Most kids think that a mixtape is something that you can download in seconds. It has over 20 tracks on it and contains music that some artist's record company doesn't want on their upcoming album. Mixtapes are vehicles of promotion. Lil' Wayne is a mixtape king in the minds of anyone who never felt the figurative weight of a flimsy plastic cassette tape in the palm of their hand. For them, there is no few seconds' pause before you're hit with you favorite song. Unfortunately, they'll never know the labor of love associated with mixing a few carefully selected songs onto a blank cassette. That was a mixtape!
A mixtape was a mixtape back when iPod's were Walkman's, Diddy was getting Andre Harrell's coffee, and Whitney was still fine. They really were a testament to music appreciation and ingenuity. Back before music was stored in bites - or however it's stored - it was recorded onto tape (for the purpose of this article and because of my age, records and 8-tracks never existed.) If one wanted to create a mix of their favorite songs or own music that they couldn't afford to buy, it had to be recorded manually.
So you had two scenario's. If you had friends who trusted you with their tapes and you had a dual tape deck, you could put a tape in one and record sound with the other. But this was no operation for amateurs. You'd have to know just how long a songs was and wait patiently by the stop button for it to end. For those who didn't have private copies of the albums they wanted to record, there was always recording it from the radio. Those unlucky few had to have patience and skills beyond any modern "DJ."
It all started with the request. You'd call into your local radio station. Maybe you'd be connected on the first ring, usually you wouldn't. Once you finally got through call waiting Hell, you could ask them to play your song. I can't tell you how many times I can remember my cousin Keisha, who my mom would let babysit, would sit by the radio waiting to hear "Forever My Lady" by Jodeci. I also can't count how many times my older sister and I were screamed at for talking in the background while she was recording her "jam."
A mixtape used to be something that you made not downloaded. It was a labor of love that united listeners. There was nothing more sacred than giving someone a tape that you took hours to record, time, and label. People had to know how long songs were and what sounded good together. Most importantly, there was a culture that demanded that one was selective. Without any song that you'd ever want to hear within a click's reach, any serious listener chose carefully what to record, request, and replay. The point is that music isn't just what it used to be. Listening isn't the same. Stealing music 'aint even the same.
If you were making a cassette to represent the mixtape's glory days, what would you put on it? Some of my picks are below. In true mixtape fashion, they're love songs. Feel free to give a copy to your tenderoni.