I remember when a mixtape was just that, a “Mixtape!” There was a time when you were at a party and the DJ that was spinning that night was “Mad FRESH!” and you wanted to hear his set again in the comfort of your own home you’d ask for a tape for like $5.
Then when those “Mix” DJs got onto the radio stations and started going in blending the playlists, scratching, and dropping “Exclusives” like new music, B-sides, in studio freestyles and “The original unofficial REMIXES!” Every month you can go to your local record store and buy their set. I remember as a YG always running to Doris records (Buffalo, NY) to get the new DJ Clue “Desert Storm” mixtapes or Ron G, KAY SLAY or our own local DJs like DJ Corey.
But non the less those were the ways that an artist can get his shine on. If you had a “In” with a DJ you could premier your new song(s) often and eventually get on air to spit a nice freestyle and really “Get On!”
The DJs would still have control of the mixtape game if it wasn’t for the increasing hunger of the MC. As we became MCs we learned that not only was it starting to get harder to “Get On” but it was starting to get harder trying to “Stay On” In all due honesty and respect the credit for the MC take over and come up goes to 3 MCs who’ve all had their dreams shattered but refused to set in defeat:
50CENT:The most Hated and respected MC possibly of all time.
Now we all know 50 was discovered and groomed by the late great DJ “Jam Master Jay” of RUN DMC! in the mid to late 90’s and signed to Columbia Records by Trackmasters. After his 1st album he was shot nine times and left for dead. Spending 13 days in the hospital and 5 months of rehab he resigned with Columbia and dropped 2 songs that eventually got him Blackballed from the industry. What did he do? Well in memory of the “Real” 50 cent, Brooklyn stick up kid Kelvin Martin he “Robbed” the industry by rapping over Radio hits and selling it as an album. He was the first to do this and create a series. Before him rappers were only doing this in radio studios live on air. The first one to in actually release a single of that caliber was “ICE CUBE” who released “Jackin for Beats!” 50 took it further and released his own mixtapes writing full fledge songs to pre recorded music, even stealing R&B songs and rapping over the bridges. This act was so “Ballsy” everyone had to have a 50CENT mixtape. Then he drooped more and more even adding his crew “G-Unit” in. This campaign not only brought him in large amounts of money, but raised his status as a songwriter, got his music out there and made his reputation so notorious that the majors came knocking! Now we know who the megastar known as 50CENT is. A man who was near death, and Blackballed from the music industry became one of the highest selling MCs of all time, and he did it with a mixtape.
T.I.:Mr. Trouble Man himself.
In the fall of 2001 T.I. released his 1st album on Arista records “I’m Serious” claiming himself to be “King of the South” Although the album had stellar production from the like of “The Neptunes”, “Jazze Pha” “DJ Toomp” and featured a lot of talent from the south that was prospering at the time his album sold less than 200,000 copies and he was dropped from the label. Using his own money he formed Grand Hustle Records and scooped up local yet popular Mixtape DJ “DJ Drama” He took a page from 50’s handbook and released a series of mixtapes with his crew “P$C” called “In the Streets” Two years of later of grinding he was signed to Atlantic records where he released his second album “Trap Musik ” selling 109,000 copies in its 1st week. T.I. would soon have a series of federal cases that seemingly would permanently stall any MC’s career but every time he fell back and released a mixtape to build back up a buzz. 12 years later with him still getting in trouble with the law he still manages to drop a mixtape, we all like him again then he releases an album and we love him again. He’s now earned the “King of the South’ title and he did it all with a mixtape.
Lil Wayne: The most improved MC EVER!
Child rapper Lil weezy been around it seems like forever! Dropping numerous albums on Cash Money Records as a young teenager it seemed he was almost out of gas until contractual problems between the label and it artists almost caused the southern powerhouse to close shop. Around 2004 when Wayne was releasing his best work (then) “The Carter” almost everybody was leaving Cash Money. Realizing they couldn’t survive with just Wayne’s 2 Carter albums in 06 Baby and Slim decided to push Wayne down our thoughts with a series of multiple mixtape campaigns from lil Wayne. With this Wayne single handedly took over the game! Now in 2013 He is Second only to Jay-Z for most “consistent and successful long term releasing” Wayne is at the Top of the GAME and although he had a career long before his ascension started with one mixtape.
HONORABLE MENTION: “Joe Budden: The Internet King”
Now because of them everybody uses the mixtape to come up! I speak of these three in depth cause no other has proved the effectiveness of grassroots guerilla marketing like they did. Honestly Before 50CENT even thought about it if you were an MC with or without a deal once your career was over it was over! It didn’t matter if you were the best. If a label didn’t want you it was over. These MCs prpoved that it doesn’t have to be over you can do it all on your own and make them want you. Now whether or not a mixtape can be considered an album is a different story!