Thanks to Internet and music sharing websites, it’s expected that artists drop mixtapes on the regular. In 2014, there were numerous mixtapes that were just as good as commercial releases, so among everything streaming on HotNewHipHop, Audiomack or DJ Booth, we present the best mixtapes of the year.
10. Astro: Computer Era
The Brooklyn emcee twists words on “U Know,” depicts a old-school-esque narrative on “Brother’s Keeper,” and tells tales of his life in the city on many other tracks. Astro’s sound and style is undeniable East coast, but his lyricism and charm are his greatest features.
Astro bodes well with a bit of confidence that is nowheres near overpowering, but enough to give in to what the rapper preaches in his songs. Coupled with free-flowing exuberance and head-nod-inducing beats, Computer Era is an undeniable stand-out of 2014 releases.
9. Lil Herb: Welcome To Fazoland
In a city/scene that has an overwhelming amount of rappers emerging, it’s hard for these guys to stand out from one another. Lil Herb’s aggressive delivery and straight-forward style may not be as immediately engaging from Chicago “weirdos” like Chance, Vic Mensa, Alex Wiley and Saba.
Lil Herb’s style is more trap/drill than the previously mentioned rappers, but he still brings a high-level of rapping on Welcome to Fazoland. Stand outs like “Fight or Flight,” “At the Light” and “On the Corner” are every bit as hooky, cynical and dark as those early Chief Keef tapes, but there’s an insightful, at times even emotional, element to his music making his mixtape one of the best of the year.
8. Your Old Droog: Your Old Droog EP
Your Old Droog’s eponymous EP drew attention because he sounded so much like fellow New York emcee Nasir Jones, aka Nas. The production (which Your Old Droog had a major hand in) also bore a resemblance to old-school, East coast boom-bap. Droog also has a knack for lyricism, delivering tightly packed rhymes with catchy metaphors and punchlines.
The obscure cover also can be an eye-catcher, but the music is what really stands out. Your Old Droog had old-school heads drooling and fans of the new-school marveling at how the emcee twisted words and spit like The Don. Even after ending the legend of his shrouded identity, the rapper still remains a top prospect for 2015 and beyond.
7. Mac Miller: Faces
After Watching Movies With The Sound Off dropped in the incredible year for hip-hop that was 2013, Mac Miller had a newfound respect from a vast array of hip-hop fans. Those who had doubted the Pittsburgh rapper were now impressed by the tragic honesty and witty lyricism of the former frat-rapper.
On Faces, Mac Miller also flexed his production tip under his alias, Larry Fisherman. Faces flows in the same vein that Watching Movies With The Sound Off does, but explores a bit more territory musically and lyrically.
Featuring drug habits and Duke Ellington and John Coltrane samples, Mac Miller drops an incredibly raw project with Faces – a project that bears no resemblance to a traditional mixtape (yet very few do nowadays, anyway). In the end, Mac Miller delivers two in a row with WTMWTSO in 2013 and Faces in 2014 – both milestone projects.
6. CunninLynguists: Strange Journey Vol. 3
CunninLynguists have reached a point where they’re so good it’s almost boring. Their third installment of their mixtape series Strange Journey is probably the best of the trilogy, and I honestly didn’t spend a lot of time with this project. It’s more or less flawless from top to bottom. Kno’s production is incredible as always, and Deacon and Natti are consistently excellent as well.
The group asked their fans for suggestions on who to collaborate with and subject matter for songs, and it was surprisingly well executed. The features fit in with the Lynguists seamlessly, and the subject matter ranges from goofy (“Drunk Dial”) to introspective (“Innerspace”). This is among the best projects from Kno and company, but for some reason it lacked replay value from me. I’d like to see the CunninLynguists make a dramatic change in their next project. Maybe try the one thing they haven’t conquered yet – something pop.