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The Anchorman Mixtape
When Canadian rapper k-os dropped The Anchorman Mixtape this summer, a lot of write-ups tended to focus on three distinct questions: Why an Anchorman-themed mixtape now? What’s Drake doing on this mixtape? What’s a k-os? Fortunately, anyone who got past those questions discovered a real gem of a mixtape. In a collection of tunes packed with guest spots, k-os muscles his way in and takes a stand, delivering some outstanding rhymes with a simply dynamic flow. The mixtape’s presentation is borderline gimmicky, but k-os makes it work, and makes it sound great.
Kids & Explosions
Girl Talk delivered a surprise new, free album in the middle of November. Yet, All Day is missing from this list. That’s because the best free mash-up album of the year goes to Kids & Explosions’ Shit Computer. On this debut album, Kids & Explosions delivers everything that’s been missing from Girl Talk’s music since Night Ripper: tunes like “Everything” and “Use Your Words” are informed by a singular voice, not by the presence of well-known pop song sampling. There’s real warmth to the ditties on Shit Computer, and it helps create a great range of emotions at play on the album. Instead of spending your time trying to figure out what bands are sampled in a particular song, Shit Computer is the kind of album you can put on and simply experience as its own distinct and complete product.
Signals/Supple Youth Tour Mixtape
(Self-released; US: 29 Mar 2010; UK: 29 Mar 2010)
Signals/Supple Youth Tour Mixtape
Part of what makes the Signals/Supple Youth Tour Mixtape so great is that it helps document the ever-evolving independent music scene in LA. There are four new offerings from Signals, a trio formed in the ashes of sorely missed spaz-punk act the Mae Shi. There are great tunes from acts like Abe Vigoda, Bipolar Bear, and Hawnay Troof. There’s even a Crass-Liquid Liquid mash-up, and a fantastic remix of Major Lazer’s “Pon De Floor” by Jacob Safari and Kid Static. Free Internet compilations come and go, but Signals/Supple Youth is one of the few that feels lovingly crafted by a constantly evolving musical community.
Thunder Zone Vol. 1
(Self-released; US: 9 Feb 2010; UK: 9 Feb 2010)
Journeyman from the Heartland
(Self-released; US: 19 Oct 2010; UK: 19 Oct 2010)
Thunder Zone and Journeyman from the Heartland
Milwaukee rapper Juiceboxxx has toiled away in the underground for years, sparsely releasing EPs and singles before he dropped his first two mixtapes this year. Though thematically unconnected, they represent two distinct sides the rapper constantly wrestles with in his music. Thunder Zone is a party mix, filled with plenty of remixes, drops from famous friends, and fist-pumping anthems. Journeyman is a down-to-the-basics rapper’s mixtape on which Juiceboxxx’s rap skills are front and center. Both offer some of the best songs in his growing discography and should be seen as a whole for any new listener looking to wade in the waters of one of hip-hop’s more audacious voices.
Shut Up, Dude
(Mishka, Greedhead; US: 29 Mar 2010; UK: 29 Mar 2010)
Sit Down, Man
(Mishka, Made Decent, Greedhead; US: 14 Sep 2010; UK: 14 Sep 2010)
Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man
A year ago, few people could have seen Das Racist’s one-two mixtape punch coming. Or, at least, few people would have admitted to it. It seemed every corner of the Internet took a different condescending tone with the Brooklyn rap duo, largely because of their rapid ascension to Internet fame thanks to the irrepressibly catchy song, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”. Fortunately, that song is only one side of the band, a fact Das Racist’s Victor Vazquez and Himanshu Suri made clear with the 36 songs not named “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” that appear on Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man.
Released in March, Shut Up, Dude clued many skeptics into the raw intelligence, humor, and spirit hiding under the surface of the duo’s most famous song. Songs like “Who’s That? Brooown!” and “Hugo Chavez” are packed with rhymes that strike a balance between name-checking pop culture and questioning racial identity that’s both fresh and sharp. Shut Up, Dude feels like a well-tuned album, with a few strong singles—“You Oughta Know”, “Rainbow in the Dark”, and, of course, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”—to boot: the yang to Shut Up, Dude‘s ying, Sit Down, Man, feels like a proper mixtape. Packed with plenty of guest spots from well-known hip-hop artists (Jay-Z, El-P, Diplo), Das Racist stepped up its game to deliver plenty of smart stanzas in one great tune after another. Mixtapes in hip-hop were (and, arguably, still are) a place for artists to flex their musical muscles, and by and large the group managed to do just that on nearly every track of Sit Down, Man. Alone, these two mixtapes are more than noteworthy efforts, but as a packaged whole, Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man make for one highly irresistible and downright memorable musical creation.