There's no doubt that DJ Drama has built an empire out of his Gangsta Grillz mixtape series. Since dropping some of his earliest GG mixtapes in the mid-2000s alongside artists like Young Jeezy, T.I., and Lil Wayne, Drama has put together a massive discography that includes well over 100 mixtapes. Thanks to him, guys like Yung Dro, Yo Gotti, 2 Chainz, and the aforementioned artists have sustained careers in between their official releases. And, as a result of all of his hard work, his stamp of approval really means something. Gangsta Grillz releases aren't just mixtapes; they're events.
It's one of the reasons 50 Cent has decided to team up with Drama to release a Gangsta Grillz mixtape. Once upon a time, Fif could put out a tape on his own and get plenty of props. But after watching his last few mixtape releases stumble out of the blocks, he's turning to Drama for help. Once upon a time, you also wouldn't catch Drama giving his stamp of approval to artists outside of the South. It's not that he didn't like East Coast or West Coast acts—remember, Drama is actually from Philly—it's just that he made his mark by giving shine to Southern artists. So, him teaming up with 50 will make this even more of an event than usual.
This obviously isn't the first time Drama has stepped outside of his comfort zone, though. In the past, he's worked with a number of different kinds of artists—with mixed results. So, with the news about Drama and 50 working together breaking recently, we decided to take a look back at the 10 most unexpected Gangsta Grillz mixtapes of all-time to see which worked out well for both Drama and the featured artist…and which didn't.—Chris Yuscavage
The Artist: Pharrell
The Mixtape: Gangsta Grillz: In My Mind (2006)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Surprisingly…yes. "Ya'll didn't think this could happen?" Drama yelled on the 'tape's second track, "When Skateboard Came." And, admittedly, we didn't. After doing tapes with Jeezy and Tip, we all thought "Pharrell?!" when we heard this was coming out. But, P held his own on the tape and did Drama proud. If only Pharrell's first official album was this good…
The Artist: Gnarls Barkley
The Mixtape: A Trip To St. Elsewhere (2006)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Not exactly. Drama and Gnarls Barkley were on the same label at the time. So, as a result of that, this tape was born. It's not that it was bad. It's just that it was basically the Gnarls Barkley album with a few extra goodies mixed in. We weren't surprised, though, given that we don't exactly think "mixtape" when we think about Gnarls Barkley.
The Artist: Little Brother
The Mixtape: Separate But Equal (2006)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Yeah, we still bump it. Little Brother's goal when they put this out: Convince people that not all Southernn rap music sounded the same. We think they accomplished that. And, in the process, they also released a pretty solid tape that lived up to the hype generated by their debut album. Separate but equal, indeed.
The Artist: Katt Williams
The Mixtape: All Hail The King (2008)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Sigh. No. This mixtape came out four years ago and we still don't quite understand what Katt was trying to do here. Was he really trying to do music? Was he kidding? Was he poking fun at people who do Gangsta Grillz mixtapes? Whatever the case, we could have done without this project.
The Artist: Asher Roth
The Mixtape: The Greenhouse Effect (2008)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Yes…even though Drama didn't have a lot to do with it. DJ Don Cannon actually handled most of the drops on this tape. But Drama's face was still on the cover and he still handled a few drops, so we'll count it. And this 'tape was solid overall with early Asher showing the world what he could do on the mic.
The Artist: Chris Brown
The Mixtape: In My Zone (Rhythm & Streets) (2010)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Somehow, yes. Okay, okay, so we hear all you mixtape purists already. "A Chris Brown mixtape made the cut?!" Yes, it did. At the time CB put this out, he was still trying to get over that whole Rih-Rih situation and the result was a pretty well-rounded mixtape that wasn't a blatant attempt at publicity like a lot of the other Gangsta Grillz R&B 'tapes. If nothing else, you've gotta appreciate the effort. Even if you're not a huge CB fan.
The Artist: Bobby V
The Mixtape: 60 Minutes Mixtape (2010)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Not surprisingly…no. Just in case if you hadn't gotten your fill of "Exhibit C" freestyles, Bobby V dropped one. And…yeah. You can probably imagine what that sounded like.
The Artist: dead prez
The Mixtape: Revolutionary But Gangsta Grillz (2010)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Yes! "I know way too many people here right now, listening to this mixtape like, 'Who the fuck are y'all?' I swear it feels like the last few years in the mainstream, everyone forgot about repping the cause," the mixtape's first song, "Far From Over," started off. And, from there, dead prez re-introduced themselves to the masses. It was nice to see Drama recognize them, even if the tape did fly a little under the radar.
The Artist: Teairra Mari
The Mixtape: Point of No Return (2010)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? %^$& no! To be fair, this could have been the best GG project ever and we wouldn't have accepted it. We're willing to accept Drama trying to step outside the box by doing R&B mixtapes. Just as long as they're not with an artist who clearly doesn't have the name or the rep to warrant one. And, to make matters worse, the former Roc-A-Fella artist has done not one, but two Gangsta Grillz mixtapes in the last three years. Sorry, but we just can't get with that.
The Artist: Sean Kingston
The Mixtape: King of Kingz (2011)
Did It Live Up To The Gangsta Grillz Standard? Only because it allowed us to use "DJ Drama" and "Justin Bieber" in the same sentence. Biebs was featured on the final track on the 'tape, "Won't Stop." Which makes us think: When is Bieber gonna get his own Gangsta Grillz mixtape—and will it live up to the GG standard? Probably not, but we wouldn't be surprised if it dropped soon anyway.