Just as there were plenty of albums to choose from, there were a lot of mixtapes that dominated our playlists in 2013. For one reason or another, this year marked an influx of new and hungry MCs who all wanted to make a statement with their projects. Some of them—like Chance The Rapper—created entire movements and became full-blown rap stars over twelve months. Others got listeners checking into their regional buzzes, while a number of hip-hop heavyweights fed their loyal fanbases with classics.

In continuing our review of 2013, we’ve sifted through hundreds of mixtapes and narrowed it down to our favorites. These tapes aren’t in any order—we just wanted to share what we’ve been listening to. Looking back this year, MCs like Action Bronson, Nipsey Hu$$le and Vic Mensa reminded us that a great tape is vital to winning over fans. And unlike an album’s pressure to perform at a certain caliber, mixtapes are often unrefined and experimental, which make them perfection additions in an artist's catalog. So, from Acid Rap to Signed To The Streets, here are The 25 Best Mixtapes Of 2013.—Written By Eric Diep, Andrew Asare, Miranda Johnson, Emmanuel C.M. & Dan Rys

Yelawolf, Trunk Muzik Returns

Yelawolf has kept a low profile in terms of putting out a follow-up to Radioactive. To hold his fans down, the Alabama rapper went back to the mixtape circuit. Re-exploring the sound that made him a household name, Trunk Muzik Returns find him doing lyrical acrobatics over superb production by Will Power of SupaHotBeats. He holds his own with renowned spitters such as Raekwon and Killer Mike, while giving us a taste of his country roots in songs like “Tennessee Love." Technically, Yela kills it in both flow and rhyme schemes, indicating that his next LP should be worth the wait.—ED

Lil Bibby, Free Crack

Chicago’s young talents are quickly on the rise. At the end of November, Lil Bibby—who hails from Chi-Town’s East Side—released a promising effort titled Free Crack. Before the industry caught on to the 19-year-old, he made a name for himself alongside his frequent collaborator Lil Herb. Two tracks—“Kill Shit” and “My Hood”—displayed their blunt deliveries and hard-edged street raps that was unlike their contemparies. That similar energy was shown in Bibby’s solo tape, where it impressed early adopters for his thought-out lyrics and polished production. Songs like “Water,” “Bibby Story,” and “Whole Crew” are a good indication that he’s already establishing his own sound. Bibby's setting up 2014 quite nicely.—ED

Waka Flocka Flame, DuFlocka Rant 2

While Waka might want to tread lightly when it comes to his views about the southern rap and its dominance of hip-hop, you can count on Atlanta’s MC to keep your day turnt with Du Flocka Rant 2. With tracks such as “Hood Rich,” “Brother’s Keeper,” and “Real Recognize Real,” Flocka’s smooth but sharp delivery on the follow up to DuFlocka Rant: Halftime Show is loud, brash, and worthy of a listen.—AA

Rapsody, She Got Game

Rapsody held the ball in the court of promising female MCs when she released She Got Game mixtape earlier this year. Not only did she provide sleek production with the help of 9th Wonder and friends, but her lush soul raps ranging from “Special Way,” to “Complacent” and “Dark Nights” are proof that she can grab the title of the auspicious female rapper of 2014.—AA

Casey Veggies, Life Changes

Casey Veggies has steadily built his momentum and fanbase over the years. His ever-growing catalogue now includes Life Changes—a mixtape that placed him at the top of the underground food chain. In Veggies’ latest opportunity to the shine, he blazes through the similar aesthetic of his Los Angeles contemporaries with a bit more flare. Highlights like “Whip It,” “Life$tyle” and “She In My Car” are fun songs that show his cool and calm manner on records is what makes him likable. Continually making strides as an artist, Young C.V.’s career is finally hitting its sweet spot.—ED

Meek Mill, Dreamchasers 3

2013 saw the third installment of Meek Mill's Dreamchasers series. With appearances from Rick Ross, Travi$ Scott, Birdman, Diddy, Nicki Minaj, Yo Gotti, Fabolous and more, Meek wasn't playing games with the release of his eighth mixtape. The MMG rapper also shed light on the untimely passing of his Dream Chasers Records signee Lil Snupe on the project, pouring out his feeling on a track entitled "Lil Nigga Snupe."—MJ

Joey Bada$$, Summer Knights

Quietly this year, Joey Bada$$ puts out a very quality record with Summer Knights. One thing is clear when you listen to the tape, he's not kidding around, as he unleashes some bone-shattering bars with a calm cold assassin-like demeanor. 1999 was more of a coming-of-age tale from Joey while Summer Knights provides as a worthy follow-up illustrating his maturity and growth. Pro-Era's boom-bap '90s chill-vibe is still prominent in the album, however with an extra kick making it sound very refreshing. —ECM

