Sometimes, the mixtape is better than the album

Mixtapes, albums; when it comes to hip-hop, the lines are really blurred. Most times, mixtapes are free bodies of work that rappers drop to build a buzz for their label-released albums, which they intend to sell.

The artist-driven mixtape has become an important tool for most rappers like 50 Cent, Jeezy, Wiz Khalifa and Drake. Before Future dropped his latest album DS2 on Friday (July 17), the Atlanta trap rap star released a trio of critically acclaimed mixtapes in the lead-up (Monster, Beast Mode and 56 Nights).

Seeing as how DS2 was just released, it is entirely too soon to see how Future’s third LP measures up against the mixtapes that preceded it, but here are 11 times the mixtape was definitely better than the album.

1. Jadakiss The Champ Is Here

Right before dropping his 2004 sophomore album Kiss of Death, Jada and DJ Green Lantern blessed fans with this classic mixtape. Songs like “Passion of Kiss” and the Muhammad Ali-inspired title track makes this tape the best solo project in Kiss’ entire discography.

2. Wiz Khalifa Kush And Orange Juice

Wiz Khalifa stirred the Internet into a frenzy when he released Kush And Orange Juice for free in April 2010. A year later he delivered his major label debut Rolling Papers, and while the LP’s lead single “Black and Yellow” ruled radio, fans couldn’t help but compare the album to the classic tape that came before it.

3. Lil Wayne No Ceilings

With Lil Wayne it’s damn-near impossible to tell when his mixtapes end and his albums begin, but in 2009, he made the rap world take notice with his No Ceilings tape. The LP that came after was 2010’s rock album Rebirth so maybe this comparison is a bit unfair; still No Ceilings hasn’t fell out of the rotation since.

4. Drake So Far Gone

Drizzy’s Thank Me Later was a solid debut, but So Far Gone was just one of the greatest mixtapes of all-time.

5. J. Cole Friday Night Lights

Cole struggled to find where he fit in on the commercial side of things with his major label debut Cole World: The Sideline Story, but his Friday Night Lightstape proved that all he needed to do was follow his natural instincts.

6. Meek Mill Dreamchasers 2

That Dreamchasers 2 was a monster. Tracks like “Burn” and “A1 Everything” really set the stage for Meek Milly’s major label debut. Oh yeah, and before “Amen” appeared on Dreams & Nightmares, it was on this tape first.

7. 2 Chainz T.R.U. REALigion

T.R.U. REALigion really set things up for Chainz. “Spend It” and “Riot” were high-powered and if Chainz would’ve saved them for Based on a T.R.U. Story, then maybe he could’ve swung the pendulum in the album’s favor.

8. A$AP Rocky Live. Love. A$AP

Rocky really created an identity on his 2011 mixtape. “Peso,” “Bass,” “Purple Swag: Chapter 2″ and “Brand New Guy,” all helped to build his buzz, but when Rocky’s debut album dropped two years later it didn’t quite live up.

9. G-Unit Return Of The Body Snatchers, Vol. 1

G-Unit dropped Return of the Bodysnatchers and Elephant in the Sand in the lead-up to their 2008 sophomore LP T.O.S.: Terminate on Site and there was something about hearing 50 and company rhyme over Ice Cube’s “Bird in the Hand” instrumental that just can’t be beat.

10. French Montana Mac & Cheese 3

How fire was Montana’s Mac & Cheese 3? “Devil Want My Soul,” “Sanctuary” and “State of Mind” gave us the Bronx rapper at his best. Excuse My French was cool, but real fans were all about that Mac & Cheese wave.

11. Rick Ross Rich Forever

It wasn’t that Rick Ross’ 2012 God Forgives I Don’t album was bad, it was just that the mixtape that preceded it was pure flame emojis.