Okay, so here's where I'm at. I decided the other day to do a ranking of my top 10 mixtapes. Then I quickly realized the flaw in that argument, that being the fact that there's way more than 10 mixtapes that I love and listen to constantly. Then I toyed with a "Top 20", but then decided to meet in the middle and do a Top 15.
So once I realized that, I then was faced with actually leaving tapes off after I whittled the list back from 20 to 15. And then I realized my second problem: How the hell do I rank these?
Herein lies the problem that I've long had with these "Top 5 Dead or Alive" or "Top 10" lists that you see all over the place. The lists are all subjective, especially when it comes to hip hop music. Suppose one person makes a top 10 list of "Greatest Rappers of all time" and their list is chock full of that grimy street hip hop artists. Now that could be a helluva list, however there will no doubt be readers of that list who aren't necessarily into that grimy shit, who would say "that list is wack, hardly any of those should even be considered!"
Then THEY could make a list, and others could just as quickly summarily dismiss THAT list, and it goes on and on.
And what do you base the list on? Longevity? Flow? Content/Lyricism? Battle rappers? Studio rappers? What do you give preference to? Different people will have different points of view, all of them valid.
MORE AFTER THE BREAK
So that's the rub. So I put down the list of what I thought were the 15 mixtapes that I personally loved. Ones that I had either grown up with, or found later in life, or perhaps just resonated with me in a point of my life. As I said, subjective.
I made the list and I kept staring at it, troubled. I kept looking at the bottom half of the list thinking "that tape should really be higher." However I looked at the top of the list and thought "damn, what do I move down for them?"
It almost felt like I was disrespecting the DJ's that put so much hard work into their tapes, and the emotions that those tapes elicited from me by pushing them down the list, yet every single one of these were just lights out fantastic in my eyes, and all of them meant something to me.
So this is what it came to: I ranked the following tapes in a completely and wholly subjective manner, that will no doubt infuriate many hip hop fans, and cause many a rap fan to yell out, at the top of their lungs, "NAS LOST!", for no reason other than they like saying that.
So with all of that out of the way, let the show......BEGIN!
NOTE: Click on the title to the mixtapes to either download or purchase them. Links provided when available. Some of these are not online, that I can see.
One of the countless Black Album remixes that flooded the internet after Jay Z released the acapellas for his "Black Album", encouraging remixes. If he knew what he would unleash on society, would he have done it? Who knows? Out of the hundreds of horrible horrible mixes that were put out by wannabe DJ's there were a few diamonds in the rough. Dangermouse's Grey Album (more on that later) was probably the best one, but this one is a personal favorite of mine.
Combining the acapellas of Jay Z's The Black Album as well as his MTV unplugged, with the music for Nirvana's MTV Unplugged creates a very interesting mashup. DJ Noodles & Nic Balz did their thing on this. Took me a long time to track this down after I lost my original copy. Thank God for Ebay, eh?
DJ VLAD - Soul Food *Currently unavailable online*
This wasn't a "Mix" tape as much as it was basically a compilation of tracks. The tracklist was solid though with some really good neo soul music by artists like Bilal, Jill Scott and Maxwell as well as D'Angelo. I love this tape a lot. After I lost it I tried to get another copy but couldn't find one. I actually reached out to DJ Vlad himself to see if I could buy a copy from him. Didn't know if he had an online store or not. Never heard back from him.
Always thought that was weird. Someone's offering you money for your product, and you don't even bother getting back? I hit up his official contact info, but I suppose it wasn't important for him to respond. Too bad, as this is a really good compilation of music. I thought the bass was set a bit too high on it, as it would rattle my speakers when playing, even on low volume, but other than that it was on point.
#15 - DJ Dirty Harry - Dirty Luv Volume 1 (Hosted by Angie Martinez)
I make no secret of my love for Angie Martinez. I've loved her voice since I first heard her in the film Brown Sugar. Here we have a dope collection of slow jams mixed by the incomparable DJ Dirty Harry, with Lady Martinez handling the hosting duties. Angie's very laid back and seems to genuinely be having fun with this, cracking jokes and even making Harry laugh which you can hear in the background.
There were two more volumes, both hosted by Alicia Keys, which was alright, but this is the one I still listen to. I wish Angie could have returned, but it was not in the cards.
#14 - Madd Idiot's Gumbo Luv - Volume 2 *Currently unavailable online*
This is one that I came across while working at an indie hip hop record store, and is an R&B/Slow Jam type mix. I really enjoyed the song selection and the seamless transitioning from one track to the next, along with the occasional addition in the way of an adlib or something. This is one of my absolute favorites as it pertains to slow jam mixes and I listen to this constantly.
#13 - DJ Dangermouse - The Grey Album
The king of all Black Album remixes by far. Dangermouse did his damn thing on this. Combining the music of The Beatles' White Album with Jay's "Black Album" he created a truly unique and original piece of work, one that got him in a bit of hot water over the copyrights from that Beatles album. Really amazing mix though. Everyone should check that out if you have a chance.