Future & FreeBand Gang, Future Presents F.B.G: The Movie

When Future's 2013 hit "Chosen One" appeared on F.B.G.: The Movie, Mr. Freebandz started the year off the right way with this effort. With the project debuting in January, the mixtape helped launch Future's action-packed year. As he is currently in the midst of the Would You Like A Tour with Drake and is prepping for the release of his second studio album Honest, F.B.G.: The Movie was indeed the right teaser to exhibit what Future has in store.—MJ

Flatbush Zombies, BetterOffDEAD

It was exactly what you'd want out of a group's second project: concrete, solid steps forward. Produced entirely by Erick Arc Elliott—who crafted a sonic landscape that left most of the synths behind this time—the three horsemen of apocalyptic drug rap pushed everything further than their first project D.R.U.G.S., upping the nihilism and getting deeper into the acid dreams.—DR

Lil Wayne, Dedication V

Weezy has been focused so much on skating lately that you can tell rapping has taken a backseat. Dedication V lacked consistency at times and didn't carry the same vigor as Wayne from his previous versions. Still, Wayne can bring it when he wants to, especially on standouts "You Song" featuring Chance The Rapper, his freestyle on The Wu's "C.R.E.A.M.," and going in on Meek Mill's "Levels." Hopefully, 2014 we'll see the Best Rapper Alive in top form.—AA

Cam'ron, Ghetto Heaven Vol. 1

Cam’ron Giles might have ventured towards the entrepreneurial route in 2013, but Harlem’s Diplomat maintained that sharp and humorous gift of gab with his release of Ghetto Heaven, Vol 1. With a mixture of the classic Dipset sound and pieces of ‘90s anthems sprinkled through tracks such as “Come and Talk to Me” and “My Life,” Cam delivers a body of work that might have been as murderous as the album artwork featuring Ronald McDonald.—AA

Young Scooter, Street Lottery

Young Scooter was at the height of his popularity when Street Lottery came out. The Atlanta native called it a classic. Street Lottery featured tracks with guest appearances from Future, Bun B, Gucci Mane, Ca$h Out, and Chief Keef. But the standout was undoubtedly "Colombia," the street record that took his buzz to another level. It's the perfect blend between a man's tale of trying to make it big and what he describes as count music; a tutorial to help people get money.—ECM

August Alsina, The Product 2

With singles "I Luv This Shit" and "Downtown," The Product 2 certainly built August Alsina's name all round the hip-hop community. May's DJ Drama-hosted tape contained guest appearances by Juelz Santana, Curren$y, The-Dream, Roscoe Dash, Kidd Kidd, Trinidad Jame$ and Jazze Pha. As August was already signed to Def Jam at the time of the project's release, this effort was followed by his major label debut EP Downtown: Life Under the Gun. Backed by a significant buzz, his full-length album will be an important release, slated for early 2014. —MJ

Migos, Y.R.N.

The act of repetition is usually frowned upon in an ever-changing industry, but for trap-rap trio Migos, the formula of recurrence turned into quick cash and major recognition. Their mixtape Y.R.N. blurred the lines between pop culture, fashion, and hip-hop with super-addictive hits such as “Hannah Montana,” “Bando,” and Zaytoven-produced “Versace”—which spawned a myriad of remixes from Drake to even an instrumental-free version from Frank Ocean.—AA

Ty Dolla $ign, Beach House 2

The follow-up to Ty Dolla $ign's Beach House project, Beach House 2 helped craft up a soundtrack for the summer. Hosted by DJ Drama, the project features Kevin Gates, Iamsu!, Wiz Khalifa, Chevy Woods, Trey Songz, Kirko Bangz, Juicy J, YG, Kid Ink, B.o.B, Chris Brown, Jay Rock, Game and others. This project also helped Ty Dolla $ign ink a deal with Atlantic Records on which the rapper recently released his first EP. —MJ

Big K.R.I.T., King Remembered In Time

King Remembered In Time marked the tenth mixtape released by Big K.R.I.T. Consisting of guest appearances from Bun B, Future, Smoke DZA, Trinidad Jame$, Wiz Khalifa, and Big Sant; the project again helped anchor K.R.I.T's place in the rap game. To date, the mixtape has been downloaded over 200,000 times.—MJ

Juelz Santana, God Will'n

Santana pulls no punches, gives no fucks, cares not at all about his standing in the rap game compared to a decade ago. Instead, he focused on pure rapping over monstrous beats, grabbing everyone from Lil Wayne and Rick Ross to Lil Durk and Yo Gotti to ride alongside him. Tracks like "Sho 'Nuff," "Nobody's Safe" and "Nobody Knows" go harder than Santana has in years. It was an addictive project, and one that didn't get old fast.—DR


