Recording information: 882 Studios; Deuce Mobile Studio; Doppler Studios, Atlanta, GA.
Official above-ground releases of mixtapes don't come much more pure than Don't Be S.A.F.E.'s appearance on Def Jam, seeing as how Atlanta party rapper Trinidad James dropped it to the underground only four months previously. Def Jam's retail edition is faithful to the original with some very minor differences -- tracks with long fades are tightened by mere seconds, and there's a superstar-filled remix tacked to the end -- but, the meteoric viral rise of single "All Gold Everything" -- three million plus "views" in just months -- fast-tracked this EP-length effort, and for the better. No ridiculous features or radio-friendly dreck was injected into the main effort, but even on this street-born debut, rookie James -- who had only been rapping for a year as the release dropped -- comes off as a crafty and creative executive producer. Off-world interludes ("Gold on My MacBook" floats over the cloudiest of productions as James delivers something between a fever dream and a pre-club pep talk) and casually tossed-off sequels ("One More Molly" takes the popular "Popped a molly, I'm sweating" line out of "All Gold Everything" and trunk rumbles its way through a drug trip) surround the hits, making the rapper's limited, hoarse, loose, Future-meets-Waka-meets-Wiz-meets-2 Chainz style less of an EP-length issue. Still, the hedonistic party numbers are undoubtedly the thing. Get past the reckless drug use and disrespect for all humanistic everything and "All Gold Everything" is the winning combination of Ke$ha-dumb with Three 6 Mafia style, rattled off in one verse with plenty of return visits for the hook. "Females Welcomed" turns a mush-mouthed, junkyard valentine of a lyric ("Now my side bitch is my main bitch 'cuz my main ho ain't feelin' me no mo, no mo") into an irresistible earworm before traveling into hipster territory with an indie electronica break down, while "Madden on Gamecube" is the stoned-dude excellence its title implies, all drenched in chillwave production. Quirky and quick, this irresponsible joker hangs out just long enough, exiting on a hard "you ain't nuthin' but a buster" cut called "Southside" before returning the listener to the much less flossy and fun real world. ~ David Jeffries
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- Allstar 2013 Houston [PA] (Chainz, 2)