Hip-hop seems to be dominated by the mixtape now. Here are my 10 favorite Milwaukee mixtapes of 2011, listed alphabetically.
Adebisi – "The Blaxploitation"
Adebisi released two volumes of "The Blaxploitation" this year but it's the first one that really delivers on the feel of a quality and complete mixtape. The NYC-by-way-of-MKE emcee is consistent in his output, which means you know what you're going to get when you put on anything by Adebisi – which is perfect for fans of his.
Blizz McFly – "Big Dreams Bright Lights"
Mixtape, album, mixtape album – the water can get quite murky when tossing these classifications around. Whatever "Big Dreams Bright Lights" was, it was good and a great way to capstone the year for a truly talented artist.
Blizz McFly – "F.E.A.R."
Kicking off his year with "F.E.A.R." the Blizzard set forth a quality collection of tunes that should've put him on more people's radars locally. The young man is good and when you look at him and the rest of his SAFS Crew affiliates, you have to like them as the future of Milwaukee and Wisconsin hip-hop.
Dana Coppafeel and 1L – "Lil Yung"
Taking a little time to poke fun at the younger swagged-out generation of '80s-styled fashionistas, Dana Coppa rocks out to some based music to show the world that you don't have to dumb it down just because you like a lot of bass.
DJ Heathen – "#Watch MKE"
Taking on the trouble of putting together a collaborative album that features artists from all across the city is an insane act that deserves appreciation, and that's what DJ Heathen did with "#Watch MKE." The project featured a plethora of names Milwaukee hip-hop fans know, specifically from the North Side, and brought about unparalleled collaboration between artists.
Gerald Walker – "The Other Half of Letting Go"
After being virtually ignored by people in Milwaukee, Walker found his love outside of the city and state. Still largely slept on in the Brew City, Walker released a fantastic mixtape/album in "The Other Half of Letting Go" that spewed forth legitimate emotion and saw the rapper bounce back and forth between styles reminiscent of Drake and Bone Thugz-n-Harmony.
Milo – "I wish my brother Rob was here"
Nom De Rap member Milo took his poetic style and a little ambition and turned it into a solo mixtape that was intelligent and full of analysis – both internal and external – that shows the beauty and frustration having a brain that's constantly set to "think" creates.
Pacino – "Beyond Compare: Soon You'll Understand"
Highly touted by music writer Evan Rytlewski, any praise that comes his way is absolutely deserved and "BC:SYU" is proof of that. The rapper is another shining talent that can mix his college-educated wit with his street sensibilities, which leads to music that is in the vein of Jay-Z – had Mr. Carter gotten his degree from NYU instead of Hard Knocks.
Ray Nitti – "Better Than Good Enough"
Ray Nitti has been both blessed and cursed by his marginal club hit "Bow." Blessed in that it gave him a lot of ears temporarily, but cursed due to the fact that the song cornered him into a specific sub-genre of rap music. Since riding the "Bow" train, Nitti has been working on music that showcases the other sides of his songwriting abilities in addition to his knowledge of club vernacular. "Better Than Good Enough" is certainly better than his "Bow" phase and will hopefully lead him to more permanent ears.
Royal Fam – "Coffee Is For Closers"
After taking some time to dig through their vaults, Royal Fam – also known as Ka$h, Prophetic and Yo-Dot – put together a collection of some of their earlier work to show off the early hunger shown by the now-buzzed about collective. The soulful and street-rugged collection definitely paints a pleasing picture of their beginnings and when played next to their new sounds, "Coffee Is For Closers" provides a nice contrast to their newer and more polished efforts.
Born in Milwaukee and raised in the Milwaukee suburb of Brown Deer, Concordia University Wisconsin alumnus Poppe has spent the majority of his life in or around the city and county of Milwaukee.
As an advocate of Milwaukee's hip-hop community Poppe began popular local music blog Milwaukee UP in March 2010. Check out the archived entries here.
Though heavy on the hip-hop, Poppe writes about other genres of music and occasionally about food, culture or sports, and is always ready to show his pride in Milwaukee and Wisconsin.