Mixtape Monday: The 14 Greatest Mixes of 2014
Time to rise and shine, mixtape world. 2015 has officially started, and from the sound of things out there, the year is set to be steeped in top-tier mixes. We'll be getting busy bringing you the best sets all year--you know we're still on our grind--but for now let's look back at the seamless, inspired mixes that made 2014 a banner year. From the 20 year anniversary of Nas's debut classic to a brilliant Marvin/Mos Def mashup to the heaviest house you've ever heard, the mixtapes of 2014 were truly something to remember and revisit often. In that spirit we're very happy to bring you, in no particular order, Okayplayer's favorite mixtapes of 2014.
Plenty of inspired, outside-the-box mixes dropped in 2014, but none so masterful, groundbreaking and flat-out fun than Yasiin Gaye, the Mos Def and Marvin Gaye mash/mix release from Amerigo Gazaway. Not only did the release open our minds to some of the more hidden moments of genius in both artists' catalogs, but it's also brilliant listen in its own right. Gazaway's level of craftsmanship is astounding. This one deserves to be spun for many, many years to come.
Garth Trinidad and Mateo Senolia brought us all the world premiere of Deep Wood Stomp--a supernatural and tribal house set that blends some of the wildest fringe sounds together atop non-stop bass. The set was also the maiden voyage of 'Okaydeep,' which is rumored to be the most amazing new house mix series to hit the planet in decades...
Electric Wire Hustle - "The Spirit" (Trinidad-Senolia Deep Revival Remix)
Zona - "Love To Love You" (George Vibe's Deeper Groove Mix)
Amp Live - "100,000 WATTS"
Mateo Senolia - "A Field Song"
Mike Steva - "Oro"
Afel Diallo - "Yele Kae Ye" (Jose Marquez Mix)
Max Graef - "No. 5"
Thee Mike B - "Felt A Way"
Vic Mensa - "Down On My Luck"
Leon Vynehall - "It's Just" (House of Dupree)
DRALA - "The Hourglass"
Simba - "Phase Seq One"
Trinidad-Senolia - "Noelle (She's Artsy)"
DJ Treats dropped a very special Okayplayer exclusive to commemorate Common's latest, Nobody's Smiling. It was entitled, of course, Com Rules Everything Around Me, and was nothing but rough and rugged, rugged and raw Com. If you missed it the first time, reread Treat's explanation of the mix below and get to listening asap.
Common might be the only rapper I know to only do hip-hop at one speed—100. Compared to his public persona, Common's laid back demeanor is a 180 degree turn from his high energy performances in the booth, or on stage. That approach is akin to how I DJ. The majority of my mixes, whether using turntables, or mixing on-the-go with my iPhone, is always in one take. The result is a seamless one-track dive into whatever I feel at the moment. In this case, I combed through Common's catalog of bangers dating back to when he intro'd with Can I Borrow A Dollar? I wanted to give you that feeling of Common blazing through all his hits as if you were at his concert, or if I was spinning at his album release party. Speaking of which, this reminds me of that time when I deejayed Common's celebration party for Be, that XXL magazine sponsored, because they gave him the coveted 5 mic rating. I had the chance to play a lot of the hits leading up to this next pivotal moment in Common's already legendary career. As the night played on, I would be joined by Common, Kanye West, and John Legend in the DJ booth. They talked to the crowd; Common performed a verse from "The Corner," and Kanye freestyled over Amerie's "One Thing" instrumental (despite his frustration with me for playing the TV track... #kanyeshrug). It was a magical night for rap that I channeled throughout this hour-long tribute to Chi-Town's finest.
