It’d been ages since we last received a full, non-leaked body of work from Bad Boy diva Cassie (seven years, to be exact), which made 2013’s RockAByeBaby mixtape all the more sweet. The gritty, well-crafted set saw Cassie flaunting her bad bitch status (no really, there’s even a song called “Bad Bitches”) around frequent samples from ’91 cult classic New Jack City, with productions by Mike WiLL Made It and Rob Holladay, remixes of cuts from Kendrick Lamar and Tyga and tons of features — from Ester Dean to Wiz Khalifa. Between the spacey, tripping vibes of “Numb” to the all-out explicitness of “Do My Dance,” the mixtape brought something fresh and forward-thinking to the scene that many of pop’s hardest hitters didn’t. Cassie might not care all that much about committing to music-making, but when she does, she does it well. — BRADLEY STERN
John Newman – Love Me AgainEP
John Newman is already shaping up to be quite the chart-topping supernova in his home country of England, where the Adele-like crooner’s debut LP Tribute has already been released. Stateside, we’ve had to make due with the scrap that is this EP, which features the British singles “Love Me Again” and “Cheating,” plus two other tracks from Tribute. The standout is “Gold Dust,” a soulful, string-laden wall of sound that has Newman’s astonishing vocals operating on all cylinders while backed by an equally powerful choir. Keep an eye out for this guy in our neck of the woods in 2014. — ROBBIE DAW
Which EPs and mixtapes were your favorites this year? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!