UBGteam Blogs: Evolution of ‘Mixtapes’


June is Black Music Month and to kick off a month of exclusives and exciting features on UrbanBridgez.com, we present to you UBGteam Blogs! Throughout the month of June the UBGteam will blog about various subjects related to black music. Starting off with Amaiya‘s blog on the evolution of Mixtapes!

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As time progresses, everything in the music industry changes. Whether it is having entire albums on the Internet instead of selling/buying cassettes and CDs, or artists choosing to use auto-tune rather than using their real voices, change exists everywhere in the industry, and it is important for artists to stay relevant so that the public will respond positively to them. Something that has changed tremendously in the industry is something that I find is often over looked; the power of a mixtape.

The purpose of a mixtape seems to have evolved over recent years. In the 90s, most mixtapes were formulated by different DJs who put together different artists’ songs, or created mixes between songs, or emcees would just rap over another rapper’s beat. Now, a mixtape is ultimately an album in itself. Rappers are creating completely new beats with new lyrics, and are producing brand new songs that result in an entire compilation. So I raise a few questions. Have we lost the true meaning of a mixtape? Is there a real difference between a mixtape and an album?

Mixtapes are ultimately a cheaper way to put music out there for emcee’s fans, to give the public a taste of what to expect on their albums, for no cost. For instance, Lil Wayne has a long list of official mixtapes; SQ1-SQ7 and Da Drought in 2003, Da Drought 2 and The Prefix in 2004,The Suffix and Dedication in 2005, Dedication 2 and Blow in 2006, Da Drought 3 in 2007, Dedication 3 in 2008, and No Ceilings in 2009. This long list of mixtapes could arguably be the reason why Lil Wayne is the Lil Wayne we know and love today. His lyrical talent was expressed on these tracks whether he recorded freestyles over other artist’s beats, or if he used his own beats. On Da Drought 3, Weezy rapped over the beat of Mike Jones’ “Mr. Jones” and made the song his own with “The Sky Is The Limit”. If you played that beat for most rap fans, people would most likely recognize it being a Lil Wayne song rather than Mike Jones’ song- “Mr. Jones” was Mike Jones’s single…”The Sky Is The Limit” was just a song off of Lil Wayne’s mixtape. Lil Wayne’s mixtapes listed above were also the reason why his albums Tha Carter 2 and Tha Carter 3 were such huge successes; he reached out to his fans new and old by giving them free mixtapes that hyped himself up for the releases of his albums.

T.I. is fresh out of jail, as we all know, with a lot on his mind I’m sure. His new album King Uncaged is expected to have an August 17th release date. He has recently dropped a new mixtape called F*ck A Mixtape, which I believe is being used to ease his way back in to the music world before his album drops. Rick Ross did the same with his mixtape The Albert Anastasia Ep, which was released a little less than two months before his album Teflon Don, which releases on July 6. These mixtapes are now really giving fans what they want; quality original music, while also doing remixes…for free.

Wiz Khalifa has recently become more and more popular because of his mixtape “Kush and Orange Juice”. Most do not know that Wiz Khalifa has been in the music game since around 2005, and has released two albums Show and Prove and Deal or No Deal, but his mixtapes Burn After Rolling and Kush and Orange Juice have given him more success than his actual albums. The release of Kush and Orange Juice was the number one trending topic on Twitter, as well as Google’s number one top ten hottest search trends. This was all accomplished with a MIXTAPE.

Drake is a prime example of what a mixtape can do for an artist. Drake was not even SIGNED, but his video for “Best I Ever Had” played on BET and MTV from his mixtape. His mixtapes are why he is the rapper he is. Without Comeback Season, Room For Improvement, Heartbreak Drake, and So Far Gone, fans would not be this anxious for the release of his debut album Thank Me Later. His mixtapes started his entire career; they gave him the opportunity to show himself as an artist before dropping an album.

Mixtapes use to only really circulate among rap artists, and now they are branching over to R&B artists. We all know that the ultra sexy Anticipation mixtape by Trey Songz had the Internet going crazy. Some argue, and I agree, that his mixtape is better than his album Ready, which dropped after his mixtape. Anticipation had all the amenities of an actual album; interludes, fresh songs, and a concept. Chris Brown has even released two mixtapes In My Zone and Fan of a Fan (with Tyga). After all the Rihanna drama, and the disappointing sales of his album Graffiti, he turned to making a mixtape to help regain the love from his fans. His mixtape In My Zone received better reviews than his album Graffitti, and had a much better reception from the public.

Mixtapes are used now for so many more reasons and are even becoming fans’ favorite pieces of work from urban artists. I hope artists realize that using a mixtape could immensely help their career. A whole new power lies within a mixtape. I am curious to see what will happen next.

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Learn more about Amaiya on UBGmedia.com – Launching Friday!
Follow her on Twitter: @feisty058

4 Comments
  1. Nice read. i think mixtapes serve there purpose & creates a buzz for more music from somebody. Look at Drake without mixtapes where would he be I dont think there would be so much hype around his album thats still not out yet.

  2. Excellent read. Mixtapes definitely build the hype for an album, but in a lot of ways artists have way more creative freedom on them than their actual albums.

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