>>>Download DJ Treats - Common Rules Everything Around Me (via WeTransfer)
When DJ Rashad Hayes told us about his plans for a new J Dilla tribute mixtape, we were immediately interested. Little did we know that he would turn such an expansive and scholarly piece of work. From all the embedded interviews and quotes to the perfect pairing of sampled tunes and their Dilla-fied cuts and chops, the mix is an amazing cross section look at James Yancey's contributions to hip-hop and music itself. There have been plenty of J Dilla mixtape tributes before, but we're willing to wager that this is the best you heard all last year. Put it on one more time for the GOAT.
One of the best things a mixtape can do is open our ears to the long, interwoven histories of hip-hop tracks. No mix did that better this year than the summertime drop from DJ Neil Armstrong, his final "Original All Out King" set. The mix brought both old samples and new (re)creations together in one danceable new creation. Over a decade, Armstrong's Original All Out King" target="_blank">All Out King sets have consistently raised the bar for what a mixtape can do, and this set, the last in the series, is no exception. Obscure and obvious connections abound in this networked map of top-notch sound. The DJ himself described the mix as follows:
This one is for the fans who have been listening to my mixes for the last 10 years and with this one he is bringing it full circle. You should know the deal. Original samples, mixed with their Hip Hop counterparts. Crossing genres, drawing that connecting line between rock, soul, reggae, opera, classical, blues, funk, jazz... let's just call it good music. All mixed with that Hip Hop aesthetic, and all samples used were on original vinyl, to show love for the lost artform of diggin’. The 1st "Original" mixtape came out in 2001, and making it set me on this path that has literally brought me around the world and back. It introduced the Neil Armstrong brand to the world outside of his turntablist roots and became so significant to my life as DJ Neil Armstrong, a turning point if you will. Here for first time, the complete mix "Original All Out King" available via Digital Streaming courtesy of the future.fm.
1 Diamond D / SSO I went for Mine
2 Gang Starr / Clarence Wheeler & the Enforcers Dwyck
3 Nice and Smooth / Parliament Funky for You
4 Gang Starr Jean-Jacques Perrey Just to get a rep
5 Gang Starr / Manhattans Work
6 Gang Starr / Monk Higgins Code of the Streets
7 Kool G Rap / The Fatback Band Streets of NY
8 Big Daddy Kane / Albert King Young Gifted and Black
9 Kanye West / Mandrill Two Words
10 Kanye West / Mike Oldfield Dark Fantasy
11 Kanye West / Elton John Good Morning
12 Kanye West / Marvin Gaye Space Ship
13 Kanye West / Labi Siffri I Wonder
14 Kanye West / Natalie Cole Heard em Say
15 Jay-z / The Originals Guess Who's Back
16 Jay-z / The 4 Levels of Existence Run This Town
17 Kanye West / Continent number 6 / King Crimson Power
18 Kanye West / Curtis Mayfield Flashing Lights
19 Talib Kweli / Nina Simone Get By
20 Reflection Eternal Move Somethin'
21 Smif N Wessun / Jack Bruce Bucktown
22 East Flatbush Project / Odetta Tried By 12
23 Jeru / Shelly Mann Come Clean
24 Jeru / Modern Jazz Quartet Can't Stop the Prophet (remix)
25 Blackmoon / Ronnie Laws Who Got The Props
26 Crooklyn Dodgers Crooklyn
27 Crooklyn Dodgers / Young-Holt Unlimited Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers
28 Group Home / Ramsey Lewis Livin' Proof
29 Group Home / Cameo Supa Star
30 Royce da 5'9 / Marc Hannibal Boom
31 Notorious BIG / Les McCann 10 Crack Commandments
32 Notorious BIG / Bobby Caldwell Sky's the limit
33 AZ / Lou Donaldson Your World Don't Stop (original version)
34 NAS / The Dells If I Ruled the World
35 Nas / Chic Just a Moment
36 Big L / James Gilstrap Flamboyant
37 Big Pun / Brenda Russell Still Not a Player
