From the looks of things over the past 12 months, the mixtape game has never been healthier.
In 2010, the standout projects and the MCs who helmed them took a page out of Drake's book from the previous year with So Far Gone, making mixtapes that were put together like albums with a majority of head-nodding original material populating the track lists.
Look no further than Rick Ross' Albert Anastasia EP, which featured "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)"; the song later landed on his proper LP and recently scored the #4 ranking in MTV News' Top 25 Songs of 2010 list powered by its appeal on the mixtape circuit.
Then there were upstarts like Big K.R.I.T., who delivered a stirring collection that was worthy of a debut album with his K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. The 19-song, self-produced set drew critical praise and eventually earned the Mississippi rhymer a deal with Def Jam Records.
As the music industry undergoes more changes and technology erases the line between the labels and the fans, look for more artists to innovate and take their projects (be they official or unofficial) straight to the interwebs (word to Lyor Cohen!).
The results could be promising: Fabolous' The Funeral Service: There Is No Competition 2 was so ill and embraced by the streets that Def Jam turned the mixtape into an EP.
Here, Mixtape Daily delivers the Top 10 (plus one) Mixtapes of 2010:
Lloyd Banks' V5
Street Testimony: "Just reflecting back in the studio," Banks revealed to Mixtape Daily about the inspiration behind his resurgence. "Just going back. People always say, 'Go back to your first album.' I went back further than that. All the success came from [my early mixtapes] Money in the Bank, Money in the Bank Part 2 all the way to Part 4. I was like, 'You know what? I did that in a matter of two years.' I said, 'I'mma do what I did in two years in one.' ... By the time I got to V5, it was a good five or six months between tapes. I didn't plan it like that. I just never stopped recording and touring. By the time V5 came, I felt a little pressure. I told them it was gonna get better every time. I think people embraced it."
Big K.R.I.T.'s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
Street Testimony: "People can see the growth from when I first did my first project until now," K.R.I.T. told Mixtape Daily when we named him a Fire Starter in June. "And they can see the growth and me really finding myself as an artist. And really not compromising my creative mind frame for what's going on in the industry and just being myself and putting the music out. The first record is 'Return of 4eva.' It was really just telling the game we here on some Southern hip-hop and this is us. And this is the type of music that I'm gonna put out. And I just hope that people can relate to it and respect it."
Cam'ron and Vado's Boss of All Bosses 2.5
Street Testimony: "At first, it was like the lost tapes. Tracks that were throwaways. Then we added more flavor to it," Vado told us about the set. "What happened with the 2.5," Cam added, "we gave Drama maybe 25 songs [for Boss of All Bosses 2]. He was like, 'You might as well come back with 2.5 in two weeks.' But we were doing so much new music, we might as well call it 4.8. It's crazy. It's about 20 songs."
Fabolous' The Funeral Service: There Is No Competition 2
Street Testimony: "It's really incredible how people will connect with the work," Fab said to us during our Midseason Salute. "I think we put a lot of work into it, with the whole funeral theme. We didn't just say it and you had to daydream it. We went into the funeral homes. We picked caskets out for the competition. Def Jam, this summer, is gonna put the mixtape out as an EP. So I did about four new songs, put 'em with some of the original joints from the mixtape. We got more viral videos coming. We just gonna keep it going and let it end as the classic it is. A lot of people saying it's a classic, one of the, if not the best mixtape of 2010. It's crazy to me, because it started out as something I wanted to give free to the fans and people who accept my work. Def Jam even came in and said, 'Whoa, we gotta get a piece.' It's a good thing, man."
J. Cole's Friday Night Lights
Street Testimony: "I just tried to make the best project I could make," Cole told us over the phone days after he dropped FNL. "Pick the best songs, and some of those songs were songs I really had to bite the bullet and sacrifice and not put them on my album, 'cause I knew it would make the tape better. I had to figure out what songs I was willing to let go of and then make the best story, in terms of sequencing. It reminded me of when we were putting together The Warm Up. I'm just in a different place now. It was just time for new music."
Jadakiss' The Champ Is Here 3
Street Testimony: "The regular formula for the first two was drop the mixtape right when I finished the album," Jada told us when he previewed the project exclusively for Mixtape Daily. "I just shifted it on you this time: Give you the mixtape then go finish the album. Let you compare it with the albums that's coming out while I'm in the kitchen. It'll just be creating pandemonium everywhere instead of competing with my own album. It might be better to do it this way. We gonna keep switching it around. We might do another one this way, but we gonna switch the pattern up so they can't follow."
L.E.P. Bogus Boys' Don't Feed Da Killaz, Vol. 3
Street Testimony: "I penned the term 'quality street music' like five years ago, and it's good to see it's still alive," tape host DJ Drama told Mixtape Daily in October. "And normally, I tell you guys don't be afraid, don't be scared but, um, since we coming out on [Halloween], I think you should be scared."
Rick Ross' The Albert Anastasia EP
Street Testimony: "It's more than just an extended play," Ross explained to Mixtape Daily. "Because when I started recording and it was sounding too good, I wanted to put more songs in there than what I wanted to initially. But it'sThe Albert Anastasia EP. I named it that because Albert Anastasia was a self-made man. He was a boss. He was a lot less celebrated. He was more focused on getting his job done, handling his business. Of course, he ultimately came to an untimely demise. But I feel when it's time to go, it's always untimely, so what's the difference?"
Waka Flocka Flame's LeBron Flocka James 2
Street Testimony: "I'm not going lyrical, hard in the studio," Waka said about his rowdy rhymes. "It ain't time for me to do that. This ain't no album; this is my mixtapes. Why I gotta go spend 30 hours [writing rhymes] off of a mixtape? Then I got other people dissing me for saying that. You crazy. You giving me that much time out of 24 hours, you not doing your job. That's my word to you."
Wale's More About Nothing
Street Testimony: "That's why you hear that vigor and hunger in my voice while I'm rapping," Wale told Mixtape Daily about this project. "I was trying to go super crazy in the booth to let them know that the hunger is still there. It's to my label, the fans, to the doubters. I'm trying to prove myself. A lot of people try to reinvent themselves. I'm trying to define myself. It's almost like it was a rough draft of my mission statement before, but this is the final draft. If y'all didn't know who Wale was before, you know now. And the play on 'nothing' is that a lot of people are saying nothin', but we're saying somethin' now."
Wiz Khalifa's Kush & Orange Juice
Street Testimony: "I named the mixtape Kush & Orange Juice because, in a nutshell, I tried to match up a name that goes perfect with the tape," Wiz explained to us earlier this year. "It's perfect for wake-and-bake, if that's what you're into. Anybody who knows me knows that's what I specialize in. It came out Kush & Orange Juice. That's the formula. Fruits and vegetables. The tape is heavily inspired by all different types of herbs and wonderful green things that make us grow."