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amber london - slept-on mixtapes of 2013 so far

Since launching the Mixtape Round-up earlier this year, we’ve spent a good chunk of time mining Datpiff, Livemixtapes, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp for each week’s best efforts.

Occasionally, a hip-hop mixtape will break through the noise and hold its own against the year’s best (commercially released) material. So far this year, mixtapes like Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, Kevin Gates’ The Luca Brasi Story, and Young Scooter’s Street Lottery fit that bill and have received their fair share of acclaim.

But what of the artists that aren’t as lucky? The idea of the Mixtape Round-up was to highlight efforts that might otherwise go unnoticed; even then, quality material doesn’t get its due. With that in mind, here are the 10 best mixtapes of the year (so far) that have generally been slept-on – in alphabetical order, by artist.

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AMBER LONDON
TRU 2 THA PHONK

For fans of: SpaceGhostPurrp, Gangsta Boo

“The most intriguing member of SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan collective, Amber London impresses on her long-awaited Tru 2 Tha Phonk mixtape, evoking memories of Da Brat, Gangsta Boo, and — as always — 90s hip-hop… Whether or not the Raider Klan MO is homage or rip-off is a matter for debate — Amber London’s mastery of the form is not.” – full review

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THE DEVIL
HARBINGER

For fans of: Hospital Productions, Alley Boy’s War Cry

“The shadowy project of Atlanta-based rap manager Derek Schklar, The Devil’s debut mixtape Harbinger has been put together with the kind of sinister flair you might rather expect to see on a Hospital Productions tape. Blessed with creepy monochrome visuals and a set of morbid titles, it would be reasonable to expect Schklar’s schtick to be on a par with Brooklyn horrorcore pioneer Necro, but you wouldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality The Devil is dark, sure, but Schklar keeps things pretty distanced from Necro’s comical horror or even the absurd ‘extremes’ of Odd Future… The result is a surprising, heavy and thematically strong mixtape, and at around thirty minutes long one that doesn’t overstay its welcome.” – full review

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DRO CAREY
BRAND AMBASSADOR

For fans of: Mike WiLL Made It, Lex Luger

“Über-prolific Sydney producer Eugene Hector has always used his Dro Carey alias to fuse a Southern rap drawl with the uneasiness of UKG; for his Brand Ambassador beat tape, he focuses on the former. The beats on display all have the paranoid, subterranean feel of his other work, but with the ratatat percussion and orchestral menace of Atlanta trap-rap… Here’s hoping that Hector is the next underground dance producer to team-up with actual rappers, either under this alias or a brand new one.” – full review

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GRANDEMARSHALL
MUGGA MAN

For fans of: Main Attrakionz’s Bossalinis & Fooliyones, Gang Starr

“Dense and surprisingly jazzy, Mugga Man is Philly rapper GrandeMarshall’s first tape since signing to Fools Gold, and makes a great case for his blunted neo-cloud sound. Its most unanticipated trait is Grande’s ability to pick and produce beats that stay just the right side of old school. In the wrong hands many of the gaudy, sample-based backdrops would push a rapper into dull revivalism, but Grande holds his own…” – full review

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LIL HERB & LIL BIBBY
HEIR APPARENTS

For fans of: Chief Keef, King Louie

“With Lil Herb namechecked by Drake and Bibby getting shoutouts from Danny Brown and Interscope man Joie Manda, it’s timely and fitting that Chicago rap blog Fake Shore Drive should put together this comprehensive selection of the two Windy City rappers’ work. An exhaustive collection of all the two rappers’ released tracks, Heir Apparents serves as a great starting point before their respective tapes; Bibby’s Free Crack and Herb’s Welcome To Fazoland; finally emerge this summer… To put it plainly if you’re looking for a set of hard-as-nails Chicago rap from just beneath the surface, you can’t do much better than this right now.” – full review

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SUICIDEYEAR
JAPAN

For fans of: Clams Casino’s Instrumentals, Keyboard Kid

Japan is an ambitious and invigorating record, and somehow Proudhomme manages to nail a seemingly impossible task in combining the synthetic grandeur of Vangelis and fusing it with the grinding beat-box rhythms of the US rap mainstream. Just flip over to ‘Do’ a track that sounds something like Kuedo’s Severent if he’d been exposed to a diet of Young Chop rather than DJ Nate. It’s hardly surprising that Proudhomme is already rumoured to be working with Mack Maine and Lil Wayne – watch this space.” – full review

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TEEFLII
ANNIERUO’TAY 2

For fans of: The-Dream, DJ Mustard‘s Ketchup

“LA newcomer TeeFlii follows up 2012’s underwhelming AnnieRUO’Tay with a sequel that trumps its predecessor in every way. Hosted by ratchet innovator DJ Mustard and DJ Carisma, AnnieRUO’TAY2 is a moody and minimal take on The-Dream’s neon-blasted R&B, and is bathed in a deliciously sleazy LA funk that for us makes it impossible to resist. One for paid-up Jeremih and Miguel devotees looking for their next fix.” – full review

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TRAVI$ SCOTT
OWL PHARAOH

For fans of: Kanye West’s Yeezus, Kid Cudi

“It’s Scott’s choice of beats that really set him apart from the competition, and at a time when most rap tapes are basically fifty-odd minute barrages of incessant snares, hi hats and air horns, hearing a record with this much creativity in the beat department is more than just refreshing… He’s got a great ear, and grabbing hold of Toro Y Moi and Justin Vernon (who Scott credits as a huge influence) as well as the omnipresent Lex Luger is proof that the rapper-producer is eager to do things his way.” – full review

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TREBLE CLEF
TREBLE’S DIARY

For fans of: Joker, Swindle

“This one’s a bit special – while Treble Clef might still be pretty much exclusively known for producing defining grime instrumental ‘Ghetto Kyote’, this hour long mix is proof that there’s way more to the producer than creepy strings and sparse beats. A collection of tracks he produced over the course of the last nine years, there’s a musicality to his productions that’s rarely heard in the genre as he easily blends piano, horns and those signature strings with the more traditional, expected grime soundset. It’s relentlessly heavy from beginning to end, and makes us wonder why the producer isn’t more of a household name at this point.” – full review

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WESTERN TINK & BEAUTIFUL LOU
MOBBIN’ NO SOBBIN’

For fans of: DJ Screw, A$AP Rocky’s Live. Love. A$AP

“Chances are if you’ve nosed around the underground rap game in the last couple of years you’ve run into Texan producer Beautiful Lou … and on Mobbin’ No Sobbin’ he finally gets the top billing he deserves. Holding down the vocal side is fellow Texan Western Tink, and while the tape has been in the works for what seems like years, there’s a surprising freshness in the duo’s effortless interplay. Tink’s drawl slots into Lou’s overdriven, bass rich productions like a Tetris piece, and the two give a new spin on a sound that’s been co-opted by tourists for too long.” – full review

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