Every year we bring you guys a few lists that try to encompass as much of what happened the past 12 months as we can. This year, because I was out of the country for the last third of 2011, we will just be providing our Top 10 Free projects and Top 10 Paid projects. We don’t want to offend anyone by putting their “street album” in a mixtape category so we break it down into projects that the listener is expected to pay for and ones that can be downloaded legally for free. Hit the jump to find out, read about and download our Top 10 free projects of the year.
10. 50 Cent – The Big 10
10 years after 50 dropped his breakthrough 50 Cent is the Future, he has been through a lot ranging from insane popularity to musical obscurity. He is still here and for the first time in a while, 50 Cent has dropped a worthwhile project. With production from Jake One, DJ Khalil, Jahlil Beats and more, this project is tough. It gets back to his earlier sound but still incorporates what 50 has learned over the past 10 years.
9.Luck-One – King of The Northwest
The least modest title on our list, Luck-One set out to make a statement with every aspect of this project. Luck-One goes for it all with bravado rhymes that show off his skill but still educate the listener. “Hella backwards, you rappers just follow trends/First you was keeping it gutta, now you all coppin a Benz/ This is masterpiece photography, viewed through a broken lens/ How you barely a beginner, chasin’ ends/”. Luck-One deals with a lack of recognition despite his skills and he continues to push forward.
8.King Mez & Khrysis – The King’s Khrysis
It is nice when a producer and rapper make a project together because they can really find a style that they want to push and develop it throughout. King Mez and Khrysis display their chemistry very efficiently in a 6-track project with darker, soulful beats and witty, deep lyrics being the standard. The King’s Khrysis is just the beginning for both of these artists and hopefully we will hear more from the two as they have definitely developed a nice sound.
7. Young Scolla – Seconds Away
Young Scolla’s debut album was originally a paid project but it is now available for free; even still we suggest you go cop on iTunes because it really is that good! Another project produced entirely by one producer, SMKA and Scolla have become extremely coherent in their work together. Seconds Away is a rare example of vulnerability and reality in hip-hop that the listener can really relate to no matter who you are.
6.Donny Goines – Success Served Cold
I hope y’all were listening when we told you to watch out for Donny. He’s been relatively quiet following his move to Atlanta and personal issues but Donny Goines still managed to drop one of the best projects this year. Packed full of big name features from Bun B to Just Blaze to Brother Ali, Donny holds his own with the best of them. He has put together a diverse album that works with a majority of the production by Maki. Donny Goines is one of the hardest working out there and his improvement and growth from each project to the next is undeniable.
5.Mike Posner – The Layover
Detroit’s Mike Posner may have had 2 of the biggest pop hits last year but his background is in Hip Hop. When listening to his stuff, you can hear his taste for hip-hop and he makes sure to incorporate it when he can. Even in covers of Oasis and Elton John, Mike was able to get Big K.R.I.T. and Bun B to lend a verse respectively. The Layover is a fun project of radio friendly tracks and it gives shine to a number of up-n-comers and legends, the same. Features Machine Gun Kelly, Slim Thug, Bei Maejor, Casey Veggies, Cyhi Da Prynce, Elzhi, RJD2 and more. Interested now?
4.Laws – Yesterday’s Future
Laws continues to bring new stuff to the hip-hop table. His latest offering is a Paul McCartney tribute mixtape produced mostly by J.U.S.I.C.E. League. Laws had this to say, “It all started with the song ‘Knocking at the Door.’ That was me rapping over a loop of an old McCartney record. J.U.S.T.I.C.E League actually suggested that I make a whole project, approaching it the way I did that one record.” A cool vibe to the tape with a lot of great tracks and a few standouts like ”Knocking at the Door”.
3.Curren$y – Covert Coup
This one is almost self-explanatory. Curren$y over Alchemist beats and he grabs Prodigy (one of his first verses since getting out of jail), Freddie Gibbs and the usuals –Fiend and Smoke DZA?? It lives up to expectations with a coherent, smooth project that is enjoyable whether you smoke weed or not. One of the easiest selections on our list.
2.Big K.R.I.T. – Return of 4Eva
At the moment, no one is working as much and as well as Big K.R.I.T. It seems as if everyone is getting a track or two produced by KRIT and he is handing out bomb features left and right. Unfortunately, his Def Jam debut, Lie From the Underground has been delayed numerous times, however, it is expected in early 2012. Even without his album, KRIT gave this great project in addition to another free mixtape Last King 2 and reportedly is releasing one more free mixtape before the album. Krit continues to do what he does best, big southern beats that compliment his complex raps. He takes on a variety of topics but maintains a strong sound throughout. Can’t wait to hear the album!
1.ASAP Rocky – LiveLoveA$AP
One of the most hyped mixtapes of the year lived up to the hype as far as I was concerned. New York native but raised on Houston trill music, ASAP Rocky gives us a lean-inspired futuristic mixtape. The production is on point with every song blending genre borders, Rocky’s solid rhymes out the overall vibe and no not detract. For the ASAP crew, it is more than any one song or sound it is their way of being. Their style, the way they talk, the music all fits together and has caused enough of a stir that RCA is paying big for it. I am looking forward to hearing more from the whole ASAP Mob.
For some honorable mentions, here are some other mixtapes that our writers enjoyed. Alphabetical by Artist initial: