NICKI MINAJ-“Sucka Free”

Is QB’s Nicki Minaj a great rapper? It’s too early to tell. Is she a damn good one? Hell to the yes. Minaj uses the crude gangsta-gal swagger of Lil’ Kim with a more traditional, old-school-sounding flow, and a wicked sense of humor. Maybe that’s why her 2008 mixtape has verses by the likes of Lil’ Wayne (who signed her), Ransom, Jadakiss, and even the Queen B herself, Lil Kim.

This is a candidate for most interesting mixtape of the year, for sure. Check it out.

Sunshine-Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne

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“The Preview” is Ludacris’ album before his real album, which will drop later this year. Luda mixtapes are hard to find, so when we get one, it’s a good idea to crank it and be grateful. I’m a big fan of the gangsta jesta, even if the products of his labors are often uneven. However, this is not big L’s finest hour. He’s got the usual songs about drugs, women, cars and more drugs, which are never my favorite Luda cuts, and a lot of promotion for the movie “Max Payne,” which he’s in, by the way. He does a pretty good job when it comes to the mixtape tradition of hijacking beats to prove that he flow better than the original artists, especially besting 8Ball & MJG (“Sho Nuff”) and UGK (“Wood Wheel”), but not killing Big Boi and Andre 3000 (“Git Up, Git Out”). But there’s not enough tunes like the pro-Obama “Politics as Usual” and the boastful “So Thoro.” It’s worth a listen, but may not be worth multiple ones.

So Thoro

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SANTOGOLD-“Top Ranking: A Diplo Dub”

I recently put Santogold’s debut as one of the ten best hip-hop albums of the year so far, and if I were to make a list of the best mixtapes, this one would surely be on it. I dunno if she’s banging Diplo, like M.I.A. did, but she’s sure following the Sri Lankan’s career path. If you recall, M.I.A.’s Diplo mixtape, “Piracy Funds Terrorism,” was better than her album and came out about the same time. The “Top Ranking” mixtape is pretty similar—it’s got a bunch of dancehall and dub tunes mixed between Santogold originals and remixes. The difference is, though, that Santogold doesn’t need to rely on the talents of other artists to sell her own work. I find myself skipping through the other folks’ cuts, in a hurry to hear what else she has to offer. Still, the tape is worth finding because it’s cool to hear punk Santo (“Guns of Brooklyn,” remixed with The Clash for what should be another entry in my “Guns of Brixton” celebration); Mazzy Santo (“I’m a Lady”); dub Santo (Unstoppable/Night Dub”), and the other Santo tunes.

Guns of Brooklyn-Santogold

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