Paper Route Recordz Does The Lord’s Work

19 Nov

Fear and Loathing In Hunts Vegas

Not two days after this blog posted Viva La Hova as an example of how to exploit the internet to distribute great music and challenge the industry’s flagging business model, Mad Decent and Paper Route Recordz have raised the stakes. Radiohead’s lucrative “pay-what-you-want” model is starting to attract followers, and the more artists try it, the less it looks like a gimmick and the more it looks like the future of the music industry. There’ll always be a place for artists who give music away for free on the internet, but getting people to actually pay is going to get taken more seriously as a business model. Lil Wayne’s deluge over the last few years only paid off for his label after it sold a lot of physical copies in stores… in other words, Universal still sees the internet as, at best, a loss leader to promote 1998’s industry model. Which is why the ability to get people to pay willingly (and not just out of fear of a lawsuit, or inability to find it on the hype machine) is key. Mad Decent and Paper Route are rewarding those who pay over $5.00 for their new release Fear And Loathing In Hunts Vegas with a higher bitrate and five bonus tracks. This looks like a winning business model, and one that even thick-headed suits like Universal CEO Doug Morris could understand.

In a week in which the aforementioned Lil Wayne dropped the much-hyped Dedication 3, which is already being written off as a disappointment, it’s nice to see at least one mixtape deliver the goods. The title refers to the remote burg of Huntsville, Alabama, and the geographical remove from traditional hip-hop hotspots shows. It’s as if people who had never heard hip-hop were handed a rough description of the music on paper and asked to create it sui generis. Hearing the Paper Route roster is like hearing Three 6 Mafia for the first time; in both cases, rappers had to create a scene where none existed, and the fact that neither initially expected their music to reach an audience outside their immediate area lent the music a freedom (not to mention a very loose approach to sampling). Actually, hearing Jhi-Ali take on Underworld’s rave classic “Born Slippy” on album opener “Stuntastic” is the best argument yet for reforming copyright law; it’s more convincing than an essay from Lawrence Lessig or Cory Doctorow (although they’re pretty damn convincing too).

The involvement of Mad Decent brings on board some high-profile guests and producers–Diplo, Blaqstarr, and Wale among them–but never threatens to overpower the Huntsville flavor of the tape. The formula’s so straightforward, it’s a miracle it isn’t tried more often: Take a blank slate of a regional scene, rappers with so-bad-they’re-good stage names (Dawggy Bagz and the half-Asian MC Jackie Chain), innovative (and brazen) use of sampling, a forward-thinking business and distribution model, and an assist from well-connected Mid-Atlantic bloggers and DJs.

How hard can that be?

Download It Here

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