Perspectives

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Now That’s What I Call History: Introducing the AHA Summer Mixtape

Mixtapes contained tiny archives. In the heyday of the portable cassette—which overlapped with King Vinyl before the great extinction-by-compact-disc of the 1980s—they allowed DJs and freestyle rappers to circulate their work to a micropublic. Unlike Grateful Dead concert bootlegs (which also united a public), mixtapes put individual virtuosity at the center of their aesthetic. As cassettes saturated suburban bedrooms and tape decks became fixtures in cars, young music fans created mixtapes for their own pleasure and to exchange with peers. Today, hip-hop artists still drop mixtapes (making new tracks or remixes available for download), and cassettes are fixtures in many prisons.