‘The Tale of the Mixtape’ is a standalone work of lethargic Hip Hop efficiency.
Classifying music by function can be a fun game to play. For example, Wangled Teb’s Seasonal Depression might be ideal for long road trips or overnight drives, while Kill Chicago’s The Fix might provide your ideal soundtrack for chopping and stacking wood. Any Grand Theft Bus album might be the best wake-up-and-start-your-day music you’ve ever heard and Motherhood’s Dear Bongo, might be your to-go for bike rides around town. If you look hard enough, you can find the perfect soundtrack for just about any action you find yourself performing in the run of a week. Some are easy to find while others take some looking. And then of course, there are those rare album/action pairings you didn’t know you needed, until you found them.
If there was ever an album best suited for laying on the couch with your feet up and an open bag of chips on your chest while you flip aimlessly through 300+ muted TV channels not necessarily looking for anything because you actually don’t care – your position and snacks on hand are all you really want at that very moment in time – look no further than The Tale of the Mixtape, the debut album from Fredericton rapper Go, Homeboy!. It’s about as lazy as it gets, and proof that sometimes being lazy can be a good thing. It’s all in how you look at it.
To best appreciate this record, start off by disregarding any preconceived notions you may have about what Hip Hop is or needs to be. While the rap game can involve a pretty tight knit group of expectations, it doesn’t always have to follow convention. Some of the most interesting rap albums are the ones that sound like nothing else you’ve heard before. For his debut as Go, Homeboy!, rapper Matt Walls avoids just about everything we’ve come to expect from a Hip Hop album. There are no head nodding beats, no boomin’ bass lines, and none of the songs on The Tale of the Mixtape could ever be considered a hit on the dance floor. But after a couple of solid listens, it seems momentum of any kind was never part of the plan. He does, after all, refer to his music as stoner sloth rap and “Hip Hop for hippies”.
The Tale of the Mixtape is not without its challenges. Upon first listen, the album seems to be at odds with itself. Neither the lyrics nor the music on The Tale of the Mixtape seem strong enough to stand on their own. The beats are generally flat and move along without much development, and each song ends pretty much where it began. Lyrically, Walls delivers a steady stream of self references wrapped up inside a form of wordplay that feels completely exhausted by the album’s midpoint. However, as a package, things hold together and the album isn’t without a few standout moments worth noting.
Beyond the album’s lead single and title track (check out the video here), which may be the most concise song on the record, Walls excels the most when he breaks from listing the things he has (I got so many bars that I feel like an inmate), the things he can do (I can infiltrate like it’s a thin gate) and the things that define his character (I keep it real, no really, I ain’t no phony) and injects a few variations into his theme. On the song Smooth, his simple attempt to bring melody to lyrics on the intro and chorus introduces the album’s first real change-up in lyrical tone. The contrast is big and effective while keeping within the album’s overall lazy structure. Another welcomed point of contrast comes through the song A Beautiful Thing, with guest vocalist Brooke Burns adding the perfect accompaniment to Walls’ slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach. The sampled banjo is carries this one over the top.
But no matter how you look at it, The Tale of the Mixtape is a solid debut album. Besides establishing himself as a clever wordsmith with a tone and delivery all his own, Walls has effectively broadened the scope of Hip Hop in New Brunswick by crafting an album that exists free from easy comparisons and the many tropes commonly associated with rap music. The Tale of the Mixtape, though lacking in variety, finds its charm in the unusual. In a genre where movement and message have long reigned supreme, Walls’ complete contradiction to expectation hijacks all we thought we knew, casting traditional form and structure aside to reveal Hip Hop’s road less travelled. Replication is easy. Reinvention is a whole other game. This debut deserves our applause.