Frankly Speaking: The Best of Official Mixtape CDs

Frankly Speaking: The Best of Official Mixtape CDs

By - Posted Sep 23, 2004

Howdy folks. G4techTV.com Web Content Producer Frank Meyer here with my bi-weekly rundown of what’s cool, what’s hot and what’s rockin’ in the world of music. This week’s theme is…

The Best of Official Mixtape CDs: If you’re a fan of the hip, and even the hop, then you know about mixtapes. Back when I first got into rap, mixtapes were just that, cassette tapes made by DJs featuring exclusives alongside unreleased, rare and hit songs by your favorite artists. They mostly turned up on the streets of big cities like New York (where it all started, baby) or San Francisco, sold by backpackers and bootlegs. Now, they are pressed on CD, often officially endorsed by a rapper or celebrity, are rampant on eBay, and are sometimes distributed by labels and found in record stores. These days, every rapper has an official mixtape and even MTVNews.com runs an official Mixtape Monday column. In this world, giants like DJ Clue, Kay Slay, Cutmaster C, Green Lantern and Whoo Kid are gods, and the latest mix CD is like a vial of crack to a junkie on the street. So let’s take a look at some of the best artist-approved, official mixtape CDs out there right now, shall we?

M.O.P.Marxmen Cinema
Brooklyn’s finest emerge from the red tape of their deal with Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records with this double-disc mixtape and decimate the competition. Their two year slump waiting for Hova to get off his ass and release their album Ghetto Warfare musta pissed them off big time, because every track on this superb compilation is pure fire. The first disc is all new material, some of which has seen the light of day on past mixtapes, much of which has never been heard by these ears before. Disc two takes most of their now out of print ’94 debut (when they were gloc-totting teens) and tosses in some new and rare cuts for good measure. Mostly the beats are provided by A-List producers like DJ Premier and Beatminerz, but tag-team Lil' Fame and Billy Danz spit over some classics too, including the Geto Boys “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” here re-framed as “My Iron and Two Clips, Homie,” and a friggin’ Sade loop. Pure muthaf**kin’ fire, G. (This is one you can buy in stores too.)

Smif N WessunStill Shinin…The Mix CD
The artists formerly known as the Coco Brovas return to their original moniker after an extended hiatus to remind fools that they helped put New York hardcore on the map back in the early ‘90s. Alongside Wu Tang Clan and Nas, these Bucktown legends were architects of the grimy street sounds now so prevalent in hip hop. Still Shinin proves they haven’t lost any passion, skills or fire as they rip through 22 new and rare cuts for your pleasure. Like on their official albums, these cats shine when trading verses over a hardcore reggae beat like on “Smif N Wessun’s Back” and “Money Make The World Go Round,” and when rapping alongside fellow Boot Camp Clique alumni Buckshot, another underrated MC. (You can find this one on www.duckdown.com or in hipper hip hop stores.)

The GameLive from Compton
When Dr. Dre, Eminem and 50 Cent say you’re the next big thing, you are officially the next big thing. Compton’s Game is not only the hottest underground MC about to blow up, but the best shot the West Coast has at getting back on the map since it fell off in the mid-‘90s. Even Westside Connection’s reunion album couldn’t help Compton gain back its rep. But The Game is different. He sounds like he’s from the east, but constantly gives shout outs to N.W.A. and Eazy-E (he even has a track with Eazy’s kid!). The newest G Unit member may be signed to a major and backed by the best, but he has an air of hunger and excitement to him that is what the underground is all about. You can spot him in that Boost Mobile Commercial with Kanye West and Ludacris (he's the one ridin' in his 6-4 down Compton Blvd. who rhymes "bitches" with "switches" on national televsion!) Mainly though, this kid has everything a good MC should: skills, style, attitude, lyrics, beats and two Gats pointed sideways at your dome. BOOM! BOOM! Bi-atch! (This is one you gotta score on the streets, the Web or on eBay, but it’s artist-approved.)

Beanie SiegelPublic Enemy # 1
As Jay-Z’s right hand man tries to beat a murder case (every good rapper has one, ya know), he tosses us a bone with this superb, streetwise mix CD. Dropping the pop beats that sometimes dominate his official albums, Beans keeps it hardcore on this banger, dropping heat over a variety of new and old beats and sounding as rejuvenated as can be. Other Roc-A-Fella MCs are sprinkled throughout, but this is Beanie’s show and he rips it up like a true pro. Powered by Green Lantern, tracks like “Court Case” address Beanie’s real life drama, while “Get Down” simply finds him tearing it up over a James Brown loop. Either way, it’s happening. (Another artist-approved one you gotta score on the streets, the Web or on eBay.)

Redman Ill At Will
Despite the lameness of his Method & Red TV show with fellow Def Jam affiliate Method Man, Redman dropped this choice mix CD a few months back and sounds as rough and ready to rumble as ever. The reality is, Redman has never really made bad album, and despite the raw production, Ill At Will is no exception. Nary a bad beat, bad rhyme or bad tune can be found on this bad boy, and Red’s skills are as twisted and fresh as ever. At 13 tracks, including the Intro and Outro, this mixtape is shorter than most, but with every track a winner, who the hell cares. I’d rather have 13 killer cuts than 22 so-so ones. The best of the lot comes in the form of “I C Dead People,” where Red drops in partial lines from deceased MCs like Biggie, Pac and Big L and then finishes them – brilliant. (Yet another artist-approved one you gotta score on the streets, the Web or on eBay.)

