by Nick Hanover
I don’t have any beef with League of Extraordinary Gz but if you ask me which Austin hip hop collective really has its finger on the pulse of the scene, they’re not who comes to mind. That honor undoubtedly goes to LNS Crew, who lack a significant H-Town chip on their shoulders and instead continue to carve out some of the most rewarding hip hop in Austin history. Where League seems to operate under the directive of playing the game and making tracks that fit right in with what’s already big in Texas, LNS are on some sinister shit, twisting frustrations with Austin identity politics into a sound that rumbles and dwells, bubbling up from the corners of darkened dance floors and vomit soaked Dirty 6th.
Those dark tones get the blockbuster treatment on the crew’s new mixtape, where every member of the crew is represented in full and joined by other luminaries from the scene, including League itself. The production is equally diverse, ranging from Scott Pace’s Weeknd-influenced R&B to Kydd Jones’ frequently abstract, eccentric beats to intriguing glimpses at the future from newcomers like Anna Love and Magna Carda’s Dougie Do. This is material that defines itself rather than let itself be defined by outsider trends and tastes.
When there are contemporary influences, it’s along the lines of Kydd’s “Round Here,” a piece anchored to a glitchy, stuttering beat that ramps up the tension as Kydd goes Kendrick, documenting domestic paranoia and whispering revolution talk. Or it’s Cory Kendrix’s “Wax On,” a classic Timbaland throwback, Love throwing on megaphone filters amidst the dross of metronome percussion and synth whoops and hollers. Swindles even gives Tank Washington some kind of combo Diplo and Mr. Bangladesh beat, a chimy back and forth punctuated by reggaeton blasts, a perfect fit for Tank’s stop-start flow.
The mixtape excels at showing off LNS Crew’s bid for national attention without sacrificing any of the qualities that make them such a promising outfit. You can hear it in the twisty merger of chipmunk soul and club hip hop Kydd provides on “Blink Away” or the oddly hypnotic low end hooks of Kendrix’s “Theme Song,” where Kendrix’s signature drawl is augmented by a hip rocking bass that tangos with his checklist of items that need to be in a perfect bad bitch theme song. LNS affiliate Max Frost gets in on the action too, bringing a subtler than normal hook to the Kydd and Scott Pace collab “Let Me Down Easy,” making for one of LNS’ sexiest songs, as deliberate with the foreplay as Usher’s “Climax” but with far more street swagger.
There are some intriguing demonstrations of LNS’ collisions with other scene heavy hitters, the clearest standout being Tank and Kendrix’s “Complicated.” Featuring a neo-soul beat from Dougie Do, “Complicated” takes Tank and Kendrix out of their more synth leaning home element and sends them on a nostalgia trip, their flows granted more melodic detours than normal as a result of Dougie Do’s expert musicality. H+ gifts the entire crew with a similarly nostalgic but jazzier track on “Pot Luck” but here the narrative is centered not around romantic woes, it’s on LNS’ growth over the past year.
“The world is unkind to the dreamers,” they say, calling out Austin’s stubborn unwillingness to embrace its hometown hip hop heroes until they’ve gotten notice elsewhere. That’s fair, history is littered with dreamers who were just a little too ahead of the curve to reap financial rewards. Still, LNS Mixtape Vol. 2 is too ambitious and hungry to go left unchecked for long, and it’s difficult to imagine a crew as talented and bold as LNS not making it beyond the famed city limits.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover