The 25 Best Mixtapes Of 2014 (So Far)

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Mac Miller, Faces

Mac Miller dropped an hour-plus-long mixtape on Mother’s Day that ranks up there as one of the best projects of the year so far. Faces showcases Miller’s ambidextrous wordplay ability, as he shifts between plethora of flows with nonsensical twists and turns. Over clean production and smooth horns and snares, Faces has hits, plain and simple. Miller’s lighthearted demeanor masks his competitive nature; when he switches into rappity-rap mode, he can keep up bar for bar with best of them—just listen to “Polo Jeans.” Faces also is another example of Miller—aka Larry Fisherman’s—progressing production. If you look at the run Miller has made just in the past year—Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Stolen Youth with Vince Staples, Delusional Thomas and Live From Space—the Pittsburgh native has had a fantastic past 13 months. —ECM

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Migos, No Label 2

There was no escaping Migos’ “Versace” in 2013. After the smash hit began earning club and radio spins across the country, all eyes were on the Atlanta rap trio to continue their newfound success. Quavo, TakeOff, and OffSet did not disappoint with their Y.R.N. followup, No Label 2, which dropped in February. 25 tracks strong featuring hard-hitting production from their trusty sidekick Zaytoven as well as talents like Metro Boomin and Murda, combined to form the epitome of trap music in 2014.

The Phenom Da Don-produced “M&M’s” is a certified banger that won’t be fully appreciated unless played at full volume, while the beat on “Ounces” compliments the song’s simple chorus thanks to the duo of Zaytoven and Metro Boomin behind the boards. No Label 2 is a marathon of a listen, yet the project’s best song is probably its introduction. Produced by DJ Plugg, TakeOff spits with pinpoint delivery: “You turn on the radio you gon’ hear every rapper tryna rap like the Migos/Fuck nigga wanna clone? Been rappin’ like this since No Label.” Migos is here to stay, a reality that’s not difficult to understand after giving the group’s latest mixtape a runthrough. —ES

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Shy Glizzy, Young Jefe

D.C. newcomer Shy Glizzy is on a steady climb towards breaking out of his regional fame. Off the success of “Awwsome,” Glizzy released Young Jefe this year to positive response. He has a different type of voice, not dissimilar to Young Thug, but Glizzy’s “it” factor is his ability to string together catchy metaphors and hooks with little effort. Tracks that display this perfect marriage are street-ready songs such as “Medellin” and “Catch A Body.” Paired with Southern beats by Zaytoven, as well as Roger Beat and EA Glizzy, the rising MC has the opportunity to really take off. —ED

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Slaughterhouse, House Rules

Slaughterhouse has no interest in appealing to the mainstream on House Rules, which in turn makes for a damn near perfect effort in the eyes of the group’s diehard fans. Ten tracks long with beats from some of the hottest producers in the game—!llmind, AraabMuzik, Harry Fraud—give Crooked I, Joe Budden, Royce Da 5’9” and Joell Ortiz the proper platform to deliver both punchline tracks alongside more storytelling-driven songs. “Faced with decisions, would you ignore intuition?/Trade in whatever drives you for keys to an ignition?” Budden asks on track four, “Trade It All.”

House Rules is not groundbreaking by any means, nor does it trot out any new conventions or styles. However, it represents Slaughterhouse getting back to the basics with quality, minimalist music. “I Ain’t Bullshittin” is the hardest track on the project thanks to terrific verses from Crooked, Ortiz, and Royce over the type of booming production we’ve grown accustomed to from AraabMuzik. You might not hear House Rules in the club, but it gets the job done in the whip late at night. —ES