In the hip-hop world mixtapes play a huge part, seeing as how fans get most of their music through downloading in this day and age. When an artist releases a mixtape, it could be because they want to promote an album, it could be because they want to get their name out to the hip hop community, or it could simply be because a certain artist hasn’t released anything in a while and mixtapes will help to satisfy fans. Whatever the reasoning, mixtapes are vital when in comes to hip-hop, because on mixtapes there are no limitations from the artist’s label. Musicians are free to say whatever they want on a mixtape and that can either be a fantastic thing, or the worst possible thing imaginable depending on how an artist pulls it off. Here at The Come Up Show, our staff went through all of our favourite mixtapes of 2013 in order to find the best of the best. The following artists are the ones who made the cut. Without further ado, here are The Come Up Show’s top mixtapes/free releases of 2013.
“Add-2 is quickly becoming one of my favourite artists, and his chemistry with Khrysis is undeniable. The beats are soulful, the drums knock, and the rhymes are always on point. The best part? With Add-2 on Jamla’s roster now, we’ll be getting lots more incredible music from the Chicago emcee, and hopefully we’ll see more of Add-2 and Khrysis together.”
“Two years in the making, Toronto’s A-Game checked in with their mixtape “Boarding Pass,” a great project backed by excellent production. The 12-track mixtape is anything but lackluster. Consisting of catchy hooks and wordplay from both artists, this offering will surely have you listening to the project over and over again.”
Big K.R.I.T. – King Remembered In Time
“Any album with a 9th Wonder Instrumental has me sold. Apart from Big K.R.I.T & BJ The Chicago Kid’s Life Is A Gamble, Big K.R.I.T himself produces every single song. Shine on sounds like old school Outkast and UGK.”
“It’s crazy to see how quickly Chance has grasped a huge following and acclaimed his new found fame in only a year’s time. Acid Rap has got to be a mixtape for the books. 20 years old with the confidence level of a rapper that has been in the game for years is exactly why this mixtape became the perfection that it is today.”
“Not only is this my favourite mixtape or free release of the year, Acid Rap is my favourite project of the year, period. I’ve probably listened to Acid Rap more times in the past eight or nine months than many of my other favourite albums combined. I mean, seriously, six or seven of these songs could easily pass as my favourite songs of the year: “Pusha Man/Paranoia,” “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “Juice,” “Everybody’s Something,” “That’s Love,” “Chain Smoker,” “Everything’s Good”… it doesn’t get much better than this.”
“Produced by Disciples Projection, Montreal’s Ludo Lopez and Niño Malo seamlessly combine different genres of Hip-Hop including Latin and Spanish flows as well as Reggaeton. What I really love about this mixtape is not just the chill, calming vibe you get throughout every track, but how amazingly versatile each song is without Contra losing their signature style.You can see the work Contra put into Code Name: Gameboyz, and they produced an awesome mixtape that showcases their talents in every genre they cover.”
On the same day as Superbowl VXII, Curren$y dropped “New Jet City.”A wide-range of production finds Spitta adapting to new sounds while maintaining the sound in which we’ve all come to enjoy so much. Although it’s nothing out of the ordinary for Curren$y, this project is one of the best mixtapes this year as Andretti continues to release multiple bodies of work annually.”
“I feel that it’s fair to include both Truly Yours 1 and 2 as one option. J. Cole tells stories throughout both these tapes that rival the best authors. The production he has playing throughout each track is just as top notch as his lyricism. “Cole Summer” and “Kenny Lofton” just involve a loop of the same vocal bars but the outcome makes for mind-numbingly great music.”
“Seconded. “Cole Summer” off Truly Yours 2 is ridiculously good.”
“This album requires full attention – and maybe a few RapGenius stops and Urban Dictionary interpretations. Every track is full of mesmerizing instrumentals frolicking most appropriately with Joey’s nasty word flow.”
