Tales of the Tape
Being from an urban area and an avid rap fan, my first experiences with mixtapes came at a rather young age. In New York, where record stores (mom-and-pop and chain alike) have closed at brisk pace during my lifetime, it’s always made sense to browse street vendors, purveyors of these cds, when in search of hip-hop. Mixtapes are cheaper than regular cds, often running about $7 as opposed to $18 or so; they contain material not available anywhere else, such as beef (feuding and insult) tracks; and, they have a more entertaining format, either blending tracks together (so the party doesn’t slow down) or taking on a “radio show feel” by incorporating hosts. At the same time, mixtapes almost always feature some sort of ridiculous and amusing cover or title. A recent search of mixtapekings.com turned up a cover on which rapper Tru Life is laughing at his current rivals, Jim Jones and Juelz Santana, both of Dipset fame, as the duo are dressed (presumably via Photoshop) in drag. Another features a photo of Freekey Zeeky, of the Diplomats/Byrd Gang group, on the front page of a newspaper while begging the question “Who Shot Zeke?” I think at the end of the day, though, one should acknowledge what is at the core of the New York Times article about DJ Grillz: Are these tapes promotional tools or simply a way to skirt money away from the recoding industry?
Mixtapes have a special place in hip-hop music. They represent rapping free of the recording industry and they offer aspiring artists a chance to build a fan-base in the streets. Equally notable, they offer the recording a barometer on which to gauge potential sales as artists can experiment on tapes to see what the public is feeling. Going “Ghetto Gold,” or selling a lot of tapes, is considered a badge of honor among rappers. Socially, mixtapes allow for an element of hip-hop not often seen on major commercial releases: competition, beef and feuding. Without the possibility of censorship by execs, rappers are free to talk trash and compete with their peers to see who can diss the other guy worse. This is a significant part of hip-hop culture. Politically, and legally too, the record industry has to recognize that these tapes are a cultural phenomenon; they are something that moves the genre or lifestyle forward and thus, promotes the product (if that’s the only concern). Mixtapes are not simply bootlegs and thus, Grillz should not be in custody.
And then there’s the bio you’ve requested:
I am a senior, who is very much hoping to be let into the class. I’ve interned at three newspapers in the past four years and had a weekly item in the New York Sun for most of Sophomore year. Although I don’t agree with their political slant, I interned with Fox News over a summer in New York. I worked at ground zero of the largest and most-watched (for better or worse) cable news outfit in this nation. Thus, I think that I can provide insights as to how and why various types of journalists operate. I also coordinated a blogging project and website advancement for the United Nations Association as an intern this summer. More important, I have a strong interest in both International Relations and Media.