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DJ Drama: From The Bottom To The Top

He's really on to something. The Gangsta Grillz series has become a must-have for fans and a must-be-on for artists. Dram is operating almost like a hip-hop version of Boss Hogg from "The Dukes of Hazzard": Nothing is moving Down Bottom without him putting his hands on it. Young Jeezy's Trap or Die and Lil' Wayne's Dedication, both of which he compiled, are definitely two candidates for mixtape of the year. It didn't matter if it was newer MCs like Webbie, Smitty and Stat Quo; established stars like Nelly and T.I.; or legends like 8Ball and MJG — they all had to get with Drama to help put them on the map or help them progress. Dram just signed a deal to put out a Gangsta Grillz album with T.I.'s Grand Hustle Records, and is also part of the crew the Aphilliates, which has its own radio show and also features DJ/producer-on-the-rise Don Cannon (Young Jeezy's "Go Crazy").

Big Mike: No Small Change

When he wasn't moving D-Block's mixtapes like Sheek's Year of the Wolf, Mike was steadily dropping his own, like the Big Boy Game series and his R&B Jumpoff CDs. While the competition for exclusives was a lot heavier this year, Mike still managed to slip in some never-before-heard joints to keep him at the top of the game.

DJ Green Lantern: Recurring Incursion

It's going to be interesting to see what Green does now. Depending on who you ask, the Evil Genius either resigned or got fired from the Shady family, and they were a huge draw for his squad's Team Invasion mixtapes. Green isn't starving for attention, though. He's establishing himself as a producer (Ludacris' "Number One Spot") and he's still one of the most skillful DJs behind the turntables.

DJ Envy: Nothing Moves But The Money

Envy's been hustling hard this year. He's on the radio every morning in New York and has quite the mixtape racket going. He and Tapemasters Inc. have formed a winning combination with a slew of releases, and the Queens, New York, DJ has shown he can still stand tall on his own with his R&B CDs.

DJ Smallz: Chain Smoker

Smallz is another DJ playing the big game who's holding his weight. While Drama's specialty was making mixtapes that sound like a single artist's album, Smallz was holding it down with compilation mixtapes full of Down Bottom exclusives.

Smack: Speak Easy

We're still waiting for him to finally put out that tell-all R. Kelly interview, but the Brooklyn, New York, native simply known in the streets as Smack has certainly given us plenty to watch so far this year. Yes, we are getting very weary of all these MCs flashing their firearms on the screen, but Smack can boast about giving us a look at a side of hip-hop that the FCC would never let on regular TV. Koch Records has taken notice of Smack's street success and given him a distribution deal for a DVD and mixtape.

Fendi And Cutmaster C Of Dirty Money ENT: Came A Long Way

Cutmaster certainly has been handling his B.I. on the mixtape circuit this year, but his true breakthrough has been putting out his own "True Stories" DVDs and aligning with Gravy's manager Fendi to put out the DVD series "The Come Up." This series is going to forever go down in infamy as the reason why Green Lantern and Shady Records parted ways. Check out the Jadakiss interview from part 5 if you don't remember.

DJ Warrior/ DJ Strong: The G-Code

Warrior and Strong took their lane and ran with it, infusing the Cali mixtape circuit with incessant releases. The two have teamed up with such notables as Kurupt, the Outlawz and Xzibit for their Cali Untouchable Radio series and have also delved into reggaeton and mash-up rock-and-rap CDs as well.

DJ Kay Slay: Uncommon Valor

At any given moment, Slay says he'll still slap your favorite DJ, but he's really been focusing on his business moves this year. Slay's main focus was blowing up his artist Papoose in the streets — mission accomplished. Now that Poose has a buzz, Slay is playing chess with labels that are eager to sign him. In the meantime, Kay from around the way is always stirring something up on his Drama Hour radio program every Thursday night on New York's Hot 97, and when he gets tired, he can sit on all that money that his partner Shaquille O'Neal is getting from the NBA. Slay is also putting out his own album, The Game of Death, soon.

DJ Whoo Kid: Man Up

Whoo Kid continued to be one of the top hustlers in the game. He's still 50 Cent's official DJ (he's getting that Anger Management money as we speak), he still gets first dibs on all the exclusives put out by the G-Unit (you'll hear a bunch of them on his G-Unit satellite radio program) and he still managed to politick with MCs like Twista and Chamillionaire to put out their mixtapes. Whoo Kid forayed back into the street DVD game with his "Sada Pop TV" offering and, oh yeah, he has his own album coming out one of these days.

Street Dreams: Instant Collector's Items And 10 Of Our Favorites

  • "The Original 50 Cent" DVD
  • Young Jeezy's Trap or Die mixtape
  • R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" series
  • Buckshot and 9th Wonder's Chemistry independent album
  • 50 Cent's The Massacre mixtape
  • Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s "Chronicles of the Junior M.A.F.I.A." and independent album Riot Music
  • Lil' Wayne's Dedication mixtape
  • "The Come Up 5" DVD
  • DJ Vlad's "Hot in Herre" DVD
  • J. Period's Best of Lauryn Hill double mixtape

For more on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out the feature "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."

For other artists featured in Mixtape Mondays, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines

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Photo: MTV News

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