nobigdyl., ‘LOWERCASE TAPE’ and the Art of the Mixtape
Music streaming is huge. Platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and others are some of the main sources of music traffic, especially amongst Hip Hop/Rap/R&B listeners. In this day and age, music is almost all digital. Many listeners enjoy their favorite artists and bands from their phones, their computers, their tablets, and other electronic devices. CDs have not become obsolete, but they have lost all traction.
To put it in my own context, the last album I physically bought was Andy Mineo & Wordsplayed’s Magic and Bird (2017). Everything since then (some 1,000+ songs) has been a streaming download. I would dare say I’m not the only one with a library like that.
With this environment, it’s not the easiest to push a digital album as authentically as a physical copy. Projects are anticipated just as much. But without the listener having to spend the money directly, take the CD home, and listen to it manually, many would argue the experience is just not as rich as it used to be. There is one specific artist, however, who threw the creative process of an album back to the glory days– his name is nobigdyl.
nobigdyl. came onto the stage in 2015 with his freshman project Smoke Signal. Once this dropped, he began to slowly work his way into the mainstream fold of CHH. Now, fast forward to 2019, dyl. is one of the premier artists of the Christian rap sub-genre. He even recently got a shout out from USA Today.
The last full project nobigdyl. dropped was his album SOLAR, which was released in June of 2018. In May of this year, dyl. hinted at the start of ‘Phase 2’ which he alluded would be some type of precipitous drop of music. This led to the eventual announcement that he was coming out with a mixtape. We got that mixtape yesterday. The tape is more than just an album drop, though. We need to look at the entire picture. We need to look at nobigdyl. and the art of the mixtape.
‘Phase 2’ ended with the announcement of the mixtape. But it’s become more and more apparent that this process has been ongoing for quite some time. nobigdyl. signed to a label, Capitol CMG, in 2018. He then proceeded to actually leave the label soon after, citing his desire to remain independent and, as he noted in a track on Jarry Manna’s Legends of Lotus Waver 2, “own all [his] masters.” There have been many things that have alluded to this mixtape and its contents. Let’s take a look back at some of those.
One noticeable thing right off the bat about the mixtape is the presence of features from big names. But the big names are all random, as in, not from one label, song he made, or tour he went on. He got a feature from Ty Brasel, Parris Chariz, 1K Phew, Tim Gent, Aaron Cole, Kaleb Mitchell, and a couple of interludes, one being a message from Jon Keith. I could cite all of the times we have seen these guys pop up in music videos, Instagram posts, and stories, or Twitter threads. Instead, I’ll show you this video– nobigdyl. put the pieces together for us:
LOWERCASE TAPE. at midnight. watch this to get ready 🎬 pic.twitter.com/L8LNCAAqCH
— MIXTAPE DYLLIE ON TOUR (@nobigdyl) November 8, 2019
But what makes this a mixtape? Why is that really important? I’m only 20 years old. I’m a little young to have any real experience in the era of the mixtape. The one thing I do know is that the definition of mixtape can be fluid, depending on who you ask.
Originally, it was defined as a mixture of different songs that were recorded onto a literal cassette tape (which I have never used in my life). But in 2019, it can be a little different than that. A mixtape could be a collection of songs and tracks from different artists– a literal mixture of songs into one “tape” or often CD. In the age of digital music, a mixtape can be some type of project that incorporates a lot of moving parts, outside sources, artists, and production that takes many people and resources and pools them into one project with a common denominator. The most famous example of this type is probably Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. nobigdyl.’s new mixtape, LOWERCASE TAPE, is a synthesis of many definitions of the mixtape, perhaps even its own definition. Please, allow me to explain.
For starters, the mixtape got leaked early on none other than DatPiff, a staple platform in the world of free mixtapes and underground rap music. He’s also only creating physical copies that were burned onto blank CDs and put in plastic cases. That right there is probably enough to make this a mixtape. But there are more ways in which LOWERCASE TAPE fits the bill.
I’ve already mentioned the numerous features, but there are also numerous producers on the albums. There are 14 tracks on the album. 1 of them is the intro. Then, there are three other interludes. The album is unique in a very special way from what a mixtape would generally be. There is an underlying narrative through the album and process that this project represents something more than simply putting music out. More on this will come with an album breakdown from Rapzilla contributor, Elijah Matos.
According to an article from Vice, written shortly after the release of Acid Rap, the difference between an album and a mixtape “is its goals.” That article was published in 2013, but I would make the argument, with the example of this album, mixtapes are totally about their goals.
nobigdyl.’s career speaks to his passion for great art and the power of the artist-fan dichotomy. Just using a platform to create content and release it creates a personal disconnect from the music and the process. nobigdyl. cuts all of those corners. He lets the listener into the studio through Instagram. He lets the listener onto the journey with videos. Dyl lets the fanbase know his heart with Twitter. He lets the industry take part in his work with co-signing tours, features, and collaborations. He lets the creation of music become a collaborative movement, and shares his personal process with Patreon.
To drop an album arbitrarily, to be a part of a major label, to work on a fixed schedule is the art of the industry. Labels have deadlines, budgets, and numbers to meet. Often, artists can be confined to these limiting features. This is not inherently bad. Some of the biggest albums in music history came on the back of major labels. But to an artist like dyl., this isn’t him. And since we, the fans, share in his process, it isn’t us. The goal of the mixtape is to create an organic connection from artist to fan. And the goal was most definitely reached.
It almost seems like we dropped this album together.
Simply put, LOWERCASE TAPE is more than an album. It’s not a project that was meant just for directories. It’s not a conglomerate of dyl. and labelmates chasing one, flat narrative through music. The album is not even a frivolous mixtape of random tracks that dyl. thought just needed to be released.
LOWERCASE TAPE is art.
It’s the end of an artistic journey. It’s the culmination of texts, calls, recordings, samples, trips, bars, thoughts, and ultimately of who Christ has compelled nobigdyl. to be. The project is just simply great. It’s spontaneous, bouncy, diverse, deep, lyrical, and it’s classic, authentic nobigdyl. It was long-awaited, much anticipated, and truly, now, celebrated. If you haven’t heard it by now, please, I beg you… do yourself the favor. This is not the creation of the album or the request of the fans. This is truly the art of the mixtape. Don’t take my word for it… take nobigdyl.’s word for it:
i don’t make music just to make it. i believe in the power + artform of hip hop — its ability to communicate messages + shape culture + people. i respect the slow process of perfecting the craft. sometimes the way forward is to retrace the methods of those before you #Nov8 pic.twitter.com/87EqBdajGs
— MIXTAPE DYLLIE ON TOUR (@nobigdyl) November 5, 2019
THIS MIXTAPE REPRESENTS FREEDOM. IF YOUVE FOLLOWED ME FOR A WHILE YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN. WE GOING UP ALL DAY + NIGHT.
DATPIFF RIGHT NOW; EVERYWHERE @ MIDNIGHT
— MIXTAPE DYLLIE ON TOUR (@nobigdyl) November 8, 2019
Check out LOWERCASE TAPE by nobigdyl. out on all streaming platforms… and of course, DatPiff.