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‘TheHouse Presents: The Set’ and Chattanooga Presents Southern Hip-Hop’s Next Mixtape Chapter

 Alberto Aliaga + Evan Dale // March 27, 2022 

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TheHouse: an underground collective of rappers and producers that hail from Chattanooga - a city as underground as the rap label itself in the grand scheme of hip-hop and really music as a whole. And yet, a scene undoubtedly driven in our time by the creative expression of TheHouse itself, consistently pushing forward the reach of their artistry both solo and collective through myriad releases stretching from YGTUT’s comprehensive run since 2015’s celebrated Preacher’s Son, to Michael Da Vinci’s 2021 album, Roses, and back to 2017 citywide tape, Four Two Three, spearheaded by Chattanooga anthem, Summa Jam which still soundtracks every season far beyond their native middle Tennessee. Largely under the radar, Chattanooga has abundantly produced great music - mostly at the hands of TheHouse and the independent label’s grander circle of friends in recent years - and their latest project is at the forefront of a list detailing just what it is that the city has brought to the table. Chattanooga’s Got Next, after all. Chattanooga done had next for a while now, but greatness requires patience and perseverance. This moment, however - and this project - are certainly a product of that grind toward independent uniqueness and a trailblazing Southern reinvention that also stretches an arm North to the Soul and Hip-Hop oriented underground of Nashville undergoing a renaissance eternally intertwined with that of Chattanooga.


TheHouse Presents: The Set mainly orbits the sounds of Chattanooga mainstay, YGTUT - whose most recent claim to the limelight was a hard-hitting verse on fellow Chattanooga artist, Isaiah Rashad’s Chad taken from The House Is Burning; alongside TheHouse founder and verse-slanging lyricist in his own right, $hoey Russel. Four Two Three operated within a similar framework. And like that project, this project, too, is highlighted by featuring explosions of grit and lyrical vivacity via local hitmen Michael Da Vinci, Chris P House, and BIGG CUP, alongside a smattering of other names from elsewhere like LA’s Hugh Augustine and Atlanta’s Jace. Their presence on the tape is an homage to the reach of a burgeoning Chattanooga influence on the wider rap game, and the project itself is an exhibition of the wider rap game’s breadth when projected through the Southern soundscape’s kaleidoscope.


At its core, it’s a wide-ranging mixtape of sorts inviting friends and collaborators to leave their own mark while adhering strongly to the one-of-a-kind sound that the collective has been beaming onto the underside of hip-hop’s floorboards for years. Each track - with the stylistic width that a proper mixtape should boast - is a meandering change of direction from the last, never once taking itself too seriously, but unendingly brimming with seriously hard-hitting verses, addicting hooks, and a vibrant collection of beats. Via the productive prowess that TheHouse has built and the professionally astute grit that their sound is known for, each track also flows cleanly into the next, taking the jarring stylistic inadherence of the old-school mixtape formula where a number of samples and producers left their staggered marks in soloist fashion, but stripping it of its stop-and-go identity in favor of something more fluid in its modern details. In result, TheHouse Presents: The Set is a dynamic, particularly fun evolution of the early 00’s mixtape moment, from Chattanooga's leading creative collective en route to the warmer months where the soundwaves of a Southern signature reign supreme. And at the core of that success exist the collection of producers that TheHouse has on their roster.


The project's wide-ranging production boasts a constant string of hard and rapid 808’s and kicks that any fan of the dirty South aesthetic is eternally in search of. Right from its onset, the project clearly cements itself in the ever expanding framework of the Southern - particularly Tennessean - hip-hop tradition. Deep bass, shallow punchlines, and a whole lot of trunk shaking bravado that calls home to Southern hip-hop’s roots up the 24 and down the 40 in Memphis. Through the stabilizing lens of the Southern soundscape, TheHouse achieves mastery in letting each artist on each track shine without allowing the influence of any particular one name to take up too much of center stage. A true group effort from start to finish.


Take Never Change. $hoey is able to slow things down while YGTUT’s low and gravelly southern draw glides over a mellow, key-strewn beat with the ferocious flow he has long brought to the game, before allowing it to marinate into a cool, introspective hook. On the other hand, Brown Skin takes their Southern stylistic exploration into an R&B reminiscent lyrical direction, all the while sidestepping an R&B sound. And through it all, from beginning to end, The Set brims with a constant return to Jazz-inspired production which further places the project outside of a typical Dirty South sound, and instead builds upon a current run of particularly middle Tennessee instrumental backdrops. The beauty of southern Hip-Hop is the authenticity of it all, and at The Set feels unendingly authentic to the Chattanooga scene. Gathering a collection of rappers and producers from such a lesser known part of Tennessee, inviting in friends, and allowing for everyone to do their thing through the framework of an explosive small market Southern renaissance makes everything from straight up silly tracks like $uki $uki to more lyrically serious tracks like Smoothe Recovery flow together in confluence. 


That ability to seamlessly draw together a mixtape with album quality is exactly what makes the collective effort so special. Always be on the lookout for more from TheHouse, from Chattanooga, and from Tennessee at large.

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