Rap mixtapes have roots in 1990s DJ mixes, but took shape in their modern form the early 2000s, with The Diplomats and G-Unit remixing popular songs of the day and putting out tapes for self-promotion. The increased popularity of the format through the decade raised the expectations of these free promotional projects, putting them in the same loops of delays and potential shelving that plague major label rap releases. Originally released on bootleg CDs, mixtapes moved to an increasingly digital format, leaving a lot of evidence of projects on the web without any official music attached to them.
Here are some of the best covers for mixtapes that never came out, or had their art swapped out before someone uploaded them.
Travis Scott – Owl Pharaoh
Kanye West protégée Travis Scott was planning on his releasing his first mixtape Owl Pharaoh on “2.22.13”. But once it was delayed a few months, that incorrect date probably explains why this cover was left behind.
Lex Luger – Torture Rack Shawty
Many rap producers announce solo projects that never see the light of day, and this one was no different. Torture Rack Shawty was an excellent name for a mixtape that was sure to feature Lex Luger’s well-known haunted minor keys and plenty of macho rapping.
Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa – Live in Concert
Last year, Curren$y and Wiz Khalifa announced a mixtape called Live in Concert, and earlier this year it was finally released as an EP. Though issues with samples were cited for the delay, the original ballroom party scene cover would have paired excellently with the Bobbi Humphrey’s samples from Fancy Dancer all over the project.
Gucci Mane – Trap God II
The actual cover of Trap God II was a nicely framed golden whisk and stovetop pan. That might have properly correlated to the topics of cooking and selling drugs, but it lacks of the regality of Gucci Mane as God Mane.
Alley Boy – Purgatory
Recently Atlanta has been exporting flamboyant and persona driven rappers like Migos, 2 Chainz and Future, and this literal definition of end-time cover for Purgatory fits in, but it undersells Alley Boy whose hyper-aggressive, detailed rapping has end-of-world gravitas without any of the cartoon lunacy here seen here.
Lil B – Black Ken
Lil B has released dozens if not hundreds of mixtapes in the last five years, but Black Ken somehow hasn’t seen an official release. Oddly enough, ANIMAL contributor Brandon Soderberg owns the original cover work from artist Benjamin Marra.
Chief Keef – Finally Rich
Before Finally Rich was a retail major label album it was a mixtape with DJ Holiday and DJ Victoriouz, and before that Keef announced it as a project with DJ Drama. The path from mixtape to major label isn’t clear, but apparently Drama was never officially involved, so maybe the tape never existed beyond Keef’s tweets.
Araabmuzik – Electronic Dream 2
Araabmuzik’s Electronic Dream was a surprising hit for the rap producer, who was previously best known for doing raucous MPC hits for the Diplomats. The simplicity of the original’s cover was repeated in Electronic Dream 2′s sampler-focused cover, but ED2 leaked without Araabmuzik’s permission, further pushing the project back.
Future – Super Future
Future has gone by a number of different monikers: before the fame it was Meathead; the track “Tony Montana” got him the fame; at one point his newest album was going to be called Future Hendrix. This cover though reveals that behind the fame, everyone’s favorite fire marshall/rapper/R&B crooner is a hero: Super Future.
Rocko – Wordplay 2
Earlier this year, Rocko released “Wordplay,” a relatively overlooked mixtape, except for the controversial track “U.O.E.N.O.”. The flaming crossword puzzle for the shelved sequel’s cover makes for interesting art, and his next tape’s title, “Lingo for Dummies,” shows Rocko sure enjoys these language jokes.
Chief Keef – Bang 2
A fact forgotten in the Chief Keef story from last year is that his breakthrough song wasn’t “I Don’t Like”, but rather the lo-fi “Bang” from his mixtape of the same name. Last year Keef announced a sequel to that tape featuring cartoonish depiction of him with blunt in mouth and gun in hand, which was subsequently nixed in favor the new black and grey cover.