Los – Becoming King
“I’ve been a Los fanatic since hearing his incredible “A Milli” freestyle and I am still willing to bet that King Los would be able to out freestyle any rapper in the game today. This tape is just chalked full of songs that will leave your jaw permanently on the floor until the final track ends. This tape is so good that it should be classified as an album, because to get music this amazing you would usually have to buy it.”
“2013 was the year we saw three top tier Toronto emcees comes together for a project that is not looking to die out among the masses of music releases any time soon. Working closely together with a Toronto based clothing company The LegendsLeague; Adam Bomb, Tona and Rich Kidd joined forces on Naturally Born Strangers. Rich Kidd handling all the production work, among his contribution of a verse on every track along side Tona and Adam Bomb; right off the bat you know it’s going to be something great.
As it begins with “The End”, Adam Bomb drops a short and sweet verse that lays a few things into perspective as you head into the first head nodding track “Strangerhood”, an introduction to what you’re about to experience from the three of them. With party songs like “Jameson Ave”, deep story telling joints like “Tie Breaker”, “A Gun And A Pack Of Sandwiches”, “No One Knows MY Struggle”, “Did I Once Know You”. Lyrical tracks like “This Sight Belongs To You”, “Jim Morrison” along with a few that make you think like “The Sacrament”, “The Strangers” and “Angels”. Naturally Born Strangers is an all around amazing hip hop project that definitely shouldn’t of been free, so all the better for us right? This is one that ended strong in the year and is gaining momentum into 2014 even more.”
“Crenshaw is Nipsey’s first release since his 2011 The Marathon Continues. The album collaborates with another favourite Cali rapper, Dom Kennedy as well as James Fauntleroy and Slim Thug. Feeling bad ass and you’re about to make a bold movement? Listen to Check Me Out, featuring Cobby Supreme and Dom Kennedy and you will have yourself a whole four minutes of self boasting.”
“Papoose is known for rapping over other rappers beats and he continues that trend in Hoodie Season. However, when Papoose rhymes over another artists beat, he treats it as though it were his own and he goes in hard. Papoose is one of the most determined rappers out there, obsessed with the idea that he is number one and everyone else is below him.The mixtape is called Hoodie Season but you might want to take your sweaters off for this one because it’s hot!”
Opening with “Welcome To the Party” Mississauga, Ontario native PARTYNEXTDOOR does just that by introducing us to his debut and self titled project. Consisting of 10 songs, the project proves to be a solid body of work from start to finish.“Relax With Me,” “Make a Mil,” and “Break From Toronto” are just some great examples of PND’s diverse talent, incorporating his production skills with infectious lyricism.”
Pete Rock & Camp Lo – 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s Pt. 2
“An album for all the dj’s and partygoers, non-censored lyrics and feel good vibes have hip hop heads fiending for more of there distinct raw, jazzy sound. 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s pt. 2 was released this past July, with the same nasty lyrics (the good kind of nasty you want more of) over Pete Rock productions that have me one step away from dirty dancing, singing and giving an all out performance on the streetcar.”
“This album is seamless, as if he’s been doing it forever. What I love about this album is that while it’s hip hop, it blurs the rigid lines of genres. PHZ-Sicks combines fresh raps over nostalgic beats of late 90’s/early 2000’s R&B and hip-hop. PHZ-Sicks also discusses some pretty heavy stuff, touching on slavery, racism, and discrimination. PHZ-Sicks is kind of that fly on the wall who samples all kinds of music- old or as recent as today’s mainstream rappers, and mashes it up into something everyone can enjoy.”
“Released in late January, Wrath of Caine was a great way of showing Pusha T at this best while the project served as a prelude to his debut album. The 11-track project offers a deeper look into the street life in which Pusha explains, “Wrath of Caine is basically just me catering to my core. It’s all about just street Hip Hop, street music. It’s just something that I like to do. It’s something that I feel like has no boundaries, no parameters…” This was a mixtape in which you could sit back and digest. The flow of songs really makes the project enjoyable to listen to.”
