Clash counts down those vital tapes...

2015 has been a funny one for release formats; mixtapes have been released on iTunes (and in some cases getting Grammy nominations), artists are offended because they considered those tracks on BandCamp an album, and every week it seemed like there’s a surprise release of some sort!

While it’s been difficult to keep tabs on what we were calling it, one thing is for sure, there was a shedload of great music! So while this year’s annual mixtape countdown might require you to part with a bit of cash - it’s definitely worth it. Here are ten tapes that you definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on…

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Skepta – 'The Tim Westwood Mix'
In a huge year for grime, it’s been Skepta that has cemented his place as the movement's de facto leader. The BBK kingpin may not have released his long-awaited album Konnichiwa (which was originally billed for March 1st), but fans were more than satiated with his Tim Westwood-hosted mixtape. Handed out exclusively on the streets of New York before surfacing online, the nineteen track mixtape features Skeppy's huge singles 'That's Not Me', 'Shutdown' and 'Nasty', as well as his remix of Jamie xx's 'Good Times' and a touching tribute to his late friend Lukey Maxwell. This is the perfect place to get you primed ready for that album, which we’re hoping we’ll finally get to hear in 2016. [LL]

Grab it HERE.

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Erykah Badu – 'But U Caint Use My Phone'
Like the rest of us, Drake’s latest earworm, ‘Hotline Bling’, burrowed itself deep in Erykah’s short-term memory. Yet while most of the creative response seemed to be around crafting the cleverest meme, Badu got back in the studio to record a whole mixtape contemplating phone culture. Her goal is to ‘recalibrate’ with this generation and by bringing sounds from her parent’s record collection together with reposts from her son’s SoundCloud feed, she offers a direct line to her mysticism. Complete with a Drake impersonator, a robotic riff on the plight of bees and her son Seven’s father, Andre 3000’s only verse of ’15, BYCUMP is spectacular and wide-eyed project, that might just make us put our phone’s down over the festive period. [RR]

Buy on iTunes

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G Herbo - 'BLIK'
At just 20-years-old, G Herbo’s ragged, scratchy vocals might not be telling of his age, presenting like he’s a bit wiser than someone who’s still physically an adolescent. On the first cut off Ballin Like I'm Kobe, ‘L’s,’ he grapples with the realities of life on the Eastside of Chicago, nicknamed Terror Town, “In the streets, ditchin' school, murder, drugs around me / Rappin' it just found me, thank God it wasn't in county / Buncha shootouts, lucky that them bullets went around me.” That’s just a portion of his allure, which comes in two parts: That the streets have hardened him at such a young age, but that he’s taken that and flipped his drill music genre.

Squarely sitting in the Chicago-rooted subgenre that’s marked by punitive beats and turbulent street stories, Herbo’s made it his mission to shine some impassioned lyrical solvency on drill, establishing himself as the style’s more noble and principled backbone. On BLIK, he presents us with his controlled version of chaos. [TM]

Grab it HERE.

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Section Boyz – 'Don’t Panic'
After killing the streets of South London with their first mixtape Sectionly last year, Section Boyz thrived in 2015. Not only did the collective snag a MOBO for Best Newcomer this year and get co-signed by everyone from Drake to Rita Ora, Section Boyz are proving that people really want to hear rap music from the UK that sounds authentically British, with bangers like ‘Lock Arf’ and ‘Trapping Ain’t Dead’ ringing off in the clubs as much as any track from their peers over the pond. Don’t Panic’ is a vivid picture of what the streets of London looks like in 2015, and with a debut headline tour already scheduled for next year Section Boyz aren’t likely to stop any time soon. [XM]

Buy on iTunes

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Drake – 'If You’re Reading This Its Too Late'
While fans continue to await his fourth album, Views From The 6, Drake seemed to have pretty fun year. From releasing two mixtapes that both managed to snag the number one spot on US Billboard charts to getting a Grammy nomination for dissing Meek Mill, announcing a deal with Apple to Dad-dancing in the Hotline Bling video – he made being Drake look so fun, that it’s not even cool to hate anymore. His surprise solo mixtape IYRTITL is a masterclass in flows and meme-ready rap with tracks like ‘Know Yourself’ and ‘Energy’ becoming chant-along club favourites while ‘6PM IN New York’ and ‘You & The 6’ were perfect for some late night introspection. He took a break from Views now it’s back to that! [GB]

Buy on iTunes.

