MIXTAPES OF THE YEAR
10. THE UNDERACHIEVERS
This Brooklyn duo frequently fly the ʻBeast Coastʼ banner, a New York movement which loosely counts ASAP Mob, Tan Boys, Flat Bush Zombies and Joey Badassʼ Pro Era crew as affiliates. While these groups have little in common stylistically, Indigoism is like the melting pot of PEʼs 90s throwback boom-bap (Land of Lords) and ASAPʼs drugged up but hyperactive post-regional trap (Herb Shuttles). While Indigoism might lack the kind of quotable punchlines that glue themselves to your consciousness, both AK and Issa Gold are so fired up it sounds like theyʼre fighting over the mic throughout.
GHETTO HEAVEN VOL.1
Following a period of silence which, in relation to the rap fanʼs ruthless appetite, felt like an aeon, Dipset leader Camʼron pleased his (often obsessive) fanbase by finally dropping this delayed, but-solid-as-fuck 19 track mixtape. Like his best work, the appeal here lies in Killa Camʼs ability to be funny while acting tough, and the way he simultaneously sounds laid back yet authoritative: ʻYo, I donʼt know what you heard but Iʼm cool with the drama/ Couple people still alive ʻcause Iʼm cool with their mamaʼ. Arguably this yearʼs best mixtape artwork too.
8. ACTION BRONSON & PARTY SUPPLIES
BLUE CHIPS 2
THE DON’S CHEEK
2012ʼs Blue Chips is among Actions Bronsonʼs finest work. The mixtapeʼs sessions involved a couple of weeks of Bronson and producer Party Supplies getting obscenely high on weed oil, cooking snacks and watching shitty movies while hunting for goofy samples on Youtube. The pair reunited with the ʻIf it aint broke, donʼt fix itʼ mentality, and once again they rustled up a full-length of absurdly comical, addictive hip-hop. Bronson may be a bona fide pervert, but itʼs hard to stay angry at him when heʼs rapping over Sussudio by Phil Collins.
7. MEEK MILL
DOPE DEALER FEAT. NICKI MINAJ & RICK ROSS
Meek Mill raps like … well, weʼll leave that up to 2013ʼs best parody Twitter account to describe it. But all jokes aside, thereʼs no one who throws as much energy into a high- octane, blockbuster trap beat as this Philadelphian Maybach Music signee. Following last yearʼs slightly underwhelming album Dreams and Nightmares, here Meek Mill redeemed himself in the same industry where he established his name: the mixtape circuit. Some of this tapeʼs greatest moments happen when Meek is washed in glossy, dramatic melody (Aint Me, My Life) and the tribute Lil Snupe – his teenage protege who was murdered this year – is one of most unflinchingly emotional rap tracks youʼll ever hear.
6. YOUNG THUG
2 CUPS STUFFED
Trying to keep up with Gucci Maneʼs output this year has been exhausting in itself (three new mixtapes in one day, anyone?), never mind the constant releases from the 1017 Brick Squad roster. Of all Gucciʼs crew, it was Atlanta weirdo Young Thug who snatched the spotlight in 2013. With bizarre hooks and rhymes executed in a strangled-cat yelp or through a corrupted use of autotune, Young Thug shrieks about his (mostly unsavoury) exploits like kid bouncing on a trampoline. This tape was met with a mixed response: either youʼre hopelessly addicted, or you canʼt finish a single track.
5. VINCE STAPLES
STUCK IN MY WAYS
For a while, it seemed like Vince Staples had fucked up his big chance. After featuring on Earl Sweatshirtʼs 2010 mixtape (Staplesʼ verse was possibly the most gruesome of any Odd Future release, itʼs a track both rappers would rather forget), he was aggressively rejected by and publicly mocked by OF leader Tyler, The Creator, and the fact that the tracks of his long-awaited Shyne Coldchain Vol.1 tape felt half-finished didnʼt exactly help sustain the hype. But since Earl got back home, heʼs been showing his old mate plenty of love (see Hive), and Vince Staples – still only 20 years old – reached his potential as a ￼￼sharp lyricist on Stolen Youth. While Staplesʼ outlook is gloomy and sobering (he claims to have never been to a party or a strip club), the consistently awesome beats, all of which are produced by Mac Miller under his Larry Fisherman alias, make the tape feel addictive rather than tedious.
