Music Features

Classic Mixtapes To Get Us Through Summer In Quarantine

Let's revisit some of the great summer mixtapes to help ease the pangs of summertime nostalgia

Bonfires with our friends, balmy summer days spent by the lake passing a spliff and sipping on a Corona, summertime love affairs—it all may feel like a past life now.

The rollout for summer 2020 is unlike anything before it. While Americans everywhere try to retain a sense of normalcy, it will be impossible to enjoy summer the way we want to. Bitter nostalgia for the summers of yore is rampant. Luckily, music has remained the one constant. To help unwind in these times of heightened anxiety, it helps to revisit some of the mixtapes that brought us childhood bliss, that pumped us up when school dismissed for summer, that blasted through our car speakers as we cruised with the windows down with our friends in tow. Here are a few of the greatest mixtapes of summers past, in the hopes it will bring back the fond memories that, right now, may feel distant.

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5 Underrated Hip-Hop Tapes of 2016

So you found God, Chance The Rapper. Who cares!

2016 was quite the year for… things. Things to happen. You know what I mean. At least, that's about as vague as I can put it without possibly starting World War 3 in our comments. And I ain't talking about the classic Gucci Mane mixtape trilogy either. If only World War 3 were any combination of Gas, Molly, or Lean, and not our coming destruction at the hands of either Russian hackers or weird prostitutes who piss on each other for money. Say what you want about Guwop, he would've never let that go down in the bedroom.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image image-library="0" pin_description="" photo_credit="" expand="1" caption="Gucci Mane is known for his subtle ways of indicating drug use."]Gucci Mane is known for his subtle ways of indicating drug use.

But a lot of dope music came out too this year, and unfortunately, when there's so much hot stuff out, what would've been an instant classic any other year quickly gets filed away as alright. I mean, it's not anyone's fault Drake released Views, Kanye released The Life of Pablo, or Soulja Boy and Bow Wow released… whatever it was that they released. We get tunnel vision. So I wanted to highlight some projects that I felt deserved some more recognition this year.

Council World, by Divine Council

Divine Council ended this year crazy hot, having snagged a record deal with Epic through a cosign by Andre 3000, on top of getting a sweet 3 Stacks feature on their single "Decemba." Andre even directed the video for God's sake! That track alone should have propelled them into the stratosphere. Yet, that song isn't even featured on their debut album Council World, which features a short 5 song tracklist that definitely isn't lacking in either bars or production.

Personal Favorite: "Rolie Polie Olie"

Cozy Tapes, by A$AP Mob

Again, another who's who of hot features, but also built on a solid foundation laid out by the members of ASAP Mob, who only seem to get better with every release. "Yamborghini High" came out so long ago, but that's how you know a song has staying power, when it's still a fresh intro that gets you hype everytime a tape starts.

Personal Favorite: "Telephone Calls feat. Tyler, The Creator, Playboi Carti, and Yung Gleesh"

Project E.T. (Esco-Terrestrial), by DJ Esco

This mixtape produced by DJ Esco and practically carried by Future, who appears on all but two tracks, proved that this was the year of the get-together tape. You know what I'm saying, stuff like Major Key by DJ Khaled, where it seemed like they got together a whole bunch of GOAT rappers, GOAT producers, and essentially came out with an Ocean's Eleven of music. This is that Ocean's Eleven of Atlanta right here. This tape bangs so much, you'll forget DJ Esco isn't even really a producer.

Personal Favorite: "Who feat. Young Thug"

3001: A Laced Odyssey, by Flatbush Zombies

Flatbush Zombies have seem to taken a backseat this year to all the other releases, which is a real shame. This is a solid project, and I'd say it proves the trio from Brooklyn to be consistently good at what they do, which is rap about doing lots and lots of drugs. By the way, if you're reading this, I just have to ask: how do you guys do so many drugs?

Personal Favorite: "The Odyssey"

Feature Magnetic, by Kool Keith

Damn it, I told myself I wasn't going to bring out my backpack for this list, but I couldn't help myself. On his way from opening to sixteenth bar, Kool Keith will always take you to a weird place you didn't even think a rapper would stop by at. If David Lynch listened to Paid in Full, he'd essentially make this album. Don't believe me? Here are some lines from the first verse you hear on "Stratocaster": "Pronounce syllables with oxygen/ Put laundry on Marie Osmond, watch me bring profits in/ Accountant act will come out your esophagus/ I can see your wordplay close up like binoculars"

Personal Favorite: "Bonneville (feat. Mac Mall)"


Popdust's Top 20 EPs and Mixtapes of 2016

On our second end-of-year list, our music writers tackle 2016's best EPs and mixtapes.

Popdust's E.R. Pulgar and Jason Scott release their second list of 2016's best in music, this time taking on the EPs and mixtapes that stood out. From hitmakers like Chance The Rapper and The Strokes to more obscure fare, we've got you covered. Feel free to fight us in the comments if you don't find your favorite EP on the list.

Here are the official Popdust picks for 2016's best EPs and mixtapes.

