2011 was a lucrative year for rap music. Artists like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj and Tyler, The Creator all had freshly baked or still-steaming albums that navigated the mainstream airways. Within the mixtape circuit, the output from artists was booming even more. Lil Wayne, Meek Mill, A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd, among others, helped level the playing field.
Sneakily, The Weeknd, who was more of a mysterious figure at the time, made his mark on the game with his trilogy of House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence tapes. His atmospheric melodies and subdued production choices helped slice another layer into the R&B genre as a whole. On that note, Frank Ocean also released his critically acclaimed debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra in 2011, similarly catapulting him into stardom.
Back on a rap tip, A$AP Rocky delivered his debut mixtape Live. Love. A$AP, setting the tone for his collective’s growing movement in New York City. Within the tri-state area, Meek Mill did the same thing and set Philly on fire with Dreamchasers. Of course, Young Money's takeover was brewing, too.Though Nicki and Drake were stamped with the “next up” badge, Lil Wayne came out and reminded people who the real boss was with Sorry 4 the Wait.
Seeing how it’s been a long, expansive decade in music, XXL decided to highlight the best mixtapes from 2011. From turn-up collections like Wiz Khalifa’s Cabin Fever to socially conscious efforts like Big K.R.I.T.’s Return of 4eva, you can find a breakdown of the top 25 below.