Perfect Ten

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Throughout the 2010s, producer and beat maker Mustard revolutionized the sound of radio hip-hop and R&B, honing his signature style on magnanimous hits and brawny tracks for artists like Jeremih, Big Sean, Tyga, Cardi B, and many others. His production often centered around high-energy tempos, booming 808s, and club-friendly melodies that reveled in excitement and abandon. Mustard's albums and mixtapes under his own name are simply more of the same, with a cavalcade of rap and R&B stars guesting on new beats in his recognizable style. Perfect Ten is a brief album frontloaded with party songs, anthemic bangers, and brag-fests that slowly winds down to reveal Mustard's skills with R&B and more sensitive instrumental arrangements. Migos thrive on "Pure Water," even with Mustard's bright beat outside of their usual dark and trappy comfort zone. Cinematic strings and gangster movie energy underpin ravenous verses from YG, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Rocky, and Tyga on the bouncing "On God," and "100 Bands" mixes atmospheric synth pads with a minimal and bass-heavy beat while Quavo, YG, and Meek Mill flow overtop. On Perfect Ten's second half, Mustard's mellower R&B productions prove to be more musically diverse and colorful, especially on the lovesick "Surface," sung by Ella Mai and Ty Dolla $ign. The song's summery bass groove opens up just enough for an inspired and hooky chorus to shine before dissolving into old-school drum machine sounds at the song's close. Likewise, the inspirational rap/R&B hybrid "Ballin'" is a step forward for Mustard's production, opening with a screwed sample of 702's hit "Get It Together" and layering organic instruments, dreamy samples, and percussion sounds under Roddy Ricch's impassioned flow. The collection ends with a floating and drum-less title track, with flows and spoken word by the late Nipsey Hussle in full focus over the daydreamy instrumental. Though Perfect Ten is short by mixtape standards, it's another vibrant exhibit of Mustard's gifts at arranging sounds that can that start the party or spark deep feelings.

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