There was a time where Hip-Hop as a genre became a lot more synonymous with the internet. I’m talking about the early 2010s; a time that many coined “The Blog Era”. Artists were innovating new ways of getting their music heard by the masses. Independency was the wave and many websites and Hip-Hop blogs became the gatekeepers of this thing.
Shout out to Hot New Hip-Hop, Pigeons & Planes, 2 Dope Boys, Datpiff, World Star Hip-Hop and many more, these blog-sites decided what was hot or not, they’d post, we would listen or read. But more importantly, this provided a pathway for artists to cut off the middleman and take more authority of their own careers. Suddenly your music doesn’t have to be approved by your record label, physical copies of your project shipped in bulk to regional music stores. This became a dying trend as your favourite artist can just simply upload their music with the touch of a button all through their portable laptop.
I’d also say this era advanced the “free album”, projects that have been created like albums, yet promoted and released as mixtapes. This allowed artists the freedom to really dive into their creativity as they could build so much original music as well as music inspired by samples; the legal issues attached to sampling and so on wasn’t an issue.
So in no particular order, check out some projects we feel defined the “Blog Era” of Hip-Hop, projects where artists established themselves during this era;
Wiz Khalifa – Kush & OJ
Wiz Khalifa dropped his mixtape Kush & OJ in April 2010 through his twitter account as a downloadable link. Yet this project was more like a free album using some samples but original twists and production.
This album became a smoker anthem with the main theme following the stoner culture, Still Blazin became a weed anthem on the project. Wiz was able to establish himself within the scene on through Kush & OJ as an artist able to deliver on albums, working alongside I.D. Labs for the core production of the project gave it a sonic theme. Being in the blog era, he capitalised off youtube by videoing insider content of Taylor Gang smoking weed, spending cash, making music and partying with women on a series named DayToday, developing a core following. In The Cut was a party track that featured a lit house party but the core theme featured a chilled cool vibe, tracks such as; The Kid Frankie, Never Been, Spotlight, Good Dank and many more solidify this notion. Kush & OJ has over 1 million downloads on Datpiff making it a certified platinum classic.
A$AP Rocky – Live.Love.A$AP
A$AP Rocky released his debut mixtape for digital download on the internet in October 2011 and the project became an instant classic and today has over 2 million downloads on Datpiff making it 2x platinum. It holds a southern and Harlem blend in Hip-Hop, such is witnessed on the funky Trilla featuring Nast and Twelvyy. Rocky was able to build a brand through his unique style, by heavily focusing on his fashion and the style of his music videos. Rocky is pretty much an artist that specialises in style on all fronts from the sound of his music, to his fashion, to the visual style of his videos and content altogether.
Peso featured a unique beat and a video that coincided the song, presenting fashion and visuals of an original style. Heavily produced by Clams Casino Live.Love.A$AP’s theme was sonically in Houston but featuring some classic boom bap drums and a collaborating theme from Spaceghost Purrp of Miami RVIDXR CLVN.
Live.Love.A$AP pushed Hip-Hop into a culture that respected niche high fashion, straying away from the typical popular brands such as Gucci, Versace and Moschino to newer high fashion brands such as Raf Simmons, Rick Owens, Jeremy Scott, BLVCK SCVLE and Supreme, a classic mixtape within the genre.
Nipsey Hu$$le – The Marathon Continues
Nipsey Hussle began buzzing internationally in 2010 with his independent mixtape The Marathon released on his independent label All Money In, however; the sequel; The Marathon Continues released in November 2011 is what really certified Nipsey as a potential legend. The opening track Road to Riches goes down as a classic intro and one of the best Hip-Hop intros in my opinion.
Tracks; Tommy Gunz, Who Detached Us, Run A Lap, Forever on some Fly Shit and 10 Toes make up for the general theme of TMC which is good substantial rap, with generically good beats, some amazing. Nipsey was able to show versatility performing on Southern sounds too with Fly Crippin, Everythang featuring the classic autotune a clear inspiration from Lil Wayne’s sound, also I Need That alongside fellow west coast artist Dom Kennedy.
