“The MixtaEP” marks Detroit rapper Nametag as a work in progress with a lot of potential. The young, gifted cousin of Detroit legend Black Milk, Nametag hones his rhyming game in this EP like any up-and-coming rapper: he takes shots at the music industry and primps his own feathers. As he notes in the opening track, “No Apologies,” “Pardon me, I’m just sharpening up my skills.” DJ DDT at LABL produces the 7 tracks of raw freestyle flow, unadulterated by commercial concerns. DJ DDT gets to show off with plenty of slides, fades, and scratches throughout the EP, creating a gritty soundtrack interspersed with minimalistic bass notes and warped synth echoes.
Detroit has started to establish a strong stand in hip hop in recent years, delivering standout producers and MC’s like J. Dilla, Eminem, Royce Da 5’9, and Big Sean. Underground rappers coming from a city in such tumultuous straits bear an interesting combination of hip-hop consciousness and desperate energy; kind of like a Talib Kweli version of Chicago drill music. This energy is quite prevalent through “The MixtaEP.”
Even though he’s rapping about the standard come-up game while ragging on industry materialism, there’s a certain mocking anger sandwiched between the low snares and 808s. In “Relentless” (featuring Travis Slang), he harshly pokes at the monotony of the urban music scene with lines like, “can hardly tell who’s who/it’s monkey see and monkey do/it ain’t fooling the consumers.” Ouch. DJ Mustard must be groaning.
The best track of the album is “Good Shot,” where Nametag spits bars like, “Hip hop is so much more than about an image/rappers lost talkin’ bout money and how to spend it/I ain’t too concerned about bottle-poppin’ or not/or like I really give a fuck about who a thot,” over lighthearted, jazzy percussion and a three-note bass refrain. In “Eye,” the energy dips and the delivery verges on monotone, but he recovers when the bass starts booming over tribal chants in “Go.”
DJ DDT skillfully leaves much of the production minimal without being boring, and focuses on Nametag’s lyrical ability. Nametag does not disappoint, kicking ill rhymes and some smooth freestyle. There are lackluster spots, and the delivery could have more character, but Nametag shows impressive lyrical agility when approaching the typical come-up topics of grinding in the game and self-appreciation. When Nametag closes with the EP with “That’s all y’all get,” it leaves us wanting more.