Mixtapes vs. Street Albums vs. EP’s – Re:Definition
The key question today is, what is a mixtape versus a street album versus an EP? I will attempt to now classify these projects separately to give each the proper platform and inform the listener/reader what they’re about to hear when they see the various titles on a project.
Before and outside of hip-hop, mixtapes were a combination of various songs put together by listeners, often for friends to get different songs. When hip-hop caught on in the ’80s, DJs, who were then often bigger than the artists, showcased their skills and taste by cutting up music, blending songs, and featuring new music.
In the ’90s, mixtapes primarily shifted into two categories. Blend tapes, which would take a capellas and verses and put them against different instrumentals (DJs like Dirty Harry killed it). Or standard mixtapes, which were the definitive way to introduce new music and artists, and most lacked any technical DJ skills. Stars were made like DJ Clue, who Def Jam signed and went platinum just playing new unreleased music. Well, when he wasn’t hiding from Biggie after stalking his records early—I’m kidding, Clue. Kinda.
The Internet killed the ’90s definition of mixtapes. Blogs became the new DJs by becoming the sources for premiering new music, and many mixtape DJs at the time were forced into early retirement. A few stood at the end of the day, and became stars in their own rights, releasing projects formed entirely of original music with one specific artist/crew (and often original production). Now, these were always called mixtapes, yet often didn’t have any mixing or outside artists, and sometimes were better than artist’s official album releases.
My personal opinion on what should be considered a mixtape is a project that a DJ actually masterminds and controls in an obvious way for a listener. For example, mashing up records, taking various songs and mixing them together, or doing something else creative the same way. This will help clarify what “mixtapes” really are, and help the outside world better understand what DJs do creatively. Basically, I feel a mixtape should be a creative project derived from a DJ. (i.e. “mixed”).
SIDE NOTE: Should we still call it a tape? That’s a whole other debate… ha!