★★★☆☆

JUICY J

Juicy J dropped his new mixtape “Highly Intoxicated” on Monday as an exclusive release on DatPiff, a free online mixtape distribution platform that specializes in hip-hop and rap music. With a name like “Highly Intoxicated,” Juicy J’s new mixtape carries a certain set of expectations. Sticking true to his mantra of “trippy” living, Juicy J delivers a hardened, drug-fueled window into his life.

An unusual move from a veteran artist like Juicy J, the new album marks the rapper’s attempt to connect with both the fans who have stuck with him since the 1991 inception of his group, Three 6 Mafia, and a new generation of rap fans. Juicy J’s older brother and co-founder of the group, Project Pat, appears on two songs, and the whole tape carries a sound reminiscent of their 1995 debut album, “Mystic Stylez.”

The album is executively produced by the musical group $uicideBoy$. The duo’s New Orleans influence on the tape is apparent, with deep bass and ominous melodies setting the project’s tone from the beginning. The collaboration is fitting, as much of the duo’s sound is shaped by the style developed by Juicy J in the early ’90s. $uicideBoy$’s unique blend of horrorcore trap, a subgenre of hip-hop with horror-themed influence and transgressive lyrics, works well with Juicy J’s gritty Memphis hip-hop to create an incredibly cohesive tape, despite its lack of intelligent subject matter.

As Juicy J’s strong, steady flows help to drive each track along, long-time and new collaborators inject fresh energy across the tape. A slew of features from big-name artists including A$AP Rocky, Cardi B, Slim Jxmmi, Rick Ross and Wiz Khalifa help ensure that the 18 tracks maintain distinctive sounds, keeping the tape lively throughout.

The mixtape is lacking in substance, with very little in terms of thoughtful lyrics, but it sounds incredible and marks the anticipated return to Juicy J’s older musical style, which now has a modern twist. Conceptually, it is interesting that the rapper chose to work with many contemporaries to bridge the gap between generations while filling the track list chock-full of bangers.

Not breaking in convention from his typical thematic focus, Juicy J raps about drugs, sex, money and his relationship with the police, rapping on “Call My Lawyer” that “He gon’ beat the case / Beat it up like Johnny Cochran,” referencing the attorney known for his role in the acquittal of O.J. Simpson.

Fans of harder rap production will love the tape, but those looking for clever lyricism and deep introspection will need to look elsewhere. The exception on the project is the previously released single, “Always High (feat. Wiz Khalifa),” the softest and most lighthearted track on the tape. With gentle, soulful production and verses discussing Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa’s lack of control over their addiction to weed, the song is a welcome respite from the aggressive lyrics and instrumentals that permeate the tape.

“Highly Intoxicated” is not the best mixtape for the general audience with its emphasis on strong production and a clear neglect of thought for the song’s lyrics. However, any dedicated rap fan will appreciate the mixtape’s references to older hip-hop music, the clear lean toward Juicy J’s Memphis roots and features from some of today’s hottest artists. Juicy J is still producing the same catchy hip-hop that launched him to success in the first place 25 years ago. He does well to curate a fun and cohesive tape, and although it will not leave listeners thinking about its lyrics or message long after they listen, “Highly Intoxicated” excels in its own regard.

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