Vic Mensa proves that he can standout with INNANETAPE. After the huge year from Chicago elevating a number of young MCs such as Chance The Rapper, Lil Durk and Fredo Santana, Vic shouldn't be forgotten within the crowd. The once frontman for popular band Kids These Days, he turns solo and puts out an impressive tape reflecting his experiences and observations of the turmoil in the Windy City. He displays great voice control, lyrical prowess and song-making ability throughout the record.—ECM

Pusha T, Wrath Of Caine

Pusha T's Wrath of Caine serves as a prelude to his debut solo album, My Name Is My Name , quite beautifully. The dope rap master displays his vernacular and lyrical ability by constructing addictive street records. It's a short tape but very easily a great listen that serves as a fix to Pusha's fans.—ECM

Kevin Gates, The Luca Brasi Story

In February, Louisiana rapper Kevin Gates captured our attention with his sprawling mixtape, The Luca Brasi Story. Gates had some difficulty popping off on a national level, but it was The Luca Brasi Story that offered new fans a proper entry point. Throughout the tape, we get to see why Gates is growing into a go-to favorite: he rides beats with little effort, sings as a means of an emotional escape and his stream-of-conscious raps are introspective. If you need further proof, check street anthems “Weight” and “IDGAF,” as well as dark and mellow offerings “Neon Lights” and “Arms Of A Stranger.”—ED

Travi$ Scott, Owl Pharaoh

Travis Scott shines with Owl Pharaoh. Above all things, the 2013 XXL Freshman's production skills is on full display, presenting his wide range of sound.The futuristic synths and crazy bass lines are all layered under a mysterious ambiance. Also, Scott partners with unexpected yet dope artists such as Paul Wall, Toro Y Moi and Theophilus London. His sound is a blend of his mentor Kanye West and Kid Cudi, yet nothing that sounds borrowed. Owl Pharaoh is a early sign that the potential for him is monumental.—ECM

Action Bronson, Blue Chips 2

Bronson has found a partner in crime in Party Supplies who shares his twisted, bizarre sense of humor predicated on raw sex, gourmet meals, desperate hookers and semi-obscure classic rock references. He's out here rapping on top of songs that you wouldn't think anyone would be able to rap over, and he's bringing his grimy and hilarious worldview with him. Bronson's made it a habit to dedicate entire projects to working with one producer—Harry Fraud, Alchemist—and the connection with Party Supplies might be his strongest. At the very least, it's his most entertaining.—DR

Lil Durk, Signed To The Streets

Durk's tendency to craft effortlessly catchy hooks that still reflect the no mercy Chicago drill sound in which he crafts his tales sets him apart from his friends in the game, but it might be his ability to easily and simply describe the problems and issues surrounding him that will set him on a trajectory toward stardom. He's less violent than Lil Reese, less creepy than Fredo Santana, more coherent than Chief Keef, and stands taller than all of them with Signed To The Streets. This tape deserves to be on here for "Dis Ain't What U Want" alone, but really, there's plenty of standout tracks to choose from.—DR

Nipsey Hu$$le, Crenshaw

Nipsey Hu$$le changed the course of hip-hop releases with the promotional run for Crenshaw. The unsigned rapper was able to make $100,000 by selling 1,000 copies for $100 each. The price tag was part of his Proud2Pay campaign, which rewarded fans with concerts, new material and rare gifts. The music also held up to the expected high standards with a tape that took us right into the heart of his South Central worldview. Topics such as hustling and paper chasing were sharpened with his laid-back flow and paint-picture rhymes. With young stars like TeeFlii and Skeme to help him out, Crenshaw was an event mixtape/album that put the West at its rightful place.—ED

Chance The Rapper, Acid Rap

Anyone paying attention to hip-hop who tells you that Acid Rap didn't make up the soundtrack to the entire month of May in 2013 is flat out lying; from the first strains of "Good Ass Intro" Chance made sure listeners new that this would be a different kind of hip-hop. For a kid who can't yet legally drink, Chance's stories about growing up in crime-ridden Chicago ("Pusha Man"), existential disillusionment ("Lost") or just straight up loving life and music ("Chain Smoker" or "Favorite Song") were miles beyond what anyone expected. It was catchy, it was filled with quality guest appearances—hard to pick the best feature from Action Bronson, Vic Mensa, Twista, or NoName Gypsy—that didn't take away from the crux of the album, and most of all it was undeniably great music. Acid Rap was every bit as vivid as its title implies, and Chance is every bit as dynamic as the project promised. Far and away the best mixtape of the year.—DR