Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Urbanite End of Year Awards (The Countdown) - Hip Hop Mixtape of the Year

The other week, we gave you The Urbanite's definitive list of the best music and artists of 2011.  With only days away until the end of the year, and after much deliberation and last minute changes, the list has finally been made.  We'll be revealing the winners on the 31st, but here is a look at the acts that just missed the cut and why for the Hip Hop Mixtape of the Year Award. 

5. Pusha T - Fear of God (download here)

Pusha T has always been one of The Urbanite's favourite rappers.  Smooth delivery, gangsta lyrics and clever metaphors have always been his bread and butter.  And when he departs from The Clipse and goes solo he always drops great material.  Which was why his double mixtape releases this year, Fear of God - Part I and II, had the hip hop world bumping to his tales of crack dealing and hustling.  

Fear of God - Part I does not disappoint and goes to show that the Virginia based rapper made a good choice in signing with Kanye West's GOOD Music label back in 2010.  Kanye obviously makes an appearance on the mixtape, on the tongue in cheek Touch It, (you don't really have to guess what "it" they are talking about).  Another major feature, and great song, is the 50 Cent backed Rain, produced by Pusha T's constant partner in crime, Pharrell.  

It's mainly on the solo tracks, however, that Pusha T's rhymes really come to life and his ability to describe street stories of late night crack deals in such a memorable and catchy way is a reason for why he is described as the hustler's rapper.  The song Blow more or less does what it says in the title.  And the best tune of the album, the Kevin Cossom featured Feeling Myself, was on repeat for the most of April and May on the old ipod.  

Brilliant mixtape and is followed up, nicely, by part II.  

Choons to download: Feeling Myself, Blow, My God, Touch It

4. Giggs - Take Your Hats Off (download here)

One of the hip hop highlights of 2011 was the emergence of a number of mixtapes hosted by the US mixtape king, DJ Whoo Kid.  With experience of hosting mixtape classics alongside 50 Cent, it was a measure of how far the UK scene has come that this legend chose to work with some of our artists.  And who better than Giggs (the UK 50 Cent?) to kick off the transatlantic connections (Skepta and Tinie Tempah followed up later).  

Although the production on this album is a little bit more polished than what we have come to expect from HollowMan, the same old hard hitting lyrics and raw thuggery persists on this mixtape and was staple gym music throughout the whole of 2011, despite being released in early February (Giggs even refers to the second song, Step Out, as "that exercise shit").  

His freestyle over Rihanna's Hard is, indeed, hard ("A moment of silence for all my homies deceased, all my niggas locked down and I want em released"). And on Is It Gangsta Giggs goes back to back with Joe Grind on one of the most gangsta records of the year, with lyrics that are bound to prick ears at Scotland Yard ("yeah, I get the gangs excited, yeah your shit's gangsta but it ain't gangsta like this...have a gangsta party, every gang is invited").  If that is not hard enough for you, then his collaboration with Waka Flocka Flame on Gangsta Hop is sure to change opinion.  

And finally, on Look Over Your Shoulder, Giggs enlists the help of the UK chorus maker of the year, Example, on what could have been a chart smash had it been officially released.  The video for the song is also well done, and has Giggs reflecting on the perils of being so well known, living the life he had lived.  

A big mixtape from the South Londoner that more than made up for the slightly disappointing album.  

Choons to download: Look Over You Shoulder, Hard, Is It Gangsta, Monsta Man

3. Tinie Tempah - Foreign Object (download here)

Tinie Tempah is the perfect example of how, with hard work and a bit of luck (Labrinth luck, that is), a rapper can achieve truly great things.  Who would have thought the polite, mild mannered South Londoner would be the UK's great big hope in breaking the US market?  Well he has, and in ways that past hopefuls like Dizzee Rascal could only hope for selling over a million copies of his debut single, Written In The Stars.  

Hosted by DJ Whoo Kid again, Foreign Object as a mixtape sees Tinie rapping over some of our favourite US songs of the past two years in a blatant attempt at appealing to the US market.  And it works.  His version of Racks on Racks is Tinie at his energetic best (the video is quite jokes as well) and on Ace Hood's Hustle Hard Tinie brilliantly describes how far he has come over the past year over one of the beats of the year ("I got my mind all on my business, pussy mind your own business, I'm the real deal man I'm the business, now I fly first, private or business"). 

With some funny skets in between by Russell Brand, and a big guest appearance from one of the US's biggest emerging artists, Wiz Khalifah, the mixtape is short, sharp and fun. It was later followed up by his second mixtape of the year, Happy Birthday (download here), which is already sounding like a treat as well.  

Choons to download: Hustle Hard remix, Till I'm Gone, Bass Down Low remix, Racks on Racks remix

2. Maybach Music Group - Self Made Vol.1 

With Wale, Meek Millz, Teedra Moses and Pill, Rick Ross has managed to create a crew of talented artists.  The first release from the crew as a collective is Self Made Vol.1, a mixtape in which the BAWS himself takes control and challenges his crew to showcase their different skills through killing every single track he appears on.  

Which is not a bad thing because, to be honest, without Rick Ross' contribution this would have been an average mixtape at best.  But with show-stealing verses on Tupac Back and 600 Benz (also featuring Jadakiss), the MMG boss has us bumping our heads to his laid back flow and witty one-liners.  Tupac Back is an instant street classic that has spawned many remixes whilst Fitted Cap features man of the moment, J.Cole, in another heavy drum led banger.  

Wale also comes across well on the mixtape, especially on Malcom X (By Any Means) where he provides us with some thought provoking lyrics ("Shit ain't been the same since Ronald Reagan helped Plymouth Rock") and possibly one of the best one-liners of the year ("On the Bible you ca' run but you can't hide").  

This mixtape will help those who are waiting for another Rick Ross solo album, and goes to show that the day of the big rap crew is not over.  Now over to Young Money to release a joint mixtape themselves (fingers crossed).  

Choons to download: 600 Benz, Tupac Back, Pandemonium, Pacman

See all nominations here: Winners will be revealed on 31st December.  

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