The Bandcamp description of Father’s Who’s Gonna Get F—ed First? mixtape describes the project as “12 tracks of pure debauchery.” There’s little more that needs to be said, really. Father made a splash in 2014 with his single “Look at Wrist” with Key! and ILoveMakonnen, and that set him up as one of the leaders of the weirder side of the Atlanta hip-hop scene. Who’s Gonna Get F—ed First? was Father’s first full project since getting that hype, and it lives up to the reputation he’s started to make for himself. It really is 12 tracks of debauchery, with the themes of the tape rarely straying from the topic of partying and sex. Featuring Father’s minimalist production and hazy raps, Father serves as a great alternative to the more mainstream side of Atlanta hip-hop.
Your Old Droog has come a long way from being “that guy who sounds like Nas.” On his first mixtape, people actually thought it was Nas himself playing some kind of clever ruse on listeners under a pen name, but as he continued to release projects he distanced himself from the comparison and developed his own unique style. The Kinison tape is an interesting experiment, blending Droog’s 90s rap-influenced rhymes with the sounds and themes of 90s rock. There are references to Sonic Youth, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys, among others. The tape also features “Gentrify My Hood,” Droog’s satirical track about the gentrification of New York City and perhaps the best track of his young career so far.
Kevin Gates has set the hip-hop world on fire with his gruff brand of Southern gangsta rap, and he’s managed to keep a steady stream of full-length releases going over the past few years. The past three or so years featured at least two full projects a year, so it’s a little disappointing that Gates’ one release in 2015 is a relatively short, seven-track mixtape that’s over in about 20 minutes. The good news, though, is that Murder for Hire is as consistent as ever. Kevin Gates holds the project down himself outside a feature from OG Boobie Black. Despite the disappointingly short run time, the tape is consistent enough to hold Gates fans over until his next full-length project drops. The lyrical assault of “Khaza” alone is worth the download.
Over the course of the year, Juicy J has released two mixtapes in anticipation of his next album Pure THC: The Hustle Continues. The first was Blue Dream and Lean which, while not bad, couldn’t manage to live up to its predecessor, which is one of the best mixtapes of the past half-decade. His follow-up mixtape 100% Juice, however, managed to fulfill all expectations. It’s an unabashedly fun tape about getting f—ed up and partying. If you’ve heard a Juicy project before, you know what to expect. What surprises about Juicy J is that he manages to consistently make fun turn-up music at 40 years old. 100% Juice is filled with bangers that will get stuck in your head for days.
Part of what made Lil B such a unique presence in music a few years ago was his insane work ethic. It seemed like a new Lil B tape would drop every month or even sooner. One of the biggest surprises of the year is that so far the rapper has only released one project, and it’s a collaboration with Chance the Rapper (who between his countless features, in-the-works studio project, and work with Donnie Trumpet, is proving to be incredibly prolific himself). This Free mixtape has Chance and Lil B trading bars on a collection of “based” freestyles. The end result is genuinely thought-provoking, moving, witty rap. Lil B’s rapping ability is often criticized, but this project also boasts some of the former Pack member’s best rap lyrics ever. He keeps up with Chance throughout the tape’s runtime, and even outshines him at points.
Peewee Longway is most notably known as being a disciple of sorts for more popular acts like Young Thug and Migos. It’s hard to see Longway break away from his label of being second-fiddle to guys like Thugger. That’s a shame, because when Peewee makes his own music, it’s engaging and fun. King Size is a phenomenal sequel to his original Blue M&M mixtape and builds on what Longway accomplished there. “I Start My Day Off Selling Drugs” is one of the biggest bangers of the year. People might look into the tape because of its features (Offset, Rich Homie Quan, Thug) and production crew (Zaytoven, C-Note), but Peewee is the voice that keeps everything together on this overlooked tape.
Not enough people are talked about Maxo Kream this year. Even if he was a more well-known name in hip-hop, I’d probably still say that. That’s how good his mixtape Maxo 187 is. Maxo is a great rapper holding it down in Houston and creating some amazingly dark, gritty street rap. The cold sounds of Maxo’s music makes it one of the most brutal gangsta rap records of the year. The man can even make a song featuring Joey Bada$$ (“1998”) dark and threatening. Watch out for Maxo to make waves in the future.
2 Chainz is in a career crossroads of sorts. He dominated rap radio for a few years. There was a time period in the early 2010s where it seemed like every mixtape and album needed a 2 Chainz feature. It was a run of success that hadn’t really been seen since Carter II/III-era Lil Wayne (though the former Tity Boi never amassed quite the following Wayne did). In the past year or so, he’s been a presence but not quite the driving force he was just a few years back. People are moving on from having the token 2 Chainz verse on their project. That’s not to say he’s lost his ability because Trap-A-Velli Tre hits many of the same notes he hit while he was on top. The tape is an inspired, often-hilarious project from the rapper and shows he still deserves attention even if his role in hip-hop is diminished.
