Best Of 2010: Top 10 Mixtapes/Free Rap Albums

Best Of 2010: Top 10 Mixtapes/Free Rap Albums

The line between a proper mixtape and a free online (or street) album continued to be blurred in 2010. When thinking of how to even title this feature, we were torn at first. Clearly mixtapes and albums are severely different. Then there’s the fact that some of these listed, such as our top pick, turned into a record you could purchase online.


Just one crew alone — the anti-everything youngsters of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All — had the potential to inhabit the entire rundown. Then there are those artists who just narrowly missed out on inclusion. We’re talking about projects such as Danny Brown and his absolutely killer free release, The Hybrid; TiRon’s short-but-sweet MSTRD; and Wiz Khalifa’s perfectly produced Kush & Orange Juice. But when you look at who made the top 10, we think you can agree that these are the best of the best and that, again, 2010 was one hell of a year for rap. And you can take a listen for yourself: We have included links to download the following projects that are still available for free. Just click the title of the album or mixtape.





10 DaVinci: The Day The Turf Stood Still

Apart from E-40, and that very brief period when every music magazine was contractually required to do a story about “hyphy,” the Bay Area has been woefully underrepresented in hip-hop during the era of Web 2.0. So it’s telling that San Francisco’s DaVinci rose to prominence the New York way: with the hotly received mixtape, The Day the Turf Stood Still, a neo-classicist, grimy album that aims to detail the strife of San Francisco’s Western Edition neighborhood, a rough neighborhood that is being chewed up via gentrification. DaVinci sounds New York — his flow is G-Unit soldier with Biggie’s storytelling and Nas’ production — but he’s chronicling the uniqueness of urban San Francisco, from the corner tale of “Concrete Jungle Juice” to the political speech bolstered “What You Finna Do?”~Andrew Winistorfer




09 J. Cole: Friday Night Lights

J. Cole only gets better with each project he releases. While 2009’s The Warm Up was the mixtape that caught the attention of Jay-Z and plenty of listeners, this year’s Friday Night Lights is the one to make the rapper-producer truly blow up (pun intended). Nearly every track on here displays just why so many have co-signed the young artist. He can drop panties on “In the Morning” with Drake, black-out with his rhymes on “Back to the Topic,” and provide a strong autobiographical tale of a hungry MC on “Home for the Holidays.” Not bad for a mixtape that was thrown together in a few months as a response to inspiration drawn from Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Friday series.~Andrew Martin




08 Domo Genesis: Rolling Papers

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All emerged from the bowels of rap blogs this year with unmatched audacity, pillaging the Internet landscape and leaving a trail of destruction (and swag) in their wake. OF crewmember Domo Genesis’ Rolling Papers thunders along at the same pace but flips on the cruise control so that it’s easier to smoke a blunt at the same time. Left Brain’s production lures you into the placid, murky depths of Domo’s stoned psyche, where he is the lyrical ferryman: “The floor is just a cloud of smoke and I’m running/ Reaching at the end of the crowd and I’m jumping.” His pitched-down, slurred voice adds another dimension of zoned-out weightlessness, and by the end of Rolling Papers it seems logical to either take a nice nap or find something to eat.~Gabriel Herrera




07 Gucci Mane: The Burrrprint 2 HD

The Burrrprint 2 HD was Gucci Mane’s first release since his middling major-label effort, The State Versus Radric Davis, and the album signaled a raw return to form. Produced nearly in total by Drumma Boy, a champion of ominous minimalism, The Burrprint eschews the trappings of pop-oriented hip hop and goes all in for bruising, unapologetic trap rap. On songs like “Atlanta Zoo” and “I’m So Tired of You,” Gucci lashes out at his competitors in agile, vivid verses that ride the beat with the confidence of a NASCAR driver hitting a curve at 190 mph, while “Parked Outside” and “Everybody Looking” showcase Gucci’s idea of the heights of luxury — the brightest diamonds, the finest weed, the fastest cars. Gucci was in jail when the mixtape was released (he phoned in a couple of freestyles that were set to music and included here), but The Burrrprint 2 proved that even incarceration couldn’t damn the rapper’s infinite stream of smart-dumb braggadocio.~Wilson McBee




06 Freddie Gibbs: Str8 Killa No Filla

A lot of rappers like to say they don’t give a fuck, smoke a ton of weed, and hate the police, though few do it quite as efficiently as Freddie Gibbs. The persistently independent MC quickly rose to prominence over the past two years thanks to fantastic mixtapes and one hell of a flow. His free 2010 project — the stellar, aptly titled Str8 Killa No Filla — boasts his usual brand of gangsta-leaning subject matter, such as on “National Anthem (Fuck The World)” and “4681 Broadway.” But it’s all delivered more potently than ever before, with Gibbs clearly finding his lane and sticking to it. He can throw that middle-finger up all he wants as long as it sounds this good.~Andrew Martin



