Mixtapes land deals for new generation of rappers

Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:07am EST
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By Mariel Concepcion

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Detroit rapper Hayes takes inspiration for his mixtapes from -- of all things -- magazines.

"I want to give people a little taste of what a Hayes album would be like," he says. "It's like getting a trial subscription to your favorite magazine -- you get my music for free, you get to know me, and then hopefully you'll appreciate me enough to come back and support me." Tellingly, neither of Hayes' two mixtapes -- 2006's "24 Songs of Power" and 2010's "The First 48" -- traffic in two staples of the form: beats lifted from other official songs ("jacked beats," in mixtape parlance) and DJ scratches.

"I have my own format," Hayes says. "I like to use original beats. I call my mixtapes 'street albums' -- I don't like to rap over other people's beats."

Hayes' self-reliance is about to pay dividends: Two months ago he signed to Interscope through a joint deal with producers Timbaland's Mosley Music Group and Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records.

"For Tim, it wasn't just Hayes' lyrical prowess but his craftsmanship that really caught his ear," says Rick Frazier, Hayes' manager and vice president of Mosley Music Group. It was the entire package, Frazier says -- from lyrics to the original production by his in-house team, the Breakfast Club -- that got Hayes noticed.

Following the mixtape-to-major-label success in 2009 of Toronto rookie Drake and Atlanta's Gucci Mane, labels are taking a new look at artists who make professional-caliber mixtapes -- a highly personalized form of unauthorized music compilation -- their calling card. In addition to Hayes -- who's touring with Timbaland and has started recording his debut album -- up-and-coming Houston rapper Chalie Boy and Atlanta-born Pill recently signed to labels on the strength of their mixtapes.


Nicole George, vice president of the rhythm and soul membership department at performance rights organization ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), says that her team listens to mixtapes and follows the industry talk, which leads them to artists and writers whom ASCAP could sign.   Continued...

<p>Recording artist Drake reacts at his table after it was announced that he was a Best Rap Solo Performance nominee during The Grammy Nominations Concert Live - Countdown to the Music's Biggest Night event in Los Angeles, California, December 2, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>