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Before They Became Legendary: Hip-Hop’s Greatest Demos

By 05.03.11

Photo: Complex

Sometimes, depending on the situation, the Internet’s quirky array of magic tricks can be a good or bad thing. Thankfully, in this case, it conveniently points more towards the former. Nowadays, discovering an artist is as simple as a mouse click. Demos have been supplanted by the now seemingly endless supply of mixtapes, EP’s, street albums or whatever compilations Hulkshare and Mediafire links can upload. That’s beautiful in terms of accessibility, horrible as it relates to filter.

Still, the method to the madness that was yesteryear’s demo tapes are a thing of the past. But thanks to the advances of the present, what the genre was cultivated on long before Al Gore “created” the gift and the curse that is the world wide web is now accessible without leaving the comforts of one’s living room. In March, Complex let loose of their top 30 greatest demo tapes, as told by Chairman Mao. As a person who learns more and more about the culture with each passing day, the list was entertaining, informative and well respected. However, I found myself unable to shake the desire to own all 30 in some capacity which featured the likes of DMX, UGK, Mobb Deep, Eminem, Brand Nubian, Cypress Hill, Jay-Z, Biggie and a host of others (some of which I’m sure you already have).

Well, God bless the Internet. My prayers have been answered and in the words of Jeff Weiss:

You don’t need me to tell you that those days are dead. Demos have been replaced by the democracy of mixtapes. The sifting is done through a complex architecture of algorithms and blogs, and for every Mac Miller who rises to fame on the virtue of co-signs and anodyne personality, there is an Odd Future or a Danny Brown or a Freddie Gibbs, who turn glorified demos into careers — without any initial help from mountain climbers with electric guitars. Thanks to the mind squad on the Philaflava Message board, a Zip file has surfaced. Essential for both completists, neophytes, and anyone with a fraction of an interest in rap history. Listen to BIG vote against St. Ides before he voted for it. Everything guaranteed raw. [POTW]

As a warning, however, it is a large file so make sure you’ve got some other activity to occupy your time while this downloads. Regardless, jump at the opportunity while it’s staring you in the face. It’s not everyday when something like this comes along.

DownloadVarious Artists – The 30 Greatest Hip Hop Demos


TAGSCOMPLEX MAGAZINEDemo TapesLISTSMUSICSMOKE BREAKSpotlight

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