Blog Era Mixtapes: Top 50 Favorites

Alex Lewis
17 min readSep 27, 2020

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I’m in the basement of the house of a family friend—a high school guy. A few years older, he has my attention because I can’t fathom anybody being cooler. Sitting at the computer, he pulls up a program I’ve never seen before called Limewire. Awestruck, I watch as he begins to search for different music artists and download song after song without paying a dime.

He asks me if I’ve heard of Lil Wayne then proceeds to introduce me to all his favorites: Receipt, Hustler Musik, Fireman, They Still Like Me, Walk It Off, and the list goes on. I had never heard anything like it.

When I got home that night, I sprinted to my computer and downloaded Limewire so I could add all these new songs to my iPod Classic. This was the gateway to me discovering sites like Hotnewhiphop and Datpiff and learning that I could find new music daily and download countless mixtapes to iTunes.

This golden era of music discovery, the Blog Era, shaped so much of my music taste. So when Andrew Barber recently asked people on Twitter what project comes to mind for them first when they think about the Blog Era, it sent me, like so many others, down memory lane.

Here are the Blog Era mixtapes that found a happy home in my iTunes library.

To compile this list, I drew on memory and used Datpiff’s collection of celebrated mixtapes to fill in gaps of projects I had forgotten. After compiling this list, I ranked the albums in sections of 10 based on my connection to them until I completed all 50.

Disclaimer: these are my personal favorites — not a “best of” list.

Listen to selections from this list on Apple Music and Spotify.

50.

Danny Brown: XXX (2011)

Danny Brown was hopping on beats and rapping his ass off while saying some wild stuff. Lil Wayne-esque shock value lines that make you look up in astonishment from whatever you’re doing. And his voice is unmatched. Always good for a memorable drug bar.

Listen on Datpiff

49.

MellowHype: BlackenedWhite (2010)

Odd Future members Hodgy Beats and Left Brain made up MellowHype. Hodgy was always the scariest member of OF in my opinion, hence the dark imagery in the cover art for this project. But Hodgy could rap and held his own with OF’s lead members Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt on “Chordoroy”:

People love Hodgy I hate you though
I don’t precipitate bitch, I H2O

Listen on Datpiff

48.

Wale: The Eleven One Eleven Theory (2011)

I’ve always appreciated how reflective Wale is. Especially on “Varsity Blues” where he comments on the treatment of Black college athletes and delivers a poignant second verse:

Look, I’m talking Reggie Bush, matter of fact ask Cameron Newton
Matter of fact go ask they schools how many jerseys they was moving
Thank you for they tuition, thank you for room and board
Most of them niggas got no pot to piss doing four
Niggas thinking of moving, AJ flipping computers
Brandon Davies had relations, what if Jimmer was screwing?

Listen on Datpiff

47.

Nicki Minaj: Beam Me Up Scotty (2009)

Nicki really did that on “Itty Bitty Piggy.” LIKE SHE DID THAT.

I don’t fuck with pigs, like “As-Salaam-Alaikum”
I put ’em in a field, I let Oscar Mayer bake ‘em

You could tell Nicki was different. This wasn’t a game.

Listen on Datpiff

46.

Big Sean: Uknowbigsean Vol. 2 (2009)

I love the story of Big Sean rapping to Kanye outside of a radio station in 2015 and then Kanye signing Big Sean to GOOD Music two years later. And you can hear the tension two years after being signed to GOOD Music as Sean raps over Kanye’s “Say You Will” about still waiting for his moment and wanting more attention from Ye:

And I been signed to Ye for well over a year now
It’s clear now, I’mma focus on my career now
You taught me to create a process
Saying that you changed my life dog it’s me being modest
But honestly I wish that I could take you off tour
Put you in the studio so you could focus more on my shit

Listen on Datpiff

45.

Curren$y: Return to the Winner’s Circle (2011)

I remember this tape was big on Datpiff. And Curren$y comes through on the first track rapping over one of the dopest beats in Kanye & Rick Ross’ “Live Fast, Die Young.” Curren$y flows so effortlessly always.

