Just like we mentioned in our Favourite EP’s year end round-up list, 2015 was a great year for the “Mixtape industry” and saw over 50 mixtapes released by artistes this year alone, and those are the ones that got to our attention. I can tell you it was quite tough narrowing it down to the 12 best. Mixtapes have always been a nice platform for upcoming and underground rappers to express themselves, and stake a claim for a spot in the mainstream and also for veteran rappers to release freestyles, album left overs and generally go back to their rapping roots away from the rigours and pressure that comes with crafting a full length studio album. Technological improvements have also helped, especially the underground rappers, who can now sell their mixtapes to their growing fanbases, and perhaps generate some sort of income from streaming as well, a practice that was at an all time high this year and will definitely become a norm in the following years. Here are the 12 best mixtapes we heard this year after scouring and reviewing over 50.
1) Boogey & Charlie X – This Is Not An Acronym [ T.I.N.A.A ]
A vast majority of hip-hop heads consider Boogey the king of the Underground Hip-hop scene and he is slowly creeping into the mainstream echelon, sitting potential a hit away from commercial acclaim. This year saw him grow from strength to strength, a process that was engineered by This Is Not An Acronym, his collaborative mixtape with Charlie X which dropped in May. The mixtape was a frontal display of his lyrical abilities, song writing capabilities,independent hustle and is definitely one of the best Mixtapes that we heard this year. The project was helped by the production by Charlie X and collaborations with artistes like Pryse, Eclipse, Aduke, Lord V, Fefe and Danny Gomez who helped bring the vision to life. He is currently working on another project with Charlie X, but T.I.N.A.A stood out amongst all the mixtapes that were released this year.
2) Banky On D Beatz – Legendary Reflections
Lagos based music producer Banky On D Beatz has been in the industry for about 3 years, and has maintained a low profile,however, his music and production capabilities have already started speaking for him as he has produced commendably for artistes like LOS, Ozzy B ( now Santi ), Novakillz, Retro Dee and more. This year, he reached his pinnacle with the release of his highly impressive mixtape Legendary Reflections which featured a host of artistes including Tomi Thomas ( he impressed me this year ) , Flowssick, Teeban, and Joules Da Kid. The 12-tracker saw the producer fuse different types of contemporary African urban sounds, ranging from Afro-pop to Hip-hop and delivered what I would term a mixtape masterpice. Powered by strictly original beats, the mixape sounded every inch like an album and songs like Show You Love Featuring Tomi Thomas , Ekomiami Featuring Novakillz and Flowssick and Rosey Featuring Tomi Thomas all have “Potential hit” written all over them. It’s a top quality mixtape, and a solid foundation to build a career as a producer on.
3) Kheengz – Voice Of Arewa
This year was a big year for Hausa Rap music, and a whole lot of MC’s from Northern Nigeria came out of their shells and all made strong musical statements,letting the industry know that the boys up north do have a lot to offer the Hip-hop game. Kheengz is one of the rappers at the forefront of that movement and stamped his foot strongly in the game with his Voice of Arewa Mixtape, a follow up to 2013’s College Kid. While he utilized the traditional mixtape format on some songs rhyming over beats by Drake, Falz and Angelique Kidjoe, he also created music over original production by DJ Steev, Maazid and Zayne EF. The mixtape is highly enjoyable even if you do not understand Hausa, and Kheengz showed a lot of growth and improvement in the departments of wordplay and lyricism. “Dorcas” and The Keys Featuring Snowflake and Clay are the strongest songs on the mixtape, but generally it is deservedly one of the best mixtapes we heard in 2015.
4) Blaq Bonez – Cassette, Tapes And Tv’s
This year, Blaq Bonez did everything that an upcoming rapper is supposed to do.He dropped countless freestyles, songs as well as collaborations with different Rappers and also emerged victorious on a freestyle which was hosted by Vector on Rhythm FM, making him the artiste of the month of September. He released his 20-track mixtape Cassette Tapes and TV’s the following month,and the project was well received by the underground Hip-hop community and elevated his status from just a “freestyle rapping jester” to a that of a career rapper who should be taken serious. Though it is not his first mixtape, it is his best, as well as his most entertaining. The “Discussion skits” also suit the Mixtape theme, but the highest moment on the tape was South Africa Must Go which tackled the infiltration of Nigerian Hip-hop by South African rappers, and the disregard that the Nigerian music industry has for Nigerian rappers as opposed to their Jozi counterparts. Ola Dips dropped a contender for mixtape verse of the year on this track and contributed to the Iconic value of the project.
5) Leke Lee – No Be Say I Dey Joke
Underground Yoruba rapper Leke Lee earns a spot on this list with his debut Mixtape No Be Say I Dey Joke which was released in July and pointed him out to me as a rapper with a bright future. His cadence, delivery and lyrics all have the makings of a great MC, and he put all those qualities together to create a very outstanding body of work. In an industry filled up with imitators and generic artistes who jump from one trend to the other, Leke Lee is special, because he stuck to his script which is delivering well crafted street-raps over hard hitting hip-hop beats, a feat he pulled off in impressive fashion. He featured artistes like Min, Ola Dips, Focuz Man and Geevee, who all helped the young rapper and added some variety to the project. As far as Yoruba rap is concerned, NBSIDJ is definitely one of the best projects I heard this year.
