Mixtapes. Everyone's handing them out, but what are they? In the ol' days, they were Maxell cassette masterpieces, aimed at winning over that brainy brunette with just the right mix of De La Soul, The Replacements and Nas. "The word's starting to lose its meaning in a lot of ways," says DJ Trackstar, who has moved some 12,000 copies of his own mixtapes over the past three years. "To me, an honest-to-God mixtape is a DJ mixing records, period."
But today's CD mixtape more likely features an unknown rapper spitting over famous beats. Or else it's an emcee's new album which he's too lazy to get professionally done.
Most rock bands diligently mix and master their best material and invest their tax returns into releasing a finished product that contains liner notes, a UPC code and a jewel case. And then they try to recoup their investment by selling them.
Rappers, however, stick a few songs burned onto a CD-R into a rainbow-colored case and start passing them out. Sorry to pick on these guys, but when are Spaide R.I.P.P.E.R. and Havok's albums coming out? Both have been on banging mixtapes, but their albums are long overdue.
You might say this strategy trying to generate "buzz" in hopes of attracting a major label deal worked for 50 Cent, but Yo! says it's unworthy of the pine CD tower we bought at Musicland back in the day.
Anyway, enough negativity. Time to shout out Webster University student and former Flipside scribe Wendell Davis. His Mr. North Presents...The Midwesterners, Volume 2 is essentially a Kansas City/Chicago/St. Louis underground rap greatest-hits compilation (an old-school mixtape, if you will). The featured artists many with F5 Records ties include Miles Bonny, Black Spade, Nato Caliph, Archetype and Serengeti (don't miss his "Dennehy" remix). You can buy it for $5 at Euclid Records and Vintage Vinyl, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Also on the F5 tip is DJ Agile One's Hip-Hop Is Alive, Volume 4, which features a continuous mix of hits from artists like Penelope, Kelis and Amerie. Now that's what I call a mixtape! You can hit up Agile for one for a mere $5 when she DJs at Blueberry Hill's The Science on Friday nights, or e-mail her at email@example.com.