Every year, hundreds of rising rappers and a few established ones release mixtapes for free on the internet. Here are my favorites from this year in not particular order:
ST 2 Lettaz – R.E.B.E.L.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with ST 2 Lettaz, which I assume is most, if not all of you, he is an Alabama rapper that has made a lot more high quality Southern rap music than one might have guessed. Until earlier this year, ST 2 Lettaz made up one half of prolific rap duo G-Side, who consistently made some of the most inspired and authentic Southern rap music in recent memory. The comparisons to OutKast are unavoidable and arguably justified. Regardless, the two memebers of G-Side went their separate ways earlier this year and shortly after, ST 2 Lettaz released the first solo effort to come from the duo following the break-up. It is a short but sweet collection of songs that, if nothing else, confirm that the members of G-Side are capable of finding success on their own. The mixtape is only seven tracks, one of which is the intro entitled “Alabama,” so it is an brief listen and the visceral, easy-going sound of ST’s Southern style makes it an incredibly easy listen. Fans of Southern rap (OutKast, Big K.R.I.T., UGK, ect.) should be quick to hop on this mixtape. Download here.
Jay Ant & Iamsu! – Stoopid
It’s been a very good year for California rap. Despite losing Snoop Dogg Lion to Reggae, Kendrick Lamar released arguably the best rap album of the year and a host of other rappers put forward good releases. One of those releases is a collaboration between two Bay Area rappers, Jay Ant and Iamsu!. There are a few exceptional tracks on this tape but what is so amazing about it is how their sound holds up over the course of an hour-long mixtape. The duo, who not only take turns rapping but also producing, have a chemistry that can only be described as impressive. The California influence is apparent but isn’t as quite obvious as on fellow Golden State rapper Kendrick Lamar’s touted debut album. Not that that’s a bad thing. This tape sounds refreshingly new if anything and you can download it here.
Iamsu! - $uzy 6 $peed and Kilt
Iamsu! has been a very busy man this year. First, he dropped a solo mixtape entitled Kilt. Then, a month or so later, he dropped his Stoopid tape with Jay Ant, and finally, a few months later, he dropped another solo-tape entitled $uzy 6 $peed. In a genre that has a unique focus on producing singles, Iamsu!'s mixtape stands out as suprisingly cohesive and well-made. It is hard to single out individual tracks in his tapes, which I certainly couldn't say for all of the mixtapes on this list. Iamsu!'s sound is incredibly likable and accessible, which is great because he has made so much music this year for you to enjoy. Download $uzy 6 $peed here and Kilt here.
Dominic Lord – Fashion Show
Somehow, in this era of rap, Dominic Lord has managed to stand out as a fresh and unique presence. His fashion-orientated rap has an aura of epicness that is rather impressive in a genre that is always aiming for epic. This is a short and focused tape that has some hits and some misses. Songs like “Pierce,” “Mozart, Go” and “Color Me Red” stand out as overly-dramatic but surprisingly-resonant tracks that can’t help but make one think that Dominic has a bright future ahead of him. I would argue that a mixtape isn’t the best medium for his music, but while listening to this impressive tape, I can’t help but feeling that Dominic has a strong vision that may turn into an impressive album one day. Download here.
Gunplay – 601 & Snort
Gunplay is one of the most exciting upcoming rappers in the industry currently. Functioning under Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group collective, Gunplay mixes his drug-inspired lyrics and stimulating flow to make some of the most exhilarating rap music around. While 601 & Snort isn’t necessarily the most coherent listen (it isn’t a mixtape that I would listen from beginning to end and feel fulfilled), it has a handful of great tracks. If you listen to one Gunplay track, make it “Bible on the Dash.” “Bible on the Dash” is a track that uses brutally honest and vaguely nostalgic lyrics to paint a perfect picture of how Gunplay has gotten to this point in his career. “Real Niggas” and the remix for “So Sophisticated” are representative of much of the music that Rick Ross and others in the MMG crew have been successfully releasing over the past year or so. Though, perhaps my favorite track is Gunplay’s remake of the Trick Daddy classic “Nann Nigga,” which Gunplay entitles “Na Nigga.” Trina, who appeared on Trick’s original, also appears in Gunplay’s remake. Gunplay also adds another female rapper Tip Drill, who, apart from rapping, is known as one of Miami’s most famous strippers. Along with everyone else on the track, she holds her own lyrically and the product is an interesting listen to say the least. Download here and for those interested his other mixtape from this year, Bogota Rich, can be found here.