05 Wale: More About Nothing

On More About Nothing you get it all. “The Number Won” is candid Wale who reflects on the music industry while crunked-out Wale appears on a remix of Waka Flocka Flame’s “No Hands.” The Mark Ronson’s best friend Wale who collaborated with Lady Gaga appears on tracks like the radio-ready “The Power” or “Black N Gold” (which sounds like it’s an Armani Exchange playlist). Take your pick; it’s all there and, more impressively, it’s all good thanks to Wale’s ability to kill it on any kind of beat. However, Wale’s latest mixtape really keeps us listening because of his ability to perfectly meld the conflicting nature of his personality. You could say Wale has Kanye-syndrome: He’s an urban poet and a materialistic douche-bag often times in the same stanza. Then again, aren’t all the best MCs?~Saxon Baird



04 Earl Sweatshirt: Earl

Where is Earl Sweatshirt? Rumors have it that after recording his debut release for the OFWGKTA crew, his mother heard Earl and sent the 16-year-old MC to teenage boot camp. True or not, the derisive L.A. high-schooler who spits dark rhymes stirred together with bizarrely repulsive imagery on Earl is missed. Who knew that a kid who sounds like he’s been fed on an unhealthy dose of horror flicks while taking sips off his big brother’s 40 oz. would drop the most refreshing hip-hop in years. If Earl ever returns, we can only hope he’ll maintained his sluggish, cotton-mouth flow and kept enough of those dirty thoughts in his mind to bring a heavier stream of his weirdo raps, even if it sometimes makes you want to vomit. Then there’s the video…~Saxon Baird



03 Das Racist: Sit Down, Man

It’s nearly impossible to keep up with Das Racist’s endless deluge of pop-culture references, tongue-in-cheek jabs at the social mechanics of race, and free-associative rhymes that somehow manage to hold everything together in a warm, fuzzy, postcolonial/diasporic sweater that your mom knit for you. On Sit Down, Man, Himanshu Suri and Victor Vazquez deconstruct what they’re rapping about while they’re rapping about it with a generous dose of humor injected as well — “white people, play this for your black friends/ black people, smack them.” They laugh at you, with you, and about things you will have to look up on Wikipedia later, and sound fantastic while doing it.~Gabriel Herrera




02 YelaWolf: Trunk Muzik

On paper, it’s not surprising that the major labels would pass on YelaWolf’s Trunk Muzik. An ex-skateboarder, one whose alias is Catfish Billy, rapping in double-time about redneck criminals over production that mixes club beats and hard rock? Doesn’t exactly sound like a winner. But if the Internet is good for anything, it’s rocket-launching talents like YelaWolf out of obscurity. Almost from the moment Trunk Muzik dropped, on New Year’s Day, the gritty mixtape has been a topic of conversation and an object of adoration. Even more than the white urban squalor of Eminem, to whom YelaWolf is often, annoyingly compared, YelaWolf’s music shines a light on a world hip-hop rarely sees, an impoverished rural landscape of trailer-park drug dealers, Confederate flag fliers, Lynyrd Skynyrd fans, and meth-lab proprietors. And yet the album is undeniably hip-hop, swaggering with trunk-rattling bass, nimble lyricism, and emphatic choruses.~Wilson McBee




01 Big K.R.I.T.: K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

There’s little doubt that the Internet has made rap a more even playing field: Where once regional rappers were doomed to be favorites of their hood, now they can be blog stars overnight. Big K.R.I.T., who has actually been releasing music since 2005, was one of this year’s better Internet finds, as his depictions of rural Mississippi (which, as he reminds us on “Gumpshun,” has it’s own vernacular) and air-tight production (“Just Touched Down”: Exhibit A for why K.R.I.T. is about to make a lot of money) on the stellar K.R.I.T. Wuz Here found him rising fast, landing on year-end lists all over the place. Over the course of Wuz Here, K.R.I.T. comes off like Mississippi’s answer to Yelawolf, an endlessly entertaining, uniquely flowing rapper committed to keeping true to himself above all.~Andrew Winistorfer



Prefix’s Best Of 2010: 

Best Albums / Reader’s Best Albums / Staff Best Albums / Best Guest Appearances / Albums From 2009 We’re Still Listening To / Top 10 Mixtapes & Free Rap Albums / Best Reissues / Rap Verses / Worst Album Covers / Best Album Covers

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