The 2000s, in particular the early aughts, will forever be remembered as the Golden Era for the mixtape. Although mixtapes have been around in one form or another since the early days of Hip-Hop, the platform would go on to become a big staple in the genre, fueling the careers of superstars such as 50 Cent, Fabolous, Drake, as well as a who’s who of the current crop of up-and-comers. And after 50’s G-Unit crew and The Diplomats revolutionized the artist-driven mixtape, giving away album’s worth of material to the streets and cutting out the middle man, all bets were off and it felt like even your grandma had a tape dropping.
But while the mixtape era produced many artists and still does to this day, it has inevitably churned out its share of duds as well. Here, we take a look at seven of the top busts of the period who garnered hype but failed to capitalize on it with a major label debut–or a viable career for that matter. Hopefully no freestyles from said artists will be aimed in my direction after this list is published. For all of our sakes.
1. Charles Hamilton
Record Label: Interscope Records
Prime Buzz Years: 2008-2010
Last Seen: At a Digiwaxx music conference explaining where it all went wrong/failing to make a comeback
Back in the days when the now almost-irrelevant XXL Freshman cover held heavy significance, Charles Hamilton was one of the first artists pegged by said publication as ‘The Next Generation Of Hip Hop’ and touted as one to keep an eye out for, as many believed great things would come from the Harlem upstart.
Even though his love for pink and Sonic The Hedgehog already kept some potential fans at bay, The Punch Heard Around The World kind of sealed the deal for dude. And to make matters worse, he drew the ire of longtime J Dilla collaborator House Shoes over a certain executive producer credit, and EVERYBODY knows how cold it is in the D so I wouldn’t note that as much of a positive either. Things got so bad that homie had to go into seclusion after making an ass out of himself for the umpteenth time. When all was said and done, he was without a record deal and left trying to make sense of it all.
Record Label: D-Block Entertainment
Prime Buzz Year(s): 2001-2005
Last Seen: In an abandoned building with gang members
Even as one of the main catalysts in the vastly overlooked D-Block/State Property rhyme wars, J Hood was one of the youngest stars in the golden age of the mixtape era, dropping freestyles for the likes of Clue and Whoo Kidd while building a buzz as one of the youngest in charge. While earning his stripes via a memorable showing in the aforementioned Roc/Block battle and a slew of mixtapes, Hood was touted as the next generation of The Lox and the face of their D-Block imprint.
After years pf pushbacks and a realistic release date never materializing, Hood did what many frustrated artists do: he lashed out at his label heads, which in this case were The Lox. He even released a series of disses and videos aimed towards his former mentors. While these actions did nothing much for his career, Jadakiss did show some concern during one radio interview, stating that the former Prodigy was now camped out “In abandoned buildings with gang members.” In his defense, I figured he was doing some method acting for his Tales From The Hood album, slated for Nevuary, 31st.
Record Label: Blackhand Entertainment/Epic
Prime Buzz Year: 2002-2003
Last Seen: Releasing a project you probably won’t care about
Around the year of 2002 when a certain bullet-riddled rapper from Jamaica Queens was putting the mixtape world on its ear, another Jamaica resident by the name of Grafh was raising a few eyebrows as well by quickly becoming a hot commodity in a budding mixtape scene. With strong street credentials via his association with Chaz Williams in a time when street cred was still somewhat important to go along with the music, Grafh eventually signed with Epic. And we all know that’s exactly the place to go if you’re looking to build a credible rap career.
When that situation predictably went sour, Grafh took matters into his own hands, hitting the streets hard with various mixtapes and street singles in attempts to stay afloat. He even gained a little traction with his novelty record “Myspace Jumpoff,” dedicated to those late night creepers a few of you may have learned to love along the line. But after the trend passed, there was nothing to keep our attention really.
While he still continues to push his music and has a few fans still pulling for him in the wings, the bandwagon seats are all but empty and the crowd is awfully quiet.
4. J.R Writer
Record Label: Dipset Records/Koch
Prime Buzz Years: 2003-2008
Last Seen: Trying to squeeze another punchline into a verse
When it comes to mixtapes, few are more familiar with the platform than J.R. Writer. A fruit of mixtape pioneer Dipset family tree, J.R. Writer capitalized off of the Harlem collective’s cult-like popularity by making a big splash with his impressive Writer’s Block series and becoming one of the most renowned punchline artists on the circuit.
