It’s also in its own right an important document of the city of Chicago in 2012. Reese and Keef are national figures now, but it’s impossible to detach Don’t Like from their home city, one with a murder rate so high that Reese (and other rappers) casually refers to it as “Chiraq.” That is the backdrop that the mixtape is set against, and though looking out for only yourself, your friends, and your family has long been the base worldview of gangsta rap, there is something patently different about the expression of Don’t Like. Reese takes Keef’s lack of emotion and turns it down a notch even further, routinely blurring the line between rapping and talking. The result are songs that are a string of survivalist mantras. Lines like, “At the top it’s just us, nigga/ But I don’t really trust niggas,” “I lost so many niggas I turned into a savage,” and “Never switch up on your niggas, that’s bad for your health,” hang over the tape even after Reese has moved on. This is a stirring work, powered by beats that are often densely packed with ideas, but it is at its core a group of songs strictly about Lil Reese and his crew outlasting what their environment has made them into. Rarely do they seem enlivened by the task.
—Jordan Sargent, from his review of Lil Reese’s Don’t Like mixtape.
It’s a good thing; I don’t care about talking about the same things on social media too often, because if you follow me on twitter at this point you’d know I love this review done by Jordan Sargent. But, I’ve really wanted to highlight this paragraph, as it wrestles with what is kind of troubling but ultimately what is so great about this Lil Reese’s tape.
Even, if the circumstances that have created this music are a very legitimate cause for concern (see: the far too high number of killing happening in Chicago), the end result here is something surprisingly unique. The Lex Luger/Waka Flocka/Rick Ross sound that has ruled street rap the last few years has been slowing morphing with guys like Mike Will Made It and DJ Spinz making for some interesting twists on that formula. And, while Young Chop has production range, this particular tape is one the darkest mixtape not only in sound, but also in lyrical sentiment I’ve heard in a while. I’m sure Reese and his friends can find time for fun, but this tape’s eschewed worries over any moral responsibility makes for a shockingly compelling mixtape. Typically that moral grounding is needed to keep this type of music from sounding too calculated and malicious, but that callousness is what makes this relatively brief mixtape one the year’s best.