The Hip-Hop Beat 07/09/08 

The album vs. the mixtape

The not-so-latest phenomenon in the hip-hop world is the widespread popularity of the mixtape. Not the kind you used to record on your cassette deck, hip-hop mixtapes feature one MC layering original work over prerecorded (often commercially available) tracks created by another musician or producer.

Now that artists are releasing exclusive material on mixtapes, there is often little difference between a proper album and a mixtape save what their creators wish to call them. Most major label artists are now releasing mixtapes to generate buzz before their album drops; Lil’ Wayne dropped at least three mixtapes and an EP before releasing his most recent album.  

Mixtapes have become the best source for original music. With less legal hoops to jump through, and no label pressure, musicians are exploring lyrical themes and musical ideas in greater detail. Musicians and producers are able to step around copyright law by giving away the music, mostly in the form of free downloads.

Alpha Dog

Who’s the hottest wordsmith on the mic in Nap right now? I can put up a strong argument for Alpha, who recently released an epic track called “Obama ’08: Do the Knowledge” that breaks down the entire history of the choice-du-jour candidate of the hip-hop community from birth, through schooling and career highlights and up to the Democratic presidential nomination. All this over a stirring J. Brookinz beat.

Alpha explains that he wants to show his peers “what Obama stands for, to be a more informed member of the community. And to really know who you’re voting for.”

“I was doing something responsible with my music,” Alpha says of the track. He walked away from a major label record deal some time ago when he felt his musical morals were being compromised. “I need to make music my daughter can listen to 30 years down the line,” he asserts.

Hopefully, she’ll get to hear his recent “Fixtape,” on which, over a variety of progressive beats, Alpha waxes on everything from a cruise around Indy’s landmarks, relationship insecurities and his reasons for leaving his group Trilogy. The “Fixtape” is offered as a free download on his Web site

You can catch Alpha performing with Radamez, Rusty Redenbacher, Elijah, D-win, Kayo and DJ Spoolz at Birdy’s Sunday, July 13.

More hits from the fortress

Outlandishly entertaining Ft. Wayne rapper Sankofa recently supplied Indy CD & Vinyl with a number of copies of his album, The Tortoise Hustle, to give away to any person who knows the secret phrase. Just ask them for “The most delicious nachos” and get a free copy of the album while supplies last.

He also made a new EP available for download, Music with Friends I, on his Myspace. He’s been garnering good reviews for this eight-song collection of originals.

The king of pop

Rhymefest dropped a gem earlier this year with his “Man in the Mirror” mixtape. Each track is built off of Michael Jackson samples with hilarious excerpts from “conversations” between ’Fest and Mike in the interludes. The mixtape, dedicated to the Hoosier performer, features musical contributions from some of the top producers today, including Mark Ronson. Once again, you can find this free online, on Rhymefest’s Myspace. Look for a special verse from Alpha, a Gary native.

Wale vs. Kramer

One of the hottest underground emcees this year is poised to become a power in the industry. Washington, D.C., native Wale (wall-lay) has managed to find an original, compelling style while incorporating the crazy/complex rhythms of D.C.’s Go-go music.

His latest mixtape, available for free download online, is called “A Mixtape about Nothing,” and revolves around a theme from the TV show Seinfeld, featuring vocal clips and even a shout-out to Wale from Elaine herself. This is a silly idea that is executed extremely well.

Search for “A Mixtape about Nothing” on, and while you’re at it, check out their tribute to Mpozi.

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