BLACK COBAIN - Young Gifted and Black

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Black Cobain "Young Gifted and Black" Mixtape

Mixtape Review: “Don’t compare me to rappers,” warns Alexandria-based rapper Black Cobain. “I’m trying to be like the Beatles.”

It would be wise to take him at his word. Cobain, a longtime Wale protege and leading member of the Board Administration crew, plainly has mainstream success on his mind. His fantastic new mix tape, “Young Gifted & Black,” seems to have been crafted for maximum commercial impact.

Packed with hooks and old-school soul samples, “Young Gifted,” the much-more-assured companion to Cobain’s 2010 mixtape “Now” makes wise use of his considerable pop instincts. Cobain may be the only MC in the world capable of presenting, without visible embarrassment, interpolations of the title track to Coldplay’s “X&Y” (on “Busy Now [Remix]” ) and Lesley Gore’s ’60s pop classic “It’s My Party” (“I’ll get fly as I want to”) on the track of the same name.

Cobain’s flow occasionally suggests Kanye West, and his love of hip-pop often recalls Wiz Khalifa, but “Young Gifted” makes up in sweat equity what it lacks in novelty. It’s stippled with the usual Ciroc shout-outs, savior complex indulgences (“Rap’s dehydrated / Should I Gatorade it?” he wonders on the great “Personal”) and casual misogyny, but Cobain works harder than most to find something novel in hip-hop’s usual conventions, and he doesn’t mind letting the seams show.

His girl is in graduate school, not working the pole; he’s one of the few male MCs to reference Balenciaga; and he’s generally not afraid to think big. “Of course I’m trying to be the king / That was part of my dream,” he explains on “4 a.m.” and he makes it sound like the most natural thing in the world.

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