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Maybach Music Group up-and-comer Rockie Fresh has been getting some good buzz for his latest mixtape, Electric Highway, preceding what will no doubt be a big 2013 for the 21-year-old rapper. We think the mixtape's fine and all, but really, we seized onto one lyric, from the statement-of-independence opening track, "The Future," which concerns none other than our 2012 Artist of the Year. To wit:

Now it’s white mountain nearin’, other rappers I ain’t hearin’

I’d rather listen to Taylor Swift than most of you niggas

Makes sense to us that Fresh would rather listen to Taylor then most of his rap peers. After all, Taylor spits the best dis tracks, makes the most money, and has been unofficially christened the Baddest Bitch in America, thus giving her about 500x the hip-hop cred of the great majority of rappers out there.

And hey, who wouldn't rather listen to Taylor Swift than most of you, uh, people? Have you heard that album Red? There are some real good songs on that album.

It's tempting to see the ongoing critical love for Jojo's comeback as purely a product of narrative: What self-respecting music blogger wouldn't be rooting for a tween one-hit wonder who scrapped her label-approved sound and ventured out on her own to make the kind of music she always dreamed of doing, especially if that music turned out to be the spacey adult R&B that the Internet loves?

So yes, we're all on her side from the get-go. But that shouldn't take away from the quality of the music Joanna Levesque has been putting out for the past year or so, which is some of the most pleasurable pop to never make its way to the radio. Case in point, Jojo's new mixtape Agápē, a 30-minute "labor of love" that finds the singer breaking new ground in her career's second act. (The tape doesn't officially come out until Thursday, Jojo's 22nd birthday, but the whole thing is streaming over at Complex, so it's almost as if it's out already!)

Lead single "We Get By" sets the tone of the tape: Jojo is focused on the hustle, with a clear eyed vision of the hurdles that lie ahead in her path out of industry purgatory.  The label might demand of her, "You should pull your titties out, then we'll put your record out," as on opener "Back 2 the Beginning Again," but again and again, Jojo reiterates her own belief in herself, like a mantra: "When I woke up, I knew who I needed to be." On the spoken-word segment that closes out "We Get By," she's explaining, "I just feel like, whatever comes my way, I can deal with it,” and she's so insistent it's hard not to believe her.

But "I believe in myself" ballads are as common as mud these days, when every American Idol contestant has an inspiring story of their own triumph over adversity. What sets Jojo apart is her eye for the gritty detail of the grind, the ins and outs of the weird no-man's-land where you have just enough money to have fun, but never enough to stop working. "We Get By" finds her stuck for hours on public transit like any other commuter, and when she blows off steam, her name-drops are hilariously on-point: "All I've got are these hopes and dreams and this cranberry Stoli." (Unlike Taylor Swift, she knows exactly the right brand names to choose.)

Even when she's not on the clock, Jojo's got a knack for the world-weary sketch. "I have way too many tattoos to go back to status quo," she sings on "Billions," admitting later, "I hot-boxed my apartment just to come up with this song."

Elsewhere, the hardness slips, at least a little. "White Girl in Paris" is not the Watch the Throne homage its title promises (though that would have been amazing), but instead a gorgeous cover of Joni Mitchell's "Free Man in Paris." And in the interstitial moments between songs, Jojo inserts a collection of interludes, candid recordings of herself jamming drunk with friends, or attending a St. Patrick's Day parade with her family. It's the musical equivalent of an Instagram feed, letting us in on Jojo's day-to-day as if we were just another one of her gang.

We still don't have a release date for Jojo's much-delayed third album, The Untitled Project Formely Known As Jumping Trains, but rumors place it in early next year. If you want to get on the Jojo comeback on the ground floor, you owe it to yourself to check out Agápē. Stream it at Complex, or just wait for the official release!

Also, if you were worrying what "Agápē" meant, it's Greek for "unconditional love."


4 (out of 5)

Few artists in the game have had as strange a career as Cassie Ventura. A hit single, an debut album that peaked at no. 4, and then six years of limbo, as her follow-up fell into the black hole of delays and the interminable shufflings of producers, songwriters and concepts that mark development hell.

In the interim, though, music got out—some official singles here, some featured credits and soundtrack cuts there, a few leaks scattered around the blogosphere—gaining Cassie a devoted following of Internet-savvy fans, attracted as much to her music's scarcity as its ice-cool R&B grooves.

Now, a Cassie superstan on tumblr has scraped together a collection of every song the singer's voice has appeared on since 2006: 66 tracks in all. In the style of the times, she's arranged them in a trio of mixtapes, divided up by genre. They are:

 VELVET NIGHT is a collection of dark, seductive songs. This mixtape of minimalist R&B showcases Cassie’s sultry, sexy vocals gliding over the music, creating a spellbinding effect.

DOPE ‘N DIAMONDS is a collection of dark electro songs. Cassie’s icy-cool, detached vocals are immersed in stabbing synths, ice cream beats, heavy bass & tribal-jungle inspired production.

SUPERMODEL is a pure pop collection of starburst synths, bubblegum beats, cotton-candy production. Her versatile voice shines belting ballads & chanting club anthems in this diverse mix.

Of the trio, we're digging Supermodel the most. (Who could deny the simple pleasures of "Is It You" from the Step Up 2: The Streets soundtrack?) Also, if you're one of the newfound Cassie fans who got into her from "The Boys," rest assured—the track's on Dope 'N Diamonds.