2009 was a transcendent year for the hip-hop world.  While some still claim hip-hop is dead, a look back on 2009 reminds us that the genre is alive, well, and expanding in a variety of directions.   This expansion can be credited to the online mixtape circuit that flourished in the past year.  The mixtape game has always been important in establishing a buzz, a rep, or a style, but 2009 was the year of the mixtape.  Many new artists garnered all sorts of attention and built (sometimes almost cult-like) fan bases through mixtapes.  The new guys were not the only ones in the game to tap into this resource,  as veterans such as Lil’ Wayne, Cassidy, and Young Jeezy solidified their statuses with hot tapes.

cassidy-apply-pressure-450x45010.) Cassidy – Apply Pressure

The Philly emcee blessed us early in the year with a tape that reminded the hip hop world who’s still the punch line king.  Cass jumped on a variety of beats ranging from classics (“They Shook”) to new Plies (“Plenty Money”). He murders every track, building even more anticipation for a possible album in 2010.

9.) Gucci Mane – Kitchen Talk

coverReleased while Gucci was still serving time for a probation violation, Kitchen Talk stood out from the slew of mixtapes released during Gucci’s incarceration.  From the intro to the last track, Kitchen Talk provides listeners with hot track after hotter track.  Mixtapes like this one kept (actually increased) Gucci’s buzz going while he served his time.  Notable tracks include: “Bricks”, “Pussy N*gga”, and “Same Red Rag.”

8.) Kid Cudi – A Kid Named Cudi

00-plain_pat_and_emile_presents_kid_cudi-a_kid_named_cudi-front-2008-300x300Never before has an artist hit so many different notes and retained his title as a rapper. Kid Cudi, like the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, has no father to his style. A Kid Named Cudi showcases the newcomer’s talent on a slew of tracks that ironically blend very well despite being rather different. Stand out tracks include “Down & Out”, “Man on the Moon”, “The Prayer”, “Day N Nite,” and “Cleveland is the Reason.”

7.) Trey Songz – Anticipation

treysongz-anticipation-front-coverWhile mixtapes usually are reserved for the hip hop side of things, Songz has been known to drop his own tapes from time to time.  With Anticipation the Petersburg, VA native essentially gave away a studio album for free.  The smooth, sexy tape is probably best reserved for bedroom adventures, but is listenable from first to last song in any situation.  While I recommend listening to the whole mixtape, if you only have time for a peek check out, “Famous”, “On Top”, “It Would Be”, and the live version of “Successful” with Drake.

6.) B.o.B – B.o.B  vs. Bobby Ray

bob-vs-bobby-ray-front-cover1I first heard B.o.B on T.I.’s “On Top of the World” and was very impressed.  So when this mixtape debuted on Livemixtapes, and I finally got to see the diverse skill set this guy has to offer I was blown away.  He sings, raps, produces, and plays all sorts of instruments…dude is just mad talented.  If Drake is the hottest new rapper, B.o.B is definitely the most unique.  These three tracks display different styles B.o.B delves into on this tape, and all are fire: “Trippin”, “Put me On”, and “I’m that N*gga (feat T.I.)”

5.) Big Sean – Uknowbigsean Vol. 2

Big_Sean_Uknowbigsean_Vol_2-front-largeKanye’s protégé  and G.O.O.D  Music’s future star, Big Sean, is attracting more buzz by the second.  The sequel to Uknowbigsean did nothing but help.  The Detroit native has a unique, slow, laid back style filled with creative lines.  The antithesis of a trap musician, Big Sean raps about fairly ordinary occurrences and experiences on his journey to stardom.   Hopefully on his next venture Kanye will produce some songs for the up and comer.  Notable tracks off this tape include: “Who Knows”, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”, “Tomorrow”, and “Cum Over”.

4.) Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa – How Fly

Wiz_Khalifa_Curreny_How_Fly-front-largeA well traveled veteran from New Orleans and a new comer form Pittsburgh…what do they have in common?  Both love smoking weed, taking other dudes’ girlfriends, money, cars, clothes,…the list goes on.  How Fly contains 15 bomb tracks detailing these two doing exactly what they like to do: smoking, partying, and living the fast life.  Wiz sets the tone for the mixtape in his first verse stating “All we know is big money, medical weed, and fashion.”  While some may decry their content as shallow (Spitta humorously addressed this in the line “all them fools make is weed music bla, bla, bla”) these two are both very talented lyricists.  Check out: “Car Service”, “S.D.L”, “The Life”, and “Rollin Up”.

3.) Gucci Mane – Writing on the Wall

GucciMane-WritingOnTheWallThe So Icey C.E.O went nuts on this one.  His first official mixtape following his release from prison in the spring received the highest rating (3202 currently) I’ve ever seen on livemixtapes.com.  Writing on the Wall is filled with typical Gucci.  He celebrates his diamonds, street cred, women, and drugs with the classic trap beats in the background.  As livemixtapes puts it, Writing on the Wall “is a classic trap banger”.   Filled with hot tracks, a few notables include: “Gucci Montana”, “Wasted” featuring Plies, and “Going In.”

2.) J. Cole – The Warm Up

j-cole-the-warm-up-450x450The North Carolina native and Roc Nation signee did not disappoint on his sophomore mixtape.  In fact he crushed expectations and set the bar to a new personal high on The Warm Up. The college-educated lyricist laces each track with clever lyrics.  His style switches depending on the song, but he always seems confident, almost aggressive, as he destroys each track.  Each story or message sounds so heartfelt and honest I can’t help but believe every word.  We can only hope he keeps up his pace dropping quality music.  Personal favorites from The Warm Up include: “I Get Up”, “Ladies”, and “Hold it Down”.

1.) Drake – So Far Gone

drake-so-far-goneWhat else is there to be said about this mixtape?  Drake is the hottest new rapper (maybe it’s time to take new out of that statement) in the game right now.  The fact that after being available online for free for 6 months, So Far Gone sold over 60,000 copies when released in stores is a testament to the magnitude of this tape.  So Far Gone displays Drake’s variety of talents from rapping like a G to crooning like an R & B singer.  The world is at this man’s fingertips right now, and I can only pray is that Cash Money doesn’t fuck up his album since his name isn’t Wayne.

– Doug Knickrehm

*Editor’s Pick:

CunninLynguists – Strange Journey Volumes 1 and 2

StrangejourneyvolumeoneStrangejourneyvolume2The latest releases from IF’s favorite southern underground rap trio (dropping in March and November respectively) are in musical no-man’s-land.  Not eligible for album of the year honors, the mixtapes just didn’t seem to fit in with its livemixtapes.com counterparts.  In SJ1 Deacon and Nattie reach a level of tomfoolery not visited since their goofy 2003 release Southernundergound, exclaiming in “Never Come Down (The Brownie Song)” “Physics don’t apply!” “What?” “Midgets in the sky!” “Where?”  Other new fresh material comes in the form of “Nothing But Strangeness”, “Move”, and “Broken Van.”  Volume 2 is centered around the key-driven single “Running Wild” (featuring E-40 and Evidence), “Imperial” (featuring Freddie Gibbs), and “Close Your Eyes” (featuring Geologic of Blue Scholars, Grieves, and Macklemore) and includes the deliciously typical (or would it be deliciously typical?) instrumental tracks to close out the tape.  Strange Journey is a full departure from the Lynguists’ previous Sloppy Seconds Vol. 1 and 2, and we can only hope it foreshadows a fresh new direction for the kings of underground.

Coming soon: Pictures from CunninLynguists’ recent Strange Journey Tour, including a brief Q & A.

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