Tuesday's raid of the Aphilliates Music Group offices — and the subsequent arrests of DJ Drama and DJ Cannon, who were released Wednesday on $100,000 bond — was definitely a shock to the hip-hop community, and people are still trying to figure out what exactly is going on.
On Wednesday afternoon, one thing that was resonating universally is that the mixtapes will definitely have to change (see "DJ Drama Arrested In Atlanta Mixtape Raid"). Already some Web sites known for primarily selling mixtapes have switched their M.O., promoting the sale of hip-hop posters and traditional, record-label sanctioned, rap albums. Meanwhile, some of the Aphilliates' peers are openly opining on what Tuesday's events mean for the industry (see " RIAA Speaks On DJ Drama Raid: 'We Enforce Our Rights' ").
"Smarten up," Lil Wayne advised mixtape DJs. "Smarten up."
For the past few years, Wayne has seen his entire career shift thanks to his performance on mixtapes. Street CDs such as his Gangsta Grillz classics The Dedication and The Dedication 2 have catapulted him to the lyrical elite in the minds of fans. Last year, he may have been the MC with the most material on the mixtape circuit.
"It's a bad thing," Wayne said of the Aphilliates' arrests, "but you gotta play the game fair. If you don't play fair, all kind of things can happen. You gotta watch people like DJ Clue, watch people like DJ Khaled. They do it right."
Although Khaled and Clue have built careers on their street CDs, they have also been successful releasing official mixtapes through record labels. Clue's first two LPs, The Professional and The Professional 2, went platinum with no videos and limited airplay.
"You gotta do it right," Wayne reiterated. "It's gonna be a message. [The authorities] ain't playing. They gonna make an example. They gonna straighten the game out. A lot of companies take a fall with those mixtapes. N---as be caking up off them mixtapes. The artists can drop his album — and everybody knows that hip-hop [album sales are in] decline — nobody ain't gonna buy the album, and everybody gets the mixtapes off of the Internet or whatever way they get it. The artists ain't caking, but the n---a you made the mixtape with is caking up. Thank God I ain't got that problem, but I know a lot of people who do."
"It's a f---ed situation," fumed one of the most prominent mixtape DJs, who asked to remain anonymous in case the Recording Industry Association of America is listening and watching.
"I think they got a snitch among them," the DJ added, surmising that somebody in the Aphilliate camp may have been working in conjunction with the RIAA. "Somebody snitched on them. Drama is working for the down South artists. I don't think he's bootlegging. He's really helping the movement and promoting, especially the new cats. I'm almost sure that 30,000 out of the 50,000 [CDs confiscated in the raid] were new cats that's next to come up. He uses his mixtapes as a promotional marketing tool that was looked at the wrong way. Drama and Cannon were two of the coolest mutha----as to get ran through like that. They treated them like they was f---ing drug kingpins. That sh-- was wack. I was watching it on Fox News, that sh-- was like, 'Get out of there.' "
"This is like D-Day in hip-hop," Diplomats head of A&R, George "DukeDaGod" Moore, sighed, commenting on the Aphilliates' drama.
"DJ Drama is like our favorite mixtape DJ," he said. "Everybody loves Drama. It's crazy. It's like it's in your own backyard when it comes to Drama. He helps a lot of artists out. It's kinda messed up. I think they're trying to make hip-hop illegal or something. They're trying to make too many regulations on it. This is one of the worst days ever I can remember in hip-hop. I remember when Biggie got shot, when Pac got shot, it was crazy, but this right here is bad because it could determine the future of our music.
"We rely heavily on the streets," DukeDaGod continued. "A lot of people rely on us."
The Diplomats are undoubtedly one of the strongest factions in hip-hop when it comes to the streets and have practically built the foundation of their empire on the mixtape circuit. Duke says his team is now trying to figure out what move to make next.
"It just happened," Duke said of the raid. "It snuck [up on] everybody out the blue. We're going to work everything out, get a lawyer to tell us what we can do, what we can't do. Whoever has a problem with the music in the streets — if we can't use certain beats, rap with certain artists — we need to know what it is so when we do put music out in the streets, it's no problem. With us it's a little different; we only do Diplomat mixtapes, we don't promote other artists. But still, I want to know all the guidelines so we don't have to run down this road anymore. We're gonna follow the guidelines and fall back and see what it is. If they had a mixtapes seminar, that would be hot. Have the RIAA come in and say what you can and what you can't do."
However, some say they're going to keep feeding the streets as usual.
"Without mixtapes, these artists ain't gonna be nothing," the anonymous DJ said. "There's no way they can hold down anything as far as street credibility. It's not our fault these artists do better freestyles and sound better on a mixtape."
"I don't slow down, man," the DJ promised. "I've never made a mixtape and sold it. Every mixtape I made is given away. I'm gonna keep making mixtapes and giving them away. I throw my mixtapes out at my shows. When you see me, any mixtape you can get for free. Everybody knows that. Then when we find dudes who's selling them, we do our own raiding."
Ultimately, DukeDaGod says, the fans will be the ones feeling a mixtape crackdown the most.
"Why are [the RIAA and FBI] getting involved?" Duke asked. "Leave us alone. Let us make our hip-hop. Nobody is dying, nobody is killing nobody. It's just music being made. Everybody is gonna feel it whether you're on the radio, not on the radio. Even if you're a consumer, you gonna feel it, 'cause it's gonna be hard to find certain tapes. Certain people are not going to carry the mixtapes anymore because they know what could happen. It's so many people that wanna hear our stuff. We get e-mails from all over the world. They don't care about the RIAA, they wanna hear some Dipset, they wanna hear some Drama. So it's messed up for the whole world."
For more on the mixtape business, check out MTV News' 2003 report: "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."