. Even with the Christmas trees down and the garish Rudolph jumpers folded away for another year. Even in the middle of January.

Listen to The Return Of The Dragon: The Abstract Went On Vacation here

Words: Leke Sanusi

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