January 16 might go down as a day of infamy on the mixtape circuit. In a major development in the Recording Industry Association of America’s quest to stop what they believe to be the bootlegging of music, the Atlanta office of mixtape king DJ Drama’s Aphilliate Music Group was raided Tuesday by police.
Drama (real name Tyree Simmons) and Aphilliate partner Donald “Don” Cannon were taken into custody along with 17 other individuals Tuesday. Police seized over 50,000 mixtapes in the raid, according to reports from Atlanta’s Fox affiliate, WAGA.
In addition to housing the day-to-day operations of the Aphilliate Music Group — the collective, which also includes DJ Sense, recently inked a distribution deal through Asylum Records, while Drama also has a solo record deal through Grand Hustle/ Atlantic — the downtown Atlanta offices also served as a studio.
Arrests and raids due to the distribution of what authorities consider bootleg CDs is nothing new. A sprinkling of mom-and-pop stores throughout the country have been shut down in recent years, but this is the first time that the crackdown has hit a name as big as Drama, arguably the current top mixtape DJ. His Gangsta Grillz series has become a street staple and a promotional tool for emerging artists.
And while authorities have come down on Drama — who is also T.I.’s main DJ — the Philadelphia-born industry hustler does not generally put out mixtapes with just a smattering of exclusive songs from different artists on each disc. Drama actually works closely with several artists and will put a Gangsta Grillz CD with music specifically recorded by one artist for the particular disc. His releases may be best described as street albums, rather than mixtapes.
Some mixtape DJs do get complaints from labels and artists about their material hitting the streets, but Drama has not previously encountered that problem. When music from T.I.’s King album leaked online last year, Tip and Drama collected the tracks to release as a mixtape, which featured early versions of songs including “Live in the Sky.” And artists such as Young Jeezy — who launched his career with the help of Gangsta Grillz: Trap or Die — Styles P, Lil Jon, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne and Nelly have all made music specifically for Drama to put on Gangsta Grillz.
Although he is best known for his mixtapes, Don Cannon has been getting props lately for his production. He was the mastermind behind one of the biggest club bangers of 2005, Young Jeezy’s “Go Crazy.” Last year, he popped up again on Jeezy’s The Inspiration LP with the track “Mr. 17.5.”
An officer at Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail confirmed that DJ Drama and Don Cannon are in custody, with charges still pending. Representatives for the DJs could not be reached for comment at press time.
For a full-length feature on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out “Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry.”