Rick Ross put out two albums over the course of 2014 with Mastermind and Hood Billionaire. While both projects (especially Mastermind) had their highlights, he didn’t really sound that inspired. Ross has found himself sounding complacent on just about everything he’s released since his brilliant 2012 mixtape Rich Forever. That is, until he dropped Black Dollar. The mixtape format works for Ross, and the rapper finally sounds hungry for the first time in a few years. The first half of the tape is mostly Ross himself, while an impressive array of guest features helps him out more on the second half. The beats are provided by some of the most premier producers working today, and the end result is one of the best tapes to put on in the car of the year.
The best mixtape of last year was the collaborative Tha Tour Part 1 by Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug as Rich Gang. After that tape blew up, both artists moved to different paths to work on their respective solo careers. If You Ever Think I Will Stop Going In, Ask RR is the yet tape in Quan’s I Go In series, and the melodic rap sound is still evident. There are some absolute heaters on here, including “Flex (Ooh Ooh Ooh),” the song that helped inspire ILoveMemphis to first “Hit the Quan.” Quan is gearing up for his first studio album, but these tapes have served as great distractions until the record finally drops.
There are few rappers that regularly feed their audience with quality music like Big K.R.I.T. Since he dropped K.R.I.T. Wiz Here in 2010, he’s released at least one good-to-great album or mixtape a year. It’s Better This Way is the latest mixtape in this winning streak. K.R.I.T.’s subject matter isn’t much different than it was five years ago. He’s still rapping about country s— and being king of the South, but when you rap as hard and as consistently great as Big K.R.I.T. does, you don’t need to go outside that lane too much. Not many others can provide the same introspective Southern rap that K.R.I.T. does.
The mixtape scene is both pretty male-dominated and hip-hop-dominated. That’s what makes something like Kehlani’s You Should Be Here is so special when it shows up on a mixtape screen. You can find plenty of free trap, gangsta rap and even conscious hip-hop on mixtape sites, but finding decent-quality R&B can require digging. You Should Be Here is a lovely tape from 20 year-old California songstress Kehlani, and despite her young age, her brand of breezy, personal R&B hits home. She’s right up there with singers like Jhene Aiko, and she could soon have a breakout into the mainstream like Aiko recently did.
Chief Keef has switched his style up many a time since he blew up with “I Don’t Like.” He’s produced pop-radio friendly hits, syrup-drowned Auto-Tuned melodic tracks, almost completely inaccessible experimental rap, and everything in between. In the prolific career of Chief Keef, he hasn’t always seemed to be focused. The Keef we saw in 2015 was much more focused than the few years before, and Sorry 4 the Weight was our first vision of this new, improved Keef. With most of the production coming from Young Chop’s Chopsquaddj and his own Glo Gang Productions, Keef provides a vast tape filled to the brim with personal, focused raps. Some of Keef’s older music has his voice drowned out in vocal effects, here it’s at the forefront and showcases a more mature view of the Chicago rapper.
Sorry 4 the Wait 2 was the public breakup between Birdman and Lil Wayne. Wayne had mentioned not associating himself with Cash Money, and Birdman holding his album hostage, but for many listeners it didn’t become real until this mixtape dropped and Wayne started firing shots. From a quality standpoint, it’s a mixed bag. None of Wayne’s versions of these songs are going to replace the original. Lil Wayne at points is inspired, and other points he’s just weird, dropping lines like “F— my n—- Terry for a new Blackberry.” The quality is hit and miss, but few tapes had people talking like Sorry did, whether it was to scratch your head at the lyrics or talk about the falling out between Wayne and his “father.”
Even Young Thug’s collections of old material are phenomenal. That’s more evident than ever on Slime Season (and its recently-released sequel Slime Season 2). Many of the tracks saw the light of day long before the tape’s release. The inclusion of October 2014’s Lil Wayne collaboration “Take Kare” was interesting considering Thug’s on-again-off-again beef with Weezy. Thugger’s great and unique enough though that even his throwaway tracks are bangers. His voice and enthusiasm are unmatched and he meshes nice with London on da Track, Metro Boomin and others. Thug’s a chameleon who can put his voice in the forefront or use it simply as an instrument. Few people can say they had as great a year as Young Thug did in 2015. That is, until we get to our number one pick.
Future’s 2015 was so great that it took me forever to decide which mixtape I wanted to include. Both the Zaytoven-produced ‘Beast Mode’ and ’56 Nights’ are short but filled with quality Future material. ’56 Nights’ is memorable because of the story behind it. Fewtch and DJ Esco were inspired to create the project after Esco’s 56-night-long sting in a Dubai prison for possession of marijuana. The 28-minute tape was produced almost entirely by Southside with exception of the monster “March Madness.” “Diamonds from Africa” and “Trap N—-s” (which was featured on Future’s excellent ‘DS2’ album) are bona fide bangers as well. Future’s been a rising star for years, but his output from late 2014 until now has finally solidified him as one of the top rappers in all of hip-hop. How he’ll follow up his dominant year going into 2016 is one of the top stories to watch for in the new year.
Read More: 20 Best Mixtapes of 2015 |
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