Why I Stopped Making Mixtapes
“It’s either ‘get into them’ and be a legend of all time, or ‘get into yourself’ and be a legend in your own mind”. ~ Grandmaster Flash
People always ask me for mixtapes all the time. They ask for a number of reasons – to check out my style, sample my music collection, for work-out soundtrack, to play at a party (instead of hiring a DJ … not recommended!), and so forth.
To me, a DJ mixtape is like a business card. It is one of the most important ways that a DJ advertises his or her services. Mixtapes ought to give people a very good idea of what to expect when the DJ plays at an event.
And that’s why I stopped making them.
Okay, let me explain.
Mixtapes have always played a huge role in DJ culture, particularly the hip-hop DJ culture (i.e. the one that started it all). Before the SoundCloud era, DJs introduced new music to the community. They did this through parties, at clubs, on the radio, and with their mixtapes.
Many iconic DJ’s made their mark with classic mixtapes. People looked forward to their favorite DJs’ mixtapes, so they could hear what’s popping at the moment. Artists often got their big break through features on mixtapes. Because of all this, there’s something classic and timeless about solid mixtapes, and DJs actively pursued those virtues as they crafted their mixes. Well … at least, there used to be.
Things have changed drastically, thanks to the internet and the plethora of free music-sharing platforms. Also, the fact that we’re flooded with so much new music nowadays means most of the new stuff doesn’t leave a lasting impression (or listeners’ attention spans have shortened tremendously. Take your pick :-)). The way many DJs respond to this new dynamic is by flooding the internet with mixtapes. To stay relevant, we keep churning out new content to keep in-step with the rapid-fire influx of new music. Makes sense, right?
I prefer a different approach.
As a DJ, my mixtapes should show that I am on top of my game, and I keep up with what’s current and popping. But regardless of entertainment trends, quality ALWAYS outlasts quantity. Those classic and timeless virtues I mentioned earlier get lost in all that content we’re pumping into the web. I had to step back and realize the delicate balance between RELEVANCE and LEGACY. The former gets me ‘through the door’ and may win some attention, but is based on transient trends. The latter takes time to develop, but will eventually produce a loyal audience that keeps coming back for more!
So, I stopped making mixtapes. Well, definitely not as frequently as I used to. Now, I invest a lot of time and resources in identifying what is ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’. Taking this approach challenges me to be more thoughtful and creative in my mixtape-crafting process. I’m challenged to see beyond “what’s popping”, to create unique musical experiences that can resonate with everyone. I’m challenged to be more innovative in the way I connect with my audience, e.g. live mix videos (check out The Sessions).
Of course, this approach may not appeal to casual browsers who’re just looking for the trendy stuff. I always get questions like “Your mixtapes are cool … but do you have any new music?” But it’s all worth it.
TL;DR – I don’t make mixtapes anymore. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I strive to create unique musical experiences through a variety of media – mixtapes, videos, and so forth. It’s more than just putting out the latest content. It’s about quality content that showcases uniqueness and creativity.