The Paper Route Gangstaz are a group of rappers based in a single Southern city, centered around a production unit with a completely distinct sound. We've seen this before from Atlanta's Dungeon Family and New Orleans' No Limit Army and Cash Money Millionaires-- fully formed crews that wound up dominating the late-90s commercial rap landscape. Except this time the city is the total rap backwater of Huntsville, Alabama, and the production unit is the Block Beataz, whose bloopy nodded-out synth-boom tracks are way druggier and slower than anything currently on "106 & Park". The closest the Paper Route crew have come to impacting mainstream rap was when Rich Boy spit a couple of verses over Jackie Chain and Jhi-Ali's "Rollin'" on his Bigger Than the Mayor mixtape. So the Paper Route Gangstaz are something like what the Cash Money Millionaires might've been if they had barely any hope of or interest in actually becoming millionaires.Read More
Even given their nonexistent Q rating, it's a bit weird to see the Paper Route guys hooking up with hipster-DJ kingpins Diplo and Benzi for this mixtape. Even post-"Paper Planes", these guys don't exactly have a rep for making rap-radio stars, and Paper Route CEO Dawgy Baggz might've wanted to ask some Dipset underling about the long-term loyalty of the clubby hipster crowd. As the rap blogger Noz wrote about this mixtape, the Paper Route guys are, in a way, doing it backwards, reaching for that hipster-kid recognition before they've solidified a serious regional base. And given that the Block Beataz' hallucinatory production is the label's main selling point, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for them to introduce themselves to the world on a mixtape jammed with remixes from Diplo and friends.
But Diplo gets it. His remixes can't quite approximate the Block Beataz' dizzy swell, but they come close. His beats here flutter and breathe, and if he does lean a bit hard on familiar fish-out-of-water samples (Underworld's "Born Slippy on Blaqstarr's Paper Route collab "Stuntastic", for one), he has precedent; the Block Beataz already flipped Weezer's "Say It Ain't So" for X.O.'s "Grind Baby". And Emnyd's remix of the posse-cut "Woodgrain" is just a great track, a cheeseball-house bouncing-ball keyboard drowning in oceans of bass. As dubious as the concept might be, Diplo and his associates stay completely within the Paper Route aesthetic wheelhouse, and their tracks make good introductions to the sound.
But the original Block Beataz tracks are the real reason to seek the tape out. These guys have one basic trick: taking the recent wave of Euro-club silliness that's taken over pop-rap in the past couple of years (think Lil Wayne's "Lollipop" or Flo Rida's "Low") and slowing it down to the point where these tracks would just never work as ringtones. Their beat for B.O.S.S.'s "Naturalz Pt. 2" is a great example: a plinky electric piano slathered with reverb, with haunted synths and trunk-rattle drums layered underneath. Every time another rapper jumps on the track, another element appears: a disco handclap, a jittery hi-hat, a sly little bass riff. And so the track constantly contorts and dissipates and resolves itself; it's damn near spellbinding. Other tracks are just as complicatedly pretty. "Travelin" undercuts its mournful R&B vocal and phased-out cowbells with some truly candy quiet-storm keyboard work. The spastic turntable scratches on "Shotz" stay deep in the mix, never overwhelming its minimal violin loop. And on "Grind Baby", that Weezer sample shares space with a whining G-funk organ and gigantic drums.