Home Music Music Lists

10 Best Mixtapes of 2013

The absolute cream of the non-label hip-hop crop

Mixtapes

Courtesy of Rich Homie Quan; Courtesy of Chance the Rapper; Courtesy of Vic Mensa; Courtesy of Migos

In 2013, as has been true for the past few years, much of the best rap music came via free mixtapes posted to the various aggregating web sites (DatPiff, LiveMixtapes) that have sprouted up in response to what has become a booming cottage industry. Mixtapes are now where hit singles and real careers are birthed, and where established rappers return to prove they still have it. Here are our 10 favorites from this year. 

BY JORDAN SARGENT

Action Bronson, Blue Chips 2

Courtesy of Action Bronson

2

Action Bronson, ‘Blue Chips 2’

Queens' best ever ex-chef rapper of Albanian descent broke through with last year's Blue Chips and though its sequel could never be quite as revelatory, it did affirm the singularity of the music created by Action Bronson and his production partner, Party Supplies. On Blue Chips 2, they use segments of hits by Tracy Chapman, the Champs, Phil Collins and a host of similarly counterintuitive others as the foundations for Bronson's madcap adventure plots. This is a mixtape as vivid as your favorite cable drama.

Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap

Courtesy of Chance The Rapper

1

Chance The Rapper, ‘Acid Rap’

Chicago's Chance the Rapper established himself in 2013 as the strongest new voice in hip-hop: cool enough for the teens, thoughtful enough for the old heads, pop enough to open for Lil Wayne, and with his street bona fides established by virtue of his coming out of Chicago's rap scene. On Acid Rap he recalls a number of the greats — young Kanye in lush sonics, Slim Shady in spastic flow, Kendrick in inquisitive worldview — but the full-length is precocious enough to make those comparisons feel like positive premonitions rather than millstones. Acid Rap’s scope is stunning both musically (the blending of soul and juke encapsulates his hometown) and lyrically — he deftly bounces from rapping about Chicago's murder rate to recalling hugging his grandma. Acid Rap is the start of something special.