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So, last year we picked 25 of our favorite mixtapes, but this year we narrowed it down to a concise 10 selections. Why? Well, how many times can you hear freestyles over the same “hot” instrumentals? So, this year, we trimmed the fat, instead choosing the cream-of-the-crop. As far as the 2011 mixtape game is concerned, these cats did it best.

P.S. – What?!?! No Buck’s Wildest Beats?!??! Heh…

10. XV – Zero Heroes - On his 15th (!) mixtape, “newcomer” XV celebrated his namesake by releasing yet another collection of strong original songs, including viral standouts like “Awesome” and “Pictures On The Wall”. Coupled with guest shots from Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, Cyhi Da Prynce, Vado, and others, it’s clear from the sound of things that Mr. X-To-The-V is just getting warmed up.

9. Consequence – Movies On Demand 2 – Before all of the controversy surrounding Consequence this year, he released one hell of a mixtape with Movies On Demand 2, the follow-up to 2010′s original. Consisting of all original material, Cons kept his ear to the street, inviting both today’s generation of emcees to take part (Kendrick, XV, Diggy, Mac Miller), and balanced things out with a crew of classic collaborators (Dilla, Large Professor, Havoc, Q-Tip, Lil Fame, Bun B). Say what you want about the man, but his mixtapes outshine many rappers’ LP’s. Maybe we’ll see an official full-length this year?

8. Pete Rock & Camp Lo – 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s – There weren’t many mixtapes this year that paid tribute to the classic era of hip-hop, but Pete Rock and Camp Lo’s lead-in to their eventual super-group project accomplished it perfectly. Allowing the duo to rhyme over vintage Petestrumentals, and blended to perfection by Trackstar The DJ and Mark Divita, this was a “mixtape” in the truest sense of the word. Reinvigorating the career of Camp Lo, we’re excited to see what they have in store for the eventual LP.

7. Money Making Jam Boys – The Prestige: Jam Boy Magic - Black Thought and Dice Raw used this opportunity to introduce the world to several of their favorite Philly emcees, comprised as the Money Making Jam Boys. This mixtape produced a few new favorites for us at HHS, as we are now following the careers of Truck North, STS, and P.O.R.N., who served up a series of classically styled hip-hop tracks, trading The Roots live instrumentation for dusty, crate dug beats. Bonus, mixed in key by Mick Boogie and Terry Urban.

6. Ludacris – 1.21 Gigawatts: Back To The First Time – Sure, “‘My Chick Bad’ still went platinum!”, but let’s face it, Battle of The Sexes blew. No matter, Luda knew exactly what he needed to do to win his old fans back, and he accomplished that with ease on this mixtape. Picking fights with Drake, Big Sean, and Field Mob got him some press, but what it also accomplished was getting us all to listen again – and that’s all he needed. The old cat’s still got it.

5. Elzhi – Elmatic – True, Fashawn covered Illmatic just a year earlier, but Elzhi brought something new to the table with his rendition, thanks to the live instrumentation of Will Sessions. Coupled with El’s sharper lyrical wit, this was anything but rehash.

4. Skyzoo – The Great Debater - Boasting production from usual collaborators 9th Wonder, !llmind, and Oh No, Skyzoo continued his tradition of dropping consistent projects with this tribute to the Cosby kids. Sounding more like an LP, Skyzoo’s bucked the industry trend of treating his mixtape like the cutting room floor.

3. Curren$y + Alchemist – Covert Coup – Released on 4/20, Curren$y and Alchemist may have been born to work together forever, as evidenced by the sounds of Covert Coup. The smoker’s album defined, Alchemist’s lush, psychedelic production, meshed with Curren$y’s blunted flow fit together like weed and rolling papers. This album plays on repeat, whether there is smoke in the room or not. The two will follow-up this April with Re-Conversionalize, which is not a word.

2. Big K.R.I.T. – Returnof4Eva – Big K.R.I.T.’s career exploded this year, and it was all thanks to the word-of-mouth buzz generated by both K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and Returnof4Eva. A student of the U.G.K. and Outkast school of southern hip-hop, this self-made man produces his own beats and writes his own lyrics, in an age of artificial, manufactured rapstars. This mixtape was testament to his level of talent, which turned an unknown name into a producer for T.I., Young Jeezy, Bun B, Chris Brown, and many more.

1. Kendrick Lamar – Section.80 – Okay, so while this one could have been included on our “Best Indie Hip-Hop Albums” list, we thought it more appropriate here, since Kendrick has built the foundation of his career through a series of mixtapes leading up to this one. Either way, Section.80 was perhaps the year’s most talked about mix, showing a scary level of consistency from the young Compton emcee, who is now sharing studio space with Dr. Dre. Too many memorable moments to mention, the whole thing plays through without a hitch. This will easily go down in history as a classic mixtape release. Or album. Whatever.

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14 Responses to "HHS 2011 Year-In-Review: The 10 Best Mixtapes Of The Year"
  • KC says:

    On the subject of mixtapes – would projects like the Wudos Band and Fela Soul count as mixtapes, or is there another category for them?

  • Ben Chiefin says:

    Money Making Jam Boys. Bitch they not playin.

    Shit was a classic.

  • Dayz says:

    @KC Wudos Band was awesome and on that topic so was Wugazi… I would have to put those in the Mash-Up category.

  • Sam says:

    I think Skyzoo’s was the illest on this list. I can’t believe that Currency and Alchemist joint got a higher spot..currency is way too mediocre on the mic.

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