The Five Best Mixtapes of 2012

Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings

All hail the modern mixtape! Freed from the pressure and commercial considerations that come with recording a debut album proper, mixtapes remain the arena where rappers get to show off their most creative side and take thrilling musical leaps of faith. Looking at this past year, there were hundreds of freebie downloads made available to satiate even the most sour rap fans. Here are the five best that no collection should be without.

1. Action Bronson & Party Supplies, Blue Chips

Hip-hop's premier little and large duo cooked up 2012's most wildly entertaining mixtape with Blue Chips. It kicks off with Bronsolini and Roc Marciano rhyming over nothing but an orchestral loop on "Pouches of Tuna" and ends with the ferocious "Tapas," wherein Bronson dreams about copping a crib complete with a wood-burning brick oven. Sourcing a batch of the album's samples by mining from YouTube's quirky wormholes, producer Party Supplies proves himself one of the savviest beatsmiths currently working. As mandated with anything Bronson-related there are copious food references peppering up the project, but it's the abiding sense of fun that elevates Blue Chips to the status of the year's winner. [Download via DJ Booth.]

2. Big K.R.I.T., 4Eva N A Day

Taking over from David Banner as the Crooked Letter state's foremost writer of conscientious raps, Big K.R.I.T.'s 4Eva N A Day is a gem of an album masquerading as a mixtape. Broadly based around a day-in-the-life concept, K.R.I.T.'s lyrics come over as emotive and intelligent, helped in part by a delivery that's infused with a soulful tenderness. Underscoring his talent, K.R.I.T. handles all of the production on the project himself. [Download via Livemixtapes.]

3. Meek Mill, Dreamchasers 2

The shadow of Rick Ross looms large over rap, but M.M.G.'s Philadelphia delegate Meek Mill is steadily establishing his own profile. The first of his Dreamchasers tapes made Hive's best mixtapes 2011, and the sequel builds on the quality with Meek shining in the company of esteemed guests like Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Big budget, street-focussed fare for the masses. [Download via Datpiff.]

4. Joey Bada$$, 1999

Broadcasting from the vast plains of Brooklyn's Flatbush section, teen-rapper Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew have found a role as new generation New York City spitters who pay deference to the metropolis's early-'90s styles. "Survival Tactics" is the fire-starter here, but it's introspective moments like "Waves" and the cheeky "World Domination" (over an MF Doom instrumental) that capture the essence of the Pro Era movement. [Download via Datpiff.]

5. Sir Michael Rocks, Lap of Lux

Hipster rap duo the Cool Kids might have only officially disbanded earlier this month, but Sir Michael Rocks was already asserting his clout as a soloist by dropping the top notch Lap of Lux back in August. Hit-Boy and Flosstradamus lend production assists, while Mikey recites raps with motivation and verve. Now he just needs to work on losing the garish sweaters. [Download via Datpiff.]


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