It all started with a mixtape. For years, rappers have contributed to the mixtape circuit but, very few have been able to make lasting impressions. Since the days of Kid Capri scratches, vivid Doo Wop intros, classic Ron G blends, and signature DJ Clue drops, the game has shifted and thanks to a small crop of MCs it's been consistently taken to new plateaus. To take a closer look at this, XXLMag.com lines up five rappers that have been instrumental to the mixtape game. XXL Presents...The Five Most Important Mixtape Rappers of All Time...—XXL Staff
Young Jeezy made a name for himself way before the release of his solo debut Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, “and that’s on some real shit.” The man known as your “Favorite Trapper's Favorite Trapper,” had been reeking havoc on the southern mixtape circuit for years, thus popularizing what was once a signature East Coast staple to the region. Releasing a slew of streets-approved projects including the tour de force, Trap or Die, Jeezy’s penchant for pacifying the streets with a flood of material solidified his stance as one the mixtape genre’s favorites. Aside from being one of the few artists to introduce the now popular mixtape-DVD package (Trap Or Die), Da Snowman's impact is nothing to sneeze at. Can’t Ban Da Snowman…
"Dropped a mixtape that shit sounded like an album, who woulda thought a countrywide tour would be the outcome..." When Drizzy’s So Far Gone hit the net in 2009, it not only garnered huge success but also shifted both the mixtape game and the music industry. The TO native's breakthrough cleverly woven project reinvigorated the now fundamental mixtape-album format; offering original, polished records that quickly picked up radio airplay along with two Grammy nods (for “Best I Ever Had”). One of the highlights of the tape was its quality and ability to sonically capture the essence of an actual retail LP. So Far Gone would later land Drake into what Billboard called, “One of the biggest bidding wars ever,” as well as become the mixtape formula for other MCs (Wiz Khalifa’s Kush & Orange Juice, Big K.R.I.T.’s Return of 4Eva, etc.)
When Harlem’s own Dipset crept into the scene in early 2000 the term “movement” was given a whole new meaning. After securing his deal with Roc-A-Fella, Cam’ron made it an agenda to get his crew, the Diplomats, some notoriety. Killa rounded them all together for what would become an impressive mixtape run. From Volume One and on, Dipset became the first group to do single-artist dominated street albums. Steering away from the routine DJ-curated compilation tapes, Cam’ron, Jim Jones, and Juelz Santana pacified the streets with catalogs of heat from solely their camp.
Lil Wayne's contribution to the mixtape world remains untouchable. Releasing a plethora of material, the Louisanimal gave another meaning to the phrase, "no days off." The insurmountable level of output he's flooded both the blogosphere and streets sums up exactly why he's often referred to as, "Mixtape Weezy."
50 Cent's name is synonymous to mixtape conversation. Along with Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and DJ Whoo Kid, the G-Unit crew’s mixtape run ultimately revolutionized the game thanks to its strong impact. During a time when mixtapes were strictly dominated with DJ drops and dubbed freestyles, Fif and the Unit introduced the album-format approach, where they’d completely remake other artists’ tracks into their own. The phenomenal grind landed Fif a $1 million dollar deal with Shady/Aftermath/Interscope, Billboard chart spots for 2002’s Guess Who’s Back? and street single “Wanksta,” and more. Things haven't been the same since.