A midtempo guitar solo opens “Cookies,” the opening track of Ethan Spalding‘s new mixtape, I Am Ethan Spalding. It’s as if the Takoma Park rapper wants to ease into this ambitious 17-track recording. Then suddenly, Spalding bursts through, the beat just as aggressive as his spirited delivery: “You will never see me on Maury,” exclaims Spalding through a slight Southern drawl. “Just cause ya girl got a little thing for me.”
Whatever your palate, there’s plenty to choose from on Spalding‘s diverse array of trap music, traditional hip-hop, and wistful soul (ie: his bombastic take on Maze‘s “Happy Feelings”). Spalding has always been the chameleon, though: As the frontman of rock outfit Violet Says 5, he rode bluesy funk instrumentals. In June 2012, Spalding joined frequent collaborator Awthentik for joint album Beef and Broccoli; there, the two merged Southern crunk and East Coast boom-bap for a formidable aesthetic. Under the name Violet Rocker, Spalding’s 2013 project—-Champagne, Weed and Bubble Gum—-is closest to what we hear on I Am Ethan Spalding, which drops tomorrow.
With the new mixtape, it’s clear that Spalding wants wider recognition. Many of these songs—-especially “Don’t Know Me,” “Throw it Back” and “Syrup Molly Bottle Pills”—-carry the same bass-heavy sounds that are prevalent on Top 40 radio stations. There are several molly references throughout the project, though on “Panda Party,” he calls molly “a bamma drug.” For “Big Time,” the sound is noticeably West Coast; on “All Day Dat,” Spalding and Diamond District rapper Uptown XO make decent use of old-school soul samples. At certain points, though, it relies too heavily on the bouncy trap approach and it becomes a little worn by album’s end. Still, I Am Ethan Spalding is another nice offering from the rapper. He proves once more that he can pull off several different techniques while remaining true to himself.
I Am Ethan Spalding is out Saturday via LiveMixtapes.com.
Spalding performs 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at The Fillmore Silver Spring, 8656 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring. Tickets are $12. (301) 960-9999.