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Mixtape Artist Roundup For The Annual Justo's Mixtape Awards - April 2011

Author: D.Bail
The first time I heard Fabolous was on DJ Clue's popular weekly show on Hot 97 'Monday Nite Mixtape' program in 1998. DJ Clue arguably one of the best DJ's out during that time would always end the show with an exclusive freestyle live on air with the hottest artists in the street. Over the LOX "Money Power Respect", a young Fabolous Sport, as he was referred to in those days went bar for bar with Queens rapper Noreaga. NORE had carved his name in hip hop history through his career as one half of group Capone & Noreaga, as well as a fledgling solo career and plenty DJ Clue mixtape features with the likes of Nas, Nature, Ma$e and others. That night in a cypher on Clue's primetime show Fabolous definitely held his own. Although his flow reminded me of Ma$e, who at the time was one of the biggest artist out, I still saw potential and was impressed by his bars and willingness to spit more than a standard 16.

Almost 13 years later Fabolous has maintained and excelled in his career as a rap artist currently signed to Desert Storm/Def Jam Records. He has dropped 5 solo albums and one EP that was originally a mixtape from his series 'There Is No Competition' hosted by DJ Drama. The first of that series under Drama's infamous Gangsta Grillz umbrella gathered much buzz (over 220,000 downloads with DatPiff.com) and a song off the mixtape was in regular rotation at popular NYC radio stations. Def Jam saw it fit to make the second edition a actual label release, (There is No Competition 2: The Funeral Service) further proving the relevance and importance of a mixtape and the vision Justo Faison had foreseen concerning the evolution of the mixtape genre. At the same token, credit is also due to Elektra Records who originally signed Fabolous and released a part 2 to his second album 'Street Dreams' which was titled 'More Street Dreams 2 The Mixtape' which was in a mixtape format, hosted by DJ Clue himself and included 'Exclusives' as well.

Fab has always used mixtapes as an outlet regardless of his label situation and has become a trend setter and leader of the pack due to his perseverance as an artist always working to make the best music possible. His mixtape history is quite extensive as he was the flagship artist for DJ Clue's 'Desert Storm' label and often retain that much coveted first slot on DJ Clues mixtapes for a number of years. DJ Clue's 'Desert Storm' roster included a talented number of emcees all cosigned by Clue which included Joe Budden, A-Team(Hitchcock & Ransom), Paul Cain, & Stack Bundles. (RIP) The forth mentioned were featured exclusively on DJ Clue's mixtapes series in the early and mid 2000's and often collaborated for some freestyle classics that are still listened to today.

As his fans eagerly awaited Brooklyn's own next album 'Loso's Way 2' he has been heating up the streets with before mentioned 'There is No Competition 1 & 2' and now his newest mixtape The S.O.U.L. Tape which is this month's mixtape feature. It features soulful sampled sounds and sets off with a freestyle over 2 Pac featuring Thug Life classic 'Pain' which was on the 'Above The Rim' soundtrack released in the 90's. Fab spits:

/I done felt pain waited but no help came/went thru some crazy s--- still kept myself sane/You ever been dying of thirst and smelled rain?/Ever been told to go to hell and felt flames?/

This mixtape definitely focuses on a more introspective Fab as he raps about relationships; "That's Not Love" feat. Lil Wayne [prod. by StreetRunner], "Leaving You" [prod. by Sonaro] success; "PayBack Music" feat. Freck Billionaire and brings it back with a remake of Nas & AZ's "Mo Murder Mo Homicide" with a former Justo's Award Winner Lloyd Banks and Harlem's own Vado. It's titled "Mo Brooklyn, Mo Harlem, Mo Southside", and is a standout on the mixtape. All three emcee's go hard on this one and it will definitely get alot of burn as the good weather starts to come in effect. Fab has always been nice with the punchlines, but his content is becoming deeper and he has found his stride with his flow, sounding as comfortable on the mic as ever.

Overall the flow of the mixtape is cohesive, laid back and the sound of it is a change from what has been popular as of late in terms of production. It has just surpassed 300,000 downloads on Datpiff.com and is buzzing on the social forums as well as the streets. "Really Tho" [prod. by Teddy da Don] is another banger I can see in radio rotation soon. Another thing that's a plus for this release is the sound quality is tremendous. I always tell aspiring artist, if you got a hot song and the mix is terrible or the overall sound is bad it definitely is not a good look and will probably not get a thoro listen from anyone other than your close friends. Take pride in recording your music as you do when you write your bars or produce your beats. It is just as important! This is a great lead up project that is building anticipation for his 6th solo album slated to be released later this year.

