3. Dipset, The Diplomats, Vol. 1 (2002)
50 Cent and Lil Wayne receive, and deserve, a lot of credit for their prolific mixtape output and how it changed hip-hop promotion, but quiet as kept, Dipset is the true pioneer of that strategy. The Diplomats, Vol. 1 is the project that started it all.
The mixtape served multiple agendas simultaneously: promote Cam'ron's single "Oh Boy," get radio play, and move physical units. Over the course of 15 songs, the crew attacked the instrumentals of popular mainstream tracks like Carlos Santana's "Maria, Maria" and Eminem's "Stan," but also found room for their own original music. It proved to be a brilliant decision that gave listeners all the Dipset they needed, but with diverse enough backdrops to hold anyone's attention. Thus, the modern mixtape formula was born.
Many of the records on Vol. 1 made it to Cam'ron's Roc-a-fella debut, and characters like Juelz Santana and Jim Jones, who were introduced to most on this mixtape, went on to become big stars in their own right. It was truly the beginning of a movement. —Ernest Baker