4. VIC MENSA
WELCOME TO INNANET
ʻThey made a list of Chicago rappers and they skipped meʼ, Vic Mensa raps on his breakthrough sun-soaked jam Orange Soda. With his close friend Chance The Rapper being declared The Next Big Thing by every music publication on the planet, you can understand why Mensaʼs worried about being overshadowed. But hopefully that wonʼt be the case, because Innanetape is nearly as amazing as Acid Rap. Thereʼs definitely similarities between the two, but Mensaʼs wiry, rapid double time seems to conjure up more coherent rhymes (see his stab at social commentary on Time Is Money: ʻTryinʼ to be optimistic with the politicians/ cut schools, buy guns, but when the shots is lickinʼ at the ones thatʼll lose they son/ Instead they send ʻem to private schools and pull back on public fundsʼ). If you missed this one first time round, we suggest that you download it right now.
3. KEVIN GATES
THE LUCA BRASI STORY
With tears tattooed on his face, Louisianaʼs Kevin Gates epitomises the sensitive thug persona. For all the hard-faced tough talk, Gates allows the emotional repercussions to creep up in his voice and lyrics. The Luca Brasi Story saw him naturally fluctuate between aggressively rapped street anecdotes and hooks sang with a strangely tender croak. The beats here are massive, juggernaut 808s are smothered with melodramatic, gothic strings and synth stabs that beg to be blared out of car stereos at an anti-social volume.
2. CHANCE THE RAPPER
SMOKE AGAIN FEAT. AB-SOUL
While Chief Keef and his teenage drill brigade have been mirroring the terrifying crime rate of ʻChiraqʻ with a remorseless, nihilistic monoflow, 20-year-old Chancelor Bennett funneled the vivid, kaleidoscopic visions of an LSD trip into this mixtape which has been rightfully categorised as a future classic. Itʼs been over three decades since hip-hopʼs inception, and despite the formulaʼs inherent simplicity – just voices and a beat – every now and then an artist comes along with a sound and attitude unlike anything that came before it. Acid Rap was one of those moments. And with his elastic flow and free-flowing eccentricity, Chance put warmth back into Chicago rap music.
SUNDAY SCHOOL II: WHEN CHURCH LETS OUT
Tremaine “Tree” Johnsonʼs DIY ʻsoul trapʼ formula does exactly what it says on the tin: The primitive sounding beats take on the fluttering hi-hat patterns of trap and are contrasted with warped Stax soul samples which sound like theyʼre trying to escape a rusty old juxebox. The 30 year old former womenʼs shoe salesman is also the proud owner of one of the coarsest, wheeziest voices youʼll ever hear on record, and while the Tom Waits comparisons are pretty far-fetched, thereʼs a weathered raconteur spirit to Tree and itʼs not hard to imagine him gargling with whiskey before every vocal take. Tree can be raunchy, he can be aggressive, and heʼs equipped with a sense of machismo developed from growing up in Chicagoʼs impoverished Cabrini-Green housing projects. But Treeʼs preoccupation with his family shows his more tender side, and on Sunday School II he subverts mainstream rapʼs glamourisation of the gang culture. On Most Successful, Tree boasts about voting for Obama with a wounded sense of pride, before shouting out a friend who made it from the projects to medical school and a five-time felon who now runs his own business while calling bullshit on the fakeness of the rap industry. Itʼs 2013ʼs most underrated mixtape, and you can read our interview with Tree here.
Words: Davy Reed