For quite some time, darkness fell over the rap world. Quality seemed lacking. Piracy plagued profitability. New talent rarely achieved a title greater than "one hit wonder". I mean, the industry was so desperate that they turned to Nick Cannon for a hit song... dark times, indeed. But as the smoke began to clear from the rubble file sharing had created, a hero emerged from the ashes: the digital mixtape.
We all know mixtapes are nothing new to rap; but combining them with the exposure and accessibility of the Internet was the radioactive spider bite needed to create the hero rap had been waiting for.
Though the business side of the industry is still trying to figure itself out, the digital mixtape has saved rap with Economics 101: greater competition yields greater products. The digital mixtape has opened up competition by leveling the playing field for all amateurs while simultaneously forcing professionals to produce more music and keep their skills fresh.
The fight to remain relevant has never been a harder battle; however, this struggle is what’s causing artists to advance their game at a rate never known before. Recently "rehabilitated" artist, Lil' Wayne, is a testament to this new system in place. Wayne's mixtapes won him respect as a solo artist making the release of a solo album inevitable. However, the pressure to maintain short-attention-spanned fans between albums kept him in the studio night after night in order to keep up with the demand for more mixtape material all the while setting aside the best songs for his albums. After a few years of this process, Wayne’s skills on the mic had evolved in such a way that he was able to create an album that many claim resurrected rap: Tha Carter III.
Cue the young child on the side walk- "Thank you, Digital Mixtape! You saved us!” (Or rap, anyway).
Rap amateurs are no longer competing with the best in their area to become worthy of a label. Up-and-comers now need to produce content of higher quality than ever to separate themselves from every other kid with a couple tracks on his MySpace page. This process is breeding the best to be stars and, hopefully, will end the creation of Nick Cannon-esk one hit wonders. The success of Drake is proof that the Internet insures a rookie can have overnight success if they have skills worthy of the fame. With just three digital mixtapes to his name, Drake secured his spot in rap history. This is a feat that, until now, no artist or fan would’ve ever believed possible. As a result, the significance of mixtapes for amateur rappers has changed forever.
All that said, I plan on using this forum to review mixtapes, discuss the digitally enhanced Darwinism occurring in rap today and track the evolution of the modern day rap artist .