X to the L
Ten years in the game today.
So many of the blogs I came up with, or fucked with heavy--all gone. I'm still standing here.
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a DJ.
Not some long-haired bitch in the club in an ironic t-shirt. And I didn't have the skills to be a Grandmaster. But I wanted to be DJ Red Alert.
I started making pause tapes in 1987. Off the Marley Marl, Mr Magic, Chuck Chillout and Red Alert shows. One night Red Alert started cutting up 'South Bronx,' spinning it, scratching it. That was when I saw what hip hop was, what it could be. Something ever-elastic, ever-changeable; you could always add something new, remix it, play elements off each other. It was like a living thing.
And Red Alert would always bring you the best new shit. You knew he was gonna let you know all the latest fire.
I made 50 pause tapes through to 2007. The MP3 era. How was I supposed to get a digital file on to a cassette? Went digital. Went worldwide.
X to the L
There's 153 posts up in here, 116 are mixes. There's about 2,500 different ill joints I brought you. I had over 300,000 listens from almost every country on earth, except like North Korea and Vatican City.
I only had three reasons for doing this. First, there's that feeling when you hear a joint that's so tight, so perfect: you feel like grabbing cats by the shirt and hollering, 'LISTEN TO THIS!' You gotta share it with someone, some how. That's why people start music blogs, until they get married, get bored, or get pimped out by Complex.
Second, rap's given me so much, I wanted to give something back--especially to the fam who are so fucking talented and don't get enough shine. I been hyping up the best of the year shit since 2008. I feel like I championed a lotta cats early on who went on to get respect--Ka, milo, Elucid, billy woods, Open Mike Eagle--and other cats who I'm still waiting for you to catch the fuck up on, like Shirt.
Third, I wanted to see if the mixtape could be--maybe not an artform, but a medium. Could you sonically paint with it, collage with it.
Could you even make narratives with it? So over three mixes I tried telling a story about robots--robots as slaves, robot revolution, a melding of human and machine. I never felt like 9/11 got any kind of artistic treatment that really felt like the thing itself. And so much of it was visual, the video, the photos--what could you do with just sound? So The Falling. That's probably the best thing I ever did.
Could a mix be a kind of curation, cataloging--that's been another side of it. What kind of juxtapositions could you do without it being stupid? How incredible is the art of crate digging and sampling--transformation, alchemy from any element into strictly dope? Here's all the best joints with Asian samples. With classical music samples. I gave you eight Super Chicken dub-hop mixes. Seven B-Bop For B-Boys mixes of the illest jazz-hop. The spaghetti Western ones. I can't scratch or beat juggle or any of that shit. But I got a mean ear and I curate. This is the place where I explore what hip hop can be, because it covers so much ground--so many styles, so many topics, so much life. Never forgetting that at its core, hip hop is political. Hip hop is street stories. Hip hop is about injustice.
Thing is, I kinda feel like I did all I set out to do here. It's getting old. There's not really another level to take this to. Once you do the Old and New Testaments in mixtape form, where you gonna go with it? The odes to graffiti, They Live We Sleep--that's as tight as it gets.
I could do interviews but nah. I could do more label-oriented mixes I guess, like the ones I did for Uncommon and World Around. I could do more single-artist mixes I guess, but anyone could do that. The Autolect two, PSY/OPSogist vs Zardoz and Rammellzee ones are tight, not sure I could top those. I thought about trying to get artists together for compilations to raise money for good causes, but man--they gotta eat.
I could try making my own beats but they would be pretty strictly amateur hour, and there's so many talented people trying to eat off their beats--I'm not gonna add to the competition. I could be more of a blog--but nobody reads fucking blogs and there's talented writers trying to eat off that too. I used to write press releases for rappers for $100 back in the day: there's only so many ways to say 'it's got a funky beat and you can dance to it.'
I might write some stuff for other sites or throw it on Medium though. Thirteen Ways of Looking At Critical Beatdown, Letters To A Young Rapper, Towards A Complete Theory of Rap Music--look out for those eventually. Who knows, if I find an 808 in a garbage can you might hear beats from me some day.
Also all the mixtape sites that used to show me love are gone--Pearson Towers, Mr Blentwell, Mixcrate, and the mighty Percussion Lab. And everyone has a goddamn podcast now. And everyone's making Spotify playlists instead of mixes. Shit, Spotify makes playlists for you. Apple Music has 'playlist curators.' You got an algorithm DJ, fuck you need me for? Go ask the robot DJ what lives in your phone. And you can't put no Joe Pesci samples up in your playlists fam.
iTunes won't fuck with me because I only speak with my hands. I got a Mixcloud but who doesn't? Pay for SoundcloudPro? Nah g. These dudes won't fuck with me because...whatever. But I don't do this for clicks, I'm not interested in building a brand, never was. I do it for those of you who listen, and I thank you. But I done run out of ideas, places to go with this that aren't like what anyone else does.
So there's four, maybe five more mixes to come, and I'm out.
If you fucked with me along the way, I'm grateful--I really am. I might throw up some of the pause tape archives. Hollering retirement and then making a comeback is the 68th Element of Hip Hop, so you never know, right?
But I'm still looking for the perfect beat. The perfect beat was already made by The 45 King in 1987. The perfect beat is Roc Marciano's 'Snow.' The empire never ended. The search is the thing. You never stop searching for the perfect beat. It don't stop.
It is Free