Over the last decade or so, mixtapes have revolutionized the rap game and altered how marketing in general is approached. Not only have the rappers received substantial acclaim, the DJs have, too. Although there are numerous DJs -- guys like Statik Selektah, Trap-A-Holics, DJ Khaled, DJ Scream, Big Mike, Nu Jerzey Devil, DJ Envy and Sickamore, among others -- who are certainly worthy of consideration on any rundown of the best mixtape DJs, the cats below have made the biggest impact of anybody. Keep reading for the ten best mixtape DJs.
10. Michael "5000" Watts Capitalizing on the success of Chopped and Screwed style pioneered by cross town rival DJ Screw, Watts and OG Ron C started Swisha House Records, featuring artists like Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Chamillionaire, Magno and Mike Jones. This resulted in many of the artists landing contracts with major labels and the smash hit "Still Tipping," in 2005. Many credit Watts with helping preserve the legacy of screw music while also pushing it on to greater commercial success.
9. DJ Don Cannon This Philadelphia born DJ used his gazillion mixtapes with the likes of Young Jeezy, Busta Rhymes, Wiz Khalifa, Ludacris and more to propel himself to mainstream fame. Because of his popularity within the mixtape circuit, Cannon has become a Grammy-nominated producer, the Vice President of A&R of Def Jam and a virtual legend in the game.
8. DJ Kay Slay Known as the "Drama King" and "Slap your favorite DJ" for often breaking beef records live on air, DJ Kay Slay courted controversy with his Streetsweeper mixtape series. The Streetsweeper series was so popular, it resulted in a record deal in with Columbia in 2003, resulting in two albums breaking in the Top 30 on Billboard. Kay Slay's show on Hot 97.1 in New York is one of the most popular, and his mixtapes often feature MCs like Maino, Gravy, Graph and Papoose, as well as many upcoming locals, along with exclusive collaborations from national artists.
7. DJ Screw DJ Screw had such a big impact on the game in his hometown that many came to know Houston as "Screwston" because of him. The legendary icon's Chopped and Screwed style influence is still prevalent worldwide long after his death. "Screw tapes" were so popular in the 1990s that hundreds of people would line up in his driveway to buy one. These days, almost every Top 40 song has a screwed up drop or chorus in it. Establishing the Screwed Up Click with Lil Keke, Lil Flip, Big Pokey and ESG, Screw allegedly turned down many record deals because of his immense local popularity. Screw also pioneered "Purple Drank" a mixture of codeine and Sprite, which ultimately lead to his death.
6. DJ Whoo Kid Although he was on his grind with The Afterparty Series and being a working DJ in New York in the late 1990s, most of DJ Whoo Kid's acclaim can be attributed to 50 Cent. (Fittingly Whoo is currently signed to G-Unit/Shadyville Records). Working with 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo frequently in the early 2000s, especially with the popularity of the G-Unit Radio series, catapulted him to superstardom and landed him a show on Sirius/XM Radio. His work ethic is evident with his hundreds of mixtapes, which plays like a who's who of hip-hop.
5. DJ Green Lantern Affectionately known as "The Evil Genius," DJ Green Lantern is equally known for his production as for his DJ skills, most noteablly on tracks like Ludacris's "Number One Spot." But the DJ received the most acclaim from his Shady Record sponsored series The Invasion. Green Lantern also produced the infamous Immortal Technique track "Bin Laden," which blames 9/11 on George Bush. DJ Green Lantern has worked with a slew of other artist like Jadakiss, Royce da 5'9, N.O.R.E. and Cassidy, to name just a few. He also hosts a show on Sirius appropriately titled The Invasion.
4. Funkmaster Flex Flex, who dropped The Mix Tape Vol. 1 in 1995, may be the first DJ to take mixtapes to the mainstream. All four of his first projects earned the equivalent of gold status, most notably The Tunnel. Flex brought the biggest names to the mixtape circuit with the likes of Eminem, DMX, Nas, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Raekwon and many more. A mainstay in the New York scene as a DJ on Hot 97, Flex is one of the most recognizable DJs in the world.
3. DJ Smallz Smallz may not have the long list of accomplishments as some of the other DJs, but his series Southern Smoke is one of the most popular series ever, viewed as one of the premier marketing outlets for the most popular southern based artists. The main series, not including the dozen of off-shoots, has spawned over 26 volumes. Volume 25, hosted by the late Pimp C, sold out and was virtually impossible to find. Smallz has been uber-successful due to the mixtape circuit, which has resulted in a multi-million dollar brand that has landed him a radio show on Sirius and Dish TV.
2. DJ Clue DJ Clue is one of the main pioneers of the mixtape circuit and one of the only DJs to jump straight from the mixtape circuit to a major label with his 1997 release The Professional. Clue was featured on Hot 97 in New York during the late '90s and was also signed to Roc-a-Fella before starting his own Desert Storm imprint. Clue is also known for his exclusive marquee remixes like Kanye West's "Overnight Celebrity" and Mariah Carey's Jadakiss-assisted single "We Belong Together."
1. DJ Drama Drama's name is virtually synonymous with mixtapes, due largely to his Gangsta Grillz series. Drama is one of the few DJs to ever have been raided by the FBI. Fueled by suspicions of alleged piracy infractions, the Feds confiscating over 50 thousand mixtapes from Drama in 2007. Drama established the Aphilliates Music Group and is also the official DJ of T.I.'s imprint Grand Hustle, which issued Drama's Gangsta Grillz Album in 2007. Other than the extreme popularity of the Gangsta Grillz series, Drama also hosted the critically acclaimed Dedication series with Lil Wayne. His popularity and work load has recently prompted him to start stating "our services are no longer available; I told you to get it early," on his recent tapes. Drama is the most sought after mixtape DJ in the world.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.