New Book Remembers Mixtapes From Hip-Hop’s Golden Age

The last two decades of hip-hop music have been well documented, thanks to social media and streaming platforms. Today, anyone with internet access can essentially tap into a database of their favorite rapper’s discography, from leaked Young Thug demos aired on the infamous KayneToThe forum to grainy videos of Odd Future’s very first performances. as a newly formed ragtag rap collective. In short, contemporary artists’ catalogs – even the most obscure corners – are subject to a pervasive immortalization that can only exist in a place as limitless as the Internet.

Look back a decade or two further, and the history of hip-hop starts to get a little murkier. As we continually download and archive contemporary music in real time, the beginnings of the genre gradually fade from memory. Before Spotify or even the CD, the mixtape was the holy grail of hip-hop’s heyday: a cheap and convenient way for artists to distribute their music in the hopes that it would end up in someone’s hands. radio DJ or industry executive.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop this year, a new book aims to pay tribute to the role mixtapes played in the emergence of the genre and the lasting impression they left on it. Do not forget ! : The Golden Age of New York Hip-Hop Mixtapes brings together a comprehensive survey of rare tapes from the genre’s birthplace, along with never-before-seen footage, track listings and artist interviews. Scheduled for release in October, the book was compiled by two professionals with decades of experience in the New York hip-hop scene. Daniel Isenberg is a hip-hop writer who started critiquing live shows for XXL and writing features for NahWell and now works as a creative director working across music, entertainment and sports. Its co-author, Evan Auerbach, is a former record company employee turned music marketing executive. He also runs UpNorthTrips, an archival project cataloging old concert flyers, posters and other hip-hop ephemera.

Isenberg and Auerbach had worked together on a number of small projects over the past decade, but in recent years they decided it was time to take on something bigger that combined their mutual interests in hip culture. -hop, archival work and the preservation of history. Eventually, those early conversations formed around their “shared love and appreciation for classic mixtapes, mixtape DJs, and mixtape culture, especially in New York City,” Auerbach told Hypebeast in a recent interview.

“When we started this project, we thought, ‘How cool would it be to have a coffee table book full of mixtape covers, stories, and lists? “, He continued. “When we started to work, we realized that he deserved much more, and it turned into this very in-depth oral and visual history of one of the most defining eras. hip hop music. It really took on a life of its own.

The end product is a 240-page collection of mixtape origin stories from hip-hop’s biggest tastemakers, plus anecdotes from their time in the industry, collaborations with other artists, and deals with industry veterans. Each broadcast pairs a given story with scans of concert flyers, artist film stills, and handwritten track listings. For readers immersing themselves in mixtape culture for the first time, remember! doubles as an almanac on the subject by introducing the different categories of tape, from “radio cassettes” of an on-air DJ’s mix to recordings of live performances known as “street tapes” that would then be sold in the artist’s neighborhood.

After crafting a pitch for a mixtape-themed book, the duo set to work on the practical details of curating the mixtapes they would include and delving into the artists and context behind each project. Auerbach focused primarily on outreach and researching images and interviews, while Isenberg directed his efforts toward background research and writing, and the two came together to make decisions on the creative direction of the book. The first pages of Remember! feature a foreword written by one of the pioneers of the street art movement, artist and producer Fab 5 Freddy.

The authors were put in touch with Freddy by a mutual friend, who told them that the artist was a “big head of band”. “When we finally interviewed him, he was so full of context about the era leading up to our book, and the era in the book itself, that it felt right to turn it into a foreword. “, says Auerbach.

Freddy begins by reflecting on the first time he listened to Grandmaster Flash in 1979 after a friend lent him a rare recording of the DJ’s set. Against the rise in popularity of the turntable, he always preferred to carry around a boombox so he could record live music around him.

“The tapes were so crucial to how hip-hop spread from neighborhood to neighborhood in early New York City,” he writes in the book’s foreword. “It wasn’t on the radio all day like it is now, or in record stores, or anywhere. These tapes were cherished. They were prizes for me and the few people who then [sic] knew.”

A clear foundation is established in Freddy’s introduction, which manifests itself in every story relayed in Remember!: the mixtape as a way for artists to organically connect with audiences, starting with neighbors living on their same block and gradually expanding to other boroughs.

Kid Capri, Brucie B, Mister Cee, Ron G, S&S, Doo Wop and Green Lantern are just a few of the prolific artists Isenberg and Auerbach have sat down with for exclusive interviews. A standout conversation, Isenberg recalls, was Mister Cee sharing an in-depth analysis of the making of his Best of Biggie mix tape. A highlight for Auerbach was FaceTiming with Kid Capri to view his collection of personal tapes, as well as sitting down for one of the last interviews with the late DJ Kay Slay, shortly before his passing in April 2022.

In tracing the timeline the book creates for its reader, Isenberg said they “wanted to look at when mixtapes and mixtape culture had the most impact in New York City, starting in the late 1900s. 80 with the rise in popularity of live. party recordings on tape by the likes of DJ Hollywood and Brucie B and ending with the move to CDs and the emergence of teams like G-Unit and The Diplomats in the early 2000s.”

Auerbach refers to this 20-year period as a “particular period that represented the physicality of music, the pre-digital era.” He lists some of the key markers of the era: duct tape covers, tattered business cards and old flyers with phone numbers written on them.

“Everything in the book is organized to authentically bring back the experience of what [hip-hop culture] was like it was back then,” says Auerbach.

The duo describe the process of creating the book as a “labor of love,” which required them to tap into the community of online mixtape collectors for their contributions and spend hours scouring eBay for memorabilia. While the work was sometimes exhaustive, Isenberg and Auerbach, collectors at heart, were resolute in their mission to preserve the rich history of hip-hop mixtape culture, especially in the current age of music streaming.

“The mixtapes themselves really represent a long-gone era in today’s culture,” says Auerbach. “Mixtapes call for a moment. Everyone can remember where they were when they heard that Ron G mix, or that Craig G tape exclusive, or a new freestyle Doo Wop.

By anthologizing the mixtapes into a book, Isenberg and Auerbach remain optimistic that fans new and old can look back on the era and share some of their appreciation for the contributions of early hip-hop pioneers.

“The memories of buying a Shirt Kings airbrushed tee and tape at the Colosseum Mall or standing on 125th Street flipping through the mixtape binder, talking to Phil from Harlem Music Hut – we really wanted to capture that; whether you’ve experienced it or not,” says Auerbach.

Do not forget ! : The Golden Era of NYC Hip-Hop Mixtapes is available for pre-order through Rizzoli ahead of its October 17 release. Its MSRP is set at $45.

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