#12 - DJ Crazy Chris - Bionic Blends Volume 3
DJ Crazy Chris is a unique kinda guy. Imagine a hillbilly version of Kim Dotcom and I think you might be on the right track. lol. Chris is one of the most creative and imaginative guy that I've ever come across. I always liked him because he never confined himself to one type of music. I respected that he could find enjoyment, and creativity from all genres of music, and he would utilize all genres to create his incredible mixtapes. I was looking through my collection of his releases trying to figure out what I would include on this list, and to be honest it wasn't easy. There's a lot of really solid mashups that he put out, but I think this one is one of his better ones. The opening section (embedded below) is simply incredible and just left me speechless when I first heard it.
Chris doesn't do mixes anymore, and now runs a puppet show in West Virginia called "Sassafrass Junction" (You may notice their banner in the rotating banner section on the right side of this blog). Quite appropriate for a guy that just refused to be pigeonholed into any specific position.
#11 - DJ Vinroc - So Much Soul Volume 2
A really solid soul (both neo and classic) and conscious hip hop release by 5th Platoon's DJ Vinroc. I came across this online probably around '06 and was just digging it from the jump. Volume 1 was alright, but it didn't resonate with me as well as this one did. Also this turned me on to the artist Mikaiel, who sadly only had a small handful of songs out there, and is no longer in the music business.
#10 - DJ Clue - Bad Boy Mixtape Volume 1 *Currently unavailable online*
This is a classic mixtape here, folks. This was released in 1995 back when mixtapes were actually TAPES. I copped this in Charlottesville, Virginia a few years later and was just amazed at it. Mind you this was soon after I had first discovered the joy that is mixtapes. This is also long before the internet made the art of getting a tape just a few clicks of the mouse away.
At this time, there'd be tapes show up and you'd look through the tracklisting (if there was a tracklisting) and be excited that this rapper was doing a song with that rapper, or there was a remix out or whatever. It can't really be explained for those who weren't around back then.
However the thing about this tape that still sticks out for me is that it was hosted by Puff Daddy and those catch phrases that everyone has heard from him a million times by now, such as "As we proceeeeeeed! To give you what you need!" and "9-5 Motherf*cker! Get live motherf*cker!" was BRAND NEW at that time. This was 1995, so these were not cliches at the time. It's kind of weird hearing him yell that and know that at the time it was wholly something new.
Also, there's the tragic aspect to Volume 4 "Stop Yappin'" which was by DJ S&S. It begins with Puffy playing the end of Tupac Shakur's "Hit Em Up" where Pac was viciously going after Puffy, Notorious BIG and other New York Rappers. As Pac is voicing his threats about killing Puffy and Biggie and whatnot, Puff is just laughing and mocking Pac as "the ACTOR, Tupac Shakur!", and said "Come on! BRING IT!"
Hindsight is always 20/20, but it's just kind of haunting how just months later after this tape came out, Tupac was gunned down, and then Biggie was gunned down months after that.
#09 - DJ Definit - A Lounge Called Quest
Along with Vinroc's So Much Soul Volume 2, this is another mixtape chock full of soulful sounds, but also with some conscious style rappers such as Mos Def, Common and Tribe Called Quest. Definit did his thing on this and it's one of the best mixtapes out there. You should definitely get this at your earliest convenience.
#08 - DJ Billy Bill - Best of the Best Volume 1
The very first mixtape I ever bought. Got it at the Potomac Mills mall back in 1996. Click here to read more about my thoughts on this tape and download it. Simply a wonderful blend tape, and a nice little moment in time for hip hop. Holds a very special place in my heart, as my first introduction to hip hop mixtapes.
#07 - DJ Dub Floyd - Hip Hop Docktrine Volume 1
My man DJ Dub Floyd really came correct with this first entry into the Boondocks Mixtape series. Hosted by Asheru, there's a great collection of underground hip hop artists on here (Common, Mos Def, Dead Prez, Dilla), along with snippets from the show. Very entertaining and enlightening offering by The Taped Crusader, DJ Dub Floyd.
#06 - DJ Lazy K - Butta Mixin Rican Series *Currently unavailable online*
Wow. What can I say about Lazy K? The woman seriously helped me out in a bad time in my life, without even knowing it. I wrote about this last year and you can CLICK HERE to read that more indepth, but for years I was homeless and living on the streets back east. All I had in my life was a backpack with some clothes, some books and my walkman with a few mixtapes in there. And those mixtapes, specifically the Lazy K ones really allowed me to just close my eyes and drift away from all the fucked up things in my life at that time. For just a little bit, anyway.
As I wrote last year, if left to my own devices, who knows what would have happened. It may sound crazy or misguided to place that much power onto a mixtape from someone I don't know and will never meet, but as crazy it may sound, it helped man. Her tapes saved me at that time. Her cocky attitude, her playlists, her yelling "LAZY K!" just put my mind away from the negative shit man. I'll always have love for Lazy because of that.
