Revisiting some of the best mixtapes that have yet to appear on Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music.
2018 has seen a multitude of mixtapes by artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Lil B and Joey Bada$$ finally hit streaming services after years of being trapped in the worldwideweb netherworld. In most cases, the samples and beats are fully restored. We get it: sample clearance fees and copyright laws are tough to navigate. The ubiquity and utter ease of streaming services comes with an asterisk as they are often wont to navigate the murky waters of mixtape distribution.
With that said, it got us thinking and we put together a list of tapes – old and new – we need on streaming services as soon as possible. Apple, Spotify, TIDAL – what are y’all waiting for?
What mixtape would you like to see on your streaming service of choice ASAP?
Rich Gang - Tha Tour, Pt 1
In between his promise to never stop going in, remember when Rich Homie Quan promised us that Rich Gang would be the hardest duo out of Atlanta since Outkast? The thrill of hearing Rich Gang was watching those very boasts prove true as Thug and Rich, both outliers in style and rapping prowess, yielded such a compelling bond, flanked with Birdman at their side. Their chemistry felt almost alien: how could these two play off each other with their vocals so effortlessly? It’s enough we’re still asking for a Rich Gang reunion; with a tape as kinetic as Tha Tour, Pt 1, how could you not?
Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap
Before the Kit Kat commercials and Kanye collabs, Chance the Rapper was a precocious Chicago teen, taking plenty of recreational drugs and recording music with his friends. Years later, his breakthrough tape Acid Rap still sounds like a defining document of the city he grew up in. While drill took to the mainstream, Chance and associates went in a wholly different direction; incorporating juke beats, choir samples, Midwestern soul, Twista verses and a lot of pain and joy.
A$AP Rocky - LiveLoveA$AP
Harlem swag and a Houston flair: thanks to the foresight of A$AP Yams and the charisma of a certain A$AP Rocky, LiveLoveA$AP is nowhere near the experimental try-hard dirge of Rocky’s later albums. Instead, it’s a fully fleshed out debut, confident in its post-regional tastes while showcasing one of Harlem’s brightest. “I be that pretty motherfucker,” Rocky proclaimed in “Peso,” keeping that concept hanging over the entirety of the tape while giving fans plenty of quotables and effortless rap flows. Besides laying the foundation for the A$AP Mob, this tape felt like the coming out party for Clams Casino and SpaceGhostpurrp, who provided some of cloud rap’s best production on LiveLoveA$AP.
Dipset- The Diplomats, Vol. 1
New York groups were supposed to be scary. G-Unit was hard, the Ruff Ryders damn near terrifying and the LOX formidable but there was something off-kilter with Dipset. Just how many rappers would willingly rap over the intro to the “Facts of Life?” What rap group would snag one of Just Blaze’s best beats, record it and get it sent to Hot 97 to premiere the very same day? That song, “Oh Boy,” which appears on The Diplomats, Vol.1, is top 5 in Dipset canon but the rest of the tape, featuring Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and Cam’ron, holds up in how it showcases a rap crew with little reverence for how things should be in rap. Nothing was safe from Dipset; entire Jay-Z beats were jacked, Cam’ron had no problem upsetting Ja Rule on his own song and previewing a good chunk of his upcoming album Come Home With Me on the tape at the same time. In hindsight, we can’t blame Cam’ron considering just how well Come Home With Me popped off – if the track’s nice, run it twice.
Chief Keef - Back From The Dead
How many people spearhead movements at only 16? Back From The Dead introduced the world to a Chicago teen who hardly raised his voice over rattling 808s, uttering threats and rattling off lists of grievances with the chilling energy of someone decades older. It’s an approach that worked – songs like “I Don’t Like” and “My Niggas” sound modern thanks to Chief Keef’s vocals, equally capable of sounding calm and nihilistic. This tape was pivotal in bringing the sound of drill to ears outside of Chicago as Keef and other rappers like Fredo Santana, G Herbo, King Louie and Lil Durk sought to depict a Chicago in a more menacing light.
Wiz Khalifa & Curren$y - How Fly
In 2009, Curren$y was on a mad tear, free from YMCMB and on the cusp of leaving the blogosphere thanks to a shrewd tape with an upstart rapper named Wiz Khalifa. How Fly tapped into an kinetic chemistry between the two, allowing both rappers to relax and aim to craft comfortable music that sounded effortless and cool. There are no ambitious concepts to stick to, no drama or stakes to raise; just two dudes talking about cool shit over production courtesy of Monsta Beatz, lending itself well to many a summer play through. With a few notable Wiz tapes slowly being released onto streaming services, fingers are crossed this classic collab makes its way over sooner rather than later.
Earl Sweatshirt - Earl
Odd Future’s first wave of music is getting harder to find nowadays. Tyler, the Creator’s debut Bastard is scarce and Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra seems elusive. Thankfully the strongest reminder for OF’s brightest success can still be found on YouTube. The viral clip for “EARL” manages to match the violent imagery of a 16-year-old Earl Sweatshirt’s raps, note for note. Despite being away during the initial success of Odd Future, Earl’s incredible talent, evident on the slapstick and macabre EARL, cast a long shadow over the group, prompting “Free Earl” chants at many a show.
Future - Monster
The further we are from the year 2015, the more we learn to better appreciate how impactful Future’s mixtape run was. Coming off a major breakup and a muddled reaction to his second studio album Honest, Future’s reaction was to dive deep into himself. The trio of Monster, Beast Mode, and 56 Nights redefined the Atlanta rapper’s modus operandi; instead of bright melodies, we got bleary boasts and turgid croaks, soaked in codeine and promethazine. Thanks to the production talents of Metro Boomin, Southside and Nard & B and others, Monster sounded like the brief 4 A.M. window where pain, bravado and vulnerability collide. The fact it yielded classic Future tracks like “Fuck Up Some Commas” and “Codeine Crazy” doesn’t hurt, either.
Lil Wayne - Da Drought 3
If you’re craving unfiltered Weezy at his zenith, look no further. Everyone has their favourite Wayne mixtape but Da Drought 3 was the one mixtape everyone remembers where Wayne called himself the best rapper alive and acted like it. It’s two discs of sprawl, ambition and punchlines, setting up Tha Carter III and its world-conquering aims with the perfect assist. Wanna hear him freestyle over “Walk It Out,” asking people to call him Paul Bunyan? Or when he calls himself a pack of Orbit gum over the “Throw Some D’s” beat? Wayne frequently stole beats with his talent, rendering the original tracks void with each blackout remix.
J Cole - The Warm Up
J. Cole’s underdog status is probably the first thing you remember about his first three mixtapes. Between titling them Friday Night Lights, The Warm Up and The Come Up, the constant sports imagery, the stories about trying to get to Jay-Z and learning to produce … J. Cole didn’t want you to forget just how hard he worked to get a footing in rap. It’s this state of hunger that drew eyes to Cole prior to dropping his first album and it’s what keeps The Warm Up vital in his discography. Cole has a reverence for rap that courses through The Warm Up; his self-production indicate his tastes well but it’s choosing to rap over beats like "Dead Presidents," "'93 'Til Infinity," "Get By," and "Last Call" in a manner of different flows and patterns that show off just how badly he wanted to stand next to his influences and guideposts and what he was willing to do to get there.