ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Thousands More Hip-Hop Mixtapes, Why So —

A few more thoughts on this one.

A lot of people stopped by when the word about the Hip Hip Mixtape Collection got around. They stopped by this little site, and then hopped over to the main collection, and they’ve been having a great old time.

When tens of thousands of people swing through a new thing, you get variant opinion, and if you’re really super double-lucky, you get some discussions way down there that are rather interesting on a “well, few people were ever going to talk about that” way.

Here are those, based on what I read:

  • Why doesn’t this guy monetize this!
  • A bunch of these tapes are fakes/crap
  • Aw, man, it’s only post-2000 stuff

Let’s address those, plus a few other things.

Why doesn’t this guy monetize this! 

Because I work for a non-profit that’s a library and archive, and we don’t monetize stuff like this. We don’t put up ads and we don’t put up click-throughs or pop-ups or demands for cash. It’s actually heartening to get these sorts of comments, because it means they’ve probably never heard of the Internet Archive before, and woo-hoo, new patrons! The more people who hear about the Archive for the first time, the better the world is for everyone. So anyway, no monetization/financial schemes behind this, sorry. (Some wanted to invest.) I’ve learned there are sites that do ad-supported distribution of these mixtapes, and they have all sorts of barriers and clickthroughs to ensure you see the ads. We are not them, that’s not what we do over at the archive.

A Bunch of these Tapes are Fakes/Crap. 

So, I came into this thing like I do a lot of things – go out and acquire whatever I can find and pump it basically automatically into thousands of items (you don’t think I’ve listened to these things in any great amount, do you?). As a result, it’s been a learning curve to find what’s in there. And what I learned is that there’s a wide spectrum of tapes out there, and that Sturgeon’s Law applies quite readily.

There are tapes that are cool amateur productions (created by a small crew or by someone trying to break into the business or get their voice heard), tapes that are kind of promotional items (like, they drop them into the world so word about the artist gets far and wide, usually done by some professional organization) and then there’s DJ mixes, where they do intense remixes of music to showcase their talents. Oh, and then there’s DJ mixes that are basically just a bunch of mp3s thrown together. As we’re finding those or get told about them, they go down. There’s nothing creative or new there (except maybe the cover art). The world is not bettered by them – I won’t miss them. So it’ll take a little while for this all to wring out, but it’ll happen.

Aw Man, it’s Only Post-2000 Stuff.

There’s definitely a lean towards the present with these mixtapes, probably a function of how I’m getting them, from online collections. There’s a few that predate 2000, but those are going to be from cassette tapes, and I’ve not yet stumbled on the Elephant Graveyard of old hiphop mixtapes from cassette. (I’ve got collections of rave tapes, and other 1980s and 1990s artifacts, of course.) I think it’s just a matter of time – after this current pipeline dries up, I’ll start trying to get us to host older and older stuff. How well that goes is up to the people out there – like everything else on the archive, it’s a matter of folks reaching out or giving good pointers or suggestions. I might stumble on things myself but it’s not guaranteed. As it is, the current collection is low-hanging fruit, and some of it is rotten and some of it is very fresh. But I definitely am not sitting on some hidden pile of pre-2000 stuff and going “nah, too historic”.

A few other thoughts

The most intense part of this whole thing was that I had to write this crazy ecosystem of around 15 scripts that deal with a whole pile of contingencies with the tapes. These scripts will fix ingested files, verify they’re what they say they are, reconfigure cover images so they’re in the right order, and add automatic metadata where possible. I actually have directories that drain into other directories that then drain into other directories, and then scripts do automatic evaluations all the way around, and then upload. It’s a terrible contraption but the results are generally OK. I then have to write scripts that crawl through the stuff and clean up what went there, and the result is what you see.

The result of this scriptology is that I’ve learned even more about dealing with odd ingestions that will be reflected on other collections as I go, i.e. the console demos collection I’ve been adding, which does all sorts of crazy robot stuff on combination .zip/.rar/whatever stuff from all sorts of sources. It sort of works! It’ll make things easier in the future! Everyone wins!

And finally – I realize that I am just stumbling backwards into this mixtape thing. It got along quite well without me or the Internet Archive for decades. It doesn’t “need” us anymore than many subcultures “need” us – but my hope is that the appearance and ease-of-access of these tapes will foster both spread of the best of what’s out there, and bring more people to the site to check out all the other things we’re hosting. I’m due someone to come in and lecture me on the “right” way to do all this and what it all “means”, and I’m up for that conversation. What I do know is that tens of thousands of listens are already on the site, with a few thousand more listens every day so whatever it is we’re doing, we’re doing it right for somebody out there. Let’s keep doing that.

And finally.

If you only have one album from this whole collection you want to be told to listen to, if you want just one single tape to somehow magically consolidate all the thousands and thousands of works on the site into one single item, well, ladies and gentlemen, your humble curator must point you in a single direction:

Yes, that’s right, I’m betting the house on Hamburger Helper: Watch The Stove, a 5-song EP mixtape of rap and hiphop, even sort of a ballad, about Hamburger Helper. Hey come back

Sure, you’re going to scoff, but over the course of this mixtape, you will have your eyes open to the myriad feelings and deep emotions of Hamburger Helper, and you too will sympathize with Helper as he explains how the world simply can’t do without this delicious mix. And if there’s one caveat, one life motto you will walk away, it’s to never take someone’s Helper. Just… don’t do it.

Enjoy the tapes. And yes, if you have leads on good additions to the collection, hit me up.

 


Categorised as: Internet Archive


3 Comments

  1. James says:

    “It sort of works!”

    The rallying cry of the web 🙂

    Good job as always Jason.

  2. Darkstar says:

    Awww, c’mon, you usually link to *everything* in your posts, so where is the link to the Hamburger Helper Mixtape? 😉

    Listening to it now (even though I’m not a huge Rap/Hip-Hop fan but hey, you never know… 😉

  3. Rich says:

    As I mentioned on the previous post, the best non-digital archive of old tapes is Screwed Up Records and Tapes in Houston, Texas. They moved fairly recently so maybe they still have some stuff packed up.

    This is my favorite mix in the Archive: https://archive.org/details/DJ_Michael_5000_Watts_Overdose – so glad you guys saved it.

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