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by
13 December, 2010@11:06 am
13 comments

With so many artists bypassing the traditional major label system this year, we pick our favorite and most influential mixtapes of the 2010. Many great tapes hit this year, so it was hard to narrow it down to just 25, but here’s the cream of the crop.

25. LRG Presents The Kid Daytona – “The Interlude” (Mixtape) – Up and coming emcee The Kid Daytona had the right idea with this one: creativity. Rather than rhyming over every current “hot” beat, Daytona selected his favorite album interludes – from Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth to Kanye West – and turned them into full songs. Guest shots from Aloe Blacc, Freddie Gibbs, 9th Wonder, Cook Classics, Bink!, N.O.R.E., and more.

24. Pac Div – “Don’t Mention It” (Mixtape) - Criminally slept on west coast crew continued to deliver consistency with this April mixtape, featuring collaborations with Colin Munroe, Pill, Dom Kennedy, Chip Tha Ripper, and more. Where’s that Grown Kid Syndrome LP?

23. T.I. – “Fuck A Mixtape” – This dropped back when T.I.P.’s album was called King Uncaged, as the first piece of new material since his release from prison. Some might argue this was better than his album, No Mercy…..

22. Young Jeezy + Don Cannon – “Trap Or Die 2: By Any Means Necessary So much hype was built up for the release of Jizzle’s TM103, only to be bumped until next year. No matter, with three mixtapes of material released throughout the year, there was plenty of trap music to go around. Despite this one’s – ahem – questionable cover art, this was the strongest of the bunch, producing one hell of a club anthem with “Lose My Mind”.

21. Game + DJ Skee – “The Red Room” – XXL Magazine released this exclusive mixtape earlier in the year, which had a number of highlights. Game’s – um - ambitious 20-minute “400 Bars” freestyle got a much needed remix from Skee, and it also included exclusive singles “Shake” and “Heartbreak Hotel”. This was the G-Unot version of Game – not the “let’s be friends again, 50″ version. Still no R.E.D. album this year though.

20. Reks + Statik Selektah + Green Lantern – “In Between The Lines” – Longtime Beantown representer made waves in the underground scene this year, especially thanks to this Showoff Records sanctioned mix produced almost entirely by Statik Selektah. He even followed it up last month with a sequel.

19. A.G. + J. Dilla – “Dunkin Donuts” – Andre The Giant didn’t work with Dilla until the post-Showbiz era, but nevertheless he had a strong impact on the legendary emcee. While A.G.’s newer material hasn’t created such a strong of buzz as his Showbiz stuff, pairing him with a posthumous Dilla captures some of the classic magic.

18. Donnis – “Fashionably Late Mixtape” – The young Atlanta-by-way-of-Atlantic emcee showed remarkable consistency and range, coming into his own this year, celebrating his XXL Freshman status. John Legend, Clinton Sparks, Estelle, GLC, Yelawolf, Pill, OJ Da Juiceman, Colin Munroe helped out, as did a well timed Rihanna sample on “Yup”.

17. Yelawolf – “Trunk Muzik” - Albama’s Yelawolf opened the year with a bang, dropping this official mixtape on January 1st, 2010. It led him to a cover on XXL and a record deal with Interscope. Cop the official label sanctioned version via Itunes.

16. Slaine – “The Devil Never Dies” – Boston’s Slaine had a great year in one sense, starring in Ben Affleck’s The Town, but a difficult one in another, seeing his LP A World With No Skies pushed back after sample clearance issues got in the way. As a result, he dropped this free mixtape which helps affirm him as quite possibly the nastiest emcee in Boston.

15. Freddie Gibbs + Statik Selektah – “Straight Killa, No Filla” – The Gary, Indiana emcee came with one of the better debuts we’ve seen in recent years, teaming with Decon Records and LRG for this mixtape, also released as a slimmed down EP (scoring 4/5 @’s here). He presented an honest, hard working sound through here, not bothering with cheesy ringtones or forced club attempts.

14. Asher Roth – “Seared Foie Gras With Quince And Cranberry” Initially, many folks were quick to write off Asher Roth as an Eminem clone. While his album was solid, it did not quite show off his talent like this mixtape of tracks that were more focused on displaying his skill as an emcee. Over beats by RZA, Kanye, Dilla, 9th Wonder, Madlib, and others, Asher had the right idea here.

13. Das Racist – “Sit Down, Man” – Stand up! Das Racist initially stepped on the scene as sort of a novelty act, but they really defined their sound beyond “Combination Pizza Hut & Taco Bell” (don’t Google it) on this mixtape. Humorous rhyme flows reminiscent of the Fondle ‘Em era, and flavorful original production made this one of the most original sounding mixtapes of the year. Someone sign these guys. Someone cool.