Curren$y – Priest Andretti
Ever since Curren$y released his superb Pilot Talk albums, his collaboration with producer Ski Beatz, it seems as if Curren$y has been releasing an album or tape every two weeks. All in all he has released four mixtapes and three albums since the release of the second Pilot Talk LP, which came out Nov. 2010. While he has been maybe the most prolific rapper around in the last couple years, he hasn’t been able to match the caliber of his Pilot Talk albums. His music hasn’t been bad, it just hasn’t stood out and there has been so much of it that it is hard to value any of it. That is why Priest Andretti is such a breath of fresh air. The tape features him rapping is his patented laid back flow over a handful jazz-heavy beats. It’s not complicated but Curren$y doesn’t need complicated. Download here.
Mouse On Tha Track – Millionaire Dreamzzz
Did you like Louisiana rapper Lil Boosie before he landed himself in the LA State Pen for 8 years on drug charges (he has since beaten murder charges so it’s not all bad)? Cause if you did, then you will love this. If you didn’t like Boosie, then you won’t like this. If you don’t know who he is, listen to this and decide.
You how people sometimes say that when they get rich that they want to have a flock of doves released every time they enter a room? Well, instead of a flock of doves, I want a huge black guy (think Big from Rob & Big) to hold an even huger boom box blasting the opening track to this album. Download here.
Shy Glizzy – Fxck Rap
If there is one thing you should take away from Washington D.C.-rapper Shy Glizzy’s Fxck Rap, it is that he is from the streets and therefore doesn’t care about rap music. In the song that shares a title with the mixtape, Glizzy exclaims in the chorus, “I know how to hustle, so fuck rap.” Despite his disdain for rap, he has made some very good rap music on this tape and it is his anti-rap sentiment that really resonates. Also, he says this in the intro track “Tru Story”:
I got kicked out high school,
then I got kicked out another one,
then I got kicked out another one,
then I got kicked out another one.
Man, fuck D.C. schools.
I’m taking my ass out in Maryland.
Then Maryland kicked my ass out,
you fuckin’ Terrapins.
Here are a few more tapes worth mentioning:
Captain Murphy – Duality
This is Flying Lotus's first excursion into rap and it comes with a bizarre video. Download the album and video here.
King L(ouie) – Drilliminati
King L, the Chicago-native, was forced to change his name earlier this year after Disney made a fuss over the name King Louie. Fortunately, his music hasn't suffered and this might just be his best mixtape yet. Download here.
Flatbush ZOMBiES – D.R.U.G.S.
Flatbush ZOMBiES emerged earlier this year after releasing a couple fantastic videos for singles that ended up on this tape. Their light-hearted, drug-inspired music has waves throughout the rap community since then. Download here.
Meyhem Lauren – Respect the Fly Shit and Mandatory Brunch Meetings
Meyhem Lauren was one of a handful of rappers who released two tapes this year. The music has a Wu-Tang feel to it although that might be all the Action Bronson features (that guy couldn't sound more like Ghostface Killah). Download Respect here and Mandatory here.
Lil Ugly Mane – Mista Thug Isolation
Weird beats with weird lyrics make for weird music and I like it. There is a song on this tape entitled "BITCH I'M LUGUBRIOUS." Need I say more? Download here.
Gucci Mane - Trap Back and Trap God
At this point, you probably already know who Gucci Mane is. Of all the artists in this article, he is by far and away the most recognizable name. That doesn't detract from the fact that he released two great mixtapes this year. Download Trap Back here and Trap God here.
I think the one thing I learned in compiling this list is that there is way too much good rap music out there for me to claim that this list has any sort of completeness. I tried to listen to everything but that is simply impossible. Throw a comment down below if you think I made a glaring exclusions. Otherwise, enjoy the free music.