But after major airtime on a few Diplomat compilations and more mixtapes, there was still no word of a proper retail offering. And after releasing a few buzz singles that failed to stick, it was obvious that Writer wouldn’t be walking in the footsteps of his elder Dipset brethren. To make matters worse, the Dips all but dissolved, leaving him a man alone on a ship that wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So while Cam is somewhere in Ohio getting it, Juelz is prepping a comeback and Jim Jones is dealing with the duties of being a reality star *cough*, J.R. is STILL stuck in mixtape purgatory after all these years, even becoming the victim of a Worldstar-fame inspired robbery.
But even with all of that being said, I’m sure he’ll be able to find a punchline out of all of this, so things could always be worse.
Record Label: Jive
Prime Buzz Years: 2004-2008
Last Seen: Being the resident laughingstock of the Hip-Hop community
Papoose…Pa-Poose…SMH, I don’t even know where to start. With a NYC scene hungry for another homegrown star post-50 Cent and the labels looking to cash in on that thirst, a bidding war ensued with Jive leaving the winner (if you want to call it that), signing Pap to a reported $1.5 million deal, which Pap alleges to this day he and Kay Slay pocketed most of.
Things were actually looking up for dude…well, until we found out he couldn’t come up with a respectable single if his life depended on it. With his debut album Nacirema Dream on the table for almost a decade, Pap launched a series of single attempts that failed to garner interest, putting him in major label purgatory. The album is actually seeing the light of day on March 26th…raise your hand if you care.
After finally splitting with Jive, Pap went back to the mixtape circuit, where he would languish in obscurity and become a poster child of the failed mixtape rapper era. Luckily, Remy Ma should be home soon to help lift his spirits. The one thing I hope is that he invested that $1.5M in more than 8 Ball jackets.
6. Peedi Crakk
Prime Buzz Years: 2003-2008
Record Label: Roc-A-Fella Records/Def Jam
Last Seen: Sabotaging his career with “Camel-Face Hunting Season”
While getting a late pass to the State Property tour de force, it didn’t take long for Peedi to make his presence felt, regularly stealing the show and making a name for himself with his frenetic Spanglish flow and overall charisma. But after The Roc pretty much crumbled, Crakk’s career laid in limbo.
hings started to look up a little when Hov tapped him for his new reincarnation of The Roc (remember that one?), but as that situation soured, Peedi began to turn on Hov and made his displeasure known via his “Camel Face Hunting Season” campaign. And while I respect Peedi’s bravado, I wouldn’t suggest going against the guy who was essentially the lifeline to your career.
After that attack failed to garner widespread interest, Peedi linked up with the Roots for a few joints, then basically dropped off the face of the earth. While he still pops up with an appearance on some random track/project here and there, he’s mostly known as a relic from a squad that could’ve went on to do great things. The label still could’ve at least let homie be in that Ne-Yo video though.
7. Jae Millz
Record Label: Jive Records/Young Money
Prime Buzz Year: 2002-2009
Last Seen: Doing laundry and other chores for Lil Wayne and company
Back when Smack and other various battle oriented DVDs were the rave, Jae Millz was making a name for himself with notable appearances on the mixtape and battle circuit, even parlaying his buzz into an appearance on MTV’s Making The Band series, battling against Da Band’s E-Ness of cheesecake-walking fame.
Millz linked up with Warner Bros. but eventually severed ties failing after to capitalize on the momentum of his debut single, “No,No,No.” Then he ended up at Universal where he was again put on the back burner, eventually splitting with them due to what he considered lack of promotion. From there he does what many desperate artists hoping for a safety net does: sign to another more successful artists imprint, where they will most likely rot on the pine.
After aligning himself with then man of the moment Lil Wayne’s Young Money collective, he finally got some burn via an actual album, contributing to the Young Money compilation and riding the coattails of Nicki, Drake, Wayne, and even the likes of Lil Chuckee to a plaque. But five years after that milestone, there’s still no sign of an album and bets are there won’t be anytime soon.