Nipsey went on to release many more independent free albums as mixtapes and establish himself as an independent legend in the culture, and releasing his debut studio album Victory Lap in a partnership with Atlantic years after, the album became an instant classic and ensured Nipsey’s status as a Hip-Hop legend.
Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
Chance’s the rapper’s sophomore mixtape and free album Acid Rap was released in April 2013 as an internet digital download and is known as a classic project. This project falls on the cusp of the transition between the Blog era and Soundcloud era. Yet his mixtape 10 Day was definitely part of the blog era. I discovered Chance from a collaboration with Joey Bada$$; Wendy n Becky through Hot New Hip-Hop. Acid Rap was an independent classic, collaborating with many artists such as Childish Gambino, Action Bronson, Ab-Soul and fellow chicagoans; Vic Mensa, Noname Gypsy, BJ The Chicago Kid and many more.
The production of the project was A1 as can be heard on Pusha Man and Cocoa Butter Kisses. Chance’s uniqueness is on show on NaNa alongside Action Bronson, the way he’s able to use such a cadence fit with the flow of his lyricism is impressive. Acid Rain goes down as a great song, the mellow beat, lazy flow and hard hitting lyricism works well. Acid Rap overall is a staple of the Blog Era with over 1 million downloads on Datpiff making it a classic platinum mixtape.
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
Nicki Minaj signed to Young Money under Lil Wayne in 2009, featuring on Lil Wayne, Drake and collaborative Young Money tracks. This helped her build huge buzz for herself within the scene and anticipation for her debut album, she had established herself as an underground legend on her previous mixtapes but they didn’t reach national exposure. However Nicki released Pink Friday in November 2010 and as a debut it hit all heights, released digitally on iTunes and physically in stores. Nicki used a lot of social media to promote the album pre to its release and create a lot of buzz, through U-streams and Twitter challenges, made to exchange followers for releases.
Did It On’em and Roman’s Revenge with Eminem (and an outro version with Lil Wayne) showed Nicki’s ability to trade bars and flows with the best of them.
Whilst Fly with Rihanna, Moment 4 Life with Drake and Blazin’ with Kanye West showed Nicki’s ability to keep her rap integrity whilst going pop and being able to make smash hits. Pink Friday is an album that went 3x Platinum and features some classic songs.
Danny Brown – XXX
Danny Brown released his sophomore album XXX also known as 30 in August 2011 under Fool’s Gold as a digital download. XXX is a cult classic and shows so much versatility in sound. Danny Brown crafted a special blend in his style, a unique style to say the least from the way he looked to his range of cadences and styles. Whilst being able to keep that lofi theme he’s established on songs like Pac Blood, Radio Song, EWNESW, DNA and Fields, he also created his own unique genre of Punk-Rap as a theme throughout XXX, songs that will perform live like a rock show in the ironically named Die Like a Rockstar, Blunt After Blunt and Witit these tracks are certified punk-rap anthems.
Danny also has a distorted cadence that still flows well on beat and this is presented on Monopoly, Outer Space and Adderall Admiral some of my personal favourites on XXX. Danny Brown is a man of many styles, it almost sounds like a schizophrenic telling his story on this album, from chill lofi, to distorted and out-plain weird to super hype and high energy XXX is one of most versatile and unique projects in the Hip-Hop genre to date.
J Cole – Friday Night Lights
J Cole had already released 2 mixtapes after signing to Roc Nation but his third mixtape released in November 2010; Friday Night Lights was the one that really established Cole as an underground and mixtape legend. Involving himself heavily on the production, the mixtape was able to hold cohesion throughout. Cole’s personal lyricism and flow that he’s made himself known for is really on show on Too Deep For The Intro and Premeditated Murder. Whilst Back To The Topic (freestyle) shows Cole being able to just rap very well if the right beat is in front of him.