Listen on Datpiff

44.

Joe Budden: Mood Muzik 4 (2010)

Remember the Titans. That’s all.

Listen on Datpiff

43.

Vic Mensa: Innanetape (2013)

The energy on “Lovely Day,” produced by Peter CottonTale and Vic, is unmatched. He even mentions TwitPic in his verse, which is where you had to upload photos to get them on Twitter before you could tweet photos natively in the platform. A line of the times.

Listen on Datpiff

42.

2 Chainz: T.R.U. REALigion (2011)

Tity 2 Necklace. The gawd.

Listen on Datpiff

41.

Mac Miller: The High Life (2009)

“Cruise Control,” featuring Wiz Khalifa, is one of my favorite songs from the Blog Era. So much of the weed rap from this time utiliziled these soul samples that were so easy to lose yourself in. And I always loved how melodic Mac and Wiz were—just good music to vibe to.

Listen on Datpiff

40.

Lupe Fiasco: Revenge of the Nerds (2006)

Back in sixth grade, Bryan and I were super into Lupe Fiasco off the success of Food & Liquor. We went on to discover Revenge of the Nerds and would sit in his bedroom after school and listen to joints from this mixtape. Lupe never relented with the lyrical assault.

Listen on Datpiff

39.

Asher Roth: Seared Foie Gras W/ Quince & Cranberry (2010)

Asher Roth starts this mixtape with a promise: “One day, I’m gonna say something really impressive”—which tells me Roth knows he’s slick with the pen. I’ve always really enjoyed his writing. It will catch you by surprise if you’re not ready.

Listen on Datpiff

38.

Casey Veggies: Sleeping in Class (2011)

RIDIN ROUN TOWN, MO CHANGE, MO STEELO.

The “Ridin’ Roun Town (Remix)” with C-San, Kendrick, and Dom Kennedy is one for the history books. “DTA” with Tyler, The Creator is also peak.

Listen on Datpiff

37.

Jay Electronica: What the F*ck is a Jay Electronica (2009)

I thought it was so dope that Jay Electronica rapped over movie scores from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on “Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge).” I even tried to write my own version. I think I wrote something over an instrumental from The Incredible Hulk.

Listen on Datpiff

36.

Childish Gambino: Royalty (2012)

The summer after my junior year of college, I interned in Atlanta. I remember one weekend, I drove to visit a friend in Stone Mountain, Childish Gambino’s hometown, and bumped Royalty the whole ride.

Listen on Datpiff

35.

B.o.B: No Genre (2010)

The last track, a remix of Lupe Fiasco’s “I’m Beamin,” nearly gave us THE supergroup of the Blog Era in All City Chess Club: Asher Roth, B.o.B, The Cool Kids, Charles Hamilton, Blu, Diggy, J. Cole, Wale, and Lupe (J. Cole and Wale were absent for “I’m Beamin”). While I wish we would’ve gotten more collective output from these artists, I’m glad we at least still have this one.

Listen on Datpiff

34.

Yelawolf: Trunk Muzik (2010)

DON’T MAKE ME GO POP THE TRUNK.

ON YOU.

Listen on Datpiff

33.

Drake: Comeback Season (2007)

Pre-So Far Gone, Drake was working to make a name for himself. And on the last track, “Man of the Year,” we see Drake sample Lil Wayne’s original track and deliver bars his future mentor could be proud of.

Listen on Datpiff

32.

Wiz Khalifa: Kush & Orange Juice (2010)

One of those mixtapes that defines the Blog Era—it virtually broke the Internet. Of course the mixtape title is an automatic Instagram caption. And we got Wiz in his prime. And “Mezmorised” is forever that song.

Listen on Datpiff

31.