And this series is a legacy for her, probably one of her more well known series of tapes. If you have the chance, track it down! You won't be sorry.
#05 - DJ Franzen - Strictly For Tha Ladies Volume 1 *Currently unavailable online*
Now THIS....is a great mixtape! Another gem I found while working at the record store. A lot of people may not enjoy it as much if you're not into mainstream hip hop/R&B, but maaaaaan, this is my shit! I actually have owned like three physical copies and it keeps getting stolen. lol. Finally I came across someone online who had a digital copy for me, and I was extremely grateful. I just love the remixes on there such as Usher feat. Daz on "You Make Me Wanna" Remix, as well as the classic Jodeci feat. Raekwon remix to "Freak N' You" And of course the amazing Mary J. Blige remix for "I love you" featuring Smiff N' Wessun. The tracklist is dope, and this is such a fun mix. I recommend this to everyone I see just about, it's just so good.
#04 - DJ Unexpected - Look What I Found Series
And now for something a little unexpected (see what I did there?). Un is a diggin' fool for this series. This was my first exposure to a "Breaks" tape, and it was really interesting hearing all the different sources of samples for some great hip hop songs, and I liked how he'd play a little of the sample and then the hip hop track, almost as if to trick you into being like "man, what the hell is this shit? Why's he playin--- ohhhhhhhhh shit, that's where that came from?!?!!?" lol. Education was never so fun.
#03 - DJ Topspin - Velour Vibes 3 *Currently unavailable online*
Back in the heyday of Rapmullet.com, I was blessed with the opportunity to do some reviews on the site. My tastes were not exactly what the majority of the Mullet community was into, but Big Chew and Dimez knew I was into R&B, so they'd throw me a bone and let me review some newer R&B tapes. I've never felt I was a great reviewer (I think this post may cement that notion) but more of a rambling collection of thoughts on what I had heard, but I appreciated the opportunity and relished the chance to hear some new music.
This was one of the ones I reviewed, and wished I could get that review as I think it went away when the site was having some hacker issues around our Philly servers. I remember hearing this and thinking "holy shit this is great!" I didn't know at the time that Topspin was from Seattle (I'm in Spokane) but was just blown away by some of the music, particularly a group called The Avila Brothers who had a couple tracks on the double disc release.
Some smooth ass music on this one. Topspin is one of those cats who if they told me they had an artist that I should hear, I'd give them a listen no matter what. The man knows his music, and this brilliant tape is evidence of that. If you can track this down, you should give it a listen.
#02 - DJ Vlad/DJ Dirty Harry - Rap Phenomenon (Biggie) // DJ Vlad/DJ Dirty Harry/DJ Green Lantern - Rap Phenomenon (Tupac)
The Rap Phenom mixtape series may be two of the most popular mixtapes in the history of mixtapes, and with good reason. This is one of those tapes that everyone should hear, but is also not without it's "controversy", mostly due to some fans not digging the pairing of rappers who have died with those who are still living.
The tape is filled with classic and lesser known tracks by these rappers, each one of tapes contains some brilliant blends and the Tupac tape specifically was, I believe, pretty much the starting point for pairing dead rappers vocals with current artists, such as Tupac feat. Xzibit for "Fight Music" or Tupac feat. Jadakiss, DMX and Butch Cassidy for Homeboyz".
I never really had a problem with that aspect of it, and actually like it if done right. But I do agree that pairing a rapper with someone who they genuinely had beef with before they passed isn't necessarily in good taste. Of course by that logic I don't think Pac would ever be paired with anyone again because by the time he was killed, he'd pretty much went off against just about everyone he'd worked with and everyone on the east coast.
#01 - DJ Spinbad - 90's Megamix
As difficult as it was for me to figure out how to rank these, this top spot was never in question.
This tape I just sat back when I first heard it and stared off into space amazed at what I was hearing. The sheer amount of pop culture references and movie/tv dialogue that was whipped at me was incredible, and the entire presentation of it was superb. There's a reason DJ Spinbad is held in high regard by many, and it is never more evident than on this tape.
This is, hands down the greatest mix I've ever heard in my life. This isn't hip hop, more along the lines of pop music. 90's pop music to be exact with a heavy emphasis on one hit wonders. 90's Pop music is my shit, and I could never get enough.
A lot of people have praised his 80's MegaMix "Rock the Casbah" and his followup, and they are good, but for me, this is just perfection. I still listen to this all the time, and I play it for friends constantly. I'm always like "dude, you gotta hear this! Just the intro!" and it's usually a response of "man, you've already played this for me! TWICE!"
It'd be nice if there was a "Safe for Work" edition, as a lot of the drops and various dialogue from TV shows and movies are fairly explicit (the South park clip especially so, as well as the Jay & Silent Bob dialogue),which prevents me from sharing this with some people I know, but I'm just grateful for this amazing masterpiece of a tape.
Do yourself a favor and download it now!
Also any mixtape that has a promo drop by Max Cherry is alright in my book!