Yes, we know the parameters were wide for this one: from self-released hip-hop mixtapes, commercial DJ mixes, instalments of long-running radio blends to website podcasts…
Such a category reflects both the old and new musical order: the primacy of the internet he primacy of the internet as a free and effective platform for DJ mixes and mixtapes (Soundcloud, DatPiff, MediaFire, we see you) and the more established—and commercial—channels (take a bow the long-running DJ-Kicks series). As our winners’ list proves, one way isn’t usurping the other—as was once predicted—but rather they’re co-existing. After all, how many of you heard Nicolas Jaar’s Essential Mix on the radio? Not as many as heard it through blogs pointing to the Soundcloud rip, we’d wager. Yet this established and respected BBC institution—it began way back in 1993—is still an important proving ground and leg up to the main-mainstream. Nicolas Jaar described a high-falutin’ concept behind the two hour mix which you crowned number one: “I’ve watched Jurassic Park twice in my life—once when I was six and the second time a couple of weeks ago. It inspired me to think about how gaps in time change our way of perceiving”, he told the BBC. Really though, it’s the killer tracklist and subtle, elegant mixing that elevates this one above all else. It also helped that he opened with “Conversation on Twin Peaks”—a recording of Angelo Badalamenti playing and annotating the Twin Peaks score. Glorious.
We knew we hadn’t seen the last of Le1f on these lists after editor Daniel Jones placed him in his Editor’s Picks. Dark York comes in a strong second. This self-released mixtape featuring beats by the likes of 5kinandbone5, Nguzunguzu and Le1f himself was one of the many fully-realised (and self-released) albums that dropped for free this year. It’s gnarly production and subversive flows placed eerily low in the mix made it an record you kept returning to—and it only got better.
Another example of the fecund state of independent hip-hop was Reservations by NY rapper Angel Haze. This 14 track mixtape blindsided us when it dropped in July, and not just because Haze is responsible for one of the strongest flows of the year. By turns arrogant, confrontational and pumped full of street rapper brio; “New York” is a piece of audacious rapper braggadocio while “Cleaning Out My Closet” unflinchingly describes her experience of sexual abuse over an Eminem instrumental. There was a tangible sense that, to use that overused phrase which for once seems fitting, the game had changed.
Remember when nobody knew who Captain Murphy was? I miss those days. The year’s worst kept secret may be out of the bag (spoiler for the slow of click: Flying Lotus is Captain Murphy) but as Duality proves, he aint so bad at rapping over funked out, skunked out beats.
A Year’s Best Mixtapes list wouldn’t be complete without Lil B, so you obliged by voting God’s Father in at five. Thanks!
Electronic Beats Readers’ Poll 2012 — Best Mixtape, Compilation or DJ Set:
1. Nicolas Jarr – BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix (BBC)
2. Le1f – Dark York (self-released)
3. Angel Haze – Reservations (self-released)
4. Captain Murphy – Duality (self-released)
5. Lil B – God’s Father (self-released)
6. BlackBlackGold presents the Stonergoth Expansion (self-released)
7. Azealia Banks – Fantasea (Interscope/Polydor)
8. Digitalism – DJ Kicks (!K7)
9. Pinch – Fabriclive 61 (Fabric Records)
10. Mykki Blanco – Cosmic Angel: Illuminati Prince/ss (self-released)
The 4th prize—five tickets for a EB Festival of your choice—goes to carstenpstahl.
Your favorite artist of 2012 will follow on Saturday, December 29. Find all poll results in here.
Published December 27, 2012. Words by Louise Brailey.