When the streets are in distress and record labels aren’t cooperating, mixtapes have always been hip-hop’s offering to satisfy the people.
This year, mixtapes have been in heavy rotation at radio stations and on iTunes players. From Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rain and PARTYNEXTDOOR’s self-titled breakout mixtape to street offerings like Young Scooter’s Street Lottery and Meek Mill’s Dreamchasers 3, the internet has been bombarded with great bodies of work.
There were so many great mixtapes and EPs this year, but unfortunately, we had to narrow down the year’s best to a mere 13.
Check out the 13 best mixtapes/EPs of 2013 below.
1. Young Scooter – Street Lottery
Released: January 1, 2013
Young Scooter spent most of 2013 in prison, but that didn’t prevent his Street Lottery mixtape from flourishing. Released at the top of the year on New Year’s Day, Street Lottery is undoubtedly the most underrated mixtape of the year and our personal favorite. From his smash hit “Colombia” to his Atlanta Falcons-inspired track “Julio” featuring Future, unlike most rappers, Young Scooter’s art is a direct imitation of his life.
2. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
Released: April 30, 2013
Before 2013, many hip-hop lovers outside of “The Windy City” didn’t know much about Chance The Rapper. Establishing himself as a new voice in rap, Acid Rap was Chance’s introduction to a different type of Chicago rapper. Filled with charismatic verses, witty rhymes, and soulful melodies, Acid Rap is an exhibition of Chance’s masterful skills as an emcee.
3. Kevin Gates – The Luca Brasi Story
Released: February 2013
Louisiana rapper Kevin Gates appeared on Pusha T’s Wrath Of Caine mixtape, but just a few days later, he released his own tape titled The Luca Brasi Story. Inspired by the complex gangster story of The Godfather, Kevin Gates plays with his ability to switch up his flow according to the robust production. Kevin does a great job of personifying his character, which makes the listener want more as soon as “IHOP” comes to an end.
4. Jhene Aiko - Sail Out
Released: November 12, 2013
Jhene Aiko’s musical journey has been filled with trials and tribulations, but after inking a new deal with Def Jam, the 25-year-old singer/songwriter finally received the chance to continue her story. Jhene’s airy angelic vocals create an atmosphere for the listener to escape the harsh realities of life. The 7-track EP is soothing, intimate, and pleasurable, but at times her narrative seems empty. Despite her shortcomings, Jhene’s strength lies in her ability to provide a place of escapism.
5. Pusha T – Wrath Of Caine
Released: January 28, 2013
Upon the arrival of his debut solo album, My Name Is My Name, Pusha T unleashed his god-like flow on this brazen kingpin-inspired mixtape. As an emcee, Pusha T has never lacked storytelling skills and it’s apparent here, as he pulls from his memory bank of the days he was pushing weight with his brother Malice. Pusha’s intense lyricism and dizzying riddles make Wrath of Caine the most pleasurable wrath-filled collection of music in 2013.
6. Lil Durk – Signed To The Streets
Released: October 10, 2013
If you can get past the ringing of Lil Durk’s Auto-Tune rapping, Signed To The Streets may become one of your favorite street mixtapes of the year. Unlike some of his fellow Chicago colleagues who had breakout years in 2012 with less than satisfactory reviews in 2013, Lil Durk didn’t succumb to the hype of Chicago’s hip-hop renaissance. “Dis Ain’t What You Want” and “Traumatized” are the perfect gritty street tracks hip-hop heads are seeking from Chicago artists of his caliber.
7. Action Bronson – Blue Chips 2
Released: November 11, 2013
Action Bronson is so damn creative. After the release of his Blue Chips mixtape in 2012, fans were patiently waiting for the follow-up, and we weren’t disappointed. Although Blue Chips 2 doesn’t trump its predecessor, thanks to everything from the Tracy Chapman sample to his continuous play on his car obsession, Action and his partner in crime Party Supplies ended the year with another successful project.
8. PARTNEXTDOOR – PARTYNEXTDOOR
Released: July 1, 2013
He’s been compared to Drake’s close associate The Weeknd one too many times, but Drake’s new artist PARTYNEXTDOOR is not running the same game as his fellow Canadian colleague. His self-titled debut is sexy and hypnotic, yet it boasts minimal beats that aren’t as hypersexual and drug intensive as The Weeknd’s earlier projects. His first offering is a solid performance, and we’re interested to see the direction he’ll take with the OVO team by his side.
9. Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 3
Released: September 29, 2013
The anticipation of the third installment of Meek Mill’s Dreamchasers series was at an all time high this fall. A little over a month after the passing of his protege Lil Snupe, Meek Mill released another solid project. DC3 lacks the breakout hits that Dreamchasers 2 featured, and despite the less than enthusiastic reviews of DC3, Meek’s collection still captures the hardship of life on the streets.
10. DJ Mustard – Ketchup
Released: June 3, 2013
Cali DJ/super producer DJ Mustard has been producing some of the hottest club bangers of hip-hop artists across all regions. His delivery of infectious Cali sounds and bass-heavy club bangers have made him the go-to DJ for artists seeking an instant smash. DJ Mustard released not one, but two mixtapes this year, but it was his witty-titled mixtape Ketchup that was severely underrated. DJ Mustard stepped out of his tight-knit “ratchet” music box, and experimented with various artists and sounds, making Ketchup a summer secret. If you haven’t gotten a chance to listen to Ketchup, catch up.
11. Migos – YRN (Young Rich N*ggas)
Released: June 13 2013
Migos became household names when they scored a guest feature from Drake on their breakout hit “Versace.” YRN was undoubtedly the street mixtape of the summer, with the group’s trap-inspired hits like “Bando,” “Rich Than Famous,” and “Hannah Montana.” Between their riddle-like flow and infectious ad-libs, the Georgia trio’s mixtape solidified their spot in the game as the South’s rookies of the year.
12. Ty Dolla $ign – Beach House 2
Released: June 1, 2013
Ty Dolla $ign’s second-installment of his Beach House series arrived just in time for this summer’s turn up. Hosted by DJ Drama, the California vocalist delivered a pristine mixtape filled with densely delightful production. Ty’s selection of guest features were more than abundant, but thankfully, the myriad of musicians didn’t overwhelm the listener.
13. Kelela – Cut 4 Me
Released: October 1, 2013
Is it possible to be R&B, gritty, electro, and intergalactic? If your name is Kelela, then the answer is yes. The DC-bred/L.A.-based singer/songwriter has managed to capture the mood of ’90s R&B and incorporate new aged sounds of synth-pop and dub step without creating a contrived collection of poorly assembled music we’ve heard one too many times. Her goal of capturing “Brandy but weirder” is working in her favor, especially with revered tracks like “Enemy” and “Bank Head.”