6) Pherowshuz – The I Am PheroW Tape
Pherowshuz had a relatively quiet year, but he lent his production skills and guest verses to artistes like Modenine, Terry Tha Rapman, Lobidis, Ozee, AC and more. He capped off the year with a 16-track mixtape The IAm Pherow Tape which was entirely produced by him. The mixtape features A1 Sugarboi, Erigga, Boogey, A.T , Gradsun and more and sees Pherwoshuz once again stake his claim as one of the best producer rappers in the country. Standout tracks include Oya Na Featuring Erigga, Necessary Featuring Morell, All Day And All Night Featuring Steve Rock And Zac, but there are enough outstanding songs on this project for everyone to have a different favourite track. Pherow is definitely at the top of his production and rapping game, and while he still remains one of the most under-rated rappers and producers in Nigerian Hip-Hop music, I Am Pherow is a subtle reminder that he deserves a lot more accolades for his contribution to the industry.
7) Sute – Visions
Abuja based artiste, and a member of the Bantu Collective Sute came to my attention and the consciousness of the core Hip-hop fans when he delivered a well rounded alternative rap mixtape titled Visions in November. While the music listening populace had already embraced his single Mainland Cruise, the mixtape spanned other impressive tracks which further showed his lyrical dexterity and avant-garde sonic experimentation. while songs like Oceans, Ventilation, Vapors 2.0 and Zone One Featuring Zilla and David Onuoha stand out, the entire body of work is praise worthy and has proven to be one of the best mixtapes I heard this year. This is another mixtape that sounded like an album, and very few projects released this year can match the musical scope which the project encompasses. Do yourself a favour, and get hip to the Bantu music experience, courtesy of Sute Iwar
8) Profound – Daddy Knows Best
Underground rapper Profound reached a career milestone this year when he released his debut project, a 12 track mixtape titled Daddy Knows Best. The project showcased Profound as a lyricist who has a unique voice, a traditional approach to the rap game and makes for a good listen from start to finish. With original and interpolated beats, he touched on social issues ( White Elephant ), offered inspiration ( Tears Of Pain ) and also delivered a potential single with Yetunde. Daddy Knows Best deservedly takes its position on this list as one of the best mixtapes that was delivered this year by a Nigerian rapper.
9) Paybac & Charlie X – The Other Side Of The Radio
Paybac and Charlie X released the antithesis to mainstream music commercialism with The Other Side Of The Radio, a conceptual mixtape which stands as Paybacs best project as well as one of the best hip-hop mixtapes of the year. Armed with guest features by Christine Ben-Ameh, Maka P, Rexx, Yung Soss and more, Paybac poured his heart out over an array of soulful and progressive production by Charlie X. Tracks like Daddys Grand Cherokee, Hey Ghana, and Follow Follow all show different sides of the emotive MC and also point to a promising future as a Rap artiste.
10 ) Sinzu – The Industreet Mixtape
Sinzu is a rapper I strongly believe still has the potential to be the best in the country, as far as raw rapping goes, he is simply one of the best to do it nevertheless, a lot of his fans still believe he has yet to achieve his true potential. while he has been on an “California vacation” for about 4 years now and has been pretty much quiet on the musical front. He promised his fans a comeback this year, and made good his word when he released the 11 track mixtape Industreet which was devoid of guest appearances , except Verse Luciano, a US based Rapper who featured on 3 tracks and brought his A-game to the party. Sinzu focused solely on himself, trying out different lyrical styles and musical patterns, but built the sound primarily around the currently prevalent American Trap music. The result is an explosive mixtape filled up with energy, gusto and plenty hustle and drug-related lyrics. Sinzu is in top form and if this mixtape is anything to go by, next year will be an even bigger year for him.
11 ) Sean Martin Luther Tha P – Dope Unit Mixtape Volume 2
Underground Hip-hop enthusiast Sean Martin Luther Tha P ( What a name ) has done so much for the Hip-hop industry in a short time, having dropped his first mixtape compilation last year, he returned this year with the second installment of his Dope Unit series which was packed with numerous underground artistes who created impressive Hip-hop songs. The 27 track project featured over 50 ( yes fifty ) rappers, and got them all together on one platform to showcase the best underground hip-hop music and he did a great job at it. Rappers like Kel, Peter Clarke, Fecko, Nasty J, Payper, Toni Code, Gedes And MC Skill Tha Preacher all contributed to it and it turned out to be one of the hottest projects of the year, while it was slept on by a large section of the mainstream music populace, it was well received by the underground hip-hop fans and is certainly worthy of its position on this list. I once again commend Sean Martin Luther P for the platform which he has given to underground and upcoming artistes to express themselves and I recommend this mixtape to any Hip-hop head that respects himself.
12) Ghetto P – I’m Here Now
When Sinzu ( then Sauce Kid ) dropped his Money Long mixtape, The back cover featured an advert for Product Of My Environment by Ghetto P a mixtape which was supposed to be the next project to be released by the label, however the project never saw the light of day before the label disbanded leaving Ghetto P to his own machinations in the music industry. As an independent artiste, he released different singles over the years and also dabbled with dancehall music with his alter-ego Tytle, but his career just never seemed to take off, and 7 years in the game Ghetto P still had no body of work to his name. However this year saw him announce that he was releasing a mixtape which he did with no promotion whatsoever, he released a compilation of songs which he had recorded over the years and called the project I’m Here Now, a statement of intent to remain consistent and live up to his full potential, and judging by the music on the tape, it’s safe to say he can do it if he takes it serious. Songs like She Say, Pata Ti Jabo and Like Ah Bike all point to the his versatility and the mixtape is very entertaining from start to finish.Even if he doesn’t make it as an artiste, I believe he can make a decent living as a Ghostwriter, because every song on the tape was well written and crafted. We hope he is here to stay, but his mixtape is a well rounded one and deserves a spot on this list.
MAK Formerly known as Makiller – Practice The Mixtape
Beats By Jay – The Perfect Blend Mixtape