The term mixtape has become an oxymoron in the Rapidshare era. But way back before hip-hop was a category on the iTunes music store, rap existed only at park jams, school gymnasiums, and neighborhood rec centers. If you weren't one of the "party people in the place to be" you missed everything. But this ephemeral art form proliferated by homemade cassette tapes recorded on portable boom boxes and traded like the treasures that they were. Tapes of DJs like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmasters Flash and Flowers were collected and dubbed and traded by a growing fan subculture.

Cab drivers and barber shops set themselves apart from the competition by keeping exclusive rap tapes in heavy rotation, cultivating a select clientele. Brucie B was one of the first to make a business out of producing and selling his own mixtapes, followed by Kid Capri and Doo Wop who packed their joints with exclusives galore. Then Ron G changed the game by mixing R&B vocals with hard rap beats to create the so-called "blend tape," which basically mapped out the whole Bad Boy Records sound when Puffy was still trying out for the high school football team in Mount Vernon. So the next time you get an email about so-and-so's new mixtape, remember that it's just a promo download. Because when Rakim said, "Eric B is on the cut no mistakes allowed," he was talking about deadly serious business.