What’s a mixtape anyway?
We’re not sure anymore. Back in the day, a mixtape was something you made for your girl, or whatever. Then, during hip-hop’s boom years in the ’90s, it became something sellable: a way to hear exclusive, new, often stolen music from some of your favorite rappers.
From there, it became a promotional tool: there still wasn’t much money behind these things. Rappers usually just used other people’s beats.
From there, mixtapes turned into what we see now: full-fledged projects with new ideas and new music. It’s usually music that features little input from a major label. And mixtapes are often better than albums because of it.
This rang particularly true this year, because major label albums were not strong, while mixtapes were, again, pushing forward.
In short, when everything else is failing you, head to mixtapes.
So…what is a mixtape? For this list, our only criteria was that it couldn’t be an album. So mixtapes, EPs, extended plays, and street albums (whatever that is) were all acceptable.