As the saying goes, you can’t judge a mixtape by its tracklist.
But how often does a mixtape have the tonal quality and cohesion of an album? When Tanner Ross writes in the description box for The SBC Mixtape, “all tracks engineered by T. Ross except those with an asterisk,” the average SoundCloud lurker might wonder if they will care or even notice. As laymen, will we be able to appreciate the engineering? If you catch yourself thinking that, immediately press play.
Then you’ll know why SBC plays more like an album. T. Ross won’t call it that, because credit needs to be given where it’s due, specifically to the dozen artists who sang, rapped and produced the songs (some times T. Ross himself) but somehow, all 14 tracks sound like they were overseen by the same musician. Unlike most mixtapes, packed with unrelated loosies, these seem like they were made in the same room.
In this case, Ross is the musician and his mixing board is the instrument.
The percussion is minimal, perhaps acoustic, with an insistent “thwack” on every second and fourth beat. Ross creates a visceral ambience this way, and somewhere between his lightly reverbed claps, there’s a gliding, funk bassline that pops its head in and out of each track. Even the effects and samples are tucked nicely between the instruments themselves, never sounding like they came from outside the song. Ross made sure there weren’t any extra frequencies in his tape, and it’s evident how much control he had over the sound. It might even conjure images of the dub greats who first showed the world what an engineer can do.
Based in Boston, via Jersey, with releases out on San Francisco label Dirtybird, Ross brings his network into his music. Over the years as a DJ and producer, he’s made friends all over the place and as a result, the vocals of Jules Born, Nick Monaco and Prada Mane come together nicely under the house of Ross. He shows an appreciation for the Bay every time he drops a bassline, but most endearing is his sense of humor, as you’ll no doubt sense in track 1 of The SBC Mixtape. Each track feels like a sun-drunk escapade in a lowrider, with a tempo so low you might forget you’re nodding to it.
It’s a long way to Spring Break City, but if you skip any of these tracks, you might not get there.