This year, we broke down our lists to 3 categories, free projects, paid projects and which artists we felt had the best year. We chose to differentiate on price because we did not want to disrespect anyone’s “street album” by calling it a “mixtape” and so this list includes those as well as EPs and any other name you could give. Hit the jump for a list of our 10 favorite free projects of the year as well as download links to them (the only qualification needed to be eligible for this list).
10. Young Chris – The Re: Introduction
The first word I used to describe this tape is “tough”. The Philadelphia young gun is back and put out a very good project in his Re-Introduction. Enlisting other Philly natives, this mixtape comes with a few standouts and overall dope lyrics.
Fav track: Street Secrets ft. Freeway.
9. Laws – 5:01 Overtime
Laws put out 5:01 as an extended version of 4:57 after its success and added in a few new tracks as well. With such close ties to the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, there is plenty of hip hop for the hardcore fan as well as songs that fit the electro-progressive movement that is so popular nowadays rapping over Miami Horror and others.
Fav track: Hold Me Down Remix ft. Big K.R.I.T. & Emilio Rojas
8.Vic Mensa – Straight Up
Vic Mensa’s Straight Up Ep is a pretty incredible debut as he provides verbal dexterity and shows off his raw talent. This project would be a great addition to anyone’s discography but considering this is the 17-YEAR-OLD’s (!) starting point; I can’t wait to see where his career takes him.
Fav track: For The Win
7.TiRon – MSTRD
For those that follow our site, you should be familiar with TiRon as his Ketchup project was one of our tops last year and he was named #2 to Watch for this year. In a day and age where music is constantly being released, MSTRD is one of those projects that you can hear the hard work he put in and that is a big part of its huge replay value and lack of skip-able tracks.
Fav track: 1ne
6.Luck-One – True Theory Outtakes
Yes, the tracks that did not even make the Portland emcee’s album are THAT good. With only a feature or two, The #6 to Watch For uses this project to show everyone just how good he is and to tide us over until next March when True Theory finally drops. He discusses an array of topics that are real to him in his everyday life and more than likely apply to you to at one point or another.
Fav track: More
5.Wiz Khalifa – Kush & Orange Juice
Kush & OJ is a regular part of Wiz’s daily routine and of his lifestyle in general. Wiz continues to find ways to rap about smoking weed, partying with girls (who he would suggest are dating his listeners) and just having a good time; he continues to do so in ways that don’t get stale or repetitive. He uses a good mix of rapping as well as general harmonizing on the track for yet another great mixtape from Khalifa man.
Fav track: Still Blazin
4.Big Sean – Finally Famous Vol. 3
Big Sean, in my opinion, is one of the most talented up n comers right now and deserves to be GOOD music’s next guy to blow up. Finally Famous 3 shows Sean using flows that I have never heard anyone use as well as displaying the lazy metaphor (“My bank account got me feeling wells… Fargo”) which he started before Drake and every rapper ever made it overplayed. A good mix of original production as well as rapping over industry beats (although everyone took on “Lemonade”, I think Sean’s is the best)
Fav track: High Rise
3.Add-2 – Tale of Two’s City Vol. 4: Better Dayz
Add-2 put out yet another great mixtape in the Tale of Two’s City series. His penmanship is ever improving as he paints vivid stories on almost every track. “The Crown” is easily one of my favorite hip hop tracks this year and in all honesty, I don’t think I have ever listened to it only one time, I always hit repeat.
Fav track: The Crown
2.Sha Stimuli – Overtime: My Soul to Keep
My Soul to Keep was one of my favorite albums of 2009. So of course, when Sha re-released it with new verses, extended versions of some tracks and a couple other new tricks, I knew it would land high on my free projects list for this year. A real lyricist at heart, Sha Stimuli knows how to make good hip hop and good music.
Fav track: Hang On Remix
1.Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
There is a stereotype that southern rappers aren’t lyrical and I’m not sure if anyone has a bigger problem with that than Big Krit. Hailing from Mississippi, Krit shows that you cannot write him off based on his hometown as he uses clever word play, sick punchlines and dope imagery throughout. Add in the fact that he produced this project and Krit’s talent is undeniable. This project still gets spins and so it will be 2011’s job to find something better to listen to.
Fav track: Moon and Stars Remix