Other notable releases include: (No Particular Order)

Prodigy – The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP Fresh home Mobb Deep general Prodigy goes in, and hooks up with Complex magazine for this exclusive EP which features production from The Alchemist and Sid Roams. A real solid release from P who also released his bio this month "My Infamous Life" which is making waves across the industry.
Reppin': Queensbridge, NY Standout Song: Black Devil

Various Artists - The Blakk Family Ties Plainfield, NJ known for the P-Funk movement alongside George Clinton is a hotbed for emerging rap talent. Monei First Records drops a mixtape compilation featuring talented artists like Barri Blakk, Jersei Raw, Eskille, Gram, Tank G, Julius Pimpin' and others on The Blakk Family Ties, a prelude to the full length album dropping soon. With Baysehead and Barri handling fire in-house production, these guys are Jersey's newest team to check for.
Reppin': PLFD, NJ Standout Song: Trying 2 Stick Me

Curren$y - Covert Coup Curren$y is one of the best artists out right now period. His consistently is second to none and his rhymes and production stay on point. The Alchemist produced Covert Coup is album status worthy and displays Spitta at his finest. The producer emcee collabos are truly a treat for the fans and features from Prodigy, Freddie Gibbs, Smoke DZA and Fiend are perfectly placed on this project.
Reppin': New Orleans LA Standout Song: Success is My Cologne

XV - Zero Heroes With 16 mixtapes and 2 independent albums since 2006 XV has definitely been working. Zero Heroes finds XV at his best with a hungry flow and excellent production from Just Blaze, J.Cole, Omen and Seven to name a few. Refreshing sound from a cat who will soon receive his just due putting out material like this.
Reppin:' Witcha, Kansas Standout Song: All for Me

Chinx Drugz - Cocaine Riot Back for a second month in a row holding down the Riot Squad/Coke Boys Movement is Chinx Drugz. Harry Fraud is a monster with the beats and is a great compliment to Chinx flow which has stepped up a notch since the "Hurry Up and Die" mixtape series. Chinx Drugz has what it takes to be the next breakout star in NY and is currently touring with French Montana.
Reppin:' Far Rockaway, Queens NY Standout Song: Labor Day

A-Mafia - What The Streets Made Me With a new company - Deep In The Game Ent. , an assortment of ill street videos, a boss mentality and a rejuvenated flow A-Mafia has been one of the hardest working since he came home last year. What The Streets Made Me is one of the toughest releases of the year, gangsta rap at it's finest. As he says in one standout song on this mixtape -Wayne Perry- "the streets say I remind them of Lamont Coleman" I can certainly hear Big L's spirit in Mafia and he's holding down the streets in a big way with this one.
Reppin:' Harlem, NY Standout Song: Star Wars

Tyga - Black Thoughts 2 Young Money's own Tyga has been putting in work. His collab mixtape's with Chris Brown got him notable press and his mixtape grind has kept his name buzzing as he waits patiently for his album release. In the meantime he's been crafting some great projects and Black Thoughts 2 continues that trend. Songs for the ladies are his forte but Tyga can really spit and his flow has been showing more diversity as late. With some bangers from Lex Luger and the Neptunes, Tyga does his thing.
Reppin:' Compton, California Standout Song: Hypnotized

Chamillionaire - Major Pain 1.5 No deal? No problem. Cham's Independence means no restrictions and nothing but heat from one of Houston's Finest. Chamillionare who has a classic mixtape catalog goes back to his roots with a full length mixtape that reinforces the reason why Cham is considered one of the best underrated emcees out. With features from Nipsey Hussle and last months mixtape feature Big K.R.I.T. Cham is poised to bring back his state and keep his name buzzing for the rest of 2011 and beyond.
Reppin:' Houston, TX Standout Song: Already Dead

