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Mystery Inc.: cutting through the mixtape era

Sophomore rap duo releases ‘Weekday Warriors’

Jackson Croy, Staff Reporter
Originally published March 29, 2016

Album: Weekday Warriors

Artist: Mystery Inc.

Score: ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Sophomore rappers Sam Jenkins (Sam J) and Cosmo Rossi (Tarmac Jones), collectively known as Mystery Inc. delivered their debut album “Weekday Warriors” on March 9. This first effort is a nicely blunted pop-rap album that bangs harder than any album made by 16-year-olds should.

Jenkins and Rossi have been working together on music since the 7th grade. This new project brings in several collaborators: sophomores Caitlin Phillips, Nick Otness and Chase Perez (a student in Portland) all have walk-on verses.

Most of Mystery Inc.’s production is handled by Rossi. Rossi’s sound is a unique blend of boom bap, trap, and synth pop. His lo-fi, often analog technique pulls from all across the hip-hop universe.

Mystery Inc.’s flow and style is exceptional for the league they’re in. Frequently, artists in the mainstream rap scene have lyrics and flows far less sophisticated than these two sixteen-year-old boys. Listen to Sam’s verse in “Trap Star” for a pivotal example of this.

Despite all this, the project lacks professional mixing. That’s to be expected of a zero-budget bedroom hip-hop album, but it is something listeners will grapple with. Lyrics are cliche at times, however Rossi and Jenkins’ deep background in hip-hop shines through on the album. The listener can hear the influences, the purposeful stylistic choices, the technique, and the artistry with crystal clear tone.

This album sets a wonderfully lush example for any rapper or producer trying to make a name for themselves at a high school level. The do-it-yourself attitude in both the beats and the rhymes express that Rossi and Jenkins indeed aren’t “Trap Stars”. Jenkins and Rossi cut through the immense clutter of soundcloud mixtape rappers by showcasing legitimate talent and knowledge of the art form, rather than just talking about how good they are at it.

Elliot BaileySophomores Sam Jenkins (left) and Cosmo Rossi (right) of Mystery Inc. have been rapping and producing together since 7th grade. It's been a long road to the release of their first album, Weekday Warriors, which hit Bandcamp and SoundClo…

Elliot Bailey

Sophomores Sam Jenkins (left) and Cosmo Rossi (right) of Mystery Inc. have been rapping and producing together since 7th grade. It’s been a long road to the release of their first album, Weekday Warriors, which hit Bandcamp and SoundCloud on March 9. The wait is over and it was worth it—Ballard High School now has an album it can be proud of.

Notable tracks:

“Trap Star” Sam J delivers the highlight verse of the album in the second half of this innovative and catchy tune about how Tarmac and Sam’s dreams don’t come any faster than anyone else’s.

“Blue Dream” The instrumental from this was first heard in an ultra-rare Tarmac Jones bootleg remix of Mac Miller’s “Pittsburgh Kids Get The Biz.” It was just as much a hit then as it is now, only being further complemented by the duo’s creative lyrics about a certain adventure they once embarked on.

“Munchin’ Hard” Tarmac Jones refers to the fridge and frying pan as his “blank canvas.” Sam J lists his favorite sandwich toppings. Over a distinct vocal sample and a swinging drum beat, the two stay cool and catchy as ever.

Chelsea Leingang

Chelsea Leingang

How long have you two been working together?

SJ: since 7th grade

TJ: mmm. I think eighth grade.

SJ: No, I’m pretty sure Club Love was 7th grade

Who got who into this (hip-hop)?

TJ: It was a mutual thing.

SJ: Yeah but I mean you have always known more about it than I have, and been much more educated.

TJ: (Giggles) Okay whatever.

Who are some artists that have influenced you?

TJ: I don’t really know if we’re influenced by a certain band, but there definitely are artists that I like, listen to to get pumped up.

SJ: Mac Miller, definitely.

TJ: Earl Sweatshirt.

SJ: Atmosphere.

TJ: Man, all the white people?

SJ: psh, Isaiah Rashad?

TJ: I only heard like one thing from him.

SJ: Nah, he’s good. Yeah IDK. I wouldn’t say our music is directly based off another artist so much as just listening to other artists who help us write.

TJ: Oh yeah, and MF DOOM for sure. For the most part it’s just whatever artists make us feel like writing lyrics.

How long has this album been in the works?

TJ: Since freshman year. Go Figure was recorded at like, the beginning of freshman year. We didn’t make a single song (after that) until like, the summer.

What’s an afternoon in the studio with Sam and Tarmac like?

SJ: Terrible. (both laugh)

TJ: There are days when it’s really fun and easy, and then there are other days where it’s much harder to rap your verse than you thought it was.

SJ: We don’t have the most professional set up either, and so technical difficulties are… a common thing.

TJ: For some reason in Sam’s house the connection is electrically charged so when we are handling the mic we have to actually wear gloves or else it will shock you.

SJ: Badly. You will be badly shocked. Sometimes there’s some anger and some bad puns, but it was a good time in the end. We got it done, you know?

TJ: I was actually really, really sick for the recording of “Oh Schucks,” like I was shivering with a terrible fever, wearing like four jackets.

Whats next for mystery inc?

SJ: What we gonna do now? Shit, we can’t say..

TJ: Shut up, god damn it.

SJ: ..But until it fuckin happens, once again it’s Sam J. Um, I don’t know. We got a couple ideas but nothing really solid planned yet.

TJ: We are gonna try and keep a few singles coming out after this to stay up there.

SJ: Keep the Soundcloud active.

TJ: And then, I don’t know, another album might happen but not in the near future.

If you each had to review your own work, how well do you think you did?

SJ: I mean, obviously we don’t have the same equipment [as professionals].

TJ: Or talent.

SJ: I’d say our production isn’t the best it could be…

TJ: *glares*

SJ: …and I mean, our lyricism could use some work, but I think we definitely kinda know who we are now, compared to some of our older works, and we really have gotten to the flow of things.

TJ: I think, for what we did, we definitely did a lot more than people were expecting. The good thing about this album is that we were a lot harder on ourselves than we really have been in the past so that people are gonna like it even if it’s a lower quality than what we think is good.

What are each of your proudest moments on the album?

SJ: Oh man. Probably the entirety of “Laugh It Up” for me. That one was really fun to do and I really liked the beat.

TJ: Dude, my proudest moment was on Already Sleeping, I just like made that beat and wrote my entire verse within half an hour. That was nice.

SJ: Also just seeing it come together at the end.

TJ: Yeah, I mean obviously proudest moment was pressing publish on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. That was dope.

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Mystery Inc.: cutting through the mixtape era