As we reach the halfway point in 2012, Hip-Hop (and Rap) is off to the races. With so many solid projects, I had to take the time out to name the 20 best so far this year. From the takeover of Maybach Music Group or the return of the real Wiz Khalifa, 2012 has been incredible to see. With that being said, Â I didn’t rank the mixtapes, but I did break down the mixtapes in specific categories that they all can be recognized in. Provided you with links to the projects and some background information. Wait no longer, here are the 20 best mixtapes of 2012 (so far)
Category 1 — Meet the Newcomers: In this tier you can find all relatively new guys trying to make a splash in the rap game. All are under 21 and all gave a fairly solid project for the year 2012.
Joey Bada$$’ 1999
Released: June 12th
Honestly, I could’ve put this mixtape in a different category (to be named later), but due to him being the Anthony Davis of newcomers, it was only right to put him here with the rest of the rookies. Joey Bad’s 1999 provides a nostalgic feeling to the 1990′s era of hip hop as him and his Pro Era Crew rap on jazzy hip hop instrumentals and give bars the Brooklyn way. Best tape out of this bunch and is a must listen. Here
Casey Veggies’ Customized Greatly 3
Released: April 9th
This isn’t my first time hearing a complete Veggies tape (Sleeping in Class) so I knew about the kid a bit and he provided a solid project again. This 18 year old Californian made such an impression with CG3, that the great Jay-Z signed him to Roc Nation last month. Impressive to say the least. Here
Rockie Fresh’s Driving 88
Released: January 23rd
In Driving 88, Rockie Fresh takes up back to the future in his version of a DeLorean and shows and proves what this Chicago native is made of. “Twenties” is my favorite song off the tape and definitely in my top 10 songs of 2012 (It’s that good). If Joey Bad is Anthony Davis, Rockie (No A$AP) can be Micahel Kidd-Gilchrist. High motor, does it all and will be an All-Star one day. Rumors have been surfacing about this kid signing to MMG with Ross as well. UNGH! Here
Chief Keef’s Back From the Dead
Released: March 12th
Out of this respective group, has anymore had more buzz/blog space than Chief Keef? Actually, you can combine all of these guys’ buzz and it won’t stand to this other Chicago native. Keef recently signed to Interscope and it all happened because of Back From the Dead and the monster smash “I Don’t Like” and the remix with the GOOD Music. With the help of Young Chop, Back From the Dead takes you to the streets of Chicago and its the not so friendly side. This kid can be Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Question is, is Interscope Portland or Oklahoma City? Ha. Here.
Shy Glizzy’s Law
Released: June 6th
If I had to put money on the next DMV rapper to blow it’s on Shy Glizzy. I’m not the biggest fan but I do understand the movement. With his high pitch voice and bass driven beats, Glizzy takes us to the darker side of DC in Law. Between catching beef with Fat Trel and Chief Keef, Glizzy will stunt and have the party rocking in no time. Take a listen to Law or Glizzy might shoot your grandmother in the titty. Here:
Category 2 — Too High of Expectations: In this tier, we see solid and good mixtapes but due to such big names, buzz, fans and overall success, there was no way these guys could meet expectations.
Rick Ross’s Rich Forever
Released: January 6th
Rick Ross is clearly one of the top 3 rappers out right now. He’s established MMG as one of the best labels out and has no plans of stopping. He started out 2012 with Rich Forever and it was solid, but lacked by having too many tracks. Say Rozay cuts this tape down to 14/15 tracks and he might be in another bracket. God Forgives, I Don’t comes out July 31st. Don’t disappoint. Here.
Released: April 26th
Jadakiss is a throwback. He’s a rapper’s rapper. However as the God MC he is, Consignment wouldn’t be the best example of that. Kiss will always give you bars, but Consignment didn’t sound like New York, nor him. He was reaching for a sound that isn’t in his demographic and thats where the project falters. Keep it street, Jada. AH-HA! Here.
Stalley’s Savage Life to the American Dream
Stalley is clearly the most unknown out of this bunch, but had significant buzz going into this tape because of the then recent MMG signing and Ross putting him on the same pedestal as Wale and Meek Mill. Not so fast my friend. Maybe, Stalley just isn’t the rapper for me or maybe we’ve just heard Stalley before (J. Cole) so therefore he doesn’t excite me. Savage Life is well put together tape but it won’t blow you away like I was expecting. In other news, he meshed well with the rest of MMG on Self Made, Vol. 2. Here.
Game’s California Republic
Released: April 5th
Game suffered from the same complex as Rick Ross except he had ten too many tracks. Flooded with features as well I felt like Game rushed this mixtape to the masses or maybe it was a reach just to stay relevant. Hey, who knows, I just know RED Album wasn’t too bad and this wasn’t too good. Take your time Game. California is Kendrick’s town now anyway. Here.
50 Cent’s The Lost Tape
Released: May 22nd
Lost Tape was 50′s try of “giving something to the people” and might’ve backfired on him. After I heard 50′s Big 10 last year I was pretty excited for a new album, but Lost Tape kind of took that spunk away. Big 10 is super street but is very hit or miss. Possibly, 50 is saving his best for the album. And it’s also, possible that his next album will be a hiccup too. We shall see. Here
Category 3 — The Others: This tier is a bunch of everything. From down south rap to smoker tunes. You can find a good listen in here. Meet the Others.
