The song “Lookin At My Flud” sounds like big friggin’ deal. The beat comes from the Afrika Bambaataa school of electro-funk, a sound that was so revolutionary and mind-shatteringly intense that no one since that particular time has truly produced a worthy recreation. I imagine a scenario where Fokis and Sadat X, who hosts the mixtape, are calmly chatting in this dusty warehouse as a robot rocks out on cyber drums that shoots lasers, and an android DJ Premier does the scratches, right before Fokis steps up to the mic to handle his biz.
I cannot for the life of me find the original song which had that beat; every song on A Vintage State of Mind – Mixtape follows the classic mixtape formula where an up-and-coming MC, in a show of hubris and ballsy resolve, rhymes over other brand-name beats in order to garner attention. A lot of people find this off-putting, especially at a time where producers can literally sell off an album’s worth of beats for their name on each song. The reason Fokis deserves praise, however, is more in line with what Jon Connor did on his People’s Rapper LP.
Fokis has a great love not only for hip hop, but classic hip hop: the euphoria one gets from spitting a spontaneous freestyle, trying to outdo your friends on a track while still having fun, taking the time to discuss the ills of growing up poor in the ghetto. He has all of these traits, and most importantly, takes the time to pay respects to the forefathers of his trade. This mixtape paves the way for his purported debut album of the same name, and paves that road with the support of rap vets such as Grandmaster Caz, Sadat X, Kurtis Blow, Kool G Rap, and MC Eight.
Its also paved by Fokis’s artistic zeal. He’s a competent rapper, with a rugged elegance and a blunt personality that makes his rhymes super enjoyable. He starts the mixtape by sniping imaginary foes: “Mr. Know It All, but ain’t never done a thing/Lebron James’ ass, nigga nice, but no rings,” prepares for verbal slaughter on the jittery “Lyrical Homicide“: “Never make a move unless I got me a plan/General Sun Tzu, supreme strategist, analyst/in the trenches preparing your banishment,” and even gets busy with a satisfying remix of the Love Movement-era “Scenario”: “Four-finger ring, I came to do my thing/dominate competition like Mayweather in the ring.”
Fokis kills on this mixtape. He claims to be in a “vintage state of mind” that allows him to siphon off the vibe of that age, but damn, it’s like he’s still living it. His rhymes are bereft of any recent pop culture references like Facebook or Kim Kardashian, and besides the couple times where a person mentions 2012, this could easily pass as a lost project from 1995. The guest performances also follow that line; they go straight to the jugular with their lyrics and clean their bloody blades on their opponent’s shirt. One of my favorite guest verses comes from Don Chi on “Beware of The Ghetto” : ” take the energy and start a revolution/the gun or the bible, choose a solution.”
But my favorite guest period has to be Sadat X, who shouts on songs during the introductions and is featured interviewing Fokis on the interludes. He’s great because he sounds so happy to see a dude come out of nowhere and rouse up interest from these veterans. And he’s funny as hell; his shout for the last song was “Yeah, yeah, my people, beware of the ghetto!” as if that’s enough to get people to leave, and when he takes the time to rhyme on “#Justsayin’,” he drops this stellar jewel: “I’m James Evans baby, I will whip yo’ ass, then grab the mic and I will teach yo class!”
Sadat X may come off as a lost cause in the same way Keith Murray did on “Undergods Roll,” but whatever; its awesome and only strengthens the vintage quality that Fokis wanted to curate. This is a classic mixtape done in classic fashion, and damn if its not a classic amongst the dumpster-truck volume of veritable dogshit mixtapes that drop daily. Fokis has truly tickled my nostalgic nerves, and with fingers crossed, he may be able to do it again when his album releases later this year.