More (Quality) “Mixalbums” Please…

 |  January 26, 2011
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People sure love to be down about today’s music landscape. I’m the last to talk since I’ve spent many a post criticizing the industry. With that said I’m pleased about a few trends surfacing in the biz. One of them is the emergence of free.99 albums: also known as “mixalbums.”

The thing is the projects in question claim to be mixtapes. However, they really aren’t in a classical sense. Many are distributed for free. Yet they fail to incorporate the actual mixing of songs between tracks, scattered smattering of songs/freestyles, pull ups, scratches, obnoxious DJ tags or a mixture of these aspects found in the prototypical tape. Hell, they’re not even tapes since that format got phased out years ago.

Alternatively, they mainly carry the same sonic themes and pacing of an LP release. The artist(s) and co. just decided to give it away for the masses’ enjoyment. I’ve come up on many top notch “mixalbums” in the past approached with the same care an artist would put into a project meant for retail. Many times I hear ‘em and say “Wow, rapper X could’ve sold this” not only because the work is obviously a step above the everyday free stuff we get. The reaction also stems from their work rivaling and even besting full priced albums out at that point in time. Honestly, as a brief sidenote, no one wants to waste money on a wack album. Therefore, getting a free album you genuinely enjoy without giving up cash is nothing to complain about.

Take Kendrick Lamar’s O.D. for example. The record has a great sequence of introspective records along with braggadocios tracks without sounding overly depressing or serious. Instead, it gave you a peek inside of his life without much self aggrandizing or careful pre-packaged tunes. It definitely caught me up to speed on K.Dot and has me looking forward to his future output.

Moving on, I approached Danny Brown’s The Hybrid with open ears after checking out a few of his songs.  Brown and his team definitely picked a stellar product to hand out as it showed the ins and outs of the rapper’s eccentric delivery, flow and subject matter. He also proved to be more versatile on this project than I initially perceived.

Finally, Pac Div’s Church League Champions might as well have been their debut record back in ’09. The Cali trio showcased how versatile they are with records for all of rap’s prototypical demographics like the club heads, the “purists,” casual hip-hop fans and whatnot. Yet they sequenced the tracks in a way so that each one didn’t feel out of place. More importantly, they pooled their talents within the group and didn’t really on having tons of features in order to noticed.

I approached Kendrick Lamar’s O.D. with open ears and was quite pleased. The record has a great sequence of introspective records along with braggadocios tracks without sounding overly depressing or serious. Instead, it gave you a peek inside of his life without much self aggrandizing or careful pre-packaged tunes. It definitely caught me up to speed on K.Dot and has me looking forward to his future output.

These are just a few picks from the many mixalbums I enjoyed over the past year and a half. I’d keep going but I think you get the point being that they all achieve what an album sets out to accomplish by providing a cohesive selection of tracks for its audience. Except they met and/or exceeded expectations without the obligatory entrance fee.

Now what if you play devil’s advocate and say, “Well would you have checked out all these ‘mixalbums’ if they were CDs? That’s a loaded question since they were initially free. Still, truth be told, I probably wouldn’t have checked some of  them as soon as I did if they cost as much as retail releases.* That’s not to say I think they’re sub par efforts. If anything, I’m particularly careful about who I put my money towards. Add to the fact that I’m cheap and that pretty much explains my spending habits.

Nevertheless, all of the aforementioned records are well worth the $10 to even $15 it usually takes to purchase an album. It’s just that copping them all without spending a dime was an insane value in hindsight. Here’s to 2011 having more complimentary diamonds in the rough.

* I initially wanted to include Big K.R.I.T.’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and YelaWolf’s Trunk Muzik since they were free as well. However, K.R.I.T. got signed to Def Jam and Yela’s recently got signed to Shady. Thus, the labels snatched it up to be sold in alternate versions on iTunes. They’re still some of the best release of 2010 and well worth your money if you’re open to hearing southern lyricists. Give them a shot if you’ve yet to hear them.

  • AceBoogie

    y U Didnt Mention any DOM KENNEDY Albums. I'm Not Sure. But He Should've been mentioned among these guys. Future Street Drug Sounds. From Westside with Love. Come On.

  • http://twitter.com/SamPattillo iHipHop Sam

    I agree.

  • SCadet

    I don't follow Dom Kennedy that closely. He's on a few songs I like but I've given his music a shot before and it didn't compel me to keep listening to it. I'll keep an ear open though b/c it's not like he's a bad rapper or anything.