The line between album and mixtape has continued to blur – especially in a year where Chance The Rapper changed the game and the Grammy's adjusted their eligibility rules to include free projects. For argument's sake, we've axed Chance from this particular list. He's got nods from the Recording Academy after all, so we put him on this one instead.

In a pop world, rap dominated and R&B plotted a very real 90's flavoured comeback in 2016. We had story-telling rappers like Rapsody and Dave East come forward with lyrical guns loaded on their projects. And for some reason, they charged absolutely nothing for us to jump aboard for story-time. Then, R&B stunners like Liana Bank$ and Tinashe delivered sensual vocals and smooth dance-worthy melodies to even out the year's edges. It was a perfect balance.

So to pay them back for all the free music, let's get their numbers up. Stream the Top 10 mixtapes of the year below.

10. Rapsody - Crown

Rapsody always delivers. There's never any need to wonder what to expect from her new work or worry that expectations will be too high. Because every single time the North Carolina rapper steps up to the mic, she's eating everything in site. On her latest tape, Rapsody delivers 10 socially-conscious lyrical packages and even enlists help from talent like Ab-Soul, Moonchild, Anderson.Paak and Raphael Saadiq to take things to the next level. It doesn't matter if you're not a hip-hop head, there are messages here that you should hear.


9. Kodak Black - Lil Big Pac

Kodak Black, like most of us, did not have a good 2016. He was only recently released from jail after serving a drug charge in St. Lucie County, Florida. But this isn't a pity vote. With Lil Big Pac, the Southern rapper delivered his best mixtape to date despite being behind bars and unable to promote it. Yet, the tape still held weight in an oversaturated year, when everyone wanted to drop something. There was the expected witty punchlines with authentic street stories over gripping production, but this time around, it felt more urgent and the crux of Kodak Black really connected.


8. Liana Bank$ - Insubordinate

With green hair and raw urban grit, Liana Bank$ made an immediate impression with her money-making anthem 'M.O.N' this past march. "People will hurt you. Commas won't. Date commas," she said of her viral debut single. And it became a good mantra for the year. The Queens native later lived up to her hype with massive bass and rolling hi-hats on her 12-track debut project Insubordinate, which followed last month. It's a massive R&B/hip-hop hybrid project that we're fully on board with.


7. Avelino - FYO

It's kind of strange to think that Avelino only this year delivered his debut EP, because it seems like he's been doing it forever. FYO (which rather charmingly stands for 'Fuck Your Opinion') appears to be refining his talents while also allowing room for experimentation. Executively produced by Raf Riley (both are members of Labrinth's Odd Child collective alongside Etta Bond and The Hics), the tape sees Avelino deliver his signature laid-back, hazy flow, deep tones and quick witted bars that often fly straight over listener's heads, showcased against a musical backdrop not usually explored by a rapper. And as the title would suggest, Avelino doesn't really care what people think. (But for those that do, we love it.)

6. Noname - Telefone

No one is prepared when death hits, especially when it hits repeatedly for reasons many know could have been avoided. What do you do when reality and news broadcasts seem to be moving closer to one another at lightning speed? Caught in the middle is Noname (formerly known as Noname Gypsy), a 24-year old Chicago emcee whose highly anticipated debut Telefone was released earlier this year. An impressive string of defining feature verses such as 'Lost' and 'Comfortable', and standalone SoundCloud tracks (that often get deleted) have built a strong following around the enigmatic rapper. And Telefone was truly worth the three-year wait.


5. Tinashe - Nightride

Tinashe has been teasing her sophomore album for what seems like forever. Earlier this year, the R&B singer even cancelled her tour in order to get back into the studio to finish the thing. But it looks like fans still have a while to wait until Joyride, as it has yet to be given a release date. Because she's a woman of the people however, Tinashe finally released new music in the form of Nightride, a new darker and more moody mixtape comprised of previously heard tracks like 'Party Favors' and 'Ride Of Your Life,' as well as a bunch of unreleased numbers that got us ready for the colder weather with their sharp synths and breathy melodies.


4. Kaytranada - 0.001%

Just two days after his incredibly inspiring Polaris Music Prize win for his 99.9% album, which he also released earlier this year, Kaytranada gifted fans with a brand new mixtape in celebration for his breakout year. 0.001% is just under an hour-and-a-half long and features mostly new danceable material. But he does rework a fan-favourite version of Usher's 'U Don't Have To Call' and a new mix of Chance The Rapper's 'All Night,' which was produced by the Montreal artist to begin with. Kaytranada wins 2016, all around.


3. 6LACK - Free 6LACK

Atlanta-based alternative R&B/hip-hop is on full display and ripened to its full potential on 6LACK’s new mixtape. The full-length debut-stunner features the viral bass-heavy single 'PRBLMS' as well as a deep collection of other sure-to-be hits. With a hefty amount of buzz surrounding the rising star all year, the pressure was on to deliver on his FREE 6BLACK project and quality was served up with ease.


2. Dave East - Kairi Chanel

From ball player to hustler to rapper to father, Dave East walks us through the gritty streets of Harlem on his tenth mixtape. The Mass Appeal records-signee delivered bar-for-bar and story after story on song after song on his more recent 15-track opus, which was named after his babygirl Kairi Chanel. Fatherhood may have softened the rapper but it also gave him a reason to focus and take his grind as a creator more seriously. And by listening to the new tape, we're glad it all worked out the way it did. He's coming for the title of King of New York.

1. Princess Nokia - 1992

New York's Destiny Frasqueri pays homage to her city, her feminism and her generation in the most hard-hitting mixtape of the year. Through nine bass-heavy tracks, (with production from the likes of Atrak, Lex Lugar and Bobby Jonson,) Princess Nokia blends 90s nostalgia with her own modern warrior aesthetic for a multi-faceted project packed with banger after banger. If tracks like 'Kitana' and 'Tomboy' don't leave you rooting for arguably the next greatest thing to come out of NY, then we don't know what to tell you about your taste level.