In a phone interview, Wiz Khalifa said that after he started releasing mixtapes on DatPiff, he saw his popularity grow throughout the United States. “I was able to go on tours and perform songs that I had made in my basement,” he said. “I was able to really gauge what types of music that the fans were really loving from me by staying consistent on sites like DatPiff.”
The democratization and ease of releasing music online also extended to the coverage of it. Obsessives started their own frequently updated blogs — NahRight, 2DopeBoyz and Fake Shore Drive were among the most popular — to document and discuss new releases, in turn stripping magazines of their positions as gatekeepers. Many of their posts have also been deleted or lost as the years passed.
“It’s just a reminder of this really unique time in music, and hip-hop specifically, where if you know, you know, and if you were there, you were there,” said Tim Larew, a music manager who was a blog writer for Pigeons & Planes.
But mixtape sites lost steam as hip-hop artists started to take advantage of another innovation. As streaming platforms began to serve up an unlimited buffet of songs, there were fewer incentives, especially for established artists, to release music on mixtape sites. DatPiff said on Twitter in 2018 that two of Wiz Khalifa’s mixtapes — “Taylor Allderdice” and “Cabin Fever 2” — were among the most downloaded in its history; both are available on Tidal, Apple Music and Spotify, where they are more accessible to listeners and allow Wiz Khalifa to monetize his work.
But not every release can or did make it to legal streaming services. Fan favorite free mixtapes from Chance the Rapper and Mac Miller eventually arrived on the platforms altered because of clearance issues. E. Dan, a producer and mixer who frequently collaborated with Miller before his 2018 death, recalled some disappointment from fans when Miller’s “Faces” made its way to the major services without a few samples in 2021, seven years after its initial release.
“You want this stuff to be accessible, and media changes and our consumption of media changes and the way that we access music changes,” the producer said in a phone interview. “If you want the music to live on, then you need to adapt to those changes and make sure that the music is accessible.”