You Got It with Wale, Enchanted, Higher and The Autograph are memorable tracks that make up for the general sound of Friday Night Lights which is good raps, deep raps, and overall feel-good music.
Also Cole showed the ability to make a hit alongside Drake with the seductive In The Morning which later featured on his debut album. J Cole’s Friday Night Lights is a certified classic mixtape and has almost 3 million downloads on Datpiff making it 3x Platinum.
Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
Kendrick Lamar released Section.80 as his debut album in July 2011, yet only independently under Top Dawg as a digital download in the iTunes store. Kendrick had previously released EPs and Mixtapes to great success such as Overly Dedicated in 2010 which now has over 1 million downloads on Datpiff.
But his debut album Section.80 certified Kendrick as a potential legend, paying close to jazz is the overall sound and production of the album, this is presented to us early on Hold Up, Chapter Ten, Rigamortus and Ab-Souls Outro (performed by Ab-Soul).
A.D.H.D. played as a great song that also sounded catchy and can be played in a party setting. As No Make-Up (her Vice) and Keisha’s Song (Her Pain) played as great concept songs that also featured supreme lyricism. But the core of the project is heard on songs such as Ronald Reagan Era, Poe Mans Dreams (His Vice) and Kush & Corinthians. Section.80 goes down as a cult classic, with beautiful jazz and lofi stanzas, as almost every track is pleasurable, non-skippable and the album went Gold. Kendrick later released 2, debatably 3 classic albums since then.
Meek Mill – Dreamchasers 2
Meek Mill really established himself in the 2010s with his classic mixtape series Dreamchasers, the first being released in 2011 and the sequel in May 2012. Meek Mill was the 3rd up under Rick Ross and Wale within the MMG label and created much buzz for himself in Philadelphia where he’s from and all over the world.
Featuring on Rick Ross, Wale and MMG collaborative efforts, he had built big buzz for himself, But when he dropped his 2012 mixtape Dreamchasers 2, a contrast to the latter, it was a mixtape that got promoted like an album with many singles, high budget music videos despite being a mixtape and top tier features such as; Drake, Jeremih, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Travi$ Scott, Fabolous, Trey Songz, 2 Chainz and many more.
Amen featuring Drake and Burn featuring Big Sean carried this notion of a big budget mixtape and you can view the videos on YouTube if you don’t believe me. Also his hit House Party from his 1st Dreamchasers got a remix with Fabolous, Wale and Mac Miller. Yet Meek understood what he was loved for and that’s those raw street anthems where he’s giving the listener intel in what the ghettos of Philly look like, this is shown on Used To Be, Big Dreams, The Ride, Real and On My Way. Dreamchasers 2 was a moment in culture and has gone 2x Platinum on Datpiff making it a certified classic mixtape and memorabilia in this era.
Big Sean – Finally Famous 3
Big Sean’s Finally Famous mixtape series began shortly after he signed to Kanye West’s; Good Music. With vol 1 and 2 covering 2007 – 09 and doing exactly what it was set out to do; helping Sean gain more exposure in Detroit and nationally, the trilogy to this series Finally Famous 3, Sean released in August 2010 became the mixtape that really got Big Sean known in the underground rap scene worldwide. Released for digital download through Datpiff and Good Music’s Blog, FF3 went Gold with over 500k downloads on Datpiff.
Big Sean really became a connoisseur of fly rap, with the main source of his content being about rocking fly streetwear, smoking weed and getting girls. Sean had established his lane and core following, FF3 is overall a fun project with fun raps, standouts are; Final Hour, What U Doin’ (Bullshittin’), High Rise, Crazy, Supa Dupa Lemonade, Too Fake, Fuck My Opponent. Sean also got features from Chiddy Bang, Tyga, Mike Posner and Drake. But a collectors piece song with Kanye West in Glenwood disguised as just a “Bonus Track” in the tracklist was nice, Kanye being his mentor and all.
