Mixtape Review: Tito Lopez, The Hunger Game

Mississippi's latest upstart MC lives up to the promise of "Mama Proud."

Posted: 06/25/2012 09:15 AM EDT

(Photo: Courtesy Captiol Records)

Supergroup Slaughterhouse, known for their razor-sharp lyricism for the sake of lyricism, have two members from the East Coast (Joe Budden), one from the West (Crooked I) and another from the Midwest (Royce the 5’9”). Why no Down South representative? The only possible answer is that the foursome hadn’t yet heard Mississippi native Tito Lopez.

On his recent mixtape, The Hunger Game, the Capitol Records signee — who’s been making waves recently for his Billboard-charting single “Mama Proud” and a couple of key cosigns (Dr. Dre, Rico Wade) — would fit in right at the fiery Shady 2.0 edition of the Cypher at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards. On verbal workouts like “No Haters Anywhere” and “Try Me,” Tito’s skill for bar upon bar of labyrinthine rhyme patterns, flawless timing and TKO punch lines, quickly sets him apart: He’s one of the South’s most promising straight-ahead rappers (in the best sense of the word) in some time.


But Tito displays other strengths that will most likely prevent him from becoming yet another rappity-rap rapper who fails to shine outside of the cypher. (We won’t be seeing him awkwardly shouting rhymes from a notepad during a battle anytime soon.) His blue-collar, underdog mentality, coupled with a focus on real-life, real-person aspirations and situations that anyone can relate to (“Mama Proud,” “Jessica”), make Tito easy to root for. Though he proudly reps the Magnolia State, he’s impossible to tie down to just one region sonically: Tito’s lilting drawl is undeniably Delta, but his beat selection ranges from Lacville-ready lean to Jeep-ready G-Unit lite. He updates Gang Starr on “Mass Appeal 2.0” one minute, then repurposes Goodie Mob’s “Black Ice” the next. Meanwhile, an ear for melodic production and hooks prevents The Hunger Game from becoming a didactic rap clinic, and hints at the potential for bigger things.

If Tito keeps coming with music like this, he won’t be hungry for long.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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