RapDose picks the best mixtapes of 2012 in its yearly wrap up, ranking the best tapes that released this year. Is your favorite artist on The 2012 RapDose Wrap Up: Mixtapes? Find out here.
Last year, Kenny and I came together to deliver a post summarizing what we called our top 5 tracks of 2011, after a memorable year in this genre that has grown to mean different things for all of us: Hip Hop. Diversity is important and just as we have various artists to deliver different types of music, we now have several different opinions that are valued by the masses in this generation. That said, I recruited my RD ally, the maniac and deadline killer Kyle Fall, a respected up and coming evaluator I can also call a comrade Johnny5, and of course RapDose creator Kenny to create a bigger, better, way to review the year. Until we reach 2013, we will consecutively release a collection of our thoughts revealing our top 5 in whatever category has been decided on for that day in particular. Today we have the top 5 mixtapes. We present to you, the RapDose Wrap Up:
Time Freeman’s Picks
5. Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 2
Meek Mill’s second installment in the Dreamchasers collection arrived on May 7th packed with a surprising amount of quality lyricism to support his rise to glory. The mixtape was strong at the very least, containing us two singles in the form of “Amen” featuring Drake and the energetic “Burn“, arguably the best song choice this year to get you to destroy your own furniture. Add in the fact that the project was filled with Meek’s power player allies such as Rick Ross, Wale, 2 Chainz, and Big Sean? Minus a few fillers, this could have (and SHOULD HAVE) been his album. Now, lets get him in Cassidy in a room together so this battle can happen, shall we?
Download: Dreamchasers 2
4. Joey Badass – 1999
In a world full of rappers who follow the structure, over-saturate the fans expecting success, and duplicate sounds, sixteen year old Joey Badass is probably the kid sitting by himself and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. 1999 is a welcomed oddity, smooth and enchanting with a classic backdrop. It becomes less about the singles and individual tracks and more about the body of work as a whole with this project and this artist and his mixtape as a whole stands above a lot of other sh*t released this year.
3.Childish Gambino – Royalty
Donald Glover a.k.a Childish Gambino had a memorable year in 2012. Doing more than just impressing viewers with a unorthodox verse from his BET Hip Hop Awards cypher, Gambino made some friends and his presence known in Hip Hop at the same damn time with the release of Royalty. His illustrious project hit his website on Independence Day and proved that although he is still an anomaly in Hip Hop, Gambino can coexist with a wide array of artists and producers around him yet still create a body of work that feels fresh and reminds new listeners that Gambino is only improving, both in production and lyrical prowess. Whether it be Childish Gambino at Camp or Gambino & friends, he’s slowly verifying that everything he does and anything he associates himself with is royalty.
2. Big Sean – Detroit
Big Sean proved this year that building yourself in your craft could be all you need to essentially remain relevant. Being less involved in headlines for the most part than others, Sean stuck to delivering the best verses consecutively on anything he was a part of this year (You’ve heard “Burn” right?), dismantling any instrumental he was featured on. Following that, he stayed true to what constructed his fan base releasing a project dedicated to his home and labeling it with the same name. Detroit carries itself with a range of sounds, giving something to any type of listener fueled by content from Sean that perfectly sits within the tracks. I said it in my review and I’ll say it again: Detroit should be proud. I’ll be entering 2013 looking forward to Hall of Fame.
1. Rick Ross – Rich Forever
Going into 2012, everyone’s favorite ex-correctional officer didn’t have the best possible outlook. His album God Forgives, I Don’t was pushed back and in its place, a mixtape titled Rich Forever was set to be released to the masses at the top of the new year. The pressure was on, and the standards were high for the artist, due to the position Ross placed himself in, one of opportunity. The game was ready for Ross to ascend to a higher plateau and placing a mixtape in the place of the album was a questionable move on paper, but Rich Forever was released at the very beginning of 2012 and a better Hip Hop mixtape has yet to appear this year. The instrumentals, content and even the features (Diddy, 2 Chainz, Future, Meek Mill, French Montana, Drake and the list goes on) delivered to the point where it’s evident that no mixtape that has been released in 2012 can go toe to toe with it. It was such a quality project that a lot of people suspected this was supposed to be God Forgives, I Don’t in the first place, and now that we’ve received both? I’ll say maybe the majority of this really should’ve remained the preferred choice.
