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The best mixtapes of 2014 so far

We’re halfway through 2014, so in the spirit of our quarter reports and contributor lists, we’ve assembled our list of the best mixtapes of the year so far.

Every week, we run down the best mixtapes from Datpiff and Livemixtapes — check out the mixtape round-up and our new-and-improved mixtape posts for the proof.

Tomorrow, we’ll gather the year’s most slept-on mixtapes (like last year), but we thought it only fair to first publish which ones are the crème de la crème. Here’s that list — in alphabetical order — from Atlanta to Chicago and beyond.

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BEATKING
GANGSTA STRIPPER MUSIC 2

“Thinking about stripper music these days your mind likely fixates on Atlanta – the US’s de-facto strip club capital – but things are a little different in Houston. BeatKing’s music is slower and a damn sight bassier, and it wears the city’s heritage like a badge of honor. It might geared towards polished poles and cascading singles, but the bloodline of these tracks goes right back to the days of subs, rims and neons – and that gives BeatKing a real edge over many of his peers.”

KEVIN GATES
BY ANY MEANS

By Any Means follows Kevin Gates’ impeccable 2013 run, and while it might lack some of the bloodied grit of The Luca Brasi Story and the accomplished lilt of Stranger Than Fiction it is in no way a step backwards. It feels instead as if Gates is placing himself directly within spitting distance of rap’s coveted upper ranks; production-wise, the album sounds as if it could have easily slipped from any number of top tier rap labels, yet with Gates at the helm, the journey is deeper, darker and far more invigorating than anything with a Rozay, Em or Hov co-sign, at least in the last couple of years.”

LIL HERB
WELCOME TO FAZOLAND

“Herb’s voice itself might not be as instantly arresting as his counterpart’s, but his harrowing tales are illustrated with a deftness that’s often assumed to be a thing of the past… [his] lyrical dexterity is imposing, and even when offering his interpretation of a street banger on ‘On The Corner’ he manages to pack more into a few bars than most of his peers manage on an entire tape. It’s an admirable feat, and Welcome to Fazoland sets an impressively high bar for Chicago rap in 2014.”

LIL SILK
SON OF A HUSTLER

“With Young Thug finally wrestling free of regional and underground shackles, it seems like it might be just the right time for Thugger protégé Lil Silk to make his move, and Diary of a Hustler is an admirable effort. Building on the success of last year’s ‘Rapper’ and ‘I’m Geeked’, Silk whines and squeals over a generous 17 tracks, and for the most part nails it. While the tape’s opening third takes a while to get going, when Silk hits his stride it’s hard not to hear his potential… When Silk’s high-pitched wail finally hits, it feels like a well-deserved release of pressure. Watch this space, you’re gonna be hearing a lot more from Lil Silk in 2014.”

ROME FORTUNE
BEAUTIFUL PIMP 2

“It doesn’t take long to realize that Beautiful Pimp 2 isn’t your average mixtape. For starters, it’s a well trimmed 30 minutes in length, properly mixed and mastered and sounds like it was intended to flow as a continuous piece. You know, like a proper album. There are no lulls, no tracks that you have to skip and no obvious singles, and the whole record was produced by just one guy – New Jersey’s CitoOnTheBeat. It harks back to a simpler time in rap, and despite being a free mixtape in an era where that’s about as distinguishable as a white cat in the snow, Beautiful Pimp 2 manages to sound more ambitious than most high-budget major-label rap albums.”

TINK
WINTER’S DIARY 2

“On her 2012 debut Winter’s Diary, Tink established herself as a talent to watch, a voice equally adept at both R&B and rap… Thankfully, Winter’s Diary 2 follows its precedent in mood, style, and quality […] her most confident and self-assured offering yet. It doesn’t matter if she’s singing or rapping (over a barebones production or one awash in synth), or if she’s celebrating a relationship or ending it — Tink demands respect as an artist and a woman.”

VINCE STAPLES
SHYNE COLDCHAIN VOL. 2

“Vince Staples’ fourth mixtape in as many years could well be the vehicle to transport the Long Beach rapper from cult concern into major league player. Billed as a sequel to his 2011 debut, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 is a slick and concise effort running to just 10 tracks, pairing the 20-year-old’s languid West Coast drawl with tight, vintage production from No I.D., Evidence, DJ Babu and Childish Major… With a runtime barely scraping half an hour, it’s pretty much all killer, no filler.”

YOUNG THUG & BLOODY JAY
BLACK PORTLAND

“For all the mixtapes dispatched weekly from Atlanta, one as weirdly captivating as this is a treat. Young Thug justifies his rising star status with an iconoclastic flow that mutates with every song, from mumbled whispers to full-throated croaks: he’s mastered rap impressionism and his punchdrunk ad-libs and overdubs contain multitudes. For many, the tape will serve as an introduction to Bloody Jay, another Atlanta weirdo whose urgent pleadings are only slightly more grounded than Thug’s.”

ZMONEY
THE MOBB TAPE

“There’s a damn good reason why we featured Chicago’s ZMoney in our recent list of rappers to watch in 2014 – the young rapper is one of his city’s most impressive recent breakouts. The Mobb Tape is ZMoney’s attempt to reign in his 4Ever Paid Nation with a bumper compilation of new and old tracks from Lil Boss Polo, Lil Dogg, YB, Brickfare, Country Cool and of course ZMoney himself… It’s sterling stuff from beginning to end and a slick start to 2014.”

ZUSE
BULLET

“Rapper Zuse has a voice unlike anything in hip-hop, fusing the dancehall flow (and patois) of his Kingston hometown with the pugilistic cadences of his Atlanta base of operations… With production by Atlanta regulars like DJ Spinz, Metro Boomin, 808 Mafia, and Zuse’s Zooly Gang compatriots FKi, Bullet revels in trap menace, with touches of the bleakness found on A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord and Travis Scott’s Owl Pharoah.

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