DAR Hip Hop: 7 Classic Mixtapes From 2002 & 2003

By @TrueGodImmortal

2002 and 2003 are two of the greatest years in mixtape history. Hip hop was experiencing a change in how music was consumed, as mixtapes began to carve their path right next to albums, which was different than before. Artists slowly began to use their resources to get the streets to hear what they had to say musically and during 2002 and 2003, they did not disappoint. Let's take a look at 7 important classic mixtapes that came out during that two year period.

*G-Unit- 50 Cent Is The Future

-This is one of the most classic mixtapes of all time and it is rightfully so kicks off the list. For those of you with only mixtapes from 2008 and on in your greatest list, we direct you back to a simpler time in mixtape life, where the local bootleg man, the flea market, and corner stores found their way into the mixtape game. 50 was a monster on the street and at the time, no one could have imagined what his legacy would have turned into, but he had a moment in hip hop history with this mixtape. Everything about this tape is epic. From the infamous strategy 50 employed to take someone's song and make it his own (credit 50 for this wave, no one else in the game now) to the introduction of Lloyd Banks to the combo of G-Unit and UTP that eventually led to Young Buck being signed, this mixtape is special. Whether remixing a Raphael Saadiq banger on "U Should Be Here", flipping numerous Timbaland beats on tracks like "Call Me" and "50/Banks", along with "The Banks Workout", 50 Cent Is The Future put the world on notice and the title was not a lie. 50 was the future and he would take over the game shortly after this.

*The Diplomats- The Diplomats Vol. 1

-Word to the Freaky Zeeky was O.T. getting money written in the corner of the cover, Dipset arrived with this mixtape and it was the start of a brand new era. 2002 saw the rise of G-Unit and Dipset, while also giving new life to Lil Wayne, a spotlight for Kanye to showcase his skills, and so much more. Dipset was a group of Harlem MCs who had a mission to take their careers to the next level. This DJ Kay Slay hosted mixtape would help do just that for them with relative ease. Along with Cam signing to The Roc and the emergence of Juelz as a potential star, this mixtape is a pivotal moment in Dipset history, perhaps the most pivotal. Tracks like "Gangsta", "Facts Of Life", "Roc-A-Fella Get Money" as well as other standouts make this a mixtape beyond worth listening to.

*Kanye West- Get Well Soon

-So, Kanye had two mixtapes released close to each other and I remember it like it was yesterday. The first one, this project, instantly started making the rounds at my school and essentially was just a collection of tracks that Kanye had either produced or appeared on. There was little new music on the tape, but it all flowed so very well. At the time, if you didn't own all of the albums that these songs were featured, this was perfect for you. Released after his car crash that changed his life and career, Kanye would still have some dope new music sprinkled in on this project like the Consequence featured classic "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly", the much better John Legend featured version of "Home", and an underrated song in his catalog, "My Way". With this tape, Kanye proved that he was not only a great producer, but that he could rap just as good as anyone in that era.

*Lil Wayne And Sqad Up- SQ1

-Wayne is one of the most influential mixtape artists ever, second only to 50 and his mixtape legacy extends far beyond Da Drought, the Dedication series, and No Ceilings. In reality, his mixtape legend started with the opening edition of the Sqad Up tapes. Wayne and the Sqad would craft some solid joints and it would start to change the perception of Wayne as a MC piece by piece. I chose the first edition because it was the starting poing for Wayne as a mixtape legend, but any edition could fit here. The freestyles to Oh Boy, Ether, Oops, and Roc The Mic were all dope and it is crazy to think how far Wayne has come since the release of this classic.

*Lloyd Banks- Money In The Bank

-So, another mixtape legend that doesn't get the credit he quite deserves is Lloyd Banks. At one point, Banks was one of the best rappers in the game and he was a standout on every G-Unit mixtape up until that point. When he finally got his chance at a solo shine, he seized the moment with ease. This first edition in a solo mixtape classic series is still the best of them, as Banks was in his punchline prime, hitting listeners with some of his hardest verses on "Victory", "Porno Star", "Clipz", "Story To Tell", and "Air Your Ass Out". Banks doesn't disappoint on this go round.

*Jay-Z- The S. Carter Collection

-So, you would rarely hear Jay-Z on a mixtape officially up until this point. We might get one lucky freestyle or feature verse, but Jay was very adamant about keeping his music to himself until the public got ready for it mainstream wise. Well, as fate would have it, as he would end up releasing his first shoe, Jay decided to drop a mixtape to commemorate this historic moment in his career. The result? Jay sounding as carefree and relaxed as he ever has on a project, seemingly having fun on every track. Whether it was rapping over B2K tracks, adding his stamp to the classic Flava In Ya Ear instrumental, giving 50's "Can't Be Done" some verses, or even hitting hard with some lines over the N.E.R.D. track "Rock Star", Jay delivers every time. This mixtape is a classic.

*G-Unit- No Mercy, No Fear

-It's only right to feature two mixtapes from the legendary G-Unit run of 2002 and 2003, and if there was another choice besides 50 Cent Is The Future, this is the one. To me, No Mercy, No Fear is an actual better tape than 50 Cent Is The Future, but regardless, this might be the best one-two punch in the history of mixtapes in terms of back to back releases. 50 and The Unit would craft nothing but gems here, like the solid "Elementary" (what happened to Scarlett), the hilarious "Fat Bitch" (which I'm sure would not be met pleasantly these days), "Back Seat", "E.M.S.", "Soldier", "After My Chedda", and of course "Banks Victory". Simply put, G-Unit put the world on notice in 2002 with these mixtapes and they never looked back.



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