Tapemasters Inc.: Flooding the Masses
One of the reasons Kid Capri abandoned the mixtape formula he helped revolutionized was the exclusive. Back in the early nineties, if you leaked a track or played a certain cut, you might find Eric B. or Kool G Rap pounding on your door at three in the morning. Today, the rules have changed. It was not a coincidence that DJ Clue was a staple in Roc-A-Fella’s original seed planters. He was able to test new material on the streets, hence perfecting albums like Hard Knock Life, the Reason, and Come Home With Me.
For better or worse, the exclusive sells the mix these days. Whoever gets its first, gets the dollar in most instances. It’s a hard margin to break. But when an unknown crew comes out of left field with exclusive joints from M.O.P., Cam’ron, Mobb Deep, and others, people start wondering. Who are these cats? Where are they from? And how in the hell are they getting exclusives before the established DJ’s we all expect? On top of that, Kanye West and Just Blaze among others are stepping in and hosting these tapes. MTV and The Source have spotlighted the mixes, we’re here to show you the DJ’s.
We don’t really Sammy the Bull’s style, but we’ve conducted an exclusive, revealing interview with the elusive Tapemasters Inc. crew. You can hear first hand why people are wondering, and draw your own conclusions as how the operation really works. Just like the Tapemasters crew, we got exclusives all day long.
AllHipHop.com: First of all, so little is known about Tapemasters Inc. Give the people and the competition a little something something.
Tapemasters Inc.: We came out with this CD two months ago hosted by Cam’ron and Kanye West. It was the first one we did [called] “The Last Shall Be First.” I’m in Florida right now, I’m in Miami. [My partners] are in New York. I’m down here, I do college radio and sh*t like that, that’s how I got up in the game. I worked at Universal Records last year. I’m twenty-one, still a full-time college student. I got involved in the game like maybe two years ago just trying to get involved on a grassroots level, which led up to college radio, then led up to meeting people and going back and forth to New York all the time building relationships and knowing people as friends and not just business sh*t. This summer I got close with [my partners], and we kinda came together and we’re all big fans of mixtapes, but we wanted to come up with idea and step up the current game with improvements, put ourselves on the map, and shut everybody down. We all work in tandem. That’s basically how it is. We moved over 6,000 units for “The Last Shall be First.” So many of the songs on [the first mix], at the time, nobody had them. We shocked everybody with the exclusives [and] having Kanye and Cam’ron host it. Nobody would ever expect those two to host together on a DJ’s first mixtape. After that, we did this tape called “Red Heat,” hosted by Just Blaze, which was a big success.
AllHipHop.com: I know that your hosts aren’t the only major players in your mix. What about some behind the scenes action?
Tapemasters Inc.: We have a lot of sponsors. We receive sponsorship from many major players in the urban market. The first was sponsored by LRG clothing, that’s our family right there. We’ve had Converse, Akademiks, [and others ]. Red Heat was LRG’s number one promotional tool for the Magic Convention in Las Vegas. It made a lot of noise out there. We just did the “Brooklyn Queens Expressway” tape. It was supposed to be hosted by Mobb Deep and M.O.P. But Mobb Deep was hosting a lot of tapes at the time, so we got Capone-N-Noreaga. Jim Jones and Cam’ron got a new liquor coming out, Sizzurp, and they’re sponsoring it too. It’s about making all the other DJ’s nervous. “What’s Tapemasters Inc. gonna do? Who are they gonna have hosting?” There’s definitely people who know [who we are], but I’m not trying to get fame off of it by mentioning [my name]. We’re just trying to change the game a bit and have everybody on their toes.
AllHipHop.com: You guys popped up so recently. If you put yourself in the shoes of established DJ’s, because you have inside sources, isn’t that kind of a monopoly on the scene, and isn’t that dangerous?
Tapemasters Inc.: Yeah, it kind of is. We’re using that to our advantage. These DJ’s are inquiring and trying to get exclusives, but meanwhile the record companies are happy because the music is getting out there. As long as it gets out there, it’s all good. A lot of the time we’re fortunate enough to get exclusives before any other DJ which is the key to our success, so they can’t f*ck with us. And if you wanna say it’s a monopoly, and it could be a monopoly in a sense – we use that to our advantage all the time. Frankly, [it’s] what people want to hear and it’s the hottest sh*t on the streets right now. The big DJ’s right now are Kay Slay, Big Mike, and Clue. All those tapes are the ones with the exclusives on them. Not The Essence of DJ’ing, all the crazy mixes and that. It’s just exclusives and new music and sh*t.
AllHipHop.com: How have other DJ’s responded to this? Have you faced any animosity yet?
Tapemasters Inc.: We encounter them all the time. Because other DJ’s are coming up to the labels’ offices and trying to get songs, they’re asking, “Tapemasters Inc., who the f*ck are these guys? They get this joint. Why don’t we get it” A lot of DJ’s are nervous because they’re not getting these songs. They’re not able to. If they are, they’re not getting them first when they used to. We definitely haven’t taken over the game by far. But definitely the big mixtape DJ’s are definitely aware of our existence and feel the pressure. They can’t be mad at us, they just gotta do what they do. We’re not doing anything wrong.
AllHipHop.com: Your mixes are strictly exclusives and freestyles from high profile artists. Do you feel that you guys have the freedom to break records that aren’t huge?
Tapemasters Inc.: It’s our sole discretion of what we want to put on there. I’m not bias to anything. I f*ck with a lot of artists signed and unsigned from high-profile producers and studio engineers, to artists’ management. There’s so many people. Look at the tape, read the tracklisting. We f*ck with a lot of labels, a lot of A&R’s, a lot of producers, a lot of artists themselves. It’s not a DJ calling up, trying to get songs. We’re really on the inside of things, and that’s how a lot of the things are able to pop off like that. Really and truly, not the average DJ could make that happen in my opinion.
AllHipHop.com: In a way, it’s hard to call these mixtapes. Because you’re not getting twelve-inches anymore.
Tapemasters Inc.: Well, yeah. All these mixtapes today, the exclusives – none of ‘em are twelve-inches. But rather MP3’s or CD’s because of the timely nature. These songs come out so quickly that they’re not gonna press vinyl up in time.
AllHipHop.com: But so the people know, you’ve still got certified handskills on the decks?
Tapemasters Inc.: Yeah, definitely. We’re all definitely DJ’s. We’ve all been doing our thing. We’re all still young. We haven’t been crazy involved in the game like many of the O.G.’s. But obviously DJ’ing radio and on turntables, that’s how we came up. The [classic] mixtape game today isn’t very fashionable. People may want to hear it. But the main consumers, the people we’re trying to tap into are not really interested in that, they’re just all about the new.
AllHipHop.com: Being young, and making power moves, you guys are headed to the top of your field. You get there. Then what?
Tapemasters Inc.: Well, this mixtape sh*t, for us? I think it’s just something to have fun with right now. I’m not gonna go on as a professional DJ and try to be the craziest on the radio, or clubs, or whateva. I think it’s just more of an opportunity to attempt something, have fun with it, and master it. That’s what I love about Hip-Hop and the business. You get to meet so many different people and see what they do and just build a relationship with them, never knowing what it may come of it.