This month’s countdown of our favorite mixtapes is bookended by the old (50 Cent) and the new (Meek Mill). If you’re looking to stuff your barbecue playlist or blast something that will drown out the yells of your neighbor’s newly freed school-children, look no further than this month’s top five.
5. 50 Cent – The Lost Tape
Figure The Lost Tape as a comeback dry-run. Dropped with little fanfare, The Lost Tape finds 50 Cent mumbling about street tales and pistol threats over grimey, low-key production. The mixtape’s nearly void of hooks or even potential hits, the natural sweet spot where we all wish Curtis would remain.
Standout tracks: “Double Up”; “Complicated”; “Lay Down.”
4. Playboy Tre – Liquor Store Mascot 2: Patron & Instrumentals
On this sequel to the excellent Liquor Store Mascot, Playboy Tre lets loose on success, poverty, family, alcoholism, and art in his characteristically pathos-loaded style. The drawling Tre has the sort of unhinged charm where you never know if he’s going to erupt into joy or rage, which works well as the production here runs from the gamut from K.R.I.T.-style maximalism (there’s a prominent Elton John sample) to hard-edged, get-buck street beats.
Standout tracks: “Graduated”; “Patron & Instrumentals”; “Lady Liquor”
3. Gucci Mane – I’m Up
Mr. La Flare may not own the Internet’s full attention like he did back in 2009, but he’s no less capable of dropping modestly brilliant verses about cars, money, drugs, and women than he was in his heyday (representative WTF couplet: “Sipping on mojitos/ one mil on my wife beater”). Rapping in a caustic whisper that has replaced his formerly ecstatic yawp, and buoyed a bunch of menacingly bouncy beats by frequent collaborators, Mike Will, Lex Luger, and Drumma Boy, Gucci Mane comes off an like a O.G. in a young man’s world, proud of his many accomplishments and prodigious talents but hardy willing to rest on them.
Standout tracks: “Brought Out Them Racks”; “I’m Up”; “Drink Mud”.
2. Kool A.D. – 51
Das Racist hasn’t even released an album this year, but the Brooklyn duo is having a banner 2012. After Heems’ Nehru Jackets, label signee Big Baby Gandhi’s No 1 2 Look Up 2, and his own The Palm Wine Drinkard, Kool A.D. continues the onslaught with 51. Over minimalist boom-bap with enough space in each track to park a SUV, the more subdued of Das Racist’s excellent emcees drops one left-field reference after another, from Robert Altman to “Baby Got Back,” and his efforts are nicely complimented on a handful of tracks by Oakland cloud rappers Main Attrakionz. An alumnus of Wesleyan University sounding right at home next to Bay Area weedheads barely old enough to buy beer? Sounds like hip hop in 2012.
Standout tracks: “Ooh”; “Manny Pacquiao”; “Town Business”
1. Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 2
Crashing both Datpiff and LiveMixTapes on the day of its release, Dreamchasers 2 is one of those rare products that lives up to the hype. Meek Mill is poised to release a major label debut that will either boost his career or cripple it, but he seems completely unfazed by the pressure. Dreamchasers 2 sparkles with blow-out bangers (“A1 Everything”), funky burners (“Amen”), and solemn heart-to-hearts (“Faded Too Long”). Where he goes from here, who can tell, but let the record show that “here” wasn’t a bad place to be.
Standout tracks: “Amen”; “A1 Everything”; “Faded Too Long.”