12. Cee-Lo Green – “Stray Bullets” – Cee-Lo might want to call his next album, Helluva Guy, because that’s exactly what he is. Not only did he drop one of the most critically acclaimed LP’s of the year (led by an incredibly infectious single), he also blessed the fans with this ridiculously listenable free album of original material. Who records a song with the B-52′s and gives it away? Who does that?!? Cee-Lo Green, helluva guy.

11. Wale – “More About Nothing” – Heavily conceptual Seinfeld themed mixtape followed up the original Mixtape About Nothing, showing a more mature, more focused Wale, as the first release since his debut album, Attention Defecit, dropped.

10. Raekwon + Brinks Boys – “Cocainism Vol. 2″ – One of two mixtapes from Rae this year, this one featured more original music and possible outtakes from his forthcoming Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang LP due next year. While not quite as sharp as OBFCL2 (obviously), this still was a strong showing from the Chef. Connect politic ditto.

9. Evidence – “I Don’t Need Love” – Ev closed out the year with this ridiculous EP of songs sampled by those guys that just got their music on Itunes. Short, sweet, and obviously the calm before the storm that will be next year’s Cats & Dogs LP.

8. Rick Ross – “Albert Anastasia” – Who know that Ross’ biggest club anthem would come from a mixtape track? Ricky tested the waters with this prelude EP, leading to both guilty pleasures, “B.M.F.” and “M.C. Hammer”, being included on his otherwise musically heavy Teflon Don LP. Also included herein were excellent collaborations “Sweet Life” (feat. John Legend), “Super High” (feat. Ne-Yo), and the ridiculous “Knife Fight” (feat. Kool G. Rap). Rozay!

7. B.o.B. – “No Genre” – As to why No Genre is a mixtape and not an album is a mystery,  as it’s filled with 100% original music. We can expect a paired down version to drop on Itunes later, so enjoy Foreigner interpolations and Sanford & Son samples while they last. Until then, this recent release explores a new side of the now familiar Bobby Ray persona – one that’s seen both growth and success.

6. Joe Budden – “Mood Muzik 4: A Turn 4 The Worst” – The sociopathic Slaughterhouse emcee delves into dark territory on this mixtape of brooding beats and endless self-examination. Rap doesn’t get more honest than this, and this isn’t even his LP.

5. Royce Da 5’9 – “The Bar Exam 3″ – Without a doubt the most super-lyrical mixtape of the year, as Royce puts a moratorium on virtually every hot beat of the moment. Big dick raps and bullet talk are in full effect as Royce lets his mind spray, but it’s only a pre-cursor to his more introspective next LP, Success is Certain.

4. Wiz Khalifa – “Kush & O.J.” – While we didn’t give this quite such a glowing recommendation when it dropped, we can’t deny it’s influence, so who are we to judge? Wiz’s breakfast of champions was hands down the biggest mixtape of the year, as fans scream every word of it like it’s gospel. And it didn’t even include his biggest hit yet, “Black & Yellow”

3. Big K.R.I.T. – “K.R.I.T. Wuz Here” – Big who? Nevermind that, just download this mixtape. The new emcee/producer delivered a ridiculously banging full-length of unapologetic southern slang mixed with soulful sampled production that made 9th Wonder raise an eyebrow and scored him a Def Jam deal. It’s the return of forever, hoe.

2. Consequence – “Movies On Demand” – After a lukewarm response to his Columbia debut, Don’t Quit Your Day Job, Cons came back with a vengeance here. Featuring all exclusive tracks, this mixtape sonned his album, and showed him in his most focused form yet. Guest shots from Statik Selektah, Asher Roth, Maino, Diddy, Common, Kanye West, Rick Ross, Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, and Kid Cudi didn’t hurt things.

1. J. Cole – “Friday Night Lights” – J. Cole impressed us all when he dropped this mixtape that sounded like an album. Completely self-produced, the North Carolina Roc Nation emcee lived up to his hype by crafting a pure hip-hop record with a keen sense of observation that comes through in his honest, revelatory lyricism. Both HHS and AllHipHop gave it perfect ratings, making it the mixtape equivalent of Kanye’s LP on the critical scale. Self-sufficient artists like this don’t come around very often; embrace them when they do.

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13 Responses to "HHS 2010 Year In Review: The 25 Must Have Mixtapes"
  • Stan Mimix says:

    I totally agree with Number One! J. Cole deserves great things after his perfect “Friday Night Lights”. It’s my favorite album of the year, and it’s not really an album. :P
    I was scared back in the middle of 2000, but now I like how the hip hop scene is turning out. :D

  • Kid Wave says:

    Can a mixtape be a must have?

  • adrian says:

    The Das Racist is my favorite mixtape of the year. The most creative/original hip hop music I have heard in a while.

  • Adam says:

    Spot-on. J. Cole deserves to be #1 with my other fav mixtapes of year the year not too far behind: Big KRIT, Consequence, and Joe Budden. A great list overall.

  • J Willy says:

    nice list…but how you leave off Kendrick Lamar is beyond me.

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