The free mixtape is the greatest thing to happen to rap culture since teenagers in the Bronx first ran electricity out of the lampposts in the public parks to power their turntables. From its very beginning, rap has invented and insisted upon its own economy, and while the rap game is still connected to the dying record industry, the preponderance and overarching support for free music sharing is further proof that hip-hop writes and adheres to its own set of rules.
Rappers now work constantly to release music at ten times the rate of artists from 1990s or 2000s, only to give away their wares for free. Some say this is a sign of artistic degradation, when actually it is proof of untapped vitality. Without the largesse of the old industry, rappers have no choice but to focus on the sole determining factor of a healthy artistic existence: production.
No more perfectionism; no more six-year hiatuses between releases; no more massive promotional strategies (unless, of course, you're in bed with Samsung). Instead, what you get is the principle of prolificacy above all else. You could say that this hurts quality control, but that's made up in for in freshness. (There's an old-school hip-hop concept!) Artists having to give away music gives hip-hop a value sorely lacking in all other musical genres: relentless work ethic. At a time when American manufacturing is at an all-time low, hip-hop is one of the few sectors where production is at an all-time high.