The mixtape holds a precious spot in the history of hip-hop. As the genre dawned in early '70s New York, artists and fans traded cassette recordings of parties and shows, and quickly, DJs began distributing their own home-recorded "House Tapes" as a means of gaining traction.
Today, the mixtape, especially in its digital format, is an indispensable promotional tool: easy to get out quick, free to download, shareable, remixable, and unencumbered by the strings of a traditional recording contract. In many ways, the mixtape has replaced the album. And with heavyweights like Chance The Rapper, Future, and Young Thug preferring it, it's likely that, this year, the album of the year is a mixtape.
Since April 2016, digital archivist Jason Scott has been collecting hip-hop mixtapes from across their history over at the non-profit digital library project the Internet Archive. They include original artwork and they're all fully streamable. So far, Scott's posted 7,791 mixtapes, with an understandable emphasis on the post-2000s, digital era. That's over 150 full days of music, the Archive blog notes. Over the next few months, including all the files he's targeted, he hopes to get that total closer to 17,000.
Sure, that number might pale when the big streamers put a catalogue of millions at your fingertips, but so much of the Archive's collection isn't preserved elsewhere. Without Scott's work, in a few years, once the server space it's sitting on at DatPiff, for example, expires, a huge slice of hip-hop history would disappear into digital oblivion. The guys deserves a medal or a key to a city or a Starbucks gift card or something.
So far the most streamed tapes are DJ Triple Exe's Passion of R&B 111, a mix featuring D.R.A.M., dvsn, Kelly Rowland and more, as well as an early Drake release. We've picked out a few other points of interest, including the fondly remembered early Nicki Minaj. But, please, start digging around yourself, because there are so many. This is a big, big crate.
DJ Triple Exe, Passion of R&B 111
Young Thug vs. Lil Wayne, Trap Combat 2
DJ Amanda Blaze and DJ M.Z.I., R&B Season 31
Nicki Minaj, Playtime Is Over