There were a ton of mixtapes released this year by both major rap artists and mixtape circuit favorites. They almost universally sounded pretty good. They also almost universally sounded very cliche. Very few of them rose above boasts about money, drugs, guns, sex, and repping a city.
Here are the mixtapes that rose above the cliches and were legitimately great listens.
Childish Gambino – STN MTN
OK, so Gambino is spitting out cliches and repping his hometown Atlanta hard. But listening to him you get the sense he’s not taking this too seriously. He’s having fun with it – and you can’t help to as well when you listen. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a party.
Mac Miller – Faces
This is such a cohesive work you could hardly call it a mixtape. Faces is a lyrical investigation of Mac’s abuse problems, social anxiety and depression, dedication to his craft, and how those three things feed off each other. It’s quite ambitious for a mixtape, but Miller pulls it off. These are deep topics but the songs aren’t a drag to listen to.
Speaker Knockerz – #LongLiveSpeakerKnockerz
Speaker Knockerz only rapped about money, women, and crime, but his talent elevated his songs over other artists. At 19 he had already established a full-blown sound. His production featured stabbing, stuttering synths over slow booming bass while he rap-sung in his easy cadence. Unfortunately, because of his sudden death this year we’ll never get to hear how he would have evolved his sound and matured as a lyricist.
Your Old Droog – Your Old Droog EP
This is the textbook definition of a hype type. Every single song on this would later appear on Your Old Droog’s debut album The Your Old Droog LP. The reason why it’s one of the best mixtapes of the year is because of Your Old Droog himself. He has the talent become the next great New York Rapper. Those comparisons to Nas are accurate.
Article first published as Best Mixtapes of 2014 (Starring Childish Gambino, Mac Miller, Your Old Droog, Speaker Knockerz) on Blogcritics