Mixtape industry promotes underground talent

If you were a cute girl in the early ‘90s, you probably received a cassette full of romantic indie and alternative tunes. Though this is the original definition of a mixtape, it has since taken on new meaning. Today’s mixtape is a compilation by rappers who recycle classic and new beats, like Curren$y and Meek Mill. The mixes are then distributed virally and pro bono.

I used to believe that the only music worth devoting my ears to was either on a shelf or in the iTunes store. My discovery of mixtapes has changed the way I listen to music, as well as my perception of the music industry.

In 2008, the inception of the website DatPiff brought mixtapes to the masses. The website has free registration and a free Lil’ Wayne album available currently. Of the few albums I have purchased this year, Curren$y’s The Stoned Immaculate landed on the list due to the rapper’s involvement with the mixtape industry.

There are other artists who have reached levels of success higher than Curren$y after distributing mixtapes. Take Meek Mill, for instance, a previously unknown underground battle rapper from Philadelphia, Pa. Two songs from his mixtape Dreamchasers became top-20 hits and his follow up, Dreamchasers 2, was downloaded 1.5 million times in less than six hours, effectively crashing DatPiff.

Curren$y’s success is intriguing though, because he never received Meek Mill’s level of promotion. The acclaim he gets is all due to online output.

A niche artist who raps almost exclusively about weed and airplanes – think Wiz Khalifa with less singing and no pop-crossover attempts – Curren$y has yet to garner a mainstream hit. His top YouTube videos have about 3 million hits. His top-selling mixtape, How Fly – a collaborative effort with Khalifa – peaked with 500,000 downloads. That said, when his major label debut The Stoned Immaculate became available for purchase, it sold well, climbing two the number two spot on iTunes.

Many critics and fans have contended that this album was a commercial compromise with weaker beats and more hooks, but an artist has to get paid somehow. If you didn’t like the major label album, you can always troll and find the content that more closely resembles the rapper’s artistic aesthetic.

If you’re looking to check out new music, take a look at DatPiff. At the very least, you’ll find something to blast obnoxiously in your room.