Pinning down the 5 best reggae mixtapes ever produced is, like any music, is subjective, but certain rules apply to any music. A great reggae song can be a laid-back groove, spiritual meditation or a celebration. A great compilation expands a single idea or takes the listener on a journey. These mixtapes will expand the horizons of new and old reggae fans alike.
"The Best of Studio One" A great starter mix for those people new to reggae and trying to explore classics outside Bob Marley, this album was originally compiled in 1983. It contains authentically Jamaican beats and the album was a groundbreaking collection when first assembled. Still a great starting place for the new listener, the remastered 2006 release also contains six new tracks. For the more seasoned listener there are a few rarer gems, such as Osbourne's “Jah Promise,” which strays from his typical dancehall sound in favor of a harmonic groove or Judah Eskender's funky “Rastafari Tell You.”
"Spliff Relief: Reggae From The Yard" Gimmicky title aside, this not a ganja tribute album. It accomplishes the rare feat of a terrific mostly non-dancehall reggae while sticking to harder to find tracks, enabling you to expand your collection without another mix of repeats.
"Intimate Lovers Vol. 1" A mix of love rock, this album manages to create a mellow experience peppered with a few uptempo pieces to keep things fresh. Additionally, it is populated mostly by original pieces, not covers like lovers reggae is overwhelmed with. Despite containing mostly obscure artists, this is a solid album that shouldn't be missed.
"Classic Reggae Vol. 1" This mix does a great job of taking various songs of disparate times and creating a journey in tempo and tone. Heard back to back, the infectiously upbeat “Buddy Bye” would sound jarring next to the dreamy “Cottage in Negril,” but all the tracks are arranged to flow into each other. A chill beginning gradually moves into uptempo beats, before mellowing into a relaxed finish. Additionally, the songs are hard-to-find classics rare for a mixtape.
"The Harder They Come" No list of reggae mixtapes would be complete without this soundtrack to a 1972 movie of the same name. It helped spread reggae beyond the borders of Jamaica, gathering new fans. It's also hard to argue with the quality of roots reggae here, which will take you back to it's early, faster days. Jimmy Cliff, the film's star, is the center of this album. It contains four of his best known songs, which are all essentials. This album deserves a spot both for it's place in history and for the history it takes you to.
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