Wednesday, January 17, 2007

big-name djs arrested for mixtapes

two of the country's hottest hip-hop djs, atlanta's dj drama and don cannon, were arrested yesterday in a raid on their mixtape business. has some good info, but their website is downright obnoxious (seriously, click at your own peril), so in order to spare you the agony of going to that site, i'll quote heavily:

Drama (real name Tyree Simmons) and Aphilliate partner Donald "Don" Cannon were taken into custody along with 17 other individuals Tuesday. Police seized over 50,000 mixtapes in the raid, according to reports from Atlanta's Fox affiliate, WAGA.

In addition to housing the day-to-day operations of the Aphilliate Music Group — the collective, which also includes DJ Sense, recently inked a distribution deal through Asylum Records, while Drama also has a solo record deal through Grand Hustle/ Atlantic — the downtown Atlanta offices also served as a studio.

Arrests and raids due to the distribution of what authorities consider bootleg CDs is nothing new. A sprinkling of mom-and-pop stores throughout the country have been shut down in recent years, but this is the first time that the crackdown has hit a name as big as Drama, arguably the current top mixtape DJ. His Gangsta Grillz series has become a street staple and a promotional tool for emerging artists.

one of those mom-and-pop stores that got raided and eventually had to shut down was indy's own berry's music, which got raided in 2003 and was forced to close.

And while authorities have come down on Drama — who is also T.I.'s main DJ — the Philadelphia-born industry hustler does not generally put out mixtapes with just a smattering of exclusive songs from different artists on each disc. Drama actually works closely with several artists and will put a Gangsta Grillz CD with music specifically recorded by one artist for the particular disc. His releases may be best described as street albums, rather than mixtapes.

Some mixtape DJs do get complaints from labels and artists about their material hitting the streets, but Drama has not previously encountered that problem. When music from T.I.'s King album leaked online last year, Tip and Drama collected the tracks to release as a mixtape, which featured early versions of songs including "Live in the Sky." And artists such as Young Jeezy — who launched his career with the help of Gangsta Grillz: Trap or Die — Styles P, Lil Jon, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne and Nelly have all made music specifically for Drama to put on Gangsta Grillz.

Although he is best known for his mixtapes, Don Cannon has been getting props lately for his production. He was the mastermind behind one of the biggest club bangers of 2005, Young Jeezy's "Go Crazy." Last year, he popped up again on Jeezy's The Inspiration LP with the track "Mr. 17.5."

in other words, far from being "counterfeiters" as the police naively allege, drama and his crew are more like starmakers, generating millions of sales for the record industry. these mixtapes weren't illegal bootlegs; they were about as legit as a cd can be.

this raid promises to have major ramifications in the hip-hop community. the main question is "whose bright idea was this?" did the RIAA plan these raids (as they did the raid at berry's), or did the police come up with it on their own, thinking they were about to bust a major counterfeiting ring?

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