Hive Five: Best Mixtapes of 2011

2011 has been a truly dismal year for the studio rap album with major artists and rising stars alike dropping disappointment after disappointment. As usual, the best rap music is happening outside of the label system with less polished, homegrown efforts still being distributed through hand burnt bootlegs (yes, internet, they still exist in the physical) and, more commonly, for free through online depots like Datpiff and Livemixtapes. Here's the essential five mixtapes of 2011 that are guaranteed to provide a better listen than Tha Carter IV or Watch the Throne.


1. Waka Flocka Flame, Duflocka Rant

Opening with the most potent and to the point opening verse of the year - "Brother dead, daddy dead, auntie got HIV / lord can you please take this rage out of me?" - Duflocka Rant finds much maligned Atlanta trap rapper continuing to refine his singularly cathartic brand of energy music. [Download here.]

2. Meek Mill, Dreamchasers

Meek Mill's crossover from Philly favorite to national hitmaker wasn't exactly on his own terms. He restrained his nasally, aggressive, machine-gun flow for the Rick Ross-dominated collaborative hits "I'm A Boss" and "Tupac Back." But his own Dreamchasers tape reveals him as a classicist wrapped in a new school delivery, equally adept at scoring house parties and weaving gangsta narratives in the Biggie mold. [Download here.]

3. Lil B, Bitch Mob Respect the Bitch Vol. 1

The happiest (and most divisive) rapper of 2010 was struck by an unexpected bout of seriousness this year, soapboxing sociopolitically in a series of increasingly insular and rambling full lengths. It was only Bitch Mob that briefly revived -- and amplified -- the bizarre freeform energy of his early work, finding him bouncing gleefully over Memphis-inspired pre-crunk and lobbing unforgettable non-sequiturs like "I got ten felonies / bitch I'm Bill Bellamy." [Download here.]

4. French Montana & Coke Boys, Coke Boys 2

The Moroccan born, Bronx bred French Montana continues to quietly reign over New York with sedate and half-sung rap flows. He's backed here by the slightly more lively Coke Boys collective but the tape thrives on the strength of its moody boom-bap beats, be they laced by in-house producer Harry Fraud or jacked from the (sadly) forgotten minor hits by the likes of Nine and Nonchalant. [Listen here.]

5. TKO Capone, Tropical Swaggin Duh

Finding the midpoint between the new breed of swag rappers and the old guard fun of mid-'00 Southern rappers, TKO Capone's hashtag ready Tropical Swaggin Duh somehow flew under the radar. On it, the Tulsan rapped circles of goofy punchlines around Harry Potter samples in a tightly penned Chamillionaire-esque patter. [Download here.]

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