38 2pac / Zapp Get Around
39 Ice Cube / Evelyn Champagne King You Know How We Do It
40 Dr. Dre / Soul Mann & the Brothers XXplosive
41 Dr. Dre / David McCallum Next Episode
42 2Pac / Joe Cocker / Ronnie Hudson & The Street People/ Zapp / California Love
43 Snoop Dogg / The Counts / P. Funk What's My Name
44 Snoop Dogg / Laid Back Drop it like it's Hot
45 Raekwon / Earl Klugh Ice Cream
46 Raekwon/ Koko Taylor Incarcerated Scarfaces
47 Method Man / Jerry Butler Bring the Pain
48 The Diplomats / Sanchez Dipset Anthem
49 The Diplomats / Major Harris I Really Mean It
50 A$AP Rocky / S.O.S. Band Peso
51 Rick Ross ft Jay-z / The Friends of Distinction Maybach Music
52 Drake / Bill Conti Forever
53 Lil Wayne / Diana Ross and the Supremes Lollipop
54 Chris Brown / Sparks Look at me Now
55 OutKast / Joe Simon So Fresh and So Clean
56 T.I. / Roberta Flack What You Know
57 Jay-z/ MIA / The Clash Swagger Like Us / MIA Paper Planes
58 O'Jays For the Love of Money
59 Prodigy / Jack Mayborn Keep It Thoro
60 Mobb Deep / Esther Phillips Give Up The Goods
61 Mobb Deep / Quincy Jones / Herbie Hancock Shook Ones part II
62 Alchemist / Al Cooper Hold You Down
63 Dialated Peoples / William Bell Worst Comes to Worst
64 A Tribe Called Quest / Kool and the Gang Oh My God
65 A Tribe Called Quest / Gary Bartz Butter
66 A Tribe Called Quest / Rotary Connection Bonita Applebum
67 Q-Tip / Joe Pass Let's Ride
68 Jaylib / Gap Mangione The Official
69 Slum Village / The Singers Unlimited Players
70 J Dilla / Stylistics Baby
71 Jaylib / Cris Williamson The Red
72 Slum Village / Gap Mangione Fall In Love
73 Hi-Tek / Camel Music For Life
Steeped in the harrowing air of racial injustice, DJ Underdog's "for Eric Garner...they call it murder" mix arrived in the wake of a non-indictment ruling for the NYPD officer that killed an untried man. As the country protested, picketed, debated and prayed for positive change, both the hip-hop and mixtape communities did what they did best to help push things forward. When Underdog's mix hit the web it was a startling shot, covered with the last recorded words of Garner before he passed away. It was a mix that spoke to the times, and it still is.
Perhaps more than any other DJ group, Cookin Soul made 2014 a breakout year. The Spanish duo flexed their deep knowledge of breaks and keen ear for soulful samples and produced many a mix, most notably their rework of Nas's debut record Illmatic, which celebrated its 20th bornday last year. The set, entitled "Soulmatic," is a sprawling music and verbal trip into Illmatic and the legacy its left on open minded music-makers across the globe. Give it a spin and get in the New York State of Mind. Read their description of the mix below and download SoulMatic via SoundCloud.
In 2014, 20 years after its release, Illmatic is still considered as arguably the best hip-hop album of all times.
Our intention when creating "Soulmatic" was not to just remix Illmatic album as such. Actually Soulmatic only contains 4 remixes from the original album... Also we have added a number of musical skits including comments, feelings and experiences from those who created the original album.
The "Cookin Soul" way to get the listener closer to that particular state of mind that led to the creation of such a classic.
The year was loaded with top-class mixtapes that served sentimental and/or educational purposes, but in the category of just flat-out fun listening, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Mick took the cake. Their Summertime 5 set had us reeling in throwback grooves and reminded us just how hard Montell Jordan used to go in. It might sound a little out of place now that the barbecues have been put away, but if you're itching for a taste of summer madness (just a bit of a break from the norm), turn up the furnace, put this on, and sail away.
