But he’s no Svengali. To Miley, at least, he acted more like a consigliere: the close advisor whose gravitas balanced out her wilder impulses. (“We Can’t Stop” makes for such a transfixing party anthem because of its wistful undercurrent.) Of course, any decent consigliere helps plot chaos as much as they counsel discretion. Will’s latest mixtape, #MikeWiLLBeenTriLL, showcases the stormy impulses that draw artists to him, making for a dark but ridiculously entertaining tour through the back rooms of today’s rap. (You can download it free from DatPiff.)
I say back rooms because you won’t find any hits here—”Bugatti,” Will’s gift to Ace Hood, cuts out after 15 seconds. (“You know they done heard that shit a thousand times,” Mike drawls, sounding like someone caught him napping.) Instead, Will dredges up some underloved album tracks, debuts a few deeply stoned new songs and remixes others from the likes of Gucci Mane (an old friend), Juicy J, 2 Chainz, and Big Sean.
Future, the album’s “host,” sums up the vibe best with “Good Kush and Alcohol,” his solo take on “Love Me,” Lil Wayne’s shamelessly sexploitative hit from last year: “I suffered like immigrants,” he groans to start things off, before ticking off various tribulations and finally deciding that industry people will “leave you for dead while you’re breathing.” Although I like to read this as an rejoinder to Wayne’s original first verse, which cheerfully ends, “Baby just make me cum, then don’t make a sound.”
Another answer song, in my imagination: “We,” a new track from the unknown (to me, at least) duo Rae Sremmurd, who rap like evil but still hilariously nasal McLovins, crashing Miley’s “We Can’t Stop” sleepover. “You—grab the Ciroc! You—grab the Henny!” they order. Then, quite satisfied with themselves: “We brought drugs to the party. We just fucked up the party.” The beat booms like a slasher flick soundtrack heard through distorted hoopty speakers.
Bubbly as his beats can be—check out “(SMS) Bangerz,” Miley and Britney’s tag-team rap track, next time your blood sugar bottoms out—Will’s not a flashy producer. When he says he’s trill (blingy translation: keeping it real), he’s not kidding around. The mixtape’s originals, from “We” to “Whippin’ a Brick” by Migos and Whiz Khalifa to “Everything” by Two9, break trap rap down to its grimiest, most trance-inducing essence.
Will keeps to basics not because he’s stuck on authenticity, though. It’s a potency he wants to communicate, whether he’s furnishing Jay Z with “Beach Is Better,” that bowel-loosening Magna Carta Holy Grail snippet that runs slightly longer here, or Ciara with the swagger-jacking “Wake Up No Make Up.”
And for a looming symbol of potency, we have the tape’s emcee, Future (Ciara’s fiancée). First of all, his name’s Future. His long-anticipated upcoming album may well define the year in hip hop. And on tracks like the voluptuous “Wolf,” an exclusive here, he largely casts off his trademark Autotuned croak to rap with a pinched, unnerving, utterly unique voice about tragic histories and working past fear. He couldn’t hope for a more acute ally than Mike Will.