I heard your mom is dropping a mixtape. Kidding, of course -- but in this oversaturated climate, it doesn't seem too far-fetched. The drastic decline in record sales has led a phenomenon I refer to as "The Mixtape Epidemic." The platform once reserved for talented unsigned rappers has been bombarded by artists from every level of the rap food chain. In the last two weeks, mixtapes have been released by Lloyd Banks, Lil B, Nipsey Hussle, 2Chainz, Freddie Gibbs, ASAP Rocky, Scram Jones, LEP Bogus Boys, Kid Cudi and two from R&B artist Trey Songz (really, son?) just to name a few.
We know that the Internet file-sharing made generating money through album sales virtually impossible. So instead, artists give away tons of free music, which can help them generate revenue from touring and endorsement opportunities. Mixtapes marry low cost of production with a high opportunity for profit. But a blessing for the artist has turned out to be a curse for the fan. With rappers constantly releasing music to remain relevant, it's no longer about having the best songs -- it's about having the most songs.
A decade ago, mainstream hip-hop artists released one album per year -- and all their creativity was funneled into one project. Releasing more material means using less time, effort and ultimately, creativity. Hence, a sloppily thrown-together, mediocre album. And listeners can definitely tell.
Quantity should never trump quality in the world of music. I'd take five exceptional songs over fifty decent songs in a heartbeat. If every mixtape could be the caliber of a G-Unit installment circa '03, I'd be happy. Unfortunately the current releases sound more like Yung Berg circa '09. Also, with the constant deluge of new music, you aren't given an opportunity to enjoy what preceded it. Call me old school, but a good album needs a month or two to be dissected and truly appreciated.
I understand that the hip-hop industry is ultimately just that; an industry. Clearly all participants will invest in the most lucrative opportunities -- and right now, it's the mixtape. And to be fair, even though most are sloppily thrown together, you can find an occasional gem. For every hundred "Flockaveli's" you're liable to get one G-Unit "Gods Plan."
Just be careful what you download, rap fans! You may be getting a product more worthy of a spam folder than an iTunes playlist.
Stay plugged in with the stories on black life and culture that matter. Learn more