Kendrick Lamar: Overly Dedicated (2010)

From Genius, “The cover art [for Overly Dedicated] features different artists and musicians that have passed away, most of them from drug overdoses,” which provides an extra layer of meaning to the mixtape’s title—that these artists were so dedicated to their crafts that it helped lead to their deaths. Kendrick was making the statement that he was committed to rap and wouldn’t stop until he was the rap game’s Michael Jordan.

Listen on Datpiff

30.

Theophilus London: I Want You (2010)

The first time I heard “Flying Overseas,” it felt like one of the coolest songs I’d ever heard. I knew Solange sang the hook but I didn’t know Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange, was on the bridge—just so damn cool. Also, something I read on Theophilus’ blog that’s pretty cool is that I Want You is “ inspired by Marvin Gaye’s self-imposed European exile and controversial performance of the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All Star game.”

Listen on Datpiff

29.

Raury: Indigo Child (2014)

I remember seeing Raury at a Miguel show in Atlanta in summer 2015. As I was leaving the show, I saw a dude walk by who looked eerily like Raury and he was wearing what looked like the signature “Raury hat.” Not knowing if it was him, I decided not to say anything. But I should’ve. I found out later that night in a post on Miguel’s Instagram that it was Raury. Damn it.

Listen on Datpiff

28.

Pusha-T: Fear of God (2011)

In Pusha-T’s first mixtape after signing to GOOD Music, he kicks it off with a bang:

I can’t be bothered with paying homage to forefathers
See the future like the car show floor models

Both feet in the snow, so that my core follows
We don’t mourn for the dead nigga, we pour bottles

Pusha also has his iconic Funkmaster Flex “Blow (Freestyle)” on this tape, where he once again solidifies himself as a master of the opening bar:

Malice found religion, Tony found prison
I’m just tryna find my way out this fucking kitchen

Listen on Datpiff

27.

Chance The Rapper: 10 Day (2012)

The story of 10 Day’s origin is probably my favorite story in hip hop and changed the way I think about holding space for kids to create. After receiving a two-week suspension from his high school, Chance recorded 10 Day in a recording studio at his local library that was free to up-and-coming artists through the library’s YOUmedia program, which also helped give way to Chicago artists like Vic Mensa, Nico Segal, Noname, and Jamila Woods.

Listen on Datpiff

26.

Wale: Mixtape About Nothing (2008)

The most memorable song from this mixtape for me is “The Kramer” which begins with a clip of Michael Richards, who played Kramer on Seinfeld, going on a racist rant against Black people who heckled him at a comedy show. Wale raps about the word “nigger” and how anti-Blackness exists inside all of us.

Listen on Datpiff

25.

J. Cole: Friday Night Lights (2010)

“Blow Up” is the song I remember the most from Friday Night Lights because I thought the beat was so crazy. I actually ended up writing a song to it during my rap writing days back in high school.

Listen on Datpiff

24.

B.o.B: May 25th (2010)

I honestly forgot about this tape until JT brought it up to me on Instagram and it couldn’t not be in my top 25. Released right before the great album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray, B.o.B. dropped May 25th to announce the album’s release date and it had some BOPS. The Biz. Champion. F**k the Money, produced by none other than Kanye West. B.o.B didn’t hold back.

Listen on Datpiff

23.

Lil Wayne: No Ceilings (2009)

Weezy’s run from 2005–09 changed the rap game forever. Similar to Da Drought 3, Wayne primarily rapped over other people’s beats on No Ceilings. “Surf Swag” and “YM Wasted” were some of my favorites.

Listen on Datpiff

22.

Kid Cudi: Dat Kid From Cleveland (2009)

This project had tracks like “Make Her Say” (originally named “I Poke Her Face”) and “Sky Might Fall” that showed up on Cudi’s debut album, Man on the Moon. A few of the standout tracks for me were “Daps and Pounds” and “Buggin’ Out 09” with Consequence.

Listen on Datpiff

21.

Odd Future: Radical (2011)

After I was introduced to Odd Future through Tyler, The Creator, I found this mixtape on Datpiff and was immediately thrown into a world of angst and outlandishness. It’s funny looking back in retrospect that this project’s intro is set at a carnival and now Tyler hosts an annual carnival, Camp Flog Gnaw, with some of the biggest acts in music. Growth.

Listen on Datpiff

20.

Chiddy Bang: Peanut Butter & Swelly (2011)

In 2011, I remember hearing that Chiddy broke the Guinness World Record for “Longest Rap Freestyle” with a rap that lasted 9 hours, 16 minutes, and 22 seconds. I thought that was the dopest thing. I also thought their “I Can’t Stop Freestyle” was pretty dope too.

Listen on Datpiff

19.

A$AP Rocky: LiveLoveA$AP (2011)

Another one of the great opening lines in hip hop history shows up on “Peso”:

I be that pretty mothafucka, Harlem’s what I’m reppin’

Rocky really dropped a banger with this one.

Listen on Datpiff

18.

Big K.R.I.T.: Krit Wuz Here (2010)

As great songs that sampled Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” go, along with Big Sean’s “Hometown” on Finally Famous Vol. 3, Big K.R.I.T.’s “Hometown Hero” is incredible and I love that he uses clips of Boobie Miles from the movie Friday Night Lights in the intro.

Listen on Datpiff

17.

Earl Sweatshirt: Earl (2010)

I used to rap. And I remember, after hearing this mixtape, all I wanted to do was write verses like Earl Sweatshirt. He’d string all these words together that started the same, creating this cool alliteration. I still think Tyler saying Earl’s lips looked like a “split sundae” is hilarious.

Listen on Datpiff

16.

Tyler, The Creator: Bastard (2009)

This mixtape technically released on Christmas day in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2011 after I heard “Yonkers” that I came across this project. It’s the beginning of irreverent Tyler, especially as he tries to distance himself from typical West Coast hip-hop/streetwear culture.

Listen on Datpiff

15.

Mac Miller: Best Day Ever (2011)

I saw Mac Miller in concert right after Best Day Ever dropped and it felt good to see him seemingly enjoying life and his relatively newfound fame. I’m happy we still have these words even though Mac is no longer alive:

No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile / Pursuit to be happy, gon’ be laughin’ like a child / I never thought life would be this sweet / It got me cheesin’ from cheek to cheek, ayy, ayy / And I ain’t gonna wait for nothin’ / ’Cause that just ain’t my style / Life couldn’t get better / This gon’ be the best day ever

Listen on Datpiff

14.

Travi$ Scott: Days Before Rodeo (2014)

Taylor and I stumbled upon this mixtape and couldn’t get enough of “Skyfall” with Young Thug. We would get so hype, pretending we were at a Travis show. Jumping around like he did at his concerts. Shaking our heads like we had dreads. And it’s groundbreaking when Thug comes in.

Listen on Datpiff

13.

Big Sean: Finally Famous Vol. 3 (2010)

The “Fat Raps (Remix)” feels like a summation of the Blog Era with features from titans of the times like Chuck Inglish of The Cool Kids, Dom Kennedy, and Asher Roth. Chiddy Bang, Drake, Big K.R.I.T., YG & Ty Dolla $ign also make appearances on Finally Famous Vol. 3. This project is so fun.

Listen on Datpiff

12.

Wale & 9th Wonder: Back to the Feature (2009)

Wale and 9th Wonder together… need I say more? Incredible beats. Top notch features. And an amazing collab with Curren$y and J. Cole on “Rather be.”

Listen on Datpiff

11.

Drake: So Far Gone (2009)

I distinctly remember my mom dragging me to IKEA—aka Hell—and me walking around the store by myself listening to So Far Gone. Rapping along to “Say What’s Real” and “Uptown” made the trip go so much quicker.

Listen on Spotify

10.

Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa: How Fly (2009)

CLEAR THE RUNWAY BABY, I GET MONEY FROM SUNDAY TO SUNDAY LADY. Arguably one of the greatest opening lines in rap history. Hands down, Curren$y and Wiz are up there on my list of hip hop best friends.

Listen on Datpiff

9.

Wale: More About Nothing (2010)

I saw Wale perform at halftime of the Jordan Brand Classic in 2008. That was also the night I met Vince Carter and high-fived Michael Jordan. While he was definitely the lesser point of that night, it forged a connection for me between Wale and his music—almost as close as Wale’s connection with Seinfeld.

Listen on Datpiff

8.

J. Cole: The Warm Up (2009)

While “Lights Please” didn’t age as wonderfully as I would’ve liked, The Warm Up is, in my opinion, J. Cole at his finest. One of my favorite moments is at the end of the song, right before he jumps into “Dead Presidents II” where he talks about how he rapped over Jay Z’s “Dead Presidents II” on his first mixtape but someone told him it didn’t do Hov justice so he re-wrote it and dropped it on The Warm Up to prove dude wrong. Apparently, “he was silenced forever” after J. Cole’s second attempt—which he did body. Can’t deny it.

Listen on Datpiff

7.

Mac Miller: K.I.D.S. (2010)

Taylor, Ross, and I went to see Mac Miller at Amos’ Southend our junior year of high school. K.I.D.S. had been out a year. Best Day Ever had just dropped. It was one of those nights where you feel older than you really are because you’re out, no parents, just staying out late and enjoying life with your friends.

Listen on Datpiff

6.

Kid Cudi: A Kid Named Cudi (2008)

Damn, this is a classic. No skips necessary. Rappers sampling indie bands felt like a wonderful, unexpected aspect of the Blog Era, and I don’t know if anyone did it better than Kid Cudi sampling Band of Horses’ “The Funeral” on one of my favorite songs from him, “The Prayer.”

Listen on Datpiff

5.

Chance The Rapper: Acid Rap (2013)

I remember JT showed me “Good Ass Intro” for the first time, and I was dumbfounded. What is this? Soul… juke… gospel… jazz? And Chance was rapping about “orange cassette tapes with Timmy, Tommy, and Chuckie.” Elizabeth put Cocoa Butter Kisses on a CD she made for me.

Listen on Datpiff

4.

Lil Wayne: The Dedication 2 (2006)

I look at this mixtape as my introduction to the Blog Era. “They Still Like Me” and “Walk It Off” blew my mind. Immediately added them to my iPod Classic. Forever legendary.

Listen on Datpiff

3.

Frank Ocean: nostalgia, ULTRA. (2011)

I immediately fell in love with this mixtape because it felt like Frank was meeting me where I was. “Strawberry Swing” spoke to the part of me that listened to Coldplay nonstop. And “There Will Be Tears” let me know someone else listened to Mr Hudson. On “We All Try,” I remember Frank putting voice to thoughts I had but couldn’t express as one of the few Black kids at my Southern Baptist private Christian high school.

Listen on Datpiff

2.

Wiz Khalifa: Burn After Rolling (2009)

PUT SOME RESPECT ON BURN AFTER ROLLING. With cover art inspired frame-for-frame by the iconic Burn After Reading movie poster. And Wiz rapping over Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream” on The Thrill. This mixtape was so fun and beautifully captures the spirit of the Blog Era where no instrumental or influencer was off limits.

Listen on Datpiff

1.

Lil Wayne: Da Drought 3 (2007)

On Da Drought 3, Lil Wayne solidified himself as the best rapper alive. In Wayne’s words, “The radio be on and whatever song comes on, add that instrumental to it.” He goes in over songs like Beyonce’s “Upgrade U” and Mike Jones’ “Mr. Jones” and delivers unforgettable line after unforgettable line. To this day, I can still rap every track nearly word for word.

Listen to Disc 1 & Disc 2 on Datpiff

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Alex Lewis

Essayist based in Columbus, Ohio. I write about things I love & the people and moments that have shaped me.