Top 10 Rap Mixtapes of 2012

Top 10 Rap Mixtapes of 2012
As first-week sales become less and less of a priority in a dwindling music industry, rappers have embraced the mixtape more than ever as a way to test out singles, unleash bonus material and keep their profile up in between projects. This year was another great one for the hip-hop freebie, and it was hard to pin down our favourites. Obviously, you should bring up what you think we missed in the comments section. First, read and stream along to our list of the year's best rap mixtapes.

Top 10 Rap Mixtapes of 2012:

10. Mykki Blanco
Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss

Gender-bending femme fatale Mykki Blanco (aka performance artist Michael Quattlebaum) kind of sat somewhere on the outer reaches of hip-hop and industrial for her earlier mix Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels (remember that freaky AutoTune parody "Join My Militia"), but the MC tweaked her rap game for the still totally out-there Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss. For instance, she spits hard on the twerked-out club jam "Wavvy" and the vicious "YungRhymeAssassin" ("Mind fuck a bitch / And call my dick Magneto"), and gets all sorts of freaky on the pitch-shifted, wood-stroking a cappella "TeenageDream." In case you figured Blanco to be a flash in the pan, she sets us straight real quick on the dungeon-bound creeper "Haze.Boogie.Life": "It's a war out here, the real vs. the gimmicks / They all wanna be stars, but they hearts ain't in it." (G.A.)

9. 50 Cent
5 (Murder by Numbers)

There are two 50 Cents out there — the Chelsea Handler-dating pseudo pop star who hawks bullshit on QVC, and the New York vet who holds his own as a likeable, charismatic rapper. It's been a while since we heard from the latter, as the former is usually Fiddy's go-to persona on his boring albums. Thankfully, this year saw 50 Cent avoid much of the pop garbage, instead focusing his energy into two mixtapes. They're both pretty decent, but the better of the two is 5 (Murder by Numbers). Released on his 37th birthday, the 10-track affair sees the rapper having fun while he delivers solid bars over a collection of fake Dre beats. It's a return to form for 50, and one that we hope carries over to next year's Street King Immortal. (J.H.)

8. Kitty Pryde
Haha, I'm Sorry

The fact that Kitty Pryde is a redheaded Floridian working at a Claire's may have overshadowed just how weird and catchy her debut mixtape Haha, I'm Sorry actually is. Her coy and sleepy stream of conscious lyrics on "OK Cupid" — jumping anywhere from tolerating her crush's drug use, to scribbling love notes, to singing along to Frank Ocean — are seemingly shushed and slurred into a MacBook mic (remember, the track starts off with the just plain awkward teenage gripe: "GET OUT OF MY ROOM"). The twisted Beautiful Lou beats intoxicate throughout, with the hazy plunk of "Orion's Belt" scoring a bizarrely perfect back-and-forth between Pryde and ridiculous rap figure Riff Raff. Self-deprecation may run throughout Kitty's lyrics, but it's quite possible she's not the rap game pest she passes herself off to be. (G.A.)

7. Big Sean

Big Sean's love letter to the D is another big-name mixtape that caused DatPiff to crash, and with good reason. The G.O.O.D. Music dude's solo follow-up to some Cruel Summer verses is a vast and versatile collection that had him taking women to his penthouse on the soul-sampling bass boomer "How It Feel," giving it up for to hard-working pole dancers with Tyga on the frantic "Do What I Gotta Do" and dreaming big on "24K of Gold." It's a brag-heavy set, but there's something about Sean's goofy, grinning drawl that makes you want to root for the guy more than, say, G.O.O.D. leader Kanye. Outside of the tunes, there are some heartwarming Detroit-related spoken word memories from Common, Snoop Lion and Young Jeezy that serve to further endear the set. (G.A.)

6. Alley Boy

Atlanta rapper Alley Boy recently issued his trunk-rattling stunner The Gift of Discernment, which featured the unforgettable Pusha T-assisted single "Your Favorite Rapper." Still, that wasn't his best mixtape of the year. That distinction belongs to January's Nigganati, featuring at once playful and deadly serious Southern rap anthems built on skittering hi-hats and grave piano runs. From repetitive bangers like "Dry" to the reflective "Guilty," there are no real gimmicks to Nigganati. It's just a top-tier collection of Southern rap that'll blow your speakers and potentially your mind. (J.H.)