THE BEST MIXTAPES OF 2009 (so far)

My man at Awmusic just posted a cool post about mixtapes (“Mixtapes that are actually good”), and I thought I’d give his post a shout out and publish a few of my own selections. Mixtapes are (ahem) a mixed bag–sometimes good, often overstuffed, and, rarely, as good as an album. And sometimes even the ones that are as good as an album aren’t very good. My favorite mixtapes are usually the ones by a single artist or with a single theme. Label mixtapes usually feature a few good artists and too much filler, and gang bangs are usually just an excuse to reissue old stuff. So, here’s some of the best free hip hop the year has to offer, so far.

5.  La Coka Nostra-The Audacity of Coke. Everlast used to be a great, bluesy rapper, until Eminem handed dude his head after Ev teamed up with Fred Durst against Em.  Since then, Everlast hasn’t really brought it.  Until now.  This team up with Necro’s Ill Bill is some of the finest work Everlast has produced in years.  Throw in contributionsn from DJ Muggs, Raekwon, B-Real, U-God, and mixing by the great Statik Selektah, and you got a kick-ass mixtape.   Score the coka!

4.  Prof and St. Paul Slim–Recession Music. This one I heard about from the Awright post I mentioned earlier. Executive produced by Ant (from Atmosphere), it’s a slice of hip hop from the Midwest–not too street, not too crunky, not too laid back . . . The Midwest sound isn’t one we get to hear enough of these days, so it’s worth a listen just on that score. Represent!

3.  Mikkey Halstead-The Uncrowned King. 50 Cent is still calling himself a King, and I guess if money is the measure of a man, he is. In fact, Halstead’s mixtape title is ironic, albeit unintentionally. A crown is a symbol of wealth, which Halstead doesn’t have, but he does have the raw street power of at least ten Fiddys. He makes pretty straightforward gutta rap, and he’s damn good at. This is a genre that’s probably on its last legs, but Mikkey is one of the best at it today. You can read more in my original review, here.

Cop it!

2.  Atmosphere–Leak At Will. This is just an EP, but Atmosphere’s EPs are often as good as its albums (which sometimes can seem overstuffed)–Their “Sad Clown” series was brilliant, and some of the best rap I’ve ever heard, period. At 7 songs, this EP doesn’t have a weak track on it. As usual, it’s about tragic street figures who sell their souls and bodies for cash and security, and the beats are unusual but catchy as hell. Play that funky white boy music!

1.  Joell Ortiz-Covers the Classics. This isn’t just a great mixtape, it’s a great record, period. Yeah, the fact that he pirated beats from all the classics helps a lot, but Ortiz is full on his game here, and when he’s hitting the beat, there are few around as good as he is. Check out my original review here. And get classic here.

Honorable mentions:

Custom Made and Fresh Daily.

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