Kyle Fall’s Picks
5. Big Sean – Detroit
Big Sean‘s “Detroit” mixtape disgruntled a few locals when the tracklist dropped without many features from Detroit based artists. The inadequately named tape does however bang from cover to cover, helping to accentuate Big Sean‘s new found status as a star in the rap game. With guest appearances by J. Cole, Common, Juicy J, King Chip, French Montana, Young Jeezy, Kendrick Lamar, Chris Brown, Jhene Aiko, Snoop Lion and more, how could it not?
4. Wiz Khalifa: Taylor Allderdice
Unlike Wiz Khalifa‘s sophomore album O.N.I.F.C., Taylor Allderdice actually contains a plethora of strong material. Supported by the usual cast of Taylor Gang affiliates, Young Khalifa Man released his most popular mixtape since Kush & OJ boasting over 1 million downloads on DatPiff alone. 17 tracks and no songs that make you want to slide over to the recycle bin places this effort higher than any of his studio projects to date.
3. Sir Michael Rocks: Lap of Lux
Sir Michael Rocks, better known for his role in hip hop duo The Cool Kids continued to build his solo catalog with the release of his Lap Of Lux mixtape this past summer. The Cardo heavy project bares a lot of similarities to Wiz Khalifa‘s earlier mixtapes, the only thing holding it back is the lack of a standout single. Nonetheless the tracks from this project have a knack for getting stuck in your head and although Mikey turns to auto-tune a few times it doesn’t damage the quality of the project.
2. Freddie Gibbs – Baby Face Killa
Baby Face Killa is the perfect balance of lyricism and melody. Gangsta Gibbs’ uncompromising aggression is assisted by an all-star cast of features and radio friendly choruses. Although music like this is never going to do well in the mainstream, I wouldn’t allow a lack of press to steer you away from this incredibly complex project that could have easily been sold in stores.
1. Trademark Da Skydiver – Flamingo Barnes
Trademark Da Skydiver‘s Flamingo Barnes mixtape is one of the most slept on projects of 2012. I’ve listened to this release more often than a majority of mainstream artist’s studio albums. Trademark crushes every beat they throw at him on this tape. Not the obvious choice for mixtape of the year by any means, but please reserve your opinions until you’ve given Flamingo Barnes a thorough listen. If you haven’t already you are without question missing out on a great release.
Johnny 5’s Picks
5. Ty Dolla $ign – Beach House
The theme of urban music in 2012 has been about changing the normal conventions of the music we listen to, and with that the evolution of rapping and singing have seen been constantly crossing identities. West Coast rep Ty Dolla $ign provides the perfect mix of this – More singing in place of boastful raps on his break out Beach House mixtape. In a natural progression of past (Think T-Pain) and present (think Future), Ty has seemingly found his pocket on this tape which reads like an introduction to his brand of “Ratchet & B” – life is carefree and filled with women (“My Cabana“), drugs “Zone’n“) and sometimes regret as seen on the standout track “4 A Young.” Boasting lively and heavily electro-induced production from D.R.U.G.$ (of which TY$ is a member), Cardo, and Fuego Beach House is not only a mission statement, it’s a breath of fresh air.
