Mick Jenkins is a Chicago MC who doesn't really fit well in the drill music scene or the bouncy, experimental music scene of SAVE MONEY and Chance the Rapper. Instead, Jenkins carves out a darker, jazzy sound. A blend of East Coast hip-hop and Kendrick Lamar with its own twist, The Water[s] is a cohesive, introspective and socially conscious effort that could easily be a commercial project. Serious, yet poetic spitting over concise production characterizes this mixtape.
Long gone are the frat-raps of Mac Miller. The Pittsburgh rapper is evolving, and his latest project Faces shows how far he's come. Self-produced with features from close friends (and Rick Ross?), this mixtape is Miller's most experimental work to date. Largely introverted, the mixtape is range of sounds, ideas, and themes, but all seem extremely personal. Faces takes its listeners into Mac Miller's head, and most will find something they like.
This is undoubtedly the oddest mixtape on this list. #000000 & #ffffff is a indie-rock mixtape hosted by Don Cannon and DJ Drama, and features a host of the hottest rappers. While certainly weird, this mixtape is great. There isn't a single song that I don't like. This unorthodox project is a refreshing change in rock music.
The M.A.F.E. Project is more of a collection of singles then a full mixtape, but it's still amazing. After dropping singles almost every week for a few months, BJ the Chicago Kid compiled them together and added a few updated and new tracks. The mixtape ventures a bit from the Motown influences on BJ's previous works, and has a more contemporary, hip-hop sound. The M.A.F.E. Project is a great tease for his upcoming commercial album.
Earlier this year, before departing on a tour with ScHoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad, Staples released a free mixtape for all his fans. Shyne Coldchain II was much more personal than Staples's previous effort Stolen Youth. With production from No I.D., each track was a banger with a story. Staples is brilliant at storytelling, but his technical skill can be lacking, but with amazing production from No I.D., Shyne Coldchain II was one of the most listenable mixtapes of the year.
In anticipation for his debut album, Travi$ Scott quietly dropped a free mixtape Days Before Rodeo. His last project, Owl Pharaoh was an immense project, that perfectly blended tremendous production with Scott's vocals into a cohesive project, but had a heavy hand of influence from T.I. and Kanye West. But Days Before Rodeo, Travi$ Scott finds more of his voice. It's a druggy anthem, fueled by southern roots and influences from his mentors. The blending of lyrics and production is still present on this project, but Scott greatly improves his lyricism. With features from Migos, Young Thug, and Big Sean, Scott crafts a more personal project. Days Before Rodeo is a must cop.