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!

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

  • oskamadison

    Skee, great posts all week. You broke the mixtape thing down perfectly. I remember back in the ’80′s, mixtapes were strictly blend tapes, mostly put together by local DJ’s exclusively for ballers with dough to blow (ie, the OG D-boys). Going back even further, they used to have bootleg compilations of the hottest songs of the time …on 8-track tapes!! Basically, those were the mixtapes of the ’70′s. (BTW, I’m not as old as some of y’all might be thinking right now, I just have a good memory, lol.) Now, if we can get these dudes to drop albums that are as good as their mixtapes (good luck!), the game would be better off.

    • Durbey E. Macon

      Oskamadison said: Now, if we can get these dudes to drop albums that are as good as their mixtapes (good luck!), the game would be better off.

      Co-Sign to the fullest. Record labels need to support their artist so that they both can make money.

    • http://www.redsummerent.com chris cash

      Red Summer Entertainment

  • BooM

    Probably the best blogs ive ever read on this website, even better than the regular bloggers on this website

    Big Upps 2 Skee 4 these blogs, he should come out with his own blogging website

  • AZ40

    interesting and good to see this brought to the light, I was just thinking about this topic a few weeks ago. I think you’re dead on about EP’s, they’re usually shorter and the artist doesn’t have to live up to the “hype” of full album sales. I prefer street albums and just this past year there were a couple that could give official releases a run for there money

  • http://www.xxlblocktalk.com/INDOE INDOE

    Skee great work on this and the others . I remember first hearing “Sound of da’Police” on a DJ Silva Surfa tape yes tape and that was my true intro to this . I like to think that i’ve been around enough of these things to tell the difference between mix/street/EP’s . 50′s “War Angel” may be the best street album in recent memory in my opinion . Also your right about Dirty Harry . I still have his little mix over the Nas beat with everybody hot at the time cut in CLASSIC ! And Skee you also have a classic in my opinion with the “300 Bars” track that thing is still nice , i can only imagine being in the studio watching J blaze that thing .

    • oskamadison

      @ INDOE

      Yo, Dirty Harry was like Van Gogh with those tapes. Imagine if he would have had the access to exclusives that Clue had to go with his style?? Clue and every other DJ after him would all be at Burger King right now.

  • El Tico Loco

    I was always into blend type mixtapes so I used to fux with the Ron G tapes, Doo Wop if I wanted to hear new spitters but Kid Capri knew (or knows) how to balance both aspects. The newer DJ’s need to bring some of that back believe or not is an actual void as opposed to played as some might think.

  • General

    Good drops all week Skee. You definetely shed light on some great topics and provided a great point of view from the industry…

    And your right, some people’s street albums are better than what they drop as their actual albums. I think 50 Cent was a great example of that last year with War Angel being better than BISD…

  • jesse

    Great Job this week SKEE. Tip your hat people.

  • Curtis75Black

    what a breath of Fresh air SKEE !! You definitely did your thing. Great topic to bring up also. Much Respect.

  • latino heat

    the mixtape game is so much different then it was just 3 years ago. (does anyone know what the final verdict was in that DJ Drama case by the way?) as i stated many times on this site i had totally given up on mixtapes for the last 2 years or so. just about 2 months ago i went back and have been checking out a bunch of tapes from over the last year, and the shit is actually hot. but way too many tapes by too many b.s. dj’s had left a bad taste in my mouth and i had given up on the game. good to see it going back strong again.

    i agree that there is a problem with everything that is released being labeled a mixtape. your breakdowns of each category are on point. all free music released is not a mixtape.

    my favorite part about the current mixtape game is that most actually have the option to download without the irritating dj drops which i always hated with a passion. you guys know that shit was annoying as hell, especially when you were listening with some headphones on and you hear Clue’s high pitched yelling right in your fuckin ears! was it just me or the treble level on the dj drops was always much higher then the level of the actual music on the tape?

  • http://www.bboycult.com The $ykotic Don Mac

    This is my lane right here.

    You brought out the X-spot homies with this one Skee. Made me notice that I need to do more of these blogs over @ bboycult.

  • NotoriousAGC

    Skee great job homie, you’ve been the best guest blogger i’ve ever seen here in XXL, You should get on here on a regular basis.

  • TheIllOne

    Hey Skee, get off your own dick, wigger. You’d prolly sell your soul to be black. ahaahahahaaa.

  • John Cochran

    09 was definetly the year of the street album. I listened to way more indy shit than official releases. And by the way, that tape (or street album) that Skee and Whoo kid did with Snoop was way better than his album. Which leads me to a question, why give away better music on a mixtape than whats on the actual album? In Snoop’s case I had no reason to buy his CD.

  • http://www.myspace.com/bigrawlegibson Big Rawle Gibson

    Mixtape, street album or EP who cares what you call it as long as the fans are getting quality music that’s all we care about really. Anyway check out some songs from my upcoming whatever you wanna call it!!


    Holding On

    Money To Blow (Remix) – Drake, BRG, Lil Wayne

  • TTCD

    skee is a smart dude. great business sense and music knowledge.

  • sway-z

    Good article, now all we need to do is refreshen niggas on the definition of “Freestyle” and we’ll almost be home

  • Son Son

    Bigger Than Me – Street Album/EP
    Marshall Law – Mixtape
    Bigger Picture – Street Album/EP
    Advanced Placement – Mixtape

    Artist – Boogie The Don
    Home – Newport News, Virginia

    Producer – Stone
    Home – Brooklyn, New York

    Check ‘em out.

  • Mr. Q

    Another great article, Skee!
    I like these bits of information “Straight from the horses’ mouth.” It’s refreshing to have an insider clearly define what many don’t know. I also like how Skee is starting with the basics.
    P.S. Skee, where’s the next “You Know What It Is”, with Game???

  • UNITURNZ2000


  • http://mackilo.bandcamp.mu Maccassi Kilo

    brah diss helped me out tho ,im tryna release a mixtape diss summer buh now its gunna be called a street album buh i aint puttin it in tha stores…does that stil count?

  • http://www.musicxclusives.com MRay

    Any EP that goes beyond 30 minutes, by definition, is not an EP if it has more than six songs: that is called an album, or LP. If it

    EPs are usually less than 7 tracks and at least 3 (2 tracks or less qualify as singles). If it’s 8 tracks or more, it should be less than 30 minutes. If not, it’s not an EP- it’s an LP/album.