Bling Free Volume 3

Artist: DJ Graffiti

Album: Bling Free Volume 3: Its Official

Label: Bling Free Records

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Reviewer: R.Stewart

Ahh, we present to you another installment from the wonderfully ironic world of the mixtape, courtesy of DJ Graffiti and the Bling Free mixtape series. You see, part of the timeless quality of the mixtape (think before the 1990s invasion of the Flex, Clue, & Co.) was the simple goal to give someone else a window into your world, courtesy of music. Pack a cassette or CD tighter than a sardine tin with favorite tracks and obscure jams, add a quick label (or not; you always had those lazy friends back in high school), and you’re off. None of that RIAA, red tape, permission-and-approval stuff : Times, they are a’changing.

Never fear, though, because walking the straight and narrow appears to have benefits; here, you get Bling Free Volume 3, whose title is a nod to the underground, with a subtitle referring to that oft-overlooked step of getting clearance and/or usage licensing. Now you can be treated to legal joints (on a hip hop mixtape?!?!), in addition to your diet of exclusives, freestyles, and the like. Graffiti serves up a bit of everything, and it’s an impressive platter.

The “underground hiphop mixtape king of Michigan” manages to branch outside of the Wolverine State to drop tracks from artists from across the country. West Coast representatives Dilated Peoples are on the Japanese-only release ‘Bullet Train’, and Souls of Mischief’s Tajai offers ‘Dum Dum’ from the forthcoming Power Movement LP. Detroit gets some shine, with both a solo track from Elzhi as well as Slum Village’s ‘Get Yo Paper.’ National underground and hits are also featured, including Brother Ali’s ‘Champion Remix’, Vitamin D’s ‘No Good’, and the ‘Show Starter Remix’ featuring Fakts One, Mr. Lif, & Akrobatik out of Boston. Graffiti manages to blend all these with cuts from Lawless Element, Athletic Mic League, Soul Position, and more, making for a full course. Perhaps the only downside is that at 38 tracks long, the average listener, who often times doesn’t already own some of these singles and albums, might find themselves left with a mildly bitter taste after hearing all of 100 seconds of a banger from Diverse (on the Madlib-produced ‘Ain’t Right’), only to have it cut out after the first verse.

That aside, note that this, thankfully, is a ‘throwback’ mixtape, in the sense that the music speaks for itself, limiting the overdubs and do-it-yourself “DJ copyrights” often to blame for ruining the listening experience. The transitions between tracks are subtle, and the pacing of the entire set reflects an understanding of the music that far surpasses any of the current offerings from more mainstream mixtapes. The last quarter even offers the bonus of an R&B-inflected set, inspired by Graffiti’s own online show. It’s a welcome addition to already strong effort.

Simply put, there’s a lot of quality nestled in this backpack. Perhaps some tracklist pruning is order, but the issue of quality vs. quantity is always touchy when you have the potential for too much of both. Granted, your street corner hustler isn’t going to be stocking this mixtape, but you’d be well served to bypass the usual hot-new-ish-exclusive-blaze-the-streets-and-drop-that-bomb-on-’em fodder, and treat your speakers to this.