Can I be honest here? This column isn’t getting any easier to write. Part of it is that I’ve been writing the thing for nearly three years and there are only so many ways to say, “This person raps well.” But it’s also become harder and harder to find mixtapes that take complete advantage of the artistic autonomy that the form affords, the chance to chase artistic ideas down rabbit holes without worrying about how the marketplace will respond. 2014 has had a handful of great-by-any-metric mixtapes — Black Portland, Welcome To Fazoland, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2, IVRY, Bullet — but only a handful. Most weeks, I spend way too much time listening to everything I can find before finally shrugging to myself and thinking, “Well, I guess this one seems interesting enough.” Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places, or maybe mixtape-rap is just in an artistically fallow period. But thank god for Atlanta. No matter what’s going on in rap, I can almost always find an Atlanta rap tape that gives me 45 minutes of unpretentious trunk-rattle. Thus: Woop Lingo.
Woop is actually from Orlando, not Atlanta, but you wouldn’t figure that out just by listening to his tape. Of course, I’m writing as someone whose knowledge of Orlando rap starts and ends with that one Smilez & Southstar song, but Woop Lingo feels very much like a product of the this-very-moment Atlanta rap underground. I only recognize Woop’s name because of an appearance on Atlanta standout PeeWee Longway’s great The Blue M&M tape, and PeeWee is the only remotely recognizable rapper who shows up on Woop Lingo. There are a couple of beats from Atlanta producer Sonny Digital, too, and that’s it as far as big names go. But even without the requisite Young Thug appearance, Woop Lingo is very much of that world. It has the bleepy circus beats, the viscous coating of Auto-Tune, the wordy and staggered couplets. It has the Migos flow. It sounds like it’s been made the way Atlanta rap tapes are made now — all-night recording sessions in unassuming home-studios, with associates dropping by to chip in verses wherever possible and songs taking shape over the wee hours. Atlanta has what I’d call a healthy underground-rap environment, with adventurous minds bouncing ideas off each other and trends quickly cycling their way through the landscape. And an environment like leads to tapes like this one, thoroughly entertaining rap workouts from guys you’ve never heard of, guys you might never hear from again.
Woop isn’t just a cipher stand-in for the rap scene of a city that isn’t even his own. He’s a fluid and stylistically interesting rapper, one as likely to confront his own paranoia on his songs as he is to trumpet his successes. I like that his name is a noise — a bleat of warning from a cop car or a yelp of enthusiasm, maybe; either one fits. He has a way of excitably cramming syllables together, focusing on internal sounds at the expense of actual meaning: “Got green on the pocket, vegetarian / I’m a dog, I’m a dog, veterinarian / Knock knock, who’s there, don’t let her in / She walk funny when she leave, George Jefferson.” His hooks feel instinctive, not labored-over, and he’s got a strong ear for beats. But the things that set him apart are minor. For the most part, he just takes an established sound and does it really well.
As the person who writes this column, I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to see a tape pop up on the Livemixtapes main page and be able to say, at the very least, “This one is not going to suck.” I absolutely cannot say that for efforts from random New York or L.A. rappers lately. But Atlanta continues to crank out good rap music. Gucci Mane is in prison, and he’s going to be there for a couple of years. But last month, he (or his handlers, anyway) released three mixtapes on the same day, from-the-vaults collabs with Young Thug and Migos and PeeWee Longway. None of those tapes were amazing, or even worth writing about here, but they could’ve been fucking disasters, and they all turned out to be plenty listenable. That’s Atlanta rap right now: Even at its worst, it will give you some satisfactory bangers to ride to. There’s not one other city that can claim the same.
Download Woop Lingo here.