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To say that we’re in an interesting time right now — thanks to COVID-19— would be an understatement. In hopes of preventing the spread of the virus throughout the country, there have been advisories to practice social distancing. Various locations across the United States, and world, are now shut down, giving many of us an uncanny amount of free time.
Here at REVOLT, we want to do our part in keeping spirits high through what we love most: rap music. We hope that you use this time to enjoy family, rest, sharpen your skills and even binge-watch some new shows and films. But, this is also a perfect time to run back some classic projects. We’ve compiled a list of nine timeless mixtape series for you to revisit while you’re inside. Check them out below and thank us later!
1. Fabolous – S.O.U.L Tape
The consistency throughout Fabolous’ career is what separates him from a lot of the MCs he’s entered the game with. With 20 years under his belt, it’s no surprise that over a decade into his career, he introduced the S.O.U.L Tapes, a trilogy undoubtedly containing some of his best work. Fab rapped over warm, soul-sample influenced instrumentals; contrasting the bar-heavy, hard-hitting style delivered on the There Is No Competition tapes released around the same time. He flexed his versatility on these projects with introspective joints like “Pain,” street anthems like “That’s Not Love” with Lil Wayne, and relationship anthems like “Want You Back” with Joe Budden and Teyana Taylor. If you’re unfamiliar with these projects, take a listen.
2. Meek Mill – Dreamchasers
Meek Mill is synonymous with the Dreamchasers brand, and the DC mixtapes are his signature bodies of work. On the first installment’s intro, DJ Drama set the tone by stating, “We dream chase cause that’s all we was given to start with. Then, we realized the dream was obtainable…Now, look at us.” Those words embody the energy Meek taps into on the joints — dreaming until actualization. Meek has been through a lot in his career, and each release encapsulates his experiences at that particular point in his life. It’s his truth. Yes, there are hit records like “Amen” featuring Drake and “Litty” with Tory Lanez that are meaningful, but the core cuts like “Tony Story” and “Heaven or Hell” are the ones that are integral to his catalog. Meek recently hinted at the idea of a DC5, so it’s fair to assume that this series hasn’t reached its conclusion just yet.
3. Lil Wayne – Dedication
Dedication is arguably the greatest mixtape series ever. The evolution of Lil Wayne since he first hit the scene in the late ’90s up to now has been beyond legendary, and you can mark the release of Dedication 2 in ‘06 as one of his culture-shifting moments. You can’t even properly discuss the “mixtape era” without mentioning what Lil Wayne and DJ Drama contributed with Dedication.
Weezy’s hunger and love for his craft is what has built such an epic legacy, and these mixtapes are a testament to that. With six projects, there are obviously a few releases that are stronger and more memorable than others. But, let’s be clear. Wayne is spitting on all six installments. Each drop played a different role. For example, D2 was the game-changer, D3 helped introduce Young Money, and D6 was a reminder that he still can get crazy when he chooses to.
4. Joe Budden– Mood Muzik
“People put mixtapes out every few months, every year… Not Mood Muzik. It’s a totally different type of monster. And when you hear it, you should be able to understand why.” – Joe Budden
The transparency and depth of content found throughout Budden’s Mood Muzik releases highlight what made him such a unique artist during his career. Joe was truly the rapper’s rapper, never ducking smoke with other MCs, always consistent, and willing to create even when his label situation was turbulent. On these mixtapes, we walked with the now “State of the Culture” host through his rap beefs, personal turmoil and all of his relationship drama, creating a connection with his core audience on a level that most rappers aren’t able to. Joints like “All of Me,” Dumb Out,” and “Are You In That Mood Yet” showcased these attributes best, but there are several jewels scattered throughout this series.
5. Royce Da 5’9” – Bar Exam
Royce Da 5’9” is a top-tier lyricist who, over the years, has evolved into a more complete MC, showing variation in content as well as his delivery. But, when Royce just wants to rap for the sake of lyrical exercise, there aren’t many who can stand next to him bar for bar. That’s what the Bar Exam represents. Since its start back in ‘07, Nickle joined forces with legendary DJs such as Premier, Whoo Kid and Green Lantern for four mixtapes that accent how potent his pen is.
6. Jeezy – Trap Or Die
“And every word, every bar, every ad-lib in that first Trap or Die — I was really coming from a place, like, if they never hear me again, they gonna feel me now.” – Jeezy
The first Trap or Die was monumental. Jeezy knew the message he wanted to convey and knew how to speak directly to his base. With Trap or Die in ‘05, he helped set the foundation for the emerging Gangsta Grillz empire, as well as his debut Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 LP. The execution was flawless, and the next two releases in the trilogy were no slouches, as both were strong efforts in their own right. The career arc of Jeezy is a unique one and while you can follow his journey more closely through the Thug Motivation series, Trap or Die offers a similar lens. The message has always been motivation for the snowman, and that’s what you get with these three tapes.
7. Wale – About Nothing
The Mixtape About Nothing, inspired by the 90s television show Seinfeld, dropped back in May of 2008. Using samples from the show and integrating them thematically throughout the tape, they effectively complemented Wale’s intricate raps and stories, making for an innovative experience. This evolved into the follow-up More About Nothing (2010), and eventually into The Album About Nothing (2015), where Wale was able to work directly with Jerry Seinfeld. This is a special series for many reasons. It’s creativity, depth and each project has aged well all of these years later. Wale has always been a passionate, resilient artist and there are so many records on these projects where that shines through. He was executing at an elite level.
8. G-Unit – G-Unit Radio
50 Cent and the G-Unit collective were almost humorously prolific in the early to mid-2000s. Rap’s self-proclaimed “villain,” along with Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, Young Buck, and Game (for a stretch) were able to dominate the underground and mainstream circuits simultaneously. The G-Unit Radio tapes were far from traditional, but more times than not, they were able to shake the streets up, further establishing the crew as one of the toughest rap cliques of all-time. From the storytelling to the rap beefs to just dope moments like a young LeBron James hosting Takin It To The Streets (G-Unit Radio 3), these projects created memories that mixtape fans won’t ever forget.
9. Clipse – We Got It For Cheap
Clipse and the Re-Up Gang’s We Got It For Cheap tapes were legacy-defining bodies of work. Using the doubt from label heads and behind-the-scenes chaos as fuel, they removed the middle man and delivered three projects directly to their core. Bringing their gritty, unfiltered style to popular instrumentals from all over the industry, Pusha T, Malice (now No Malice) Ab-Liva and Sandman made sure that the distinctive style they brought to the game was heard. If you haven’t listened to We Got It For Cheap/Volume 2, do yourself a favor and tap in to that now.