4. Two9 – Two9 Forever
Atlanta born group Two9 are on the cusp of a breakout period and their compilation tape Two9 Forever is eye opening in how well rounded and talented this group is. Besides the obvious connections to recent posses like Odd Future or the ASAP Mob, the only thing Two9 really have in common are their wholly dedicated creation of “New ATL” music. More high fashion callouts than drug dealing braggadocio, members Curtis, Key!, Retro Sushi (Two man tandem of members Ceej and Jace), and FatKidsBrotha are wildly different but all maintain a keen sense of flow and lyricism. Production on the tape is chiefly handled in house by members Curtis and Key!, and is inspired if not made to sound vintage and old school, heavy on 808s but simple and to the point so as not to miss the creativity of each member. Standout tracks such as “They Love It” and “Scottie 2 Hottie” harken back to the days of early Goodie Mobb singles – while my personal favorite “Stayin True” is memorable and repeatable. Forever proves that Two9 is not only ready for the big time, but they can hold their own when the time comes.
3. Wiz Khalifa – Taylor Allderdice
The first of two mixtapes released from Wiz Khalifa (The second being the less well received Cabin Fever 2), Taylor Allderdice was purported to be a return to form for Wiz – who had been undergoing an impasse with his own hardcore fans. Never one to back down from pressure, Wiz not only lived up to his promise on Taylor Allderdice (named after his High School) he also reinvents himself sonically. Allderdice is less about living up to his opus; 2010’s Kush & OJ, and instead reaffirming himself as the fun loving, easygoing stoner that we all love. Allderdice is Wiz as we remember him, waxing nostalgic about his rags to riches story and his love of reefer over smooth and soulful beats. This time he enlists his trusted production team of Cardo and Sledgdren to recreate his sound, sampling everything from videogames (Chrono Trigger on the sequel to K&OJ fan favorite “Never Been part 2“) Frank Ocean (“The Cruise“) to Deadmau5 (“O.N.I.F.C.”). Wiz sounds energized, especially with the addition of the legendary Juicy J, — who could be considered a breakout star this year in his own right, who is featured prominently all over the mixtape. Allderdice was not only important for Wiz as an artist, but for his sound as a whole.
2. Rick Ross – Rich Forever
Whether you agree if he stuck the landing of a pretty successful 12 months in 2012 (#1 album on Billboard, world tour et al), everyone can at least agree that Ross’ Rich Forever set 2012 off with a bang. Designed to be a holdover for his then-delayed 5th album, God Forgives, I Don’t, Ross released this mixtape in the hopes of carrying fans over until it’s release. Structured like an album, Rich is every part of Ross (or “mixtape Ross” as I like to call it) that we all love – anthemic choruses (“Yella Diamonds” & “Fuck Em“) mixed with his brand of introspection and remorse (The title track “Rich Forever” which would later become a bonus track on God Forgives). Ross’ penchant for production and making songs that are downright catchy furthers his contribution to the modern mixtape – making them an event, and making them feel like you should pay for them.
1. Chief Keef – Back from the Dead
I’ll just preface this entry with these solid facts: Without this tape there wouldn’t be the impetus of one of the most interesting, sometimes saddening yet ultimately gripping Hip Hop stories of the year; Chicago Hip Hop (and the youth that it revolves around). Back From The Dead is an important release because it introduces the urban legend of 17 year old MC Chief Keef, the kid that had an alleged shoot out with the police and spend most of his year on house arrest. The same kid who had his hit song, viral phenomenon “Don’t Like” (first appearing on this mixtape) remixed by Chicago legend Kanye West – and then parlayed that into a lucrative deal with Interscope records. Keef’s year has been whirlwind under threats of bleeding heart “Think of the children” activists, critics and social media pundits at large (whom many believe him to be the second coming of Satan) – but the most important aspect to think about when it comes to him has been forgotten; the kid makes pretty good gangsta rap music. Back From The Dead is as much an introduction to Keef as it is to his environment – Keef spits rhymes with the emotion of a gargoyle, describing violence in his city as nonchalantly as a brisk walk up the street. Under the neo-crunk soundscape of breakout producer and friend Young Chop (as much of a star here as Keef), Back From The Dead cuts it’s teeth on songs like “Sosa” and “Monster” displaying Keef’s uncanny ability to create a catchy hook (if not deliver it like it was the gospel). It’s the same feeling I got listening to Three Six Mafia in the 90’s yet here it is inherently new and real – the urban scene in Chicago is filled with loss and oversight, these kids are merely just describing just how destructive their surroundings are. Hip Hop has always been the CNN of the world; Keef is merely letting us into his world, whether we like it or not.
