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by Mosi Reeves

February 15, 2012

Spirit of '08: The Blog Rap Explosion

by Mosi Reeves  |  February 15, 2012

Five years ago, hip-hop finally discovered the Internet. Yes, it's true that rappers have long used the World Wide Web as a promotional tool, and some will have memories of how the Wu-Tang Clan generated hundreds of fan sites in the late '90s; online magazines like 360HipHop.com and Platform.net were briefly in vogue. But 2007 was the year that rappers began making music specifically for viral distribution. They promoted songs on MySpace pages; indulged in meta-trends like rapping over "indie" hits by Radiohead, Animal Collective and Portishead; and issued dozens of digital mixtapes of original material. Most importantly, hundreds of blogs emerged during this period to document the scene, turning these artists into underground media darlings. It was a period when the Internet audience became an influential arbiter of popularity, a shift that was reflected in XXL magazine's famous "Top 10 Freshmen" issue.

This playlist is dedicated to 2008 because while the blog rap era arguably began in 2007, it reached critical mass the following year. D.C. rapper Wale signed with Mark Ronson's production company and released his mixtape 100 Miles & Running in 2007, but his career took off when in 2008 when he released both a freestyle over Justice's "D.A.N.C.E." and his full-length Seinfeld homage The Mixtape About Nothing. That same year, Drake's second mixtape, Comeback Season, turned him into a blog rap darling; the rest of the country took notice in 2009 when he dropped So Far Gone and "Best I Ever Had." And B.o.B recorded the Cloud 9 mixtape in 2007; its title track and "Haterz" became regional hits, and led to a major-label contract with Atlantic.

However, this tribute includes not only the ones who became legitimate stars, but also the dozens of others who caught the Internet's fancy, like the Cool Kids (who ruled hip-hop on MySpace in 2007), Charles Hamilton (who released a staggering eight mixtapes in two months) and Sha Stimuli (whose buzz predated this era, yet stayed relevant by issuing 12 mixtapes in a year). Many of the songs used are representational. Theophilus London's This Charming Mixtape isn't available, so there's "Late Nite Operation" from Machinedrum's Want to 1 2?. Drake's guest spot on Slakah the Beatchild's Soul Movement Vol. 1 was also included on the former's Comeback Season. And instead of Asher Roth's killer freestyle over Lil Wayne's "A Milli" instrumental, there's "Lark on My Go Kart" from his major-label debut, Asleep in the Bread Aisle. Meanwhile, Odd Future and Nicki Minaj deserve inclusion here because while they didn't blow up until later -- Nicki Minaj in 2009 with Beam Me Up Scotty and Odd Future in 2010 with Tyler, the Creator's Bastard -- they released their first material during this period.

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