Here at Prefix, we realize the internet offers hip-hop listeners both a hefty bounty and a frustrating set of choices. No one person could listen to the all the free hip hop downloaded in any given week. How to decide which free mixtapes to pass over, which free mixtapes to commit immediately to your hard drive? In addition to the daily gauntlet of news and reviews, we’re going to start putting our heads together each month to come up with some mixtapes that we believe no hip hop lover should live without. Here are five free albums released over the past month, presented in ascending order, that we highly, highly recommend.
5. Mic Audio and Sacramento Knoxx – Mi Vida Es Como Una Pelicula
With the aid of Sacramento Knoxx’s Madlibesque, crate-digging beats and a whole host of movie samples-- both obscure and infamous-- Mic Audio re-invigorates the nerd-rap genre on his debut Mi Vida Es Como Una Pelicula. Whether rapping over glistening jazz tracks or vistas of grimy urban squalor, Mic raps with the kind of energy that requires attention. Look out for this guy in the future.
Standout tracks: “Chuck Norris”; “Abstraction”; “The Office”
4. Lil B – God’s Father
Although Lil B has kept up his typically frenetic pace in 2012, dropping free mixtapes as frequently as Mitt Romney commits forehead-slapping gaffes, he’s hinted that God’s Father would be the one worth more than one or two listens at the most. And boy was he right. God’s Father is the first Lil B mixtape in a while to match the bizarre, immersive tapes he was dropping back in 2009 and 2010. With a whopping 34 tracks, God’s Father features Lil B at his beaming weirdo, free-associative best.
Standout tracks: “Dumb Ass Thoughts”; “Feds at My Doh”; “I Ain’t Neva Won”
3. Gunplay – Bogata Rich
We should definitely overlook Bogota Rich’s absurd claim to be a prequel to another mixtape, which is like releasing a trailer for a trailer (apparently movie studios are doing that), because the album deserves to be met on its own terms. Having gained recognition as an associate of Rick Ross, Gunplay actually doesn’t have much in common with his boss: He’s a rapper who would rather be in a knife fight down by the wharf than hitting the high sees on a million-dollar yacht. Bogota Rich bristles with paranoia and violence --- it’s classic punch-the-dashboard, kick-the-cubicle-wall pump-up music --- while showcasing Gunplay’s surprisingly impressive lyrical chops.
Standout tracks: “Foodchain”; “Low Life”; “Fuck Shit in My Life”
2. Big Krit – 4eva N A Day
Big K.R.I.T.’s umpteenth mixtape (seriously, Def Jam, get to work on releasing that debut!) is maybe his boldest and most compelling, even if it deviates from predecessors’ templates. 4eva N A Day boasts lots of live instrumentation and soul vocals, some sung by K.R.I.T. himself, and the rapper/producer’s sonic textures are as rich and varied as any he’s ever created. The album doesn’t have a certified banger like “Country Shit” or “Time Machine;” its best moments are contemplative and heartfelt, as Big K.R.I.T. continues to make the unlikely progression from trunk-music revivalist to introspective street poet.
Standout tracks: “Boobie Miles”; “4eva N A Day (Theme)”; “Package Store”
1. Action Bronson – Blue Chips
At this point the argument is getting old to yours truly: So what if Action Bronson, who has an Albanian-Jewish background and a gourmet-chef resume, sounds a little (ok, a lot) like Ghostface Killah? He hardly raps about the same sort of things. If Ghostface is chicken-and-waffles, Action is oysters-and-caviar. When it comes to women, Ghostface likes “an ass like Deborah Cox”; Action is after “big nipples and a tan face.” To wit, Blue Chips has the kind of smoky, soul-inflected beats that Ghost hasn’t touched in a long time. If you’re so bugged about the Ghostface connection, go console yourself with Ghostdeini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City but know that you’d be much happier with this imminently witty slice of classic-sounding New York hip hop.
Standout tracks: “Steve Wynn”; “Ron Simmons”; “9-24-11”