Oh, so you thought only hip-hop artists made mixtapes? Not even. Although mixtapes started out strictly as a rap phenomenon back in the day, plenty of young R&B and Soul singers have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years and used mixtapes as both a marketing tool and as a way to air beefs - just like rappers do. This list of the best R&B/Soul mixtapes, which includes free releases by young guns like Raheem DeVaughn, Trey Songz, Frank Ocean and others, features the cream of the R&B mixtape crop.
Easily one of the best mixtapes ever. Frank Ocean, of the hip-hop crew Odd Future, manages to create a group of songs here that are realistic, complex and emotional, but without being sappy and overblown. And best of all, there's no DJ yelling or annoying noises on these tracks like there is on many hip-hop mixtapes.
Up-and-coming vocalist JoiStaRR is a Los Angeles native who's performed and recorded with Raphael Saadiq to Estelle to Musiq Soulchild, to name a few, released Broccoli & Noodles, her debut mixtape, in May 2011. It features her redoing songs by Sade and Tina Turner, among others, as well as singing original material like "Same Time," featuring Kanye West, and "I'm Trying," with the late, great hip-hop producer J. Dilla.
The first mixtape by up-and-comer Josh Xantus was released right before Christmas 2010, hence the title. Unlike his second mixtape, which dropped two months after the first, X-Mas is an all ballads project. Of special note is the smooth and warmly romantic track "K.I.S.S.I.N.G." The full mixtape can be had or heard via the Stream/Download link below.
Letters to a King is a collection of covers of famous songs, as reinterpreted by this talented young singer. And instead of playing it safe, Jazzy's versions of Sade's "No Ordinary Love," Diana Ross's "Love Hangover" and four other songs, are creative reinventions of the originals.
This mixtape, which doesn't have an official title other then the artist's name, features remixes, cover songs and rarities by Raheem DeVaughn. It came out in January 2011, about 10 months after his Love & War MasterPeace album, and just a few months before he released two more mixtapes. Raheem has released maybe a dozen mixtapes over the years, but this one, which features less banter and filler material than his others, is at the top of the pile.
Of today's young R&B artists, Trey Songz has most embraced hip-hop's swagger. He both sings and raps on this hour-long mixtape and there's plenty of original, previously-unreleased material.
Green Tea is a relatively unknown but highly talented vocalist straight outtta Washington DC. This mixtape features her soulful vocals over beats from various OutKast songs. You can hear a couple of tracks from it by following the 'Stream/Download' link below.
Just like the other Josh Xantus mixtape on this list, Love Child is remarkably polished and well-produced for a free release. Unlike Josh X-Mas though, this one's got quite a few uptempo bangers. Among the highlights are "So What's Up" and "Smoove."
In early 2010 R&B singer Hal Linton, a Barbados native, released a mixtape called The Rock & Roll Experiment where he sings songs consisting of classic rock music combined with hip-hop beats. Among the classics sampled are Steely Dan's "Do It Again" (on "Dance in the Mirror"), Eric Clapton's "Layla" (on the hip-hop laced "Cry No More"), and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" (on "She's Dangerous").
Before she released her Yours Sincerely mixtape in February 2010, ex-Floetry member Marsha Ambrosius had dropped a couple of other mixtapes, both of which were full of sloppy remixes, half-assed production, and a DJ yelling his lungs out at every opportunity. But on her third release, Marsha got it right with this streamlined release that focuses on nothing but the music.
11. 'Chocolate City Mixtape Vol. 1 (They Don't Sing No More),' J. Holiday (2007)
This release, which came months before Holiday's 2007 debut album, Back Of My 'Lac, hit stores, features several complete, original songs that didn't appear on his first full album, plus the usual remixes and cover songs typically found on mixtapes. A highlight is "Music's Changed," where over Robin Thicke's "Lost Without You" beat, Holiday croons about being "sick of singing rappers."
12. 'The Death of R&B,' Kev Samples (2006)
Kev, who's the cousin and manager of NBA player Dwight Howard, plays it for laughs on his debut mixtape, which is hosted by DJ Whoo Kid. T-Pain, Ray-J, Jamie Foxx and others all get parodied during various songs and skits. But beneath it all is a serious underlying message: there's not enough talented young male R&B artists in the music game today.