Bun B
No Mixtape

Beats: XL
Lyrics: XL
Originality: XL

Originally, Bun B’s latest effort, No Mixtape, wasn’t even supposed to happen. So it’s ironic that, after teasing his upcoming solo album, Trill OG, by releasing tons of freestyles at the top of 2010, the Houston rapper has packaged them all into one of the best mixtapes of the year thus far.

Showcasing why he’s been able to steal the spotlight on countless guest appearances over the years, Bun freestyles his way through a variety of beats on No Mixtape. From “Big Dick Cheney,” where he wisely forgoes the opportunity to become the umpteenth rapper to grace Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C” in favor of Rakim’s neck-breaking “Walk These Streets,” to “(2) Dope Boyz,” where he flows gracefully over OutKast’s 1996 hit, “2 Dope Boyz (In A Cadillac),” the UGK rapper proves he’s versatile enough to body any beat. He’s able to speed his flow up on Twista’s “Adrenaline Rush,” show off his dark side on the loony Slaughterhouse joint, “Coocoo,” and even tap into his rock sensibilities on Kevin Rudolf’s single, “I Made It.”

Though Bun could have trimmed some of the 28 tracks featured on No Mixtape—including the ho-hum “Play Cloths,” over Clipse’s “Popular Demand”—it’s hard to fault him considering the way the project came together. His redemptive freestyle “The Champion,” over another Clipse anthem (“Champion,”) helps put it all into perspective. “First it was ‘no mixtape,’ and now it’s No Mixtape/And if you’re a rapper, bitch, it’s better than your mixtape.” Hard to argue with that. —Chris Yuscavage