Today’s mixtape market is flooded like never before. The easy access to the medium and lack of a need for distribution have oversaturated nearly all outlets and consumers alike. It’s getting harder and harder to find the gems in the torrent of daily releases, but there’s a bright side too; with the project fully in the hands of the artist, there is no outside pressure for a radio single, or any electric guitar playing mountain climbers invading the creative process. Nowadays, the promo tapes are often more focused efforts than the actual albums. Here are five mixtapes that seriously slapped the sh*t out of the albums that came after, and they were actively hyping…
DOWNLOAD: Jadakiss – The Champ Is Here 3
Retail album it was supposed to promote: The Last Kiss
Almost every installment in this series could’ve been included here seeing how Jada is often mentioned in ‘best rapper alive’ lists but has never really fulfilled his promise on his own albums. When he signed to Def Jam during Jay’s reign for his next solo release expectations rose accordingly. When he released a tape full of hardcore lyrics, featuring a Nas cameo and a load of grimy NY beats those expectations became even higher. The tape was dope, a shame that the album was bogged down in even more lame crossover attempts than any of his previous efforts.
DOWNLOAD: Wale – Mixtape About Nothing
Retail album it was supposed to promote: Attention Deficit
While the tape wasn’t actively hyping the album yet and there actually came another one (Back To The Feature) after it, Wale had already been signed to Mark Ronson’s All-I-Do Records and was certainly expected to make a strong showing to drum up interest for an upcoming commercial release. Ronson could even be heard in an interlude going wild to his signee’s skills. Rightfully so, as the tape was an impressive cohesive batch of songs with often heavy concepts intelligently handled. It blew many official albums out of the water during that time. Unfortunately, this included Wale’s own eventual album.
DOWNLOAD: Lupe Fiasco – Enemy Of The State: A Love Story
Retail album it was supposed to promote: Lasers
With a ton of pushbacks and label politics driving Lips near the edge of reason, he released a tape to hold fans over and thank them for their continued support. While responses to the leaked tracks from the album were mixed at best, the tape was unanimously welcomed as the lyrical storm we’d come to love. Intricate verses and adventurous musical choices (rapping over a Radiohead song smartly incorporating Thom Yorke’s lyrics into the finale of his own, on the opening song, no less) lead to Lu being fully embraced among rap nerds again. Who’s hopes were subsequently crushed when Lasers came out, an album even Lupe himself sounds bored by.
Sidenote: up top is not the official artwork but a cover made by Shake of 2DopeBoyz which has sort of replaced the rather boring original in the public eye.
DOWNLOAD: Busta Rhymes – Dillagence
Retail album it was supposed to promote: Back On My B.S.
First it was ‘Back On My Bullshit,’ then it was ‘Blessed,’ then it was ‘Back On My B.S.,’ Busta’s first album after his departure from Aftermath seemed like a troubled effort from the start. On top of that, it would be the first of all his solo albums without involvement from the late, great J Dilla. Busta paid tribute to his late friend and collaborator on a fantastic mixtape with all Dilla beats. Mick Boogie was on mix duty and he could barely believe the treasure trove of material given to him. Busta shouted out his upcoming album on an interlude but the long hiatus between the tape and the actual album doesn’t seem to have done it much good, it was as scattershot as the myriad of title changes make it appear to be. Well, at least the tape was a gem.
DOWNLOAD: Re-Up Gang – We Got It For Cheap vol. 3
Retail album it was supposed to promote: The Clipse Presents: The Re-Up Gang
A few years ago, the Thornton brothers were as much defined by their virtuoso coke rap as by their label woes. With their second album (third, if you count their unreleased debut) in deadlock at the label they formed a collective together with Ab-Live and Sandman called The Re-Up Gang. Together, these four rappers started a mixtape series that had fans clamoring for each installment as if it was the substance tey employed as their primary topic. The dark, cinematic approach to their tapes drove fan demand higher and higher for an actual commercial album, which would be released shortly after the critically acclaimed Vol. 3 of the series. Alas, ‘The Clipse Presents: The Re-Up Gang‘ was filled with rehashed mixtape songs over lesser beats and was such a dissapointment that Sandman even left the group over what he believed (and many fans with him) was a mishandling of the project.