XXL Presents...The 15 Greatest Mixtape Series

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XXL Presents...The 15 Greatest Mixtape Series

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Last week, Lil Wayne dropped Dedication 4, adding another chapter to the famed catalog Weezy and DJ Drama have put together. How does it stack up against the all time best? Well, that’s what XXL set out to discover. In the interest of finding out which rapper had the greatest series of all time, we excluded DJ series and collectives as well (Don’t worry guys, we loved G-Unit Radio, Diplomats Vol. 1-5, Green Lantern’s Invasion series, and We Got It 4 Cheap just as much as y’all). With that disclaimer in place, XXL proudly presents The 15 Greatest Mixtape Series. XXL Staff (@XXL)

15. Cam'ron & Vado - Boss of all Bosses series

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Post Dipset era Cam caught a second wind in the mixtape circuit through his Boss of All Bosses series. Marked by the rapid-fire MPC-abusing production of Araabmuzik, Cam sounded reinvigorated, bringing Harlem newcomer, Vado, along for the ride throughout. Sure, it wasn’t vintage Cam, but the Dipset founder proved that despite falling from the mainstream spotlight, his clever wordplay and sense of humor were still first class.

14. Yo Gotti – Cocaine Muzik series

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Yo Gotti’s been a model of consistency in the mixtape circuit, both in terms of quality and regularity. Over six mixtapes (seven if you include Cocaine Muzik 4.5 Da Documentary) Gotti mastered his approach to what was pretty limited subject matter: “Cocaine everything” as he so eloquently puts it on “Cocaine Crazy (skit)” off of CM2. With three of the tapes hosted by DJ Drama, the raspy Tennessee rapper aligned himself with the best in trap mixtapes.

13. Meek Mill - Dreamchasers series

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The legendary Jay-Z once said, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t”. Will Dreamchasers stand the test of time? We can only hope. But a few things are not up for debate. Dreamchasers turned Meek from viable prospect into star, carrying his first breakout song sans a Rozay hook with “House Party.” Dreamchasers proved just how hungry Meek was, and its follow up was no different. Within 24 hours of its release Dreamchasers 2 was downloaded over 2.5 million times, quickly becoming Datpiff.com’s most downloaded release of all time (crashing Datpiff’s servers in the process).

12. Royce Da 5'9" - The Bar Exam series

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Royce worked with a team of all time mixtape greats on his Bar Exam trilogy, including Statik Selektah, DJ Premier, DJ Green Lantern, and DJ Whoo Kid. Bullying his way through other artists’ beats, Royce bested many of the originals in the process with top notch lyricism and an effortless delivery. Flat out, the bar was raised.

11. Big Sean - Finally Famous series

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Big Sean was a bit premature with the titling of his inaugural mixtape and the series that it birthed, but, in the end, Finally Famous did become an accurate descriptor for the G.O.O.D. Music rapper. The Detroit native dropped Finally Famous: The Mixtape in 2007, his first release after signing with Kanye West’s imprint, and followed up in 2009 with UKNOWBIGSEAN, which made him a new school favorite and spawned early favorites like “Supa Dupa” (an origin of the hashtag flow) and “Getcha Some.” The series’ final installment, 2010’s Finally Famous, Vol. 3: BIG, a project that suggested Sean’s status as next up on G.O.O.D. and included collaborations with Drake, Tyga, Bun B and more. The former XXL Freshman not only adopted the series’ name for his debut album, but it became a calling card in his songs and something his fans attached themselves to.

10. Lupe Fiasco - Fahrenheight 1/15 series

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As he prepped his debut album Food & Liqour, Lupe Fiasco began building a loyal fanbase nationwide through his trilogy of Fahrenheight 1/15 mixtapes. With the technicality and precision of an East Coast rapper, the nerdy spectacled Fiasco delivered material that spoke on Chicago’s ills in a way that had never been heard before. The bar was set so high from the series, that many of Lupe’s longtime fans felt Food & Liqour was a letdown, despite the album receiving widespread acclaim from music critics.

9. Young Jeezy - The Real Is Back series

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Jeezy was in a tough spot following the release of The Recession. TM:103 sat in release date limbo, and a beef was brewing with a certain Def Jam Bawse. Da Snowman was beginning to get counted out. His answer to the critics came in a series of uncut block-booming, woofer-busting products for the street—that was tolerably dubbed the resurrection of the real. Though only two installments, Snow’s offerings were as potent as the supply that once christened him Mr. 17.5. Containing a number of anthems like the brooding “Trump,” the blazing “Win” and two unforgettable Intros, Jizzle put forth a stellar two-part series. There was no denying it; the real was back.

