Five Hip-Hop Mixtapes Better Than The Artist’s Debut Album

I feel like hip-hop is at a crossroads in terms of releasing music. Back when Nas and Jay-Z were releasing their debut albums, music distribution was much different. The Internet was still in it’s infant stages and there weren’t websites like DatPiff or HipHopDX. Artists of course had mixtapes, but you would only be able to get them at concerts or through a “friend of a friend.”

Nowadays things are much different. Artists are uploading 100s of mixtapes everyday. Mixtapes give artists an opportunity to exactly what they want in announcing themselves to the world. They are able to use samples not cleared by others, do remixes on other people’s songs in addition to a host of other things.

Sometimes these mixtapes are actually better than the debut albums. Sometimes when a record label gets a hold of an artist, they make them change completely; their sound and vibe. So I decided to compile a list of mixtapes that are actually better than in artist’s debut album. Each mixtape will have a download link attached to it. I hope you download and see what I’m trying to say.

1. B.o.B.- B.o.B. vs. Bobby Ray

As much as that song “Magic” with Rivers Cuomo was OK, the rest of The Adventures of Bobby Ray sucked. “Airplanes?” Yuck. There wasn’t another memorable moment from B.o.B.’s debut, but this mixtape was awesome. B.o.B. is unique in that he has rapping chops a la Andre 3000, but can also sing quite well. His debut album didn’t take advantage of either of these tools.

The mixtape instead does. The first half of the CD is persona as B.o.B. where he is a rapper with a Southern tang, where the second half he is Bobby Ray and sings quite well.

Download the mixtape here.

Key Tracks: I Am The Man, Trippin, Satellite, I’m That Nigga

2. Kid Cudi- A Kid Named Cudi

Your telling yourself really? Really? Kid Cudi’s mixtape was better than Man on the Moon? That’s exactly what I am saying. First of all “Day ‘n’ Night” was on this mixtape, so don’t get it twisted. You could have been listening to that overplayed radio hit two years earlier. Then, have you ever heard “The Prayer” sampled from Band of Horses, “The Funeral?” It is still my favorite Cudi song. And then there’s “50 Ways to Make a Record,” “T.G.I.F.,” “Maui Wowie” and “Embrace the Martian.”

This is also before Kid Cudi got all moody and retired about 4,000 times. This was before he was famous, before he bitched about A$AP Rocky not calling him enough. It’s much more pure.

Download the mixtape here.

Key Tracks: The Prayer, T.G.IF., Maui Wowie and 50 Ways to Make a Record

3. Wale- The Mixtape About Nothing

This mixtape is really fun. A self-admitted Seinfeld fan himself, Wale picked out song names that were similar to the way Seinfeld their episode names. You have titles like “The Kramer,” or “The Grown Up.” How about “The Roots Song Wale Is On?” They are all very self-deprecatingly comical. Wale’s first album Attention Deficit was a COMPLETE bomb. That’s what happens when you sign with a major label. They suck all your personality out and make you do singles with Lady Gaga (Chillin).

Wale has only been able to find himself again in recent years by signing with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music imprint (groans.) But he still gets in absurd fights with the Washington Wizards’ broadcasting team.

Download the mixtape here.

Key Tracks: The Vacation from Ourselves, The Kramer, The Cliché Lil Wayne Feature

4. Drake- So Far Gone

Believe it or not, So Far Gone, was actually a mixtape. Even though it was released as an EP a few years it was originally a free album distributed amongst hip-hop and music fans. I think So Far Gone is the only mixtape to garner Grammy nominations. The mixtape was so successful that a lot of pressure was put on Drake for his debut album Thank Me Later. Thank Me Later suffered both critically and commercially.

It wasn’t until Take Care, that Drake finally regained his footing. He hasn’t looked back since.

Download the mixtape here.

Key Tracks: Best I Ever Had (obviously), Ignorant Shit, Successful

5. Odd Future- Radical

Odd Future was almost seen as the group of a generation several years ago, but now they have somewhat shrank from public view. They have an amazing PR strategy that led them to be on all the Late Night shows, have a New Yorker article written about them and be featured on their own television show. Radical is where it all began.

The groups other albums haven’t really produced the same result as this one did. Listening to this album you almost constantly ask yourself “What the fuck is this?” But it just works. And until Earl Sweatshirt’s album is released I don’t know if there will be a better Odd Future album.

Download the mixtape here.

Key Tracks: Splatter, Double Cheeseburger, Drop


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