Donnis - Southern Lights In 2010 Donnis was featured in XXL's annual top 10 Freshmen list and since then has been making a name for himself with solid mixtape releases which included last years "Fashionably Late" mixtape. With Southern Lights Donnis looks to separate himself from the pack and make that XXL co-sign golden. He's definitely got a different sound and this is a quality release from the young ATLien.
Reppin': Atlanta, GA Standout Song: Eyes Low

Waka Flocka - Benjamin Flocka Brick Squads own and Queens NY transplant Waka Flocka is revving up for his duo album with Gucci Mane coming soon. In the meanwhile Flocka Flame continues his run feeding the streets with this release right here. Hard beats and aggressive lyrics are what we've come to expect and as long as Flocka sticks to his formula success will continue coming his way. We know he reps for ATL all day but shouts to Waka for keeping it Queens with this one, with veteran DJ Love Dinero on the boards.
Reppin': Atlanta, GA Standout Song: Nik after Nik

Soulja Boy - Juice Love him, hate him or any indifference aside, Soulja Boy is one of the hardest working artist in the game today. This is also a back to back appearance for Soulja with his new mixtape release Juice which is a spin on the popular cult classic film of the same name released in the 90's and starring a young Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps. Not only does Soulja Boy treat his mixtape releases like album releases (in-stores and all) there will also be a remake of the movie Juice starring Soulja Boy himself which will becoming to cable network BET soon. If that's not the grustle I don't know what is.
Reppin': Atlanta, GA Standout Song: Numbas

D12 - Return Of The Dozen Vol 2 Although Eminem has been very active with signing of supergroup Slaughterhouse and solo artist Yelawolf as of late, the O.G. group of Shady Records D12 is still keeping the ship afloat with a brand new release that really showcases the talent D12 still has to offer. Without group captain Proof (R.I.P.) it has been a minute since we heard from the Detroit collective. Young Buck makes a worthy appearance as well on this solid release from the Dirty Dozen.
Reppin': Detroit, MI Standout Song: Fame

N.O.R.E. - The N.O.R.E.aster EP Nore has done it again! This EP is one of best that has come out this year as Nore sounds as hungry as ever bringing along the Neptunes, Cool & Dre and Scram Jones out for production duties on this fulfilling appitizer. As one half of Capone and Noreaga NORE has always put it down for the streets but this EP has some club bangers as well that could find it's way on regular rotation soon. Be on the lookout for NORE's latest album S.U.P.E.R.T.H.U.G. droppin soon!
Reppin': Queens, NY Standout Song: N.O.R.E. Shot Somebody

Al Pac - Menace From Lenox Part 3 While Max B, waits to come home and get wavy again, Gain Greene member Al Pac is certainly keeping the movement moving in Biggavel's absence. With a gritty flow and outstanding Dame Grease and Young Los production, the Harlem resident wastes no time in stepping up and handling his business. Al Pac does a good job in making some good music for the spring rideout.
Reppin': Harlem, NY Standout Song: Money on My Mind

Reek Da Villian - How To Be A Player EP Former Flipmode Squad member Reek has gathered some buzz from his "Mechanics" single featuring Busta Rhymes and Swizz Beats which was released last year. With this joint, its a bit smoothed out and is definitely something for the ladies as well for dudes trying to get the ladies attention. Reek is showing some diversity with this one as he keeps it short and effective on this EP release.
Reppin': Long Island, NY Standout Song: Ten Mack Commandments

Smoke DZA - The Hustlers Catalog Smoke Dza is making a name for himself with a string of quality mixtape releases in the past two years. He is currently on tour with Big K.R.I.T and Freddie Gibbs and has the independent grind and drive that can really be appreciated. With his honest lyrics, sharp flows and unforgettable ad libs #Rrrright, Dza has quietly built a cult following and seems ready to make some mainstream noise in the next few months. THC's gotta a smooth yet cohesive vibe to it and is one of the standout releases of this year.
Reppin': Harlem, NY Standout Song: Early Days of George

Dramills - The Melo Drama After a brief hiatus, Queens rep Dramills is back and sounds as passionate as ever on his new release "The Melo Drama". Dramills has been pushing good music for a minute and this release sees him once again at top form. This mixtape also includes an unreleased joint from mixtape legend Stack Bundles. Dramills aggressive flow is a breath of fresh air and hopefully he gets some of the long overdue recognition he deserves with this release. Don't Sleep!
Reppin': Queens, NY Standout Song: John Stockton

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