INSERT (MIX)TAPE HERE -- by Diablo 9B, December 2006
Continuing in on the trend are the notable accomplishments of the group, The Lox. While they have only two albums as an official major label group, and a stretch of (what will be with "Time Is Money") 6 solo records over the past 5 years, as well as the strides controversy that make them household names(the publishing battle with Diddy, the "Let the Lox Go" campaign, beefs ranging from former adversary Beanie Sigel to current foe 50 Cent and G-Unit, etc), their talents have been quite well validated through the mixtape circuit. Jadakiss' fire, Styles underrated depth, and Sheek's penchant for understated charisma have shone uncannily brightly in their street heaters, namely "The Champ Is Here," the "Ghost in the Shell," and the "Year of the Wolf" mixtape. Last but not least, the eye for talent in their recruiting up-and-comer J-Hood has time and time again been proven in the occasional solo tapes and of course, the famed D-Block compilations. And wax warriors such as DJ Green Lantern, Big Mike, and Supa Mario have given willing listeners some double digit amounts of reasoning for keeping strong with such a token group(although "Living Off Experience" will defy the anticipation of "Kiss of Death," "After Taxes" and "Time Is Money" combined).
What also can't be overlooked is that the mixtape has a regional accessibility like the mainstream beast of the music itself. Despite the heavy pop appeal influence that the snap and crunk of today's down South music has provided for masses, it's DJ Smallz' "Southern Smoke" that lays claim to the heads below the Mason-Dixon line these days. A lot of my pals and co-workers alike have kept fresh with the new tracks via the lauded series. DJ Clue, Kid Capri("The Tape"), Funkmaster Flex, DJ Kay Slay, Jam Master Jay(R.I.P.) and DJ Envy are but a literal few who have made the N.Y. scene so much a paradise for fiends like myself. On the West Coast, I can site two people who are living affirmations of the influence of the mixtape genre. For almost two decades now, David Blake has rapped, produced, arranged for the Sunshine State and the world all over as DJ Quik. Quite possibly around his formulative years as Devestating D, Blake took his obvious talents as a DJ to the compilation circuit with his 1987 mixtape, "The Red Tape." While he's gone on in his very underrated career to make accomplishments in the aforementioned fields, his initial to the rap world was made via the mixtape circuit(all the way up to his "Trauma Mixtape" from 2005). The second example is current rap behemoth The Game, who took his verbal gifts and issues with G-Unit to the mixtape ring with the critically acclaimed "Stop Snitchin, Stop Lyin" tape. On that piece and over 30 other underground heatrocks, Mr. Taylor has had an unfiltered channel through which to affirm his destiny on the mic in front of millions, with performances and lines that already rival a widely considered near classic album(even if on the basis of production alone) and a worthy follow up, name checks aside. On the South-Southwest tip, the late Texas waxmaster known to the world as DJ Screw made his name in the mecca of Houston with his "Chopped and Screwed" compilations of the late 90's. This now-famous style of his was perfected and made accessible by slowing down records with pitch alteration and blending copies of the same record(to put it mildly).
For the indecisive love that the mainstream hip-hop scene can be, the mixtape world is a haven for many a prominent underground lyricist and freestyle masters. Rather than lay prose form to such abyss-like roster, I shall do a roll call:
Much like the streets courts of basketball, the mixtape is a place where legendary feats can be established(i.e. Game's "300 Bars," Papoose's various performances like "Alphabetical Slaughter") and the legends of yore re-established(i.e. Ras Kass on "On the Run," "Institutionalized," "Revenge of the Spit" I and II, and "Eat or Die" respectively) in a simple, basic forum that tests natural skills, not at the expense of commercial appeal. Unfortunately, it can be a limiting thing for some mic fiends. However, it's a delight for the truly dedicated listener.
Even in 6 paragraphs of prolific analysis, I've barely scratched the surface of the mixtape game. With so many categories of entertainment, from freestyle collections, "Best Of," blends(Nas and Phil Collins, Big Pun and Hector Lavoe, Biggie and Frank Sinatra), instrumentals, dancehall, throwback to current bangers; the mixtape is a universe in and of itself. And these days, looking at the extreme delay in highly awaited albums(i.e. "Detox," Raekwon's "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" sequel), the mixtape is like the snack that tides you over until dinner. Also, the price is very flexible for one, particularly on the wide spread sales network that is the Internet. I enjoy just paying about 7 bucks(before S&H) for a compilation of about 20 to 40 songs(snippets for specific artists can be a letdown, but beggars can't be choosers) versus a good 15 bucks for an album of about 12-13 tracks in the days of skit and tracklist decline. The best way to discover the magic of the mixtape is stop what you're doing, and dig into one. You'll be surprised what you can and will find. I'd also recommend "The Mixtape Documentary DVD" which Mr. Faison released last year. And with that, I must get my copies of "PreMatic," "Twins," and "God's Gift." Justo was definitely on to something...