Mixtapes can cut through red tape
Mixtape is the word these days in the local hip-hop industry.
The trend is that more and more artists go the mixtape route to introduce themselves and create some street cred before releasing their official albums.
Mixtapes originally served to showcase the mixing, beat-matching and scratching skills of the compiler, who is usually a DJ.
Historically, a mixtape featured various rappers rhyming on a well-known beat, which was then recorded onto an audio tape.
These days, most people still call them “mixtapes”, even though the tracks can also be recorded onto CDs or in other digital formats.
While the mixtape tradition has been part of hip-hop culture in the US since the 80s, it’s still only a select few who are able to profit from it.
Legendary American turntable masters such as Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force broke onto the scene internationally with mixtapes.
Simone Harris of local hip-hop magazine Hype says: “Locally, the mixtape culture has a lot of potential to grow.
However, it should not be used as a way to make money, especially when you consider the weak local album sales across all genres.
It should rather be treated as a marketing tool to create hype before dropping an album.”
Harris also believes that popular local DJs like C-Live, Naves and Milkshake, among others, have more of a chance of profiting.
She says: “For anyone underground, it will take a lot of marketing to get the mixtape out there. And on top of that, they have to make sure it’s quality material for it to get far.”
DJ C-Live of 5FM recently released a free, 20-track mixtape called The Taste Maker, which features artists such as AKA, Maggz, Bongz, Morale, Kwesta, Tumi and The Volume, and up-and-coming local hip-hop talents.
C-Live says that judging by the number of requests received, he’s considering selling his next one.
“I wanted to use the mixtape to help new artists gain a platform to showcase themselves,” he explains.
Last year, Metro FM’s DJ Naves also released an album called The Black Series Mixtape, featuring Slikour with performances from Loyiso Bala, Skwatta Kamp’s Infa and Live presenter Bonang Matheba.
There are many other hip-hop artists like Silvabaq, gangster rap group Big Fkn Gun, Reason, Cape Town-based Ill-Literate-Skill, local producer pH, Proverb, DJ Papercutt and Zubs who continue to release some of their material through digital platforms as mixtapes on popular download sites like Afro-MP3.com.
One of the founders of local website Scoobysnack.co.za – dedicated to retailing hip-hop goods like T-shirts, hoodies, sunglasses and watches – also peddles mixtapes online. While others go for as much as R80, there are those that can be dowloaded for free.
Vernon Venter, one of the website’s founders, says: “We have up-and-coming DJs and artists who sell their mixtapes through us and you get those who make the mixtape available for free downloads.”
Venter adds that one of the popular mixtapes was that of newcomer L-Tido, whose City of Gold continues to receive about 20 downloads a day over the past five months or so.
He subsequently won a Channel O Most Gifted Newcomer award. His first album will be released later this year.
“Mixtapes build an artist’s brand,” says L-Tido’s manager Thabiso Khati of Street Music. He adds that mixtapes also allow artists to go directly to the consumer.
“The best part is once you sell your mixtape, you get to keep all the money,” he says.