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Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Editorial) Why I Love 90's Hip Hop Tapes!

Originally Posted on Searching For Chet Baker



Back in 1995 I first discovered hip hop mixtapes.  I was 20 years old  and had taken a trip to the Potomic Mills mall near DC and there was a  kiosk inside that had these tapes.  Now I didn't know anything about  this.  I was looking through the tapes and seeing all these names of  rappers that I had kind of heard about, but not much.  And I was  overcome with this wonder and amazement.  I know that probably sounds  strange to kids growing up with the internet where everything you could  possibly want is right at your fingertips, but it was different back  then.

Back then if you lived in certain areas of the  country, shit was just not available to you.  Unless you had a store in  your town that had connections to New York you just were out of luck.    So unlike today where within minutes of a song leaking out it's on 50  different blogs all thinking they're the one who's going to get all the  internet traffic looking for it, then it was something different.

It's  hard to explain really, but looking at those cassettes was like looking  at the Holy Grail or something.   You're seeing these rapper's names  and you're thinking "oh man, they have a new song out??  Oh wow those  rappers got together on a track???"  and it's a type of pleasure that is  hard to achieve these days.

These days, as I said,  everything is available immediately.  There's no buildup anymore,  there's no surprises.  Everything's instant.   There's no joy of  thumbing through the tapes or cd's in the store and deciding what you're  going to spend your fifteen bucks on.   There's no back and forth  procrastinating.  There's no spending hours and hours just looking  through all the stacks of vinyl or all the racks of CDS marveling at the  artwork and imagining some weird scenario of you walking in with a  thousand bucks and buying up whatever you wanted.

Now everything's just there for the taking.  If you want it, it's there you can download it (legally or otherwise).

I  loved how the tapes were TAPES.  I love how the artwork was not as  elaborate as today.  Back then it didn't matter what your artwork was,  it was about what was on the tape, not what was wrapping the tape.   You  could pick up a tape, regardless of the packaging, and say "Ron G?   Sold."  or "DJ Clue? Sold."  "DJ Lazy K? Sold."   Now it's "well, this  cover is wack I'm not even going to look at that one".   And that's sad.

I  love when I listen to some of the old cassette tapes there's that hiss  in the background of the music.  I love that it's not digital.  I love  that it's not pristine and cleaned up.   I love that when I listen to it  the voices are slightly higher pitched for some damn reason.   I figure  it's from all the play it's gotten over the years.   Even MP3 rips of  the tapes you hear that higher pitch to the voices where they aren't  quite at chipmunk levels but close, although the speed of the song is  the same, the voices are different.  I love that.  I don't know why I  just do.

I love listening to an old mixtape and hearing  something that sounds cliched as hell now, but was BRAND NEW then.   Things like Puffy yelling "AS WE PROCEED....TO GIVE YOU WHAT YOU  NEED...." or "9-5 MOTHERF*CKER!  GET LIVE MOTHERF*CKER!".  Hearing songs  that are close to 20 years old and hearing them introduced as "this  brand new joint".  How do you NOT love that?   It's like a time machine  back to when hip hop was cool.

I love Hip Hop Blends which  just aren't the same anymore.  I love hearing an R&B song flipped  over the beat to Busta Rhymes Woo Ha!   I love hearing another R&B  track flipped over Fugee's Ready or Not.   I love that back then hip hop  mixtapes were a thing of beauty, when in reality it was a simple  cassette tape.  Not nearly as pristine and digital as CD's, not as long  lasting as CD's, and yet so much better.

I love thinking  back to when I was homeless and all I had in the world to my name was a  backpack filled with some clothes and books, and my beloved walkman with  about ten tapes that I had bought off a local merchant in  Charlottesville Virginia.   How I'd sit up at night and put those  headphones on and close my eyes and just get lost in these tapes.   How  everything would be magically better for 90 minutes at a time.

I  loved how I'd read the tracklisting and imagine these mythical rappers  in New York, which seemed to me to be a magical place far away from me,  as I'd never been out of Virginia at that point.   And how every tape  I'd come across was something new.  I had no access to music magazines  or anything like that, so when I'd find out "oh wow Nas and Foxy Brown  did a new song!" that was NEW to me, despite it maybe being months old.

When  was the last time you came across a collabo that you didn't even know  about months after it was out?   Today everything is out there on the  blogs and the magic and mystery of it is gone.   And so is the  enjoyment.   I only listen to music that I own at this point.  Every now  and then there'll be a new album I'll pick up, but 9 times out of 10  it's by an artist I already know I like.

I listen to the  old stuff from back when I loved music a lot more.   It's amazing what  being out of the loop will do for your appreciation of music.   So you  can have your new hip hop music.   I'm not one of those cats who buy  into the "Hip Hop is Dead" mantra.  I have too much respect for Hip Hop  to believe it could be killed off by some passing fads or wack rappers.   Hip Hop has survived all that in the past and is still here.

That  said, I'll stick with the old school.  You can have the new.   As long  as I've got a walkman and some cassettes (backed up on my Ipod, of  course), then I'll be just fine.

Shout out to all the hip  hop DJ's that are still doing their thing all these years later.  You  know who you are.   And shout out to all the DJ's that are continuing  that tradition on with respect to those that came before you.

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"Nuclear Winter represents many things. It represents dark times in our lives, it represents the state of NY hip hop & how I feel about it, & it represents my blueprint on how I think the music should be done going forward into the future. This is my manifesto to all the people that doubted me & the kryptonite to all selfishness. It's a journey from darkness into light, & from bondage & the huge amounts of weight on our shoulders to breaking free and regaining our freedom. Nuclear Winter we're coming to take shine....." - Willie Maze

The Generals consist of emcees Willie Maze & Dime.

Released 17 July 2012 Art & Direction: Willie Maze

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