According to DatPiff.com, Meek Mill's recent “Dreamchasers 3” mixtape was streamed more than 520,000 times and downloaded by more than 850,000 users. Based on Nielsen’s SoundScan calculations, fellow Maybach Music Group member Wale sold 323,000 copies of his third album, The Gifted, as of October 9, 2013. While the difference in their approaches are rather obvious—mixtapes are free for consumers, while albums still carry a price tag—both artists can see the respective benefits of each method.
“Album mode is different,” Wale said during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX at the Philadelphia stop of Axe’s “One Night Only” concert series. “I don’t start the album process trying to provide the feel of a mixtape. As a whole, I put a lot of time into lyrics and production. In the sequencing of my last album The Gifted, you can hear the intricacies between the songs.”
In addition to Wale, J. Cole, A$AP Ferg and Meek Mill also joined the bill for Axe’s “One Night Only” bill. While both Cole and Meek have used mixtapes throughout their careers to increase visibility, Ferg took a different approach this year.
“It was called a mixtape at first, but now we’re going to put it out as an album,” Ferg said in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX in regards to his debut album, Trap Lord. He says that the accompanying barcode wasn’t the only distinction between his album and the A$AP Mob mixtpe, “Lords Never Worry.”
“That was a mixtape, because we all did the songs and tracks in different places, different areas, and it was kind of like, I put my two cents in, Rocky put his two cents in,” Ferg said. “Everybody came from different angles on it.”
Despite a lack of documented, public proof that they can be profitable, mixtapes have other benefits, artists say. Prior to releasing his sophomore album, Born Sinner, J. Cole released two free EPs entitled “Truly Yours.” While admitting the songs from the EPs didn’t fit Born Sinner sonically or thematically, he also said fans “deserved them” free of charge. That mentality was co-signed by Meek Mill while in his hometown of Philadelphia for a surprise appearance at the “One Night Only” concert.
“[Mixtapes] always help me, because I’m putting out hot music anyways,” Meek said. “But giving something back to the fans sometimes…they pay for everything anyways, so why not give ‘em a free album?”
Wale, Meek Mill, J. Cole, Kaptn, A$AP Ferg and French Montana all participated in Axe’s “One Night Only” series, which also included stops in Austin, Texas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Seattle, Washington. For more information about the series, visit AXEONO.com.
Additional Reporting by Andrew Gretchko.