Thursday, May 28, 2020

Underground Airplay, Vol. 1-6 (Mixtapes, 1993-1997)


One of the original series of mix tapes to represent hip-hop culture and fashion, curated by Echo Unlimited and Lyricist Lounge's Danny Castro and Anthony Marshall. From the years 1993 to 1997, 6 tapes were released, along with a 7th that I can never seem to get my hands on, as well as 2001's DJ Spinbad-mixed Version 1.0 on CD, and Peter Rosenberg's 2013 "The New York Renaissance," which was a reboot of the classic series when Joey Bada$$ was named the creative director and helped curate the mix along with his Pro Era squad. These complimentary mix tapes were seen as a form of promotion and branding for Mark Ecko's fashion company. He initially pressed 10,000 of the 44-minute promotional tapes which were distributed with each purchased T-shirt and featured some of the best of hip-hop's underground scene. Both signed and independent artists were included from Cella Dwellas, Problemz, Mad Skillz, Ran Reed, Natural Elements, Shabaam Sahdeeq and more. With the release of its 6th volume in 1997, the production totaled over 250,000 copies. '97 is also the year that they were legally forced to change the company's original "Echo" name to its current "Ecko" (via Free Stylin'). Lyricist Lounge was a perfect fit for these tapes as they were establishing themselves as the premiere platform for underground artists to showcase their skills. While some of the artists never became household names, these tapes still represent a great time in underground music and all the tapes remain highly sought after to this day. Enjoy Volumes 1-6 down below, much respect to the Lyricist Lounge. Be patient if the page is slow to load with all the audio embedded.