JadakissThe Champ is Here
LOXYO’s Finest
J-HoodHood Stripes
Who woulda thought that these refugees of the shiny suits of Puffy’s Bad Boy would turn into the absolute kings of the underground mixtapes? Who woulda thought that the guys who graced J-Lo’s “Jenny from the Block” would be such credible street slayers? Who woulda thunk it that anyone affiliated with DMX could rise above the supremely bad self-titled Eve sitcom? Well, Yonker’s finest must be used to defying expectations by now and blowing people minds, because every time they get counted out, they return stronger and more skilled than ever. Without a doubt, LOX – Jadakiss, Styles P, Sheek Louch and new kid J-Hood – are the best and most consistent mixtape artistsin the game. What’s incredible is that if you listened to either of their official group albums, you’d never guess how great they are. Their solo albums fare better (especially Kiss’ hit Kiss of Death and Style’s underrated Gangster and a Gentleman), yet it’s the mixtapes where these G' really shine. YO’s Finest collects some of their best underground gems from ’04, proving why their upcoming group album, the first official group effort in over four years, should be THE one to watch for in ’05. The Champ is Here was  released a few months back and served as a preview of Jada’s Kiss of Death filled with tons of unreleased numbers, including the awesome title track, which samples Muhammad Ali’s famous Rumble in the Jungle introduction. Hood Stripes showcases the talent of the newest LOX member J-Hood, the self-proclaimed “Baby Faced Gangster,” a young buck with so much in the way of skills and street slang, it’s incredible he’s only a teenager. The only reason why Styles and Sheek (my personal fave LOX member) ain’t on this list is that they haven’t released a mix CD in a few, which I’m sure will change soon enough. Like the album said, the LOX are the streets, bitch! (These are LOX-approved street bangers, except for YO’s Finest, which I found at Amoeba.)

NecroStreet Villains Vol.1
New York’s hardest-core rapper offers up this collection of unreleased gems, rare tracks, brand new cuts and freestyles over classic beats and proves why he is considered the Slayer of rap. With lyrics more intense and gory than you ever thought possible, yet skills better than any MC on the charts today, Necro is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. He’s white, but he doesn’t sound white. He’s street but he ain’t gangsta. He’s dope but he ain’t no dope. The only way to describe Necro is “Death Rap,” because his music is closer to Death Metal than hip hop (and the fact that guys from Obituary, Slipknot, Hatebreed and Biohazard appear on his albums proves it). Joined by brother Ill Bill, Non Phixion’s Sabac Red and Gortex, and pal Mr. Hyde, Necro spits rhymes so deadly they should be laced with arsenic. You haven’t lived till you’ve heard him spit about rape and murder on the “Forgot About Dre” beat. (At www.necrohiphop.com or in the stores scaring the crap out of the other CDs in the shelves.)

South Park CoalitionRegime Change Vol 1 & 2
These days the south is mainly known for the crunk of Lil’ Jon, the No Limit soldiers of Master P's army, or the funked-out bop of Outkast, but there’s something a lot more offbeat and hardcore going on down there if ya scratch below the surface. In Houston, Texas--where the Geto Boys are gods and South Park ain’t a cartoon but a section of the projects you could get shot up in if ya don’t watch out – they don’t play that dance shi$$. They like it hard-to-the-core. And it don’t get much harder than the South Park Coalition. A massive collective of rappers, the SPC is a team in the tradition of the Wu Tang Clan, where every member is an established solo artist, yet the group comes together for epic albums that find them trading verses and tag teaming over battle beats. Featuring Point Blank, Ganxsta Nip, Murder 1, Murdoq, Klondike Kat, PSK-13, 20-2-Life, AC Chill, and a cadre of others, the SPC could be considered of an extension of the Geto Boys as many of these cats came up under their tutelage or were first featured on their albums. But on the Regime Change mixtapes (produced and orchestrated by Dope E, formerly of Rap-A-Lot’s The Terrorists) these guys go way beyond gangsta or crunk music, mixing the slowed down ethos of pal DJ Screw with box-cutter sharp lyrics, intense flows, and lyrics that make you go, “Did he just say that?” They often pair up 5-10 at a time for 10-minute long, mind-boggling posse cuts, yet sometime keep it short and sweet (like on the fantastic K-Rino/Ganxsta Nip track, “The Wizard.”). And if there’s a tighter rapper on the planet than K-Rino (Houston’s answer to Rakim), I have yet to hear him…. (On the group’s own label and in stores in Texas, or go to www.southparkcoalition.com.)

All of these can be found via the artists' websites, on EeBy, or on sites like www.MixtapeAllstars.com, www.mixtapekings.com, www.hotmixx.com, and other like-minded sites.

Send your comments and feedback to Frak Meyer at feedback@g4tv.com.

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