5. 50 Cent – The Lost Tape
50 Cent‘s The Lost Tape wasn’t his best mixtape ever but it wasn’t bad either. In fact it was a solid project and featured a few tracks I still listen to. The Lost Tape featured a few songs 50 released previously as promotional tracks for his Street King energy drink and SMS Audio headphones but changed up a bit. The final versions of tracks 50 released previously were changed for better or worse. While the mixtape wasn’t as good as The Big 10 or previous works, it wasn’t as bad as many made it seem to be. In fact if anybody flat out calls the project trash, they’re delusional…even though I did expect more from 50 Cent‘s first Gangsta Grillz project with DJ Drama.
4. Childish Gambino – Royalty
Childish Gambino‘s 2011 album Camp was very promising and left me interested for what he would follow it up with. Donald Glover released a few tracks before Royalty‘s release and all were good, just a little different from what we heard previously from Gambino on previous mixtapes and his debut album Camp. When Royalty released the songs I was hearing all had the same feel as what I previously heard, featuring more of a trap or southern sound. Which in my opinion doesn’t fit Gambino well. While his nerdy rhymes and original sound was still there, it was just a little too different from what he previously brought to the table. The project wasn’t his greatest work yet, but it was still good enough to make my list. I’ll still check out what he delivers next. I just hope it is more Camp, less Royalty.
3. Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 2
Meek Mill‘s Dreamchasers 2 was a solid project. It wasn’t as good as his previous Dreamchasers mixtape but it was still a promising body of work. The project’s intro to this day gives me chills. Meek’s album Dreams And Nightmares wasn’t as good as this tape. Dreamchasers 2 was promising enough to garner interest for Dreams And Nightmares which came out later and was still a success. Some songs on here were so great they actually lasted long enough to still be featured on the album as well. Stand out tracks include “Intro,” “A1 Everything,” and “Burn.”
2. Wiz Khalifa – Taylor Allderdice
Wiz Khalifa‘s Taylor Allderdice was released on March 13th and to this day I still find myself going back to it to hear a few tracks. For Taylor Allderdice Wiz didn’t overload on the features and kept his Taylor Gang family repping throughout and followed the same format Rick Ross did on Rich Forever which dropped two months before. The mixtape was originally supposed to be an appetizer for his O.N.I.F.C. album which was going to be releasing not too long afterward until it was pushed back. Wiz Khalifa later dropped Cabin Fever 2 before O.N.I.F.C.‘s release but it just wasn’t of the same quality Wiz Khalifa delivered on Taylor Allderdice. The project’s biggest flaw was the hosting and for the most part Wiz Khalifa delivered. Stand out tracks on the tape included “Mary 3x” and “My Favorite Song,” which is ironically my favorite song on the tape.
1. Rick Ross – Rich Forever
At the beginning of 2012 Rick Ross released his mixtape Rich Forever and to this day I believe it’s one of the best project’s the biggest boss we’ve seen thus far has ever released. In fact later in the year Rozay released another mixtape and his highly anticipated God Forgives, I Don’t album and both just weren’t on the same level as Rich Forever. Supposedly this body of work was originally supposed to be Ricky Rozay’s God Forgives, I Don’t album and after numerous push backs Ross decided to begin recording new material and just released what he had finished as this mixtape. The biggest flaw on the project was Ricky Rozay’s short talks with the mixtape’s host Shaheem Reid–which I later edited out myself in iTunes. Rich Forever was damn near perfect and certainly was my favorite mixtape that released in 2012. Stand out tracks include “Stay Scheming,” “Holy Ghost,” “King Of Diamonds,” “Triple Beam Dreams,” and the title track “Rich Forever.”