Finally Famous 3 has to go down as a staple of this era and certainly a great mixtape.
Joey Bada$$ – 1999
Joey Bada$$ from Flatbush Brooklyn, New York popped onto the scene with his debut mixtape 1999. Released for free digital download in June 2012, 1999 shocked the community. With Hip-Hop taking a turn towards dumbed down lyricism and trap 808s, but Joey was a blast from the past, he was rhyming well with an original classic flow.
The production heavily fell on Chuck Strangers but also came from MF DOOM, Knxwledge, Lord Finesse, J Dilla, Statik Selektah and many more, the essence of 90s boom bap lofi. Killuminati, produced by Knxwledge and featuring Capital STEEZ is a personal favourite, the beats steady pace and jazzy essence dominates the feel of this song.
Also lifts the vocal and flow of the performers, Joey and STEEZ glide over the instrumental. Funky Ho produced by Lord Finesse is another win, as Joey shows a flawless flow. Many tracks on this mixtape made it a classic, Waves, FromdaTomb, Survival Tactics, Don’t Front, Where It At and many more produced a chill vibe. 1999 has over 500,000 downloads on Datpiff making it Gold, a certified classic and ode to the Blog Era.
Mac Miller – K.I.D.S
Mac Miller came up through Rostrum Records in Pittsburgh, the same label Wiz Khalifa dropped Kush & OJ on. Mac released K.I.D.S an acronym for Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit in August 2010, the project lives up to it’s title and far exceeds it, being a certified classic. The mixtape had a similar but unique feel with Kush & OJ, from start to finish it’s flawless. It holds a jazzy feel with elements of funky rock, naming individual tracks is difficult because the whole mixtape plays great, especially from start to finish.
Get Em Up, Paper Route, Good Evening and All I Want is You are some of my personal favourites. K.I.D.S has been downloaded over a million times on Datpiff up to now since then, making it a quality Platinum Project.
Drake – So Far Gone
Drake dropped his third mixtape in February 2009; So Far Gone and as the title suggests, the mixtape launched his career internationally. As a mixtape it went above and beyond, but it plays more like a free album, this project brought big anticipation for Drake’s debut album.
Successful is a nice cut, Drake further establishing his vague story telling on records. Drake made the transition of dropping general bars to getting more personal in his lyricism on So Far Gone, however, we still get those general braggadocios bars, check out Ignant Shit with Lil Wayne where the senior schooled the student, not taking anything away from Drake who’s verse was also great. Lil Wayne as the biggest rap artist in the world at the time made 4 total features on this mixtape which helped push Drake to an international level. But primarily the music was great; Bria’s Interlude, The Calm are some songs to definitely check out.
This mixtape went #1 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Billboard charts and Regardless classic mixtape.
Wale – Ambition
Wale released his sophomore album Ambition in November 2011. Although, he released a mixtape to promote this album, it was this album that made a big change in Wale’s career, coinciding with the blog era, Ambition was Wale’s release on MMG and looking back, one of the best albums to drop on the label, along with Rick Ross, Meek Mill and many more.
However; this was one of the more anticipated projects but went well beyond expectations. The opening 3 tracks; Don’t Hold Your Applause, Double M Genius and Miami Nights starts the album with a great essence, Ross‘ influence in luxurious rapping is felt in Wale‘s sound, with his personal twist. Of course, Wale brought a vibe for the ladies, Lotus Flower Bomb & Sabotage is this vibe, guest appearances from Miguel & Lloyd helped bring sweet symphonies.
The strip club anthem Slight Work can pop any party to this day. Posse cut; Ambition hits the listener heavily and lives up to the title-track. Ambition sold over 500,000 copies going Gold, as a whole it’s timeless, we’re 9 years past but I can still listen to it like the day it released.
