The most obnoxious form in hip-hop today is the mixtape: Every great verse or beat comes matched with a scrap of nothing, a ridiculous contribution by a guest you don't know, a beat by a producer who should be working overtime at his dayjob, and constant shout-outs from a DJ littering the record like it's his private wasteland. It's tantamount to finding shards of glass in your potato salad or fingernail clippings in your cocktail—passable, but painful.
Rapper Big Pooh's mixtape Rapper's Delight is the Little Brother emcee's latest litmus test for a serious solo career post-Little Brother, if that day ever comes. Unlike his debut LP, 2005's Sleepers, this mixtape is his proof of insurance, and the only problematic damage here is the type that certain crowned guest emcees do to these tracks. Mixed by DJ Warrior and distributed by the popular music magazine URB, Rapper's Delight is a grab bag wherein we get some great verses and tracks, and a few toss-offs that simply take up time.
Pooh has recently been collaborating with some of hip-hop's raw-school upperclassmen from California and Detroit, so his offensive plan—chiseled by that sparring—is in fine form: Over spooky strings and doughy keys during "Money," featuring Frank Nitti (half of Frank-N-Dank) and Pooh's protégé, O-Dash, the main man shines in his most economic role, provocatively warning about the allure of the dollar. Bishop Lamont and Illa J (the late J. Dilla's younger brother) support Pooh on "Respect It," while the J. Dilla-produced "Plastic Cups" finds Pooh, Chaundon and Joe Scudda effortlessly running the relay around Dilla's horn-crazed beat, borrowed from his posthumous Donuts LP.
In fact, Pooh's new work here with non-N.C. producers is the best thing he's got going, even if he does boast "a bit of good news/ me and 9th got together" at one point. But the 9th Wonder-laced dud for "With You" is just as boring as the video Pooh decided to make for it. That's not to say this reunion isn't a nice notion, it's just too little too late, when both Pooh and 9th have bigger and better worries.
While you're tracklist scanning, you'll likely ask "Who?" upon seeing the names Roscoe Umali and Stylistic Jones on "Nobody Like Me." Pure potato salad, though. They might be the only two on this mixtape that you've never heard of but want to hear again, eating through their respective verses and bringing Pooh right along. Pooh is used to this sort of pressure in Little Brother, and he more than holds his own. Though his efficacy as a solo emcee has long been under question, Pooh rarely talks about it anymore, and he's often delightful here. Maybe this free mixtape is his way of saying both "thank you" and "welcome" to the next stage in Little Brother dominance.