Respect The (Mixtape) Conglomerate

Wiz Khalifa has mastered the music industry’s circle of life.

Yesterday, he dropped the second installment of his Cabin Fever mixtape series, in what’s become the latest variation of 50 Cent’s mixtape model.

50 Cent created today’s version of the mixtape game and essentially paved the way for how present big-name stars – Wiz included – make names and money for themselves without needing as much support from record labels.

Back then, 50 used tapes to promote himself and build hype for his upcoming album. That’s still the case today, but artists have taken it to the next level. Today they put out mixtapes to promote not only themselves and their upcoming albums, but also young and upcoming artists in their crew, their tours and merchandise.

Wiz has perfected the model. Cabin Fever 2 provides his audience with something to jam to until Dec. 4, when his highly-anticipated album, O.N.I.F.C., is released, but also goes on to promote his upcoming 2050 tour, other Taylor Gang artists and his clothing line.

At the end of “Bout That,” Wiz exemplifies this strategy. He shouts out to the 2050 tour, saying it’ll be the hottest tour since Jay-Z 's Hark Knock Life joint. He adds, “Shout out to all the fans man, buying all the merch, making sure they getting to the front row at the show, I see ya’ll. Make sure you check out O.N.I.F.C. too, man, December 4th. I ain't gonna let ya'll down, got exactly what you're been waiting for. Shout out to them Taylors.”

Rick Ross put out a far more egregious example, The Black Bar Mitzvah. It was Ross’ fourth production in nine months, though there was little in the way of original production, at all. Ross adds a verse or two to tracks that are just starting to get old, adds plenty of shout-outs to his crew and to the MMG tour. It’s basically free music, just fresh enough to still listen to – if only once – so that Ross can push his promotional message.

Pusha-T also got in on the trend just under a year ago, putting out a dope mixtape (really though, if you can find it, download it) to promote his clothing line, Play Cloths. Play Cloths Holiday 2011 hits hard and gives Play Cloths plenty of airspace.

It’s a fantastic business model. Artists are capitalizing upon our culture’s necessity for all things new. Rappers constantly put out more music, in some cases too much, and use that space to promote their own entities and tours. They tweet out mixtape releases, and the most successful – Wiz again setting the standard – are worldwide trending topics, within hours.

The best part? While they’re on tour, just hop in the tour bus studio and bang out the next tape while sippin’ on lean. Make a video of it with a fat Ciroc commercial on the front and it’s all paid for.

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