DVS is a character, an ex-New York hardcore guy who now works in a strip club and who does all the standard self-promotional rapper things on Twitter while also being funnier than most actual comedians. He raps in a double-time yammer but never tries to sound like anything he’s not. Even at his most motormouthed, there’s no Atlanta bounce in his voice. He talks about pro-wrestling moves and Queens neighborhoods and pure bullshit, and he sounds like he’s having fun even when he’s cramming so many syllables into his bars that they seem just about ready to fall apart. He’s still working on DVTV, his first solo mixtape, so we haven’t really heard what he can do on his own. Instead, he’s spent most of his short rap career shining as the guy who shows up on posse cuts, rapping faster than everyone else. And with the new compilation Mutant League, a collection of songs he’s rapped on, that tendency works just fine. Mutant League doesn’t just showcase DVS; it showcases the whole smart-knucklehead New York warehouse-rap scene that DVS calls home. And perhaps because the tape makes no attempt to hang together as a cohesive whole, it’s more consistently fun than almost any other mixtape I’ve heard this year.
Consider, for example, the last song on the tape, in which nine rappers spend nine minutes going in over the eternally badass beat from Ghostface Killah’s “Daytona 500.” That song, in its original form, is one of the finest posse-cut throwdowns in rap history, but the various assembled voices on this new one don’t let that intimidate them. They get goofy on it, kicking around Seinfeld references and Marvel Comics hologram-card memories, but they also take it seriously, everyone trying to one-up everyone else. You’ve probably heard of some of the rappers on the track (Kool A.D., Lakutis), and you probably haven’t heard of some of the other (Tecla, Chaz Van Queen). DVS does fine on the song, makes an impression: “I’m sipping lean on the scene, call me Leann Rimes.” But he’s not the focus. There is no focus. It’s about the joy of hearing all these motherfuckers rapping at once, keeping things light but competitive, doing their best to make sure nobody outraps them.
There are a lot of cipher tracks on Mutant League. In fact, most of the tape is made up of cipher tracks. Even when there are only two or three rappers on a song, they’ve got that same competitive sensibility. Nobody’s describing the horrors of their childhoods or mooning over past relationships. Everyone is talking fly shit, and talking it well. Lakutis and Kool A.D. and Big Baby Gandhi show up over and over, and that’s a good thing; their voices and personas are good fits for what DVS does. Some songs are mastered nicely; others sound like they were recorded from the inside of a port-a-potty urinal. Some of the songs here are years old, and some of them have shown up on tapes that have already appeared in this column, like Lakutis‘s “Black Swann” and Big Baby Gandhi‘s “True Blood.” That’s fine; I can’t imagine being annoyed to hear these songs. A lot of the songs are long as fuck, and that’s fine too; it means more rappers get a chance to get their shit in. And in its teeming cast and its chaotic assembly, the tape works as a nice snapshot of New York’s internet underground at its best. This is a scene where the influence of producers like El-P looms huge, where the beats are noisy and discordant and cluttered, but where the rappers are as likely to talk about getting blowjobs as they are to make literary references. Every song feels like a roomful of smart dirtbags trying to make each other laugh. That’s kind of a great thing.
As for DVS, he’s great. The one song with no guests, the introductory burner “Moonsault,” works as proof that he doesn’t need other people around to shine. And in just about every verse he says something worth repeating, whether it’s simple (“Apply pressure whenever I step in the place / Because what you call mean-mugging’s just my regular face”) or weird and convoluted (“We them Duane Reade babies, in the streets crazy / Eat loosies, drink Everclear / Get zooted and piss everywhere”). I’m eager to hear what he can do when he finally puts together a full-length to call his own. But I hope DVTV has the same tossed-off, shit-talking feeling to it as Mutant League.
Download Mutant League here.