Summertime 5 Intro (Produced by 6th Sense)--Biz Markie
Let Me Prove My Love--The Main Ingredient
You Don't Know My Name--Alicia Keys
Sock it to Me (Remix)--Missy Elliot
So Ambitious--Jay Z
Don't Disturb This Groove--The System
Watermelon Man--Herbie Hancock
Dolly My Baby--Supercat
Props Over Here--Beatnuts
Tha Bizness--De La Soul feat. Common
Remindin' Me of Sef--Common
Feel My Flow--Naughty By Nature
Give it to You--Da Brat
Let The Funk Flow--EPMD
Send My Love--Born Jamericans
Right Here/Human Nature--SWV/Michael Jackson
Somethin for the Honeys--Montell Jordan
I Went for Mine--Diamond D
Get Involved--Raphael Saadiq feat. Q-Tip
Spring Again--Biz Markie
Groove Thang (Jeff's That DJ Edit)--Zhane
Sir Duke--Stevie Wonder
The Humpty Dance--Digital Underground
You & Music--Donald Byrd
Do Me--Bill Bev Devoe
My Perogative--Bobby Brown
Poison--Bell Biv Devoe
Knee Deep (Jorun Remix)--Funkadelic
Me Myself & I--De La Soul
The Breaks--Kurtis Blow
Remember Me (Jim Sharp Remix)--Blue Boy
Stay Cool--The Roots
Got Til it's Gone--Janet Jackson
Big Yellow Taxi--Joni Mitchell
Bag Lady--Erykah Badu
Get Lifted (Remix)--Keith Murray
I'll Take Her--Ill Al Scratch
Hey Look Away--Questionmark Asylum
Sealed With A Kiss (Chi Duly + Mick Outro)--Bobby Vinton
Perhaps it's bending the rules to include this "mixtape"--but nobody ever said there were rules. De La Soul reappeared with a mighty vengeance this year, dropping Smell The D.A.I.S.Y. mixtape/EP tribute to, who else, the great one J Dilla. Loaded with fresh new raps over uber-classic Dilla joints, the set brought us back to those classic 90s days when The Native Tongues ruled the roost. Many have tried to go in over and old Jay Dee beat, but none have come out smelling so fresh as the Daisy De La gang.
1. Let the King Ascend
2. Who (Feat. Redman)
3. Dilla Plugged In
5. Goes the Word
5. Vocabulary Spills
6. The Pitch
7. Taking the Train
8. Leave Your Cares Behind
9. O’Shut Up
10. No More No Less
11. Marvin Jaye
In honor of the King of Pop's birthday, this year DJ JayCee (AKA The Cutty Professor) dropped a beyond proper commemoration to Michael Jackson's legacy with his "Long Live the King" all MJ set. There's nothing more that can really be said about Michael's eternal impact on music--the best thing to do is hit play, hit the dance floor, and give it up for the best that ever lived.
Long Live The King Tracklist
1. Intro: Madonna Speaks
2. SHOW You The Way To Go
3. Blame It On The Boogie
4. Shake Your Body Down To The Ground
5. The Love You Save
6. Dancing Machine (Big Trudy's Domecracker Dub)
7. Rock With You (Jean Claude Stripped Down Mix)
9. Love Never Felt So Good (Jaycee's ColliPark Mix)
10. Billie Jean
12. Off The Wall
13. Wanna Be Startin' Somethin
14. Can You Feel It
15. State Of Shock
17. Dirty Diana
18. Day & Night Filtered Scratch Break
19. Workin' Day & Night
20. You Can't Win
21. Never Can Say Goodbye (Jaycee's Stripped "Clean" Mix)
22. Got To Be There
23. They Don't Really Care About Us In Ferguson
24. Man In The Mirror
25. I Can't Help It feat. Beyonce
26. Remember The Time (the EARGASMIC re-fixx)
27. Outro: Madonna Speaks
If there ever was a dividing line between electronic and organic, then Bonobo demolished it this year with his live shows, incredible DJ sets, and brilliant North Borders Live LP. If you've got to distill it down to one sonic moment, though, then his BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix is a great moment to choose. Loaded with some of the best house, electro, downtempo, and surprise ambient tracks to be released as of late, the mix is proof that it's those wide open ears that give Bonobo his powerful punch.
