"Stay Far From Timid, Only Make Moves When Your Hearts In It, and Live The Phrase: Sky's The Limit..."
© Christopher "Notorious BIG" Wallace R.I.P

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back to the Basics...

On February 13th, 2009 the most talked mixtape since 50's 50 Cent is the Future released via internet creating a massive buzz. So Far Gone introduced the world to a 22 year old Canadian male by the name of Drake, who previously gained television fame on the teen drama filled Degrassi.

The tape found the Toronto native discussing many issues in his life from aspirations of becoming "Successful" to reminiscing on the "Best 'he' Ever Had." Initially at already million+ number of downloads, the mixtape eventually entered the Billboard 200 album chart with sales of about 453,000 and garnered phenomenal reviews from critics alike. From that point on, the Young Money Entertainment signee was able to be featured on tracks with many of hip-hop's heavyweights including those from Jay-Z to Kanye West, Eminem, Lil Wayne, and many more.

"Dropped a mixtape that sh*t sounded like an album, who woulda thought a countrywide tour would be the outcome..." ("Forever" Drake)

The significance of such a compilation like So Far Gone is that it not only transformed the former Degrassi star into the most talked about man in music (not just hip-hop and/or R&B.) but, its ability to shake up the music industry because of its musical content that was ultimately put out for free 99. So Far Gone undoubtedly resembled an original full-length LP, from its mastered production to its mainstream appealing records; not to mention the numerous guest appearances. "I'm here feelin' like 50 back in '02..." ("You Know, You Know" Drake).

This leaves one to question? Are mixtapes the new albums?...

When you take a look at your favorite MC's discography, many times their best body of work isn't always an actual album in their catalog. For instance, back in '04 Ruff Ryder elite, Jadakiss dropped a promotional mixtape for his then forthcoming Kiss Of Death LP titled The Champ is Here. The tape featured Kiss, alongside DJ Green Lantern, flowing over original instrumentals and some cuts from the album. Although it was only for promotional use, according to the fans Champ is Here was considered better than Kiss of Death.

The problem with this and what tends to happen to the artists is that when it comes to creating mixtapes, they have the leisure to do as they please which gives them a clean slate of creative space. From that point on, there is eventually room for the artist to go all out without any restrictions or pressure from the expectations by the record label execs.

Look at fellow MC Fabolous who's infamous by fans for dropping classic street singles and mixtapes but, when it comes to creating full-length albums he often takes an L ("...So I don't drive Lex"). In the sake of making a comparison, There is No Competition (Pt. 1) would blow Street Dreams out the water by both its production and lyrical content. Same goes for Pt. 2 against From Nothin' to Somethin'. Both tapes feature Fab going bar for bar relentlessly without feeling the need of conforming for commercial appraise. In fact, it was the mixtapes that garnered Fab as a top notch MC and created the standard to which fans hold him to every time an album drops.

Rappers set a high standard for their selves on these tapes. Without the need to release any commercial friendly tracks, they are free and fully able to perform at their highest potential without any constraints. This can often times become the double edged sword because just like with Fab and other artists, fans would much rather hear the mixtape than album.

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