“Sha Prince, with undoubtedly the album title of the year – Latex & Perfume – gets more in-depth speaking on some relationships he has encountered and been through over the years. When Sha Prince and Flex get together and give you such prodigious bodies of work as they have; the way their flows craft together to create great records like “Circus Clown”, you really get a glimpse of why that is when taking in Latex & Perfume.
Looking at Latex & Perfume as whole, the amount of content spoke about in it’s entirety makes it a memorable moment to be able to partake on some of the things spoken about on this record. There’s always that stigma that once a group, making solo records just is not the same, but Sha Prince and Flex both merged as solo artists, so it’s been some time since Sha Prince was able to really sit down and focus on his personal side of things. I can’t stress enough about how astonishing, amazing, thought-provoking, and emotional Latex & Perfume became for me being able to really take each song in multiple times over and over throughout the past two weeks.
From songs like “Exploit My Life”, to the four and a half minute “Anatomy Of My Relationship” where the whole album gets opened up to you form the jump, to “Heaven’s Road” and “Wedding Bells” where as Sha says “it’s the most vulnerable you’ll ever see me on a record”. This is one that has been on repeat for me for a while now and honestly there is a lot of good music and albums I never take off my playlist, this is definitely one of them. From discovering deeper meaning the more I listen to it, to being affected emotionally from some songs, Latex & Perfume is the definition of what timeless and great music is all about.”
“A Prelude to his album, Ingleworld, Bare With Me was an all around great release from Skeme. Hosted by DJ Skee, the West Coast rapper shines throughout the 21-track project, teaming up with Nipsey Hussle, Dom Kennedy, The Game, and many more. If this project is an indication of what we can expect on Ingleworld, fans should be proud as Skeme continues to progress as an artist.”
“The 21-year-old artist landed two major deals with TI’s Grand Hustle label as well as Kanye’s Very G.O.O.D production company. After several delayed releases, Scott’s 2013 debut EP Owl Pharaoh, proves that good things come to those who wait. Scott showcases his producing chops as he hits fans with futuristic synths, grimy bass lines and hard knocking drums on each track. The Owl Pharaoh instrumentals are tailor made to complement Scott’s erratic and entertaining flow- he’s all over the place on this tape. Don’t sleep on Travi$ Scott! His 2013 push was just a sneak peak at what this artist has to offer the game.”
– Michael K
“It’s ridiculous how much talent is coming out of Chicago right now. Along with Chance’s Acid Rap and Add-2’s Between Heaven and Hell, Vic Mensa’s Innanetape gets the nod as one of my top three free releases of the year (and probably makes the cut for my top projects of the year, period). Innanetape has everything: witty lyrics, compelling commentary, top-notch production, and seamless transitions from track to track – even the interludes serve a purpose. The overall effect is that it really feels more like an album than a mixtape.
Song-wise, you get a bit of everything with Innanetape. “Orange Soda” and “Hollywood LA” capture a more mellow vibe; “Lovely Day” and “Magic” are high-energy, infectious tracks; “Time Is Money” and “Holy Holy” offer thematic depth to the mixtape (and manage to do so without compromising the mood of the album); and “YNSP” is the wild-out anthem of the mixtape. What’s truly amazing is that Vic manages to blend all of these styles together so fluidly and compellingly – a remarkable achievement.”
“An upcoming artist from Philly, Savage puts together a tight EP that is deserving of a higher platform to reach more listeners. The EP is produced by DJ Khaled’s “We The Best” platinum producer Lee On The Beats as well as Grand Hustle’s producer Stroud. There’s just too much good stuff in this mixtape.”
Honourable Mentions: Brave New World (The Airplane Boys), City In Gold (Luu Breeze), Green Box (Locksmith), Indigoism (The Underachievers), In My Opinion (Rich Kidd), Modern Day Riot (The Antiheroes), She Got Game (Rapsody), Young Sinatra: Welcome To Forever (Logic)