In recent years, the mixtape drop has become one of the most dominating forces in a rapper’s music career. A few stand-out songs, with ear-catching choruses and STOMP like beats can lead an artist further down the road of rising industry notice. While mixtapes used to have more of the word of mouth, in the streets, underground journeying, often backed by local DJs and radio stations, they are nowadays treated as actual LPs with original sounds than just bars on top of remixes. Though an addendum best associated with hip-hop, mixtapes of other, or heavily-infused, genres have also been appearing with artists sometimes being more experimental than on their attempted for mainstream appeal full-length works.
Concerning female artists, Nicki Minaj may be the most known of in the mixtape game as she’s sometimes admiringly nicknamed or referred to as “mixtape Nicki” when fans crave her more abrasive rap style and lyricism. Since Minaj’s Beam Me Up Scotty days, women in music, rap (Iggy Azalea’s Ignorant Art was her launching pad) or pop, have continued to push the expectations of their material even if their more famous counterparts collect notorious recognition. Regardless of type, some of these women have created some highly thought-provoking, true to life, novel songs, and have done so on their own terms or at least a lot of their input included.
As a part of this 10 Mixtape/EPs By Female Artists Worth A Download list, you may have heard of some of these songs or artists, and maybe you haven’t. Together, they are accomplished recollections of the usual topics of the days of our lives and deserve more attention for than they be have already received.
SAIL OUT Jhene Aiko (2013)
Aiko’s fanbase was pretty tight when she released sailing soul(s) in 2011, yet her profile gained a mainstream boost when “The Worst” was chosen as an official single. The emotional track that acts as a prelude to a rough up break-up or departure became the anthem for many young women going through it. Containing lyrics as epic as “Please don’t take this personal, but you ain’t shit. You weren’t special ’til I made you so. You better act like you know”, followed by a chorus that includes, “I don’t need you, I don’t need you, but I want you”, this conflicting phase of learning to walk away with a bruised pride in tow may just garner her a well-deserved Grammy nomination next year. Sail Out in general, while shorter than soul(s), is more fine-tuned with ripened expressions as other great moments come from the full of rage “Comfort Inn Ending” and confident nature of “Stay Ready”.
LONDON Banks (2013)
For my atmospheric sisters out there, BANKS is your girl. In a lane similar to Bat for Lashes, Morcheeba, and Portishead, and with very subtle nods to Madonna’s Ray of Light, her aesthetic seems wonderfully British, but she actually hails from California. Her 4 track EP London is a rapture of trip-hop beats and calm but able-bodied vocals. Truthfully, BANKS at first appears bleak and moody, with the sound of cathartic, crashing waves in the background, but every song is a gem of self-reflection that feel refreshingly honest in compared to today’s outlandish pop scene. A must is the compassionate “Bedroom Wall” that’s perfect for either a personal respite or in anticipation of the one you love that’s hopefully ready to accept your forgiveness.
BECAUSE I LOVE IT, VOL. 1 Amerie (2006)
While her third LP Because I Love It was meant for a U.S. release, it was only released internationally. Stateside, in between Touch and In Love and War, was her first mixtape Because I Love It, Vol.1 which had Amerie experimenting with more strident hip-hop instrumentals from the catalogs of Rick Ross and Ludacris. This collection was built on the motif of “the struggle” as with a “big city”, big dreams”as the background, there are enclosed hints of her own obstacles of entering the music business. A pleasurable soundtrack for the dreamers, there are also original tracks that speak to those other life chapters from this underrated R&B talent such as lovers that became jerks, long-distance romance, and the importance of maintaining confidence, even if that means having to inflate it from time to time for surface purposes ’til you get where you got to be.
THE GIFT Pia Mia (2014)
If you’re (un)shamelessly a Kardashian fan, you might’ve already heard the brilliant range of Pia Mia courtesy of Kim Kardashian’s Keek video account. In straight a cappella, Kim captured Mia singing the sensitive affair of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” at her friend’s and Kim’s sister Kylie Jenner’s birthday dinner, with the original artist of the track Drake in attendance, as well as Kanye West. All commentators agreed Mia deserved a record deal and months later she actually received one. Now signed to Interscope Records, and already cultivating a fashion staple to call her own (which is a bandana printed headband. A 2Pac tribute considering her SoCal roots perhaps?), her first EP The Gift has dropped and it does include a studio cover of that Drake song that caused initial interest. While some tracks are destined for radio, it is the ballads (“Complicated”,”Lost and Found”) that champion Mia as not just another very young pop star getting by on just style. Her voice is just as great as her peer, aka, the equally as big-voiced, Ariana Grande.