1 Vangelis - Abraham's Theme
2 Bonobo - Don't Wait
3 Letherette-D-T-(Dorian Concept Remix)
4 Dark Sky - Clear
5 Maya Janes Coles - Something In The Air (Bonobo remix)
6 Catching Flies - Mama's Wisdom
7 Mano Le Tough - Primative People (Tale of Us Remix)
8 Dauwd - Lydia
9 Cut Head - Maputo Jam
10 Maribou State - Moon Cirlces
11 Sharon Van Etten - We Are Fine (Tourist Remix)
12 Jimpster - Porchlight and Rocking Chairs (KiNK Remix)
13 Lorca - Naoko
14 Bonobo - First Fires (Maya Jane Coles remix)
15 Jungle - Drops (Pedestrian Edit)
16 Werkha - Lapwing
17 Ten Walls - Requiem
18 Francis Bebey - Bissao (Pilooski Edit)
19 General Ludd - Woo Ha
20 Romare - Jimmy
21 Will Arcane - Reflected
22 London Grammar - Hey Now (Bonobo remix)
23 Taylor Mcferrin - Decisions feat. Emily King
24 Throwing Snow - The Tempest feat. Adda Kaleh
25 Kelis - Runnin' (Machinedrum remix)
26 Illum Sphere - Embryonic (lone remix)
27 Martyn - Glassbeadgames (8 hours at fabric dub)
Sometimes it's not about concept. Sometimes it's just all about the groove. NYC beat master Christian Martir dropped The Difference Between The Method And The Heart this past year, and with it we got a first-class example of divine, groove-oriented mixing. Cuts from Freedom Express, Azymuth, and Syd Dale give the mix a hypnotic latin vibe, and it all peaks with "A Gozar," a new cut from El Bles that Martir himself is dropping on his Sociedad label. It's a little bit Brooklyn, a little bit Harlem, a little bit Latin, and a whole lot better than almost anything else you danced to all year.
Mos Def - "The Panties"
Tom Brock- "I Love You More And More"
Azymuth- "Dear Limmertz"
Michael Henderson- "Let Love Enter (Todd Terje Edit)"
Pamoja - "Oooh, Baby"
Freedom Express- "Get Down"
Roy Porter Sound Machine - ??
Pleasure - "Ghettos Of The Mind"
Gilberto Monroig - "Que Te Parece"
Ebo Taylor - "Come Along"
Ticklah - "El Dia De Mi Suerte"
Syd Dale - "Bass Line"
The S.S.O. Band - "Faded Lady"
Carlos Ramos Y Su Orquesta Fuego- "Candelo"
El Bles- "A Gozar"
Afrika Bambaataa's personal record collection got a new lease on life this year when DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist took some of his 45s, 12"s and LPs on the road for the Renegades of Rhythm tour. Those lucky enough to catch the shows were treated to a seminal lesson in hip-hop history, and likely busted their necks from all the head-nodding that went along with it. Before the tour started this summer, Cut Chemist set to work mixing a new set made entirely from Bam's own vinyl, and his Mix By Jimmy was the result. A great set of old school and throwback sample material, hearing the dusty grooves on this one is like a trip back into Bam's own Bronx record den.
And finally, we end the roundup with some funk. Every year is a great year for the Godfather of Soul James Brown, but this past year saw the man getting his own widely-acclaimed biopic, Get On Up. Many were keen to deliver an all James Brown mix while the funk iron was hot, but J. Period outclassed them all with his set, which homes in on some of the absolute best bars of Brown's career, both obscure and obvious.