In the wake of DJ Drama's arrest I thought I'd collect some of the excellent reporting that exists on the web about hip hop mixtapes.
In 2003, MTV put together this report, Mixtapes: THe Other Music Industry by Shaheem Reid.
-the existence of mixtapes preceeded rap records. People like Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc made customised tapes (charging by the minute and adding customised shoutouts) and distributed recordings of their djing performances at parties. A real corner stone of hip hop culture.
-DJ Clue's tapes mark a shift in mixtape culture: his were less about turntable skills and more about finding new talent and new music. Tapes are crucial entry for young talent based entirely on merit. Also mark the continuation of DJs being at the forefront of tastemking
-mixtapes may be outselling official albums. Artists say they like them because they can say and do what they want. They also capture the more collaborative nature of the culture eg arists freestyling over beats they like. The energy is palpable.
-also nice description about how easily and quickly the mixtapes can spread around the world and the animosity about the distribution (it being the crucial element of illegality.)