Welcome to The Verge: a column dedicated to music on the edge of a breakthrough. It’s been a minute since I’ve put some hip-hop in the Verge. A new mixtape from my favorite DMV rapper has changed all that.
Phil Adé, Raheem DeVaughn’s 21-year old protege, is back with the follow-up to 2009’s Starting on JV, the Don Cannon-mixed The Letterman. The mixtape affirms that if DMV hip-hop is high school, Phil Adé is the Most Likely to Succeed.
Building on Starting on JV’s high-school-sports-as-life theme, the album kicks off with the inspirational speech from 1977’s basketball drama One-on-One, before Phil flows over a Premier-esque DJ Alizay beat on “The Letter.”
Throughout the tape, Phil is laid-back and confident, whether on Golden Age throwbacks like “The Letter,” Phil-as-Pharrell tracks like “Borderline,” or upbeat jams like the Lil Wayne-sampling “Rapper Eater.” Phil’s versatility is what sets him apart from so many of his counterparts. His wordplay is sharp and his rhymes are tight, and he isn’t artificially constrained by trying to fit into one hip-hop pigeonhole.
Raheem DeVaughn’s R&B influence shows up more than on Starting on the JV, in the funky beat and hook by Kyonte on “The Jacket;” the man himself appears on “Out Your Clothes” and “Young Black Successful.” Other DMV cameos are tastefully mixed across the tape: Tabi Bonney on “Like Dat,” Kingpen Slim on “Tipsy Mood,” and Skillz on “OMG.” The highlight of the guest spots is a remix of Starting on JV‘s “Hollywood” that features Wale, Raekwon, Tabi, and Raheem.
Like Starting on JV, The Letterman is a polished, professional mixtape that lets Phil Adé shine. And like the kid in high school who could easily hang out with the ghetto boys, the cool kids, the nerds, the outcasts – Phil Adé is about to be popular on the next level.