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The 10 at 10 Tape: Audio Mix Series Vol.1 [Review]

Calgary, AB – Our good friends over at 10 at 10 just dropped a mixtape entitled The 10 at 10 Tape: Audio Mix Series Vol.1 to showcase everything great about Calgary hip-hop in 2013. You guys already know that last year was huge for our local hip-hop scene. And 10 at 10 has become a foundation for all things hip-hop in the city. So to start the 2014 year off with a solid dose of nostalgia, 10 at 10’s own DJ GrimRock compiled this hour-long tape from tracks released by the 10 at 10 artists, as well as some joints from 10 at 10’s recently launched #MusicMonday music sharing series. The tape features Rico Drummond on the drops, and the tape was mastered by Shawn Leon.

The 10 at 10 fam celebrated their big two-year birthday back in September by moving into their new homebase at Commonwealth Bar & Stage (it’s a bigger venue, and a very good look for them). This fall, 10 at 10 also launched the #MusicMonday series to promote local music via social media. They also just started up their very own 10 at 10 concert series. The series kicks off on Jan. 29 with none other than the great Pusha T, himself. And we even started up our own monthly 10 at 10 Spotlight series here on HipHopCanada to show love to some of our favourite performers from the showcase.

The 10 at 10 Tape: Audio Mix Series Vol.1 [Mixtape] -

This gem of a tape perfectly sums up everything I love about being the Prairies Editor for HHC. As you may recall, I started out with the HipHopCanada team back in January 2013. So this tape follows the timeline of some of the great music I got to experience, as well as many of the local artists whom I was fortunate enough to get to build with this year. The tape includes music from 40 artists (most of whom have graced the 10 at 10 stage at some point over the last few years): A.Y.E, Alexandros, Avious, Ayoo Angie, Cash Bradshaw, Da Kid T, Dele-O, Dion Lynch, Dirty Harry, Dragon Fli Empire, Enigma, Halfcut, Humble Giants, Jam, Jocelyn Alice, Jordan Hone, K-Razie, Keston Ross, Kid Canada, Max Julian, Mayowa, MeegHan Noelle, Myriad, Natural Ensemble, New’L, Nii G., Obey The Crooks, Pleuto, RS Po10tial, Rubix, Sabo Forte, T-Bear, Teekay, J. Thaddeus, Transit, Twizzie, Voyce, Will Hayes, and Xaivv.

The tape starts off with Natural Ensemble’s “Black Sheep” off their November album release entitled Casual Fridays. The N.e. duo hails from Okotoks, but you can usually find them kicking it in Calgary. The duo’s rapping half, Geeze, has this signature way of emphasizing his articulation on his rhymes. So when you hear Geeze, you just know it’s him.

Then we get a listen to Dragon Fli Empire’s “Mission Statement,” off their recently released album of the same name. The Dragon Fli Empire duo (MC Teekay and producer DJ Cosm) has a boom-bap flavour that gets me every time. These two dudes have been building the scene for years. They are mentors to the up-and-comers, and always end up knee-deep involved in hip-hop: everything from Cosm’s weekly ‘Mental Illness’ program on the CJSW radio station, to Teekay’s collaborations with virtually everyone.

Okay, moving onwards to “All You Need (Knowledge)” by Obey the Crooks. It’s no secret that OTC’s Care Package was one of my favourite local projects of the year. The September-released tape was filled with suave pop influence (courtesy of vocalist Beach Season), and cheeky rhymes (courtesy of rapper Monski). They do all of their own production, too. Really, though. If you didn’t get a chance to cop a listen to Care Package, do it.

At the 21-minute mark, A.Y.E.’s “Dream” (which is an ode to Martin Luther King Jr.) mellows things out for a bit. And that’s when it hits you: A.Y.E. was totally on his grind this year. He released his debut Goodbye EP at the end of 2012, but spent all of 2013 cranking out features, dropping singles, and gearing up for his forthcoming 90 Now project. A.Y.E. continuously raised the bar with tight flow and master lyricism.

Then we catch a bit from A.Y.E.’s collaboration with Teekay entitled “PsYYChology.” And in case you’re not familiar with PsYYChology, it was arguably one of the most all-encompassing Calgary albums to drop this year. Though Teekay is most well-known as the rapping half of Dragon Fli Empire, he decided to try his hand at production for an entire album. So he reached out to some of his favourite locals and put them on his tracks. Brilliant.

Shortly afterwards, the tape moves into Halfcut’s recently-released banger entitled “I’m Gone.” Things fire up and you’ll likely turn to putty. At least I do. Every time. Something about that smooth old-school-influenced production (courtesy of DJ Corbett), combined with some of Halfcut’s best verses just feels so right. And if we’re being completely honest here, I spent an entire weekend listening to this track on repeat. And I regret nothing.

Just after the halfway mark, the tape switches gears with “Lotto” by Pleuto. Pleuto sent me this particular joint back in June. I listened to it for the first time during a 19-hour Greyhound bus ride to Winnipeg to photograph The Roots at the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. And I was blown away by Pleuto’s ability to mix rhymes with melodic R&B vocals. Yeah, the dude can sing and rap. And he messes with some sick production, as well. Pleuto released his debut #skeletun album in September and it’s easily become one of my favourite albums to vibe-out to.

After “Lotto,” we get another nice throwback to Teekay’s monster PsYYChology album with the track “Mind On Vacay” (featuring Avious). I actually met Avious for the first time at Pleuto’s album-listening party for #skeletun. So the transition here is a perfect fit. Apparently Avious has been in the studio recently. And if we keep our fingers crossed, hopefully he’ll drop some new music on us this year.

After “Mind On Vacay” finishes up, we get into Dion Lynch’s recent material with the track “I Be On That.” In case you missed it, we featured Dion on our 10 at 10 Spotlight last month. He’s a young stunner who looks eerily similar to ASAP Rocky. But he embodies a nice fresh mellow brand of rhymes. And those rhymes run deep.

Then one of the best parts of the tape arrives. That is, the part where “Who The Livest?” by the Humble Giants plays. So here’s the deal: 10 at 10’s own Beni J performs under the name TBT in a duo with Halfcut. They’re called the Humble Giants and they are too fresh. Yes, Beni puts (too much) time and love into organizing 10 at 10. But he’s also one of the tightest lyricists around. Watching the two of them perform together is a rite of passage. So if you don’t know, now you know.

Afterwards, the tape gets into another up-and-comer on our radar: MAXJULLIAN. MAXJULLIAN just dropped this track entitled “All I Know” last month. And to make things even better, it was produced by A.Y.E. MAXJULLIAN entered the scene this year with a feature verse on “Third Eye” by Obey the Crooks. He’s definitely one to watch.

The mixtape winds down (actually it doesn’t wind down, it cranks right back up) with J. Thaddeus’ recent release entitled “I Just Wonna Dance” (featuring Cash Bradshaw, Kid Canada, and Dele O). This track embodies everything great about the Oh No! Music fam. They get turned up, and they make you want to dance. Plus, they never ever stop working. Especially J. Thaddeus and Cash Bradshaw. They’re always gearing up for new projects, or tours, or videos. They set the standard for dedication to the craft.

And just like that, the tape is over. And you will feel emotions. So take a few minutes of pause. Put your reminiscing feelers in check. And put that tape back on repeat. The 10 at 10 team plans on releasing mixtapes on a quarterly basis. And you know what that means, don’t you? If you didn’t make it on to this tape, you’ll probably get some shine in the future. But in the meanwhile, make sure you download the mixtape and keep up with all things 10 at 10 on Facebook and Twitter, as well as their shiny new website. And make sure you hit up the showcase on this upcoming Wednesday to catch a whiff of what YYC hip-hop is bringing in 2014.

Twitter: @10at10calgary | @djRocky

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Sarah Jay

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Sarah Jay is HipHopCanada's Associate Editor in Chief. Sarah is based in Calgary and works as a freelance journalist and photographer. Sarah is also a former A&R talent scout for the Universal Music Scouting Program, and runs a vintage store during the day. Sarah has juried the JUNO Awards, The Polaris Music Prize, and The Prism Prize. She has been fortunate enough to interview and photograph some of hip-hop's greatest influencers including Future, ScHoolboy Q, Ghostface Killah, Moka Only, Maestro Fresh Wes, Shad, Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, and more. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @ThisIsSarahJay

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