Hip-Hop Is Dead
(Cover by Vangogfx)
This is it.
Mixtapes = Hip-Hop. No mixtapes, no hip-hop.
Well, it's not quite as conclusive as that, but it's pretty f**kin' close. The top selling rappers in the world attained their breakthrough via the mixtape circuit.
We all know 50 Cent's story: Shortly after he was ditched by Columbia, 50 flooded the streets with mixtapes. A bidding war ensued, and he eventually signed a $1 million contract with Em & Dre.
Chamillionaire is known to the world as the "Mixtape Messiah." He can no longer reach his ambition of dishing out 26 more Mixtape Messiah installments as promised.
Papoose, Saigon, Crooked I, and Joe Budden--some of the fledgling wordsmiths expected to shoulder the weight of hip-hop in years to come--gained notoriety through mixtape collaborations with Kay Slay, Whoo Kid, Clue and others. They would still be wannabe rappers today, if not for those mixtapes.
What will become of the Justo Mixtape Awards, which was designed to applaud the efforts of mixtape artists and DJs and also gave us a forum with which to celebrate Justo Faison's legacy?
How will the Clipse, Joe Budden, Ras Kass, and other artists whose albums are in limbo over some b.s. label politics, afford to feed their families...without mixtapes?
What about the artistry and structural leeway that mixtapes bring to the table? If Jimmy Iovine came short of convincing Game to knife a 9-minute gem in half, how will he react to a 12-minute long, 300-bar heavy track?
The sad thing is that rappers don't have many options here: either slave harder to make your albums worth copping, and pump more money back into the pocket of the corporate guerillas OR legitimately release those mix CDs via labels and still pump more money back in the pocket of corporate guerillas. It's the reinforcement of musical neo-colonialism as we know it.
Now, how we handle the situation will also determine we're headed from here on: do we wild out and throw pebbles at the RIAA's nose; or do we back down and attempt to reach a reasonable compromise? Honestly, neither is a healthy option.
The promotional wheels have been removed. The lane has been altered.
Unfortunately, this is our burden; hip-hop accounts for a good portion of the blame in this cultural intrusion. Let's be serious, it has nary a thing to do with racketeering, or the so-called adverse effect of piracy on sales, or the gazillion ounces of cocaina they expected to find at the AMG office. Sure, Drama and co have been victimized--he was the #1 DJ of 2006 for godssakes--but in the long run they're atoning for the sins of others. We're merely paying the price for commercializing our own culture.
The price of our gain = our loss of freedom.