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Mixtape Murder versus Album Battery

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Hope the blog title caught your attention. No we're not talking about the latest beef between 50 cent and Officer Riicckkyy, but the difference in music quality between rap artists' mixtapes and their marketed albums. Yes, it seems that the recent marketing trend is for emcees to release a mixtape prior to their album drops to generate hype and hopefully album sales. And hype is generated indeed, usually the conversation goes as follows:

 "Aye yo my dude, you copped the new (Wayne, Jadakiss, Ludacris, or favorite artist name here) mixtape??"
"Na man, what's it like?"
"Yo I got you right here, play this in some nice speaker's man"
"Aight"

2 days later

"Aye man, you're right! (Wayne, Jada, Luda etc.) murdered it!"

And thus the hype continues. You put your friends on, who put their friends on, and next thing you know people swear by the artists' lyrical skills or swagger. So what happens when the official album drops? Well let's take a look at some famous mixtapes and the following albums by some major artists today.

While you usually see the mixtape precede the album, in this brief recap, we also have albums that were followed pretty quickly by artists' mixtapes. Whatever the order, the trend is the same: artists seem to have the swagger, energy, and rhymes to murder the mixtape but only batter their albums. It isn't that the albums are bad it's just that the "gangsterism" seems to be on lower key. Peep the comparisons:

1.    Lil Wayne's 75,000 mixtapes versus Carter II, Carter III
75,000 mixtapes for Weezy? These days it certainly seems like it. If it's not another song with Young Money, you can count on seeing Lil Wayne as a feature on some new track hittin the streets. Though Weezy clearly didn't come up with this mixtape idea, he is certainly the one who put mixtape flooding as a successful marketing scheme on the map for today's prominent artists. Some of Wayne's more famous mixtapes include Da Drought 3, Dedication 2, and The Drought is Over series. Hits from these mixtapes include the likes of "Back on my Grizzy," "Cannon," "Sportscenter," "I'm a Beast," "Georgia Bush," "It's Time to Give Me Mine" and the list goes on. Most would gather the top 5 Wayne songs excluding recent hits like "Lollipop" from his mixtape compilations.

No one can argue that the caliber of Drought 3 which closely followed the release of the Carter II is of a higher caliber. The Drought 3 was the debut of Wayne as a unique lyricist....not necessarily spitting something deep but definitely something witty. It was this infectious swag and style that catapulted Wayne to the top of rapper lists. Comparing the merits of the mixtapes immediately preceding the Carter III is less of a sure shot. The Carter III is the fastest selling rap album of recent memory and for good reason. With hits like "Lollipop" and "Mrs. Officer" the Carter III represented the emergence of Wayne as a permanent rap icon and pop star. With the weight of this achievement, it is hard to say Wayne didn't murder the Carter III. But there are plenty of other artists who didn't quite get it right when it came time for their album to drop. Look no further than

2.    Joe Budden's Mood Muzik Series versus Joe Budden
In 2003 Joe Budden came out with much hype, literally, when he released his lead single "Pump it Up" off his self-titled debut album Joe Budden. Unfortunately the hype died down with the rest of the tracks off the album. Even critics from All music lamented over tired hooks and over-reliance on beat-maker White Boy. However, whatever success eluded Joe Budden on his debut album was captured and augmented on his Mood Muzik mixtape series, the first of which followed his debut album in 2003. By Mood Muzik 2, Budden was spitting classics such as "Dumb Out" and "3 sides 2 a story" which exhibited his hunger, fire, and his wit whether coming at the industry or orating intricate storylines. One can only hope that the same wit and hunger translates into classic hits off his second official release, The Padded Room, which dropped earlier this year.

3.    Lupe Fiasco's The Cool versus Revenge of the Nerds
Now this is not to come at Lupe Fiasco, because his sophomore album The Cool was a high caliber production with hits such as "Superstar." But the grit, the same qualities and passion that usually propel an artist to stardom, are on full display with his following mixtape Revenge of the Nerds. Three impressive songs are usually my requirement for me to willingly buy an album. Every now and again one song so fire comes along that persuades me to put all my eggs in my basket and buy an artists' album blind. Think "Hard Knock Life" by Jay-Z classic status. Lupe has two tracks of that caliber on Revenge of the Nerds. If you doubted his versatility as an emcee, listen no further than "Switch" and if you thought socially conscious rap was boring and patronizing turn up the volume on Lupe's rendition of "Conflict Diamonds." In these two songs, he excels beyond measure. It's that type of performance beyond expectations (like Carter II exposed listeners wowed by the newness of the Drought 3 in Wayne's case) that solidifies the difference between mixtape murder and album battery.

Above are just three detailed examples. In the interests of not forcing everyone to read through an extensive litany on passionate, ground-breaking mixtapes versus status-quo album releases, we stop here. Other artists to consider who exhibit this same pattern are Young Jeezy (he gained ATL fame through his streets-is-durty, trap style rapping on his mixtapes), G-Unit, Jadakiss/D-Block, and Fabolous. Now it's time for all of you to weigh in. Shout out your mixtape murders to album batteries and maybe our outcry can get official releases up to caliber!

Post Script: I have considered that the reason mixtapes bump hard is because we as fans are already hype off of the instrumentals they choose. After all, most of the songs they spit on are the same hits that have been playing on the radio. But even this taken into account, one can't deny the change in lyricism that occurs on the mixtapes. Perhaps the artist themselves are hype off of how hard the beat goes before they go into the booth. If that's the case then artists might need to spend more time on their production?? But alas, that's another blog post...




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