Vicarious Music & Media

Freddie Gibbs + PILL + PRGz in Time Out NY

Paper Route Gangstaz
Photograph: Chris Dowdell

Gary, Indiana, has seen few improvements since the Jacksons left the crumbling Rust Belt city four decades ago. The weight of representing such a beaten-down locale is not lost on Freddie Gibbs, the city’s first nationally known rapper. Gibbs’s most recent mixtape, MidwestGangstaBoxframeCadillacMusik, often feels as disarmingly bleak as a drive through Gary’s abandoned downtown, but there’s a Zen-like texture to his soulful flow. Despite the tape’s grim lyrical scenarios and ghostly beats, Gibbs is one of the year’s most inherently likable new rappers.

Atlanta’s Pill offers an equally raw depiction of his hometown on his recent 4180: The Prescription mixtape. His video for “Trap Goin’ Ham,” which appears to depict actual crack use and hand-to-hand drug sales, was so startling that The New York Times hailed it as a game-changing return to naturalism in rap videos. The current hype around the still-unsigned MC resembles the buzz that surrounded a pre–Trap Muzik T.I.

Fear and Loathing in Hunts Vegas, the 2008 mixtape from Huntsville, Alabama’s Paper Route Gangstaz, is a dizzying concoction of country raps, Screw-ed hooks and spacious Euro-crunk beats. Producer Mali Boi’s work is so strong that it’s easy to overlook the rhymes, but the collective energy of rappers Jhi Ali, Dawgy Baggz, Mata and Gunt evokes Hot Boys, the ’90s’ Cash Money supergroup that spawned Lil Wayne. Completing this geographically diverse bill are veteran Bronx duo Camp Lo and Michigan’s Mike Posner and Big Sean.—Jesse Serwer

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