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Tink – 'Winter’s Diary 3'
While people have tried their damned hardest to nail a comparison, Tink isn’t the next anybody! The Chicago artist has forged her own style of honey soaked R&B vocals that can switch up for razor sharp rapping at any point, and this is best demonstrated across her Winters Diary series as she breaks down the spectrum emotional turbulence of a deteriorating relationship, from defiant ‘Medicine Interlude’ to the vulnerability of ‘There’s Somebody Else’. With Timbaland taking her under his wing as she crafts her anticipated debut album Think Tink, we’re certainly looking forward to more from the 20-year-old protégé in the future. [GB]

Grab it HERE.

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Young Thug - 'Barter 6'
Atlanta rapper, Young Thug, is like marmite to rap fans, and yet with opinion divided there can be no doubting his work rate. Thugga has been putting in the work this year, releasing three projects could've made this list, with Slime Season 1&2 deserving a special mention. However, the standout body of work was Barter 6, which saw Young Thug cement his status as one of the raps games 'go to guys' when it comes to making those bangers. This one won't change your opinion on Young Thug, but it's place amongst the year’s top projects is undeniable, and it's definitely a good starting point for those new to Thugga's world. [MW]

Buy on iTunes.

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Kehlani - 'You Should Be Here'
When you look at artists who've made huge leaps in 2015, it's hard to look past Oakland native Kehlani. Backed by a legion of die hard fans, the singer released her mixtape You Should Be Here to huge critical acclaim earlier this year. Sitting at fifteen tracks of pop/R&B goodness, YSBH is the perfect mix of catchy hooks, bumpin' beats and sing-along choruses. With a couple of slick features from the likes of Chance The Rapper and BJ The Chicago Kid, Kehlani has shown that she also has the pulling power to get some of the game's most promising stars to hop onto her projects. After selling out two London shows this month, Kehlani received the news that YSBH has nominated for a Grammy, in a category alongside albums by The Weeknd, Lianne La Havas and Miguel, and for a mixtape, that's not half bad in our books! [MW]

Buy on iTunes.

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Boogie - 'The Reach'
It seems like all of L.A. appears in the video for Boogie’s biggest hit ‘Oh My,’ squaded up on rooftops, public transit, and street corners. As he recounts some of the nastier things that have happened to him — getting shot with a .40, not having food on the table as a kid — the 25-year-old rapper yowls in surprise, “Oh my goodness!” He might be just as amazed as everyone else at his own personal history. That sort of revelation is woven throughout The Reach (where ‘Oh My’ is housed), Boogie’s breakout tape that saw bigger names in production, like Roc Nation’s Jahlil Beats and TDE’s Willie B., while also keeping a homegrown feel with beatmaker and nephew Keyel. On The Reach, Boogie — native to L.A., a city rich with hip-hop history — speaks to some of gangsta rap’s more violent attributes, unapologetically delivering conscious raps knee deep in modern concerns like social media, and more archetypal matters, like street life and the pursuit of success. [TM]

Grab it HERE.

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Future – '56 Nights'
After the underwhelming reception to the breakthrough-primed Honest last year, Future took it back to his core fan-base with the Monster mixtape in October 2014 and then opening 2015 with Beast Mode in January, he returned again in March to seal the deal. Closing the trilogy of tapes, 56 Nights, is a ten track collection inspired by DJ Esco’s horrifying ordeal spending 56 Nights in a Dubai prison. This tape displays Future at his most refined, expressing the pain of the trap with a wash of hazy delivery and melodies that rival any R&B singer, just the set up he needed to send his uncompromising third studio album DS2 straight to the top of the US Billboard charts. [GB]

Grab it HERE.

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Words: Grant Brydon, Mike Wood, Tara Mahadevan, Lewis Lister, Xyrenn Maddox, Robbie Russell

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