Five Overlooked Hip-Hop Mixtapes of 2012

[caption id="attachment_51836" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Photo courtesy of APG Music Group"][/caption]

2012 has been a blockbuster year for mixtapes with major label powerhouses like Rick Ross, T.I. and Lil Wayne all dropping freebie workouts to promote their upcoming wares (and they've usually all been blighted by the curse of a 2 Chainz guest appearance). But beyond the big boys club and the world of hipster-hyped tapes, there's many fine-but-unheralded hip-hop mixtapes that are still spinning on repeat at Hive HQ. Here's five downloads that you might have missed.

1. Capital Steez, Amerikkkan Korruption

Joey Bada$$ is rightly catching headlines at the moment, but his Pro Era clique of rappers and producers runs deep. Second in command is Capital Steez, who dropped his own Amierkkkan Korruption mixtape shortly before Bada$$'s much anticipated 1999 - and it's just as persuasive a showcase for the crew's talent. Spitting over production borrowed from similar sources to 1991 -- Madlib and MF Doom productions are involved -- Steez defines himself a "class clown found it funny to correct my teachers/ I stand proud but I never said nor pledge allegiance." The rest of the Pro Era kids pass through over the 20 tracks, but this is firmly Steez's spotlight. [Download via Livemixtapes.]

2. IamSu!, KILT

A starting turn on Bay Area godfather E-40's "Function" gave Richmond rapper IamSu! a hearty profile boost, but his own KILT mixtape is a gleaming regional gem. Songs like "Clothes, Hoes & Afros" and "Different" present a rapper capable of lacing a laid back vocal style with supreme confidence, not to mention a canny way with memorable lines. Even better, a deluxe edition of the project with bonus tracks dropped during the late-summer. [Download here.]

3. Rockie Fresh, Driving 88

Right now Chicago might hold the dishonor of hosting the world's most prominent Twitter renegade in Chief Keef, but the city's underground includes a batch of artists putting their stock in their music, not controversy. Building on last year's The Otherside, Driving 88 pitches Rockie as a rapper with a supremely likable flow on a project that shoutsout Back to the Future. Casey Veggies and King Louie lend assists, while production includes a contribution from A$AP Rocky and Lana Del Ray foil the Kickdrums. [Download here.]

4. Children of the Night, Queens Revisited

The '90s retro-charm of "Kids From Queens" saw the trio of Lansky Jones, Remy Banks and Nasty Nigel grabbing more than a few column inches, but the mixtape that followed, Queens Revisited, seemed to get lost in the buzz. Sponsored by improbably garish streetwear brand Mishka, the tape hosts a run of unabashedly east coast rap tracks, complete with Nasty Nigel anointing himself "a young Spanish Burt Reynolds" on "ILYAS." The crowning moment though is "'86 Mets," which radiates home-town pride, includes a reference to Hollis Deli, and features a cameo from Roc Marciano -- which is about as water-tight a co-sign as Big Apple rap gets these days. [Download via Bandcamp.]

5. Trackademicks and the Honor Roll Crew, Summer School

Broadcasting from the Bay Area, Trackademicks and crew drop breeze-tastic hip-hop cuts from an extraordinarily open-minded perspective that's comfortable embracing dance tempos and a strong soul aspect (helped by in-house warbler 1-O.A.K.). Das Racist's Bay Area transplant Kool A.D. grabs a guest spot on "Wooowww," they drop a tribute to Malcolm McLaren with "Planetary Cassanova," and "Late Night Hype at the Taco Truck" might just be the west coast cousin to De La Soul's "Bitties in the BK Lounge." Chips and salsa don't come automatic, indeed. [Download here.]