Action Bronson – Rare Chandeliers
Action Bronson and The Alchemist linked up for a mixtape release on November 2012; Rare Chandeliers. A collector’s piece of both artists (quite literally, the vinyls go for over £100) and it sounds just like that, as The Alchemist boasts some of his best production over this tape and Action Bronson compliments every beat well. Randy The Musical is a masterpiece of Bronson keeping up with a transition of 3 beats by The Alchemist, Bronson attacks each and every one of them. Demolition Man with ScHoolboy Q is a track to remember as they both reenact a heist and tear up the beat. This mixtape plays like an 80s action movie soundtrack as the cover suggests, Modern Day Revelations, Bitch I Deserve You, Gateway to Wizardry, Blood of the Goat and Mike Vick are some of my personal favourites from the mixtape. For sure this is the source for some of Action Bronson’s best songs and a timestamp of the Blog era.
Curren$y – The Stoned Immaculate
Curren$y is an artists that’s been grinding for a while in the rap scene, releasing his first mixtape in 2004 and dealing with No Limit Records, Cash Money Records and many other labels since then, Curren$y has worked tirelessly for the better part of his tenure and has released a total of 82 projects, he works as hard as ever to feed his fanbase and it pays off. One of the best mixtape artists ever, however The Stoned Immaculate wasn’t an ordinary project in his huge library, this one stood out, his 6th album in the midst of the Blog Era, released in June 2012, this album’s production is top quality, as Curren$y flowed well from start to finish.
What It Look Like, Privacy Glass, Armoire, Capitol, Chandelier are songs that represent the general feeling of the album, although there are many more tracks that stand out. A classic from start to finish, The Stoned Immaculate reached #8 in the Billboard 200, is one of Curren$y’s best projects and a certified cult classic in the Blog Era.
Tyler the Creator – Goblin
How could I make an article about the Blog Era without mentioning Tyler the Creator? The head honcho of OFWGKTA, around 2010 and 2011, his gang steered internet conversations with their own forum, website and hilarious YouTube content on their self-owned YouTube channel.
Tyler released his debut album in May 2011 and 2nd project after his first mixtape Bastard. On this album he famously dissed 2DopeBoyz Blog as he had reached out to them in hopes they’d post his debut mixtape and they declined. Tyler and Odd Future really worked to make their own forums, blogs, content and created their own internet following as they didn’t get much help from the blogs.
What really helped this was track 2; Yonkers and it’s music video, as Tyler only uses a camera, a bench, a cockroach and a rope. With all these props; maximum shock value. Tyler eats a cockroach, throws it up then proceeds to commit suicide in this video, and this was extremely different, we could imagine these visuals in a heavy metal song but for Hip-Hop… this type of thing was new.
But it weren’t just shock value, the music also held up with some timeless anthems featuring on this album; check out She, Transylvania, Nightmare, Tron Cat, Sandwitches and many more on Goblin, fully self-produced he was able to craft his own sound and landscape within the scene, the album went Gold selling over 500,000 copies, he won an MTV award for it and hit multiple charts. Definitely a piece of memorabilia in the Blog Era and the Decade of 2010-2020.
Ab-Soul – Control System
Ab-Soul, friend and label mate of Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock released Control System in May 2012 and it was actually the best performing project on the TDE label (before Kendrick dropped Good Kid, Maad City 5 months later). This means it did better than Kendrick’s Section.80 and ScHoolboy’s Habits & Contradictions.
This album is a definite cult classic as Ab-Soul gained the title as the lyricist of TDE, delving into topics that go way beyond average thought, especially in the scope of Hip-Hop, Soul was rapping about Drugs, Science, Personal Life, Politics, Religion. I mean the album had it all, yet was presented in such a way that kept the listener entertained. Some of my favourite songs came from this album, want to hear science; check out Pineal Gland. Want Politics, check out Terrorist Threats. Want Drug raps, check out Mixed Emotions. Want to hear personal stories from the Soul? Check out The Book of Soul. The album had it all and was able to compile this content together in a beautiful way, a definite classic.