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Morning Spew

NYC Needs DatPiff to Live

New York’s rappers tend to sound better when they’re unburdened by legacy. Plus some links to start your day!

9:57 AM EDT on March 16, 2023

(Hell Gate)

Earlier this week, irreplaceable mixtape archive DatPiff had a scare, causing many to fret that its repository of 2000s and 2010s era hip-hop would be lost. While representatives for the site promise it will return, the prospect of its demise is a timely reminder that the online mixtape is its own art form. Over the past decade, superstar rappers would put out releases on major labels that, on streaming platforms, seemed indistinguishable from "albums," and audiences, myself included, would sneer. But DatPiff, at the peak of its history hosting free-to-download mixtapes, had encouraged the creation of an archetype we still live with, and New York was arguably at its center—the New York mixtape became its own musical institution. 

On albums, New York's rappers tend towards bombastic gestures and grasped for radio airtime. On mixtapes, rappers come out to play, minding the burden of legacy a little less, using uncleared samples (the freedom a free download buys!), brazenly cribbed instrumentals from the radio hits of the day, and, sometimes, random dudes just yelling over the whole thing. The informality allowed conversations across genre, era, and idiom. 

Because what's Nicki Minaj’s "Beam Me Up Scotty" without the voices, accents, dancehall flows, and riddims all being hosted by the Atlanta DJ Trap-a-holics? Forget the "Monster" verse, if you can—the outro to "Itty Bitty Piggy" is the moment the Nicki Minaj we know today was born. The maniacal cackle that follows the instantly immortal coda that begins "I don't even know why you girls bother at this point," is soundtracking fancams on TikTok to this day. If A$ap Rocky's 2010 debut "Live.Love.A$ap" was just a guy doing acid and pitching down his vocals over Bone Thugs-N-Harmony beats, it would have still ruled, but his unmistakable Harlem accent and flow practically invented the geographic agnosticism of the decade that would follow.

And though we give sample drill shit now for building Ice Spice songs around Spongebob instrumentals, remember "Drake ft. Peter Bjorn and John"? If you needed further proof that sample drill’s ridiculousness isn't just for the kids—the title track of Jadakiss's "The Champ is Here" was built around a sample of Will Smith yelling in the Muhammad Ali biopic. And it goes insanely hard. 

The leading edge of New York rap isn't posting to DatPiff these days (they're on YouTube), but while DatPiff represents a past era now, the mixtapes it hosts still allowed rappers to find the sounds of their futures. If its archive survives, perhaps that trove of experimentation will inspire futures yet to come. 

And some links to ponder:

And finally: 

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