Earlier this year, Drake shouted out L.E.P. Bogus Boys as part of "the new cycle of hip-hop," and this gangster, game-shaking project—albeit far from Drizzy's emo tunes—proves why. Jeremih, Fabolous and Gucci Mane make guest appearances.
Young Diggy Simmons continued his impressive run in 2011 with Airborne, with lyrics and a flow far advanced for his age. Following up on the explosive debut release of First Flight, Dig's sophomore mixtape paired the rap wunderkind with the likes of Lupe Fiasco ("Thinking Bout You"), Pharell & Lupe Fiasco ("Oh Yeah"), building the anticipation for his official major label takeoff in 2011.
Perhaps one of the most well-orchestrated mixtapes of the year, the boys of Major Lazer (Diplo & Switch) reinterpreted UK duo La Roux’s debut album into a completely new body of work by blending the sounds of electro-pop, dancehall, dubstep and hip-hop. La Roux vocalist Elly’s haunting vocals step way out of character when intertwined with verses from Gucci Mane and Gyptian, but the end result it as addictive as it is simple.
Freddie Gibbs revived unabashed gangsta music with Str8 Killa No Filla, tapping into his inner Eazy-E. The Gary, Indiana rapper seesaws from hopeless street woes to plans of escape over beats by Statik Selektah, Rome and Develop, bringing his lyric game straight up.
Before Dr. Dre was shouting him out in interviews, Kendrick Lamar etched his lane in the hip-hop blogosphere with this second, self-righteous mixtape, spurring a bidding frenzy for the Cali lyricist.
Talk about a collaboration no one saw coming. DJ Drama turned heads once again by bringing M-1 and stic.man rebellious raps to his Gangsta Grillz series in honor of the 10th anniversary of Let's Get Free. The Black Power brothers transform club bangers like Drake's "Over" and Lloyd Banks' "Beamer, Benz Or Bentley" into afrocentric rally cries on one of the year's sleeper tapes.
Cassidy guns for punchline king crown (did he ever really lose it?) with the second installment of his DJ Big MIke and DJ Thoro-hosted Apply Pressure series. Dropping quoteable quips over original and overused beats (Snoop Dogg's "I Wanna Rock," anyone?), Cass reminds us that lyrically he's still a problem, indeed.
Bun B kicked off 2010 with an onslaught of freestyles, which he assembled into one convenient package. Riding the most requested beats of moment, No Mixtape was strong reminder that the Trill OG’s widom can transcend on any track. Bun shines on “One King” and gets retrospective on “Bag Music.”
Some would argue that this project is better than his album Passion, Pain & Pleasure, which was released back in September. Throughout this one, Mr. Steal Your Girl transforms into Mr. Steal Your Beat, in the process proving (again) that he has no problem demolishing a song while singing or rapping over it.
Kanye's royal recruit showed all his different dimensions on his first mixtape as G.O.O.D. Music family: There was the Prince of Diamonds, CyHi's flossy side ("Living Wonderful"); female-friendly Prince of Hearts ("Can't Find Love"); Prince of Spades to showcase Cy's street sensibilities ("Bunch Of Rounds"); and the Prince of Clubs, designed to reign lounges and dancefloors ("Hero"). And the combination made rivals rappers throw in their hands.
The Gadson, Alabama’s native’s machine gun funk delivery stood out on this backwoods killing spree. On “Good To Go" (featuring Bun-B), Yelawolf lets us in on his heinous mindstate: “Run up on a motherfucker with a dull pencil/Sharpen up a #2 on his new Benzo.” Representing a side of the trailer parks unseen in 8 Mile, Yela’s Trunk Muzik made us think again about those country 'bamas.
With catchy hooks and vicious lyrics, Meek Mill stands up for Philly with this versatile third installment of his Flamerz.
Cam’Ron pushed his latest protégé Vado to the forefront with the sequel to Boss Of All Bosses. The newcomer’s smooth and familiar rhyme patterns (“They Feelin Us”) were convincing enough to grab the listeners throughout the East Coast. Vado’s mob reference heavy and nostalgic Uptown raps helped keep the duo’s mixtape on heavy rotation throughout 2010.
R. Kelly and Trey Songz ain't the only contemporary R&B cats who can spit a decent 16. Chris Brown sang and rapped his way through the DJ Drama & DJ Sense-hosted project, even flipping Trigga's "Invented Sex" ("Invented Head").
Continuing to spill his most inner thoughts onto wax, Joe Budden’s highly reflective Mood Muzik 4 kept fans tuned into the next chapter of the rapper’s personal diary. Tracks like “Black Cloud” and “Follow My Lead” show internal struggles still churn through Budden’s conscious, but his lyrical ingenuity (lyrically bonkers posse cut "Remember The Titans") kept listeners glued on every bar.
Go ahead, try to put B.o.B in a box. It's impossible. The singing rapper proves just as much as he blacks out on the opening "Beast Mode," before remaking Coldplay's "Lost!" ("Not Lost"). Bottom line: You'll get a little of everything here, and it all sounds good.
