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Each year we are flooded with mixtape releases from just about everyone. The medium has gone from the old school days of “blend tapes” to a platform spotlighting exclusives, without the rules or constraints of the music industry. This has allowed artists to preview new music, not worry about clearing samples, and jack other artists’ beats for freestyles. While these things usually lack the polish of record label releases, there’s always a few exceptional mixtapes that are strong enough to sit next to the artists’ album catalog. Out of the roughly 200 releases posted this year in our “Mixtape DL” section, here are our picks for 2013.

P.S. – This is not a list of the most downloaded, most popular, or most newsworthy mixtapes. This is a list of what we actually thought were the best mixtapes. #nopolitics

10. Problem + DJ Drama – The Separation – Problem has been putting it down for years, as “I’m Fucked Up” was a set staple for DJ’s out west over five years ago. While he found himself in danger of becoming a one-hit wonder for a while, he bucked the trend with the release of The Separation, which really put him back on the map. Boasting collaborations with Wale, Snoop, Game, Tyga, and Wiz Khalifa, the biggest moment on this tape was his solo single, “Like Whaaat”, which crossed over into a massive club smash.

9. Xzibit + B-Real + Demrick – Serial Killers Vol. One – So, we never got that legendary Golden State Warriors project with Xzibit, Ras Kass, and Saafir, but this might be the next best thing. Xzibit and B-Real team up with rising up-and-comer Demrick for this excellent supergroup project of all original material, that plays like an album. Guest contributions from Ill Bill, DJ Lethal, Statik Selektah, Sir Jinx (!), Kurupt, Nottz, Jon Connor, and others made this mixtape a nice surprise for the year.

8. World’s Fair – Bastards Of The Party – We suspect with all of this talk of New York rap being in decline, we will see a huge resurgence in 2014. Part of this movement is the Beast Coast collective of emcees, a loose-knit conglomerate made up of crews like Pro Era, A$AP Mob, and World’s Fair, the latter who came out the gate on this free Fool’s Gold release, Bastards Of The Party. Like Pro Era, these cats brought it back to the Fondle ‘Em / Stretch & Bobbito era of backpack rap, with this excellent introductory mixtape release.

7. Troy Ave – New York City – While the Beast Coast movement is strengthening New York’s underground, Troy Ave is the future face of the street-hop scene, originally curated by Nas, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, etc. His New York City street album wasn’t flawless, but definitely a solid LP that shows high promise from the young MC.

6. Joey Bada$$ – Summer Knights – While we did see a retail version of Joey Bada$$’s Summer Knights, it was slimmed down to EP length. The full-length mixtape was much stronger, finding Joey Bada$ coming into his own, earning respect from producers like Doom, Alchemist, Statik Selektah, and more.

5. Ludacris – #IDGAF – Chris Bridges admittedly had some trouble finding an audience for the release of his still-delayed Ludaversal LP. That said, he definitely had something to prove this year, and he did so with #IDGAF, which found the rapper at his most crass, with a lot of shit to get off his chest. Strong enough to be the album that Ludaversal never was.

4. Pusha T – Wrath Of Kaine – Pusha T kicked off 2013 with the Wrath of Kaine mixtape, and little did we know this would be the precursor to one of the best major label releases of the year. At the time of its release, we weren’t sure we’d even see Pusha’s G.O.O.D. Music debut, but he delivered. Now this mixtape stands strong as the companion piece to his excellent LP.

3. Big K.R.I.T. – King Remembered In Time – Despite the lukewarm sales to his 2012 Def Jam debut, Big K.R.I.T. persevered this year with the release of King Remembered In Time. Showing dexterity and improvement as a multi-talented rapper, songwriter, and producer, K.R.I.T. continued to build his legacy with this release.

2. Roc Marciano – The Pimpire Strikes Back – As we stated in our review, The Pimpire Strikes Back should have been Roc’s album, while Marci Beaucoup should have been the mixtape. But whatever, Pimpire was a tightly knit concept album mixtape that showcased Roc at his finest, with just the right amount of guest support, from guys like Madlib, Action Bronson, Alchemist, Evidence, and more. Post boom-bap, high art rap.

1. Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip – The Abstract & The Dragon – As many times as we’ve seen Busta refer to himself as the “Dungeon Dragon” in a post-”Scenario” landscape, he’s never been able to recapture his earlier, 90′s sound. And coupled with the announcement that the Yeezus tour would host the final performances for A Tribe Called Quest, we approached this mixtape with apprehension. The cover got us open, but we’d been disappointed before, so would this deliver? It did, on all fronts. The end result was a mixtape that brough Busta and Q-Tip back to their earlier years, revisiting and remixing some of their early classics, and blessing us with new material as well. Its a sound long lost that we were happy to welcome back. Nice job, gentlemen.

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12 Responses to "HHS 2013 Year-In-Review: The 10 Best Mixtapes Of The Year"
  • The Doorman says:

    Solid list, hard to narrow it down to just ten. I’d also add Well Done 4, Dedication 5, Nipsey, Dizzy Wright, AZ

  • pastido says:

    No Rapsody? “She Got Game” was great!

  • vega says:

    Sure that q-tip and busta was ok, but #1? Look at the list youve compiled all up and comers whom put out all original music on their albums/mixtapes. Then you have busta and q, with an album full of old songs minus a handful of new tracks. They captured that 90s sound because all the songs were actually made in the 90s.

  • Hodges says:

    Not feeling much on the list. I’d put the best 5 tracks off Retch’s Polo Sporting versus any of these whole shits. I’d add Vince Staples Stolen Youth, Exquire Kismet, Willie Aquamarine, and Bronson Chips 3.

  • 1994 says:

    Agree with hodges missing aquamarine and blue chips 2

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