8. Fabolous - There Is No Competition series

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Fab’s mixtape resume is second to none. So when he decided to take a break from crafting those female-friendly hits and make it a full time job to kill the competition, Funeral Fab offered a show-stopping series that obliterated the unworthy challengers. Abusing instrumentals as if they were the control buttons to the Madden video game, Fab bullied his way through records like Shyne’s “S.H.Y.N.E.,” Rick Ross’ “Boss,” YMCMB’s “Roger That” and more. As he should, after all it’s the Brooklyn way.

7. Gucci Mane - The Movie series.

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Gucci had a run in 2009 that mirrored that of 2 Chainz’ this year. He appeared on high profile remixes of The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow,” and Mariah Carey’s “Obsessed.” And similarly to how Tity’s breakthrough was propelled by the success of his Codeine Cowboy and T.R.U. Realigion, Gucci’s spotlight came from the strength of his mixtape output, most impressively the Movie series. Gucci’s mixtape output was nothing short of extraordinary, especially considering he spent half of '09 year in prison. With over the top anecdotes of absurdity, masked in his signature deadpan mumble of sorts, The Movie series was a gem, with The Burrprint: The Movie 3-D taking the cake.

6. Jadakiss - The Champ Is Here series

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Jadakiss albums have often been met with lukewarm responses from fans over the years. The same can’t be said for Kiss’ mixtape resume, where he established himself as one of the greats with his Champ Is Here series. Like any great champ, Jada refused to pull any punches, giving his best in the three part series that culminated in 2010. Kiss says the next installment would come when Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao agree to fight one another, which doesn’t bode well for the continuation of this epic series.

5. Juelz Santana - Back Like Cooked Crack series

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Juelz had a tall order to fill when he embarked on his solo mixtape series Back Like Cooked Crack. After all, he had been an integral part of one of the strongest series to date on a string of DJ Kay Slay-helmed Diplomats 'tapes. Santana proved up to the task on Back Like Cooked Crack, most notably on the second installment which proceeded his debut album From Me to U. Fans of the Dips revere the series, as Santana’s career has been marked by empty promises and let downs ever since the conclusion of the trilogy.

4. Young Jeezy - Trap or Die series

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Trap or Die 2 could’ve been a dud and the series still would have made the list based on the strength of the original. It’s the most important mixtape from one of the all time mixtape greats. Trap or Die introduced Jeezy’s signature style to the masses: Drug talk over some of the most thunderous production imaginable. It also served as a preview to Jeezy’s upcoming classic Thug Motivation 101, featuring album cuts “Get Ya Mind Right,” and “Trap or Die.” The sequel came years later, and despite a curious Malcolm X-inspired cover, was vintage Jeezy, carrying what would become his next single, “Lose My Mind”.

3. Lil Wayne - Dedication series

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The series that defined “The Mixtape Weezy.” Dedication 1 & 2 were mind-blowing precursors to Lil Wayne becoming the biggest star in hip-hop. The legendary series undoubtedly took a dip with the mediocre D3 and despite solid content, D4 hasn’t carried the same magnitude as its predecessors, arriving in a mixtape era where the bar has been raised so much that mixtapes are expected to be albums. Regardless, Dedication stands as one of Wayne’s greatest achievements, giving him a basis behind his claim as “The Best Rapper Alive.”

2. Lloyd Banks - Money in the Bank series

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G-Unit changed the mixtape game. Banks got his first looks on DJ Whoo Kid’s groundbreaking G-Unit Radio series alongside the rest of the Unit. But he soon graduated to his own Whoo Kid-hosted series, Money in the Bank, seizing control of the mixtape circuit. While Fif remained the mainstream darling, Banks became a star in his own right through the series. He even got drops from Dan Akroyd and Donald Trump. Punchline after punchline, Banks epitomized the mixtape rapper of the early-mid 2000s and the Money in the Bank series has stood the test of time.

1. Joe Budden - Mood Muzik series

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The average rap fan and Def Jam big wig alike probably thought that Joe Budden was a one-hit wonder following 2003’s smash “Pump It Up.” Joey had different plans for himself, though. As he encountered issues with his label, the New Jersey rapper paved his own lane, starting with Mood Muzik: The Worst of Joe Budden in 2004. He followed up two years later with Mood Muzik 2: Can It Get Any Worse? which earned critical praise and helped build his legion of Internet Soldiers. He then delivered the similarly celebrated Mood Muzik 3: For Better or Worse in 2007, and Mood Muzik 4: A Turn for the Worst in 2010.

It wasn’t that the series (particularly the first three—there was a lengthy hiatus and other projects released prior to the fourth) was the water to the seed that was “Pump It Up”; Mood Muzik was an entirely new seed that grew stronger and higher than anything Budden had previously done. The set displayed his lyrical ferocity and personal depth, as he put his life on wax in an unrestrained way. Between potent punchlines and heeding to his promise “to maintain being remain unique but relatable,” Budden built his career on the back of the Mood Muzik series. He regularly performs cuts from the projects in concert, and even treated fans to the entire collection over two sold-out nights in New York City this year.