THE MOVEMENT Betty Who (2013)
A name like Betty Who may recall the original bombastic pixie Cyndi Lauper, and you’ll be right. When the NY-based, Australian born Who released the audibly resplendent “Somebody Loves You”, it was miles away from the over-sexed, very arrogant material that’s became the norm of even the most intentionally innocuous pop track. As a reminder that everyone’s a V.I.P. to someone, the track was a YouTube hit and this generation’s cut of Lauper’s “I Drove All Night”. From her EP The Movement, you’ll likely also appreciate the similarly gleaming with hope “You’re in Love”.
CALL ME CRAZY, BUT… Sevyn Streeter (2013)
For her first EP Call Me Crazy, But…, Streeter had a definite storyline in mind, which was the beginning and end of a relationship. Using her own experiences and that of those close to her, it’d be hard not to relate. From the crush on you daze, sexual chemistry solidified, sudden annoyances creeping in, full-blown, blow out arguments that interrupt it all and then the clouded cool-down, Sevyn Streeter chronicles every stage with lyrics that are raw, sensuous, livid, and weary. Its sweetest moment comes when she’s joined by Chris Brown on “It Won’t Stop” and it’s all about that time before it could get serious, but past the worry of whether or not a mutual attraction exists. You’ll have one or two favorite tracks by the closing note, and you will definitely know why.
CUT 4 Me Kelela (2013)
Utterly ethereal, Kelela’s Cut 4 Me feels almost too advanced in vision and production to be just a mixtape. Using herself as a kind of protagonist, Kelela sings from the angle of a young woman that doesn’t necessarily need it all, but want she wants she expects and hopes is delivered in ecstatic proportions. Still, it’s not to say that Kelela doesn’t sing of regret and anger. While some reviewers chose to call her record “ambitious”, it’s not just that, but more so incredibly unique and original. The sounds are underground yet lush, soft and stern. Don’t sleep on Kelela’s Cut 4 Me, and especially get into the vortex of “Bank Head”.
BLACK WATER Tinashe (2013)
For having just turned 21, L.A.’s Tinashe’s two previous mixtapes (In Case We Die and Reverie) contained some material quite mature for her nubile age bracket, as well as her presentation. Not afraid to showcase some sex appeal and contempt, her mixtape music was impressively created in her home studio in pursuit of her molding a singer-songwriter career. Her latest Black Water is an enthusiastic take on neo-soul and there are light homages to Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Tabi Booney, and even the influence of the church choir which is highly noticeable on the soaring title track. The songs serge seamlessly into each other, and while she remains sexy and sassy, it has evolved from her being a brassy vamp to a more self-assured siren. Her vocals are top notch and have grown as well.
AGAPE, JoJo (2012)
JoJo is so underappreciated in the music business, it’s borderline criminal. Her supreme vocals were evident when she came out with “Get Out” at the age of 13, but due to the menace of record labels and contracts, this songbird was not allowed to release a third LP following the aptly titled The High Road. While struggling legally to find a way, Boston’s JoJo did not fall back musically and instead released covers, EPs, and mixtapes online, which became the backbone of the fan appointed movement #FreeJoJo. Agape, meaning “love” in Greek, is quite optimistic and is a treat that doesn’t weigh too heavy on life’s disappointments but in the belief that everything will be okay.
WESTSIDE, Mila J (2014)
While known online as Jhene Aiko’s big sister, Mila J has been cutting tracks for awhile. She was a part of the group GYRL and is currently pushing a coveted solo career. Though a lot hip-hop entailed than the urbane Jhene, both sisters do share a likeness of melodic R&B that can be quaint when they feel like it, or as brash if necessary. Named after their devoted coast, Westside in lieu of its star’s hard-edged styling has its doses of loyalty (“Blinded”), young love (“All I Want Is You”), party and bullshit, and light discussion of finding your niche the hard way.