Young Money's Left Coast rep built on his copiloted mixtape with Chris Brown with this DJ Drama and DJ Active-hosted project. The resulting tape—featuring self-assured raps over original and industry tracks—lives up to its name.
Wale furthers his Seinfeld obsession with the conceptual follow-up to The Mixtape About Nothing, supplying witty lyrics over smooth beats. Don't worry, no Kramer spazz outs, here.
Back in May, Jadakiss stepped into the ring and threw tenacious punchlines, defending his championship mixtape belt. With only the man in the mirror as his opposition, the three-time champ had his routine down pat throwing right crosses—“The Black Mamba of the vocals, MJ of the pro tools, anti-social" (Who Shot Ya)—and haymakers—“Rihanna got half the bitches shaving half they hair off,/Niggas is so wack I took half the year off" (Celebration).” Consider this a TKO.
For those who've been following Big Sean's budding, quip-filled career, his 2010 mixtape's title seems to truly be an affirmation, not aspiration. He holds up under the spotlight's glow, recruiting Drake, Bun B. and Tyga for appearances. Get your lyrical fix.
Unfortunately, 2010 didn't deliver the long-awaited follow-up to Young Jeezy's 2008 masterpiece, The Recession. But this Don Cannon-hosted mixtape helped quench fans' hunger for unadulterated trap rap, birthing the hard-hitting "Lose My Mind" with Plies.'
This year's best Christmas gift didn't come packaged in cruddy wrapping paper. Instead, it was the Dec. 24 release of Rick Ross' second mixtape (featuring Wiz Khalifa, Ludacris, T.I. and more), which piggybacked on his 2010 ubiquity with another heaping of street swagger fit for a Bawse.
Pittsburgh teen Mac Miller turned his high living, carefree bars into a career in 2010 with K.I.D.S. (an acronym for “Kicking Incredibly Dope Shit”). Lighthearted subject matter—“I’m Justin Beiber meets Jadakiss" (“Get Em Up”)—and a sharp '90s inspired flow pushed the 18-year-old’s mixtape onto iPods worldwide this year. It's the perfect soundtrack for the forever young set.
The Internets anticipation hit a fever pitch when Cole tweeted that he'd be releasing a final mixtape before his debut LP. And the lyrical force from North Carolina delivered, going line-for-line with the likes of Drake ("In The Morning"), Wale ("You Got Me") and Kanye West ("Looking For Trouble," one of the best and most brash verses of the year). It's scary how much J.Cole's lyricism has spiked since The Warm Up, and if superior tracks like "Premeditated Murder" and "Love Me Not" are any indication of what's to come from Cole's debut, it's lights out for rival rappers.
Meet the new Def Jam South. Mississippian rapper/producer Big K.R.I.T. kicked in the door with his momentous mixtape, tackling social inequity ("2000 Beyond"), relationship struggles ("Good Enough") and occasionally just plain' stuntin' ("Just Touched Down") over original beats. K.R.I.T. etched his name on the game with this one, and it's unlikely you'll forget anytime soon.
Before T.I. found himself back in the box, the 2010 was still a hopeful year for the ATL king. And this mixtape was evidence. Returning to the mic with his former bite, T.I. spazzed out over Swizzy tracks, reunited with Toomp and reintroduced listeners to the trap. Fuck a mixtape, T.I. blessed us with an album strong enough for us to stand by his King Uncaged title fail.
Even with out the lethal radio power of "Girl You Be Killin’ ‘Em"—added upon the EP re-release—There Is No Competition 2 found Fab lyrically in rare form, trading bedroom banter with Nicki Minaj on "For The Money" ("Bent that Barbie over and she ain't seen Ken since") and closing the case on Jay Electronica's "Exhibit C" ("I'm Jive Records—I dump clips"). Peep the eulogy.
Preceding the release of his Teflon Don, The Albert Anastasia EP set the tone for one of the best albums of the year, introducing both the Lex Luger-produced "BMF (Blowin Money Fast)" and "MC Hammer." With original production from Boi-1da, The Runners and John Legend, Ross' 2010 takeover began right here.
Chris Brown should look no further than this mixtape when reflecting on his musical redemption in 2010. The pairing with Young Money rapper Tyga was brilliant—one was a budding artists in the midst of the strongest camp in hip-hop, the other parlaying his negative press into sweet-and-sour raps and songs. And in the end, it was the project's crowning gem, "Deuces," that powered its way to number one on the charts and etched a cozy spot for Tyga and CB in this summer's music scene. Clearly, we're fans.
On April 14, Wiz Khalifa took over the Internet. Unfamiliar Twitter users scratched their noggins upon seeing the seemingly esoteric phrase "Kush & OJ" listed in their trending topic sidebar. Even Google fell victim to the Pittsburgh rapper's rabid demand—all for a mixtape. The project was more than unwarranted hype, though. Dipping into unconventional wells of inspiration, the Taylor gang leader swiped Demi Lovato's "Our Time Is Here" from Disney's Camp Rock soundtrack for the psychedelic anthem "We're Done"; elsewhere Frou Frou’s “Let Go” is, uh, lifted, for "In The Cut." He flexes his vocals here and there ("Up") and even tries his hand at reggae ("Still Blazin"). Can we get much higher?