Juicy J’s Blue Dream + Lean (Bonus Tracks)
Released: May 20th
After Juicy J’s huge success from Blue Dream and Lean in 2011, he gives you the bonus tracks and more anthems for strippers and trippy people to mob too. Whether it’s the codiene, the cash or a bit of gun play, this Three 6 Mafia member sticks to his roots and delivers. Juicy J for President! Here
Chevy Woods’ Gang Land
Released: June 6th
Sticking in the TGOD camp, Chevy gives us more of a darker insight into Pittsburgh as he talks about the streets, family and his favorite vices. It is still hard to see Chevy without Wiz, but this is a step in the right direction. If Wiz is Hov, Chevy is Bleek. Only more quality music can change this around. Here.
XV’s Popular Culture
Released: June 15th
Popular Culture is a musical ride from XV that takes us through today’s pop culture and his own thoughts as he prepares for the debut release of his album. The kid in the green backpack will always bring witty lines and rep for Wichita (Yes. Wichita) but I feel like he might be nearing his ceiling as he has yet to breakthrough the mainstream glass door. Warner is being patient but how much time will they wait? You be the judge. Here.
Future’s Astronaut Status
Released: January 12th
If you ask 10 people not from Atlanta what they think of Future, you will get an immediate thumbs down 9 out of 10 times. However, you ask 10 ATLiens, you might see the reverse effect. Hometown hero? Sort of. Future won’t give you the clever lines or deep introspective bars, but he will get the club and car rocking at the same damn time. His debut album Pluto is in stores now, but give Astronaut Status a listen before you spend your $9.99. Here.
Gucci Mane’s I’m Up
Released: May 25th
If you had to give out the Lifetime Achievement Award of Mixtapes, Gucci Mane is a winner. Going way back to the Wilt Chamberlain series to the Burrprint trilogy and to mainstream and back again, Gucci delivers. This time bringing an onslaught of features, Gucci does his usual – women, money and supreme shittalking. Gucci is …Gucci. Perfect for the car. Here.
Category 4 — The Five: Without a shadow of a doubt, there are the best mixtapes to be released so far in 2012. Must download to say the least.
Big K.R.I.T’s 4Eva N A Day
Released: March 14th
One of the three best rappers under 25, KRIT closed in on his 3rd mixtape in 3 years with 4Eva N A Day as he takes you into a day in the life of KRIT. From his southern driven bass booming beats to the songs written about his love interests, 4Eva N A Day is a journey to say the least. No it doesn’t top KRIT Wuz Here or his debut album, Live From the Underground, but this is the perfect theme music to play when cruising. Here.
Mac Miller’s Macadelic
Released: February 10th
I’ve never been a Mac Miller fan and I was slightly irritated by the mixtape name seeing how close it looks to Makaveli. Nonetheless, Mac has made me a fan. With just the right amount of features, but great concepts and beat selection, Mac proves he’s just not your average white rapper. This independent artist is doing it on his own and doing it well. Don’t get too tripped out by the hippy like sounds of Macadelic. It’s incredible. Here.
Dom Kennedy’s Yellow Album
Released: June 21st
The Leimert Park legend comes through in the clutch once again. Just as the summer hits you can only guarantee three things: heat, bikinis and a Dom Kennedy project. Unexpectedly, the mixtape was free (compared to Westside II which wasn’t) and gave Dom fans something new to jam too. With rumors of him joining MMG as well, I think Ross can appeciate this tape and hand over a chain and deal soon. Just watch. Here.
Meek Mill’s Dreamchasers 2
Released: May 7th
Speaking of MMG, is this not MMG’s Blake Griffin right now? Anytime on a feature, his own song or in concert, Meek is going to give you energy. Meek didn’t take us down the darkest paths as he did with Dreamchasers, but in DC2 he gave us more club bangers to party too. Through and through Meek represented and brought a cast of characters along with him. Wale, Fab and Big Sean all represent multiple times on DC2. Impressive to say the least. Here.
Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Allderdice
Released: March 13th
Coming off a disappointing debut album in Rolling Papers, Wiz gets his sound back together in Allderdice and drops a complete gem. Even though the ongoing interview throughout the tape was cool at first (then becoming annoying) and quite groundbreaking, Wiz took us back to those Kush and Orange Juice days. Helped by an assortment of phenomenal producers ( Jerm, Cardo, Harry Fraud, ID Labs, Sledgren), Wiz mixes in perfectly with the instrumentals. Best mixtape of the year. Hands down. Here
Wow. That was a lot. Did I miss anything? Now that we’ve thoughly been through the first half of the year let’s hope that the second half is just as good in the underground market. A few questions to ask yourself in the second half. Will Wiz and Curren$y’s Live in Concert be as good as How Fly? Will MMG continue their success or will GOOD Music force a cruel summer onto everyone? Slaughterhouse? A$AP? 2Chainz? Will Azaelia Banks make the jump? Can Nas give us one last classic to listen to? Can Kendrick Lamar have success on the mainstream? Hmmm. We shall see.