"Am I the only nigga still care about mixtapes?" asked Chance The Rapper on the aptly-titled "Mixtape," a selection from his GRAMMY-winning project, Coloring Book.
The answer? Maybe.
In an interview with The Guardian, Ty Dolla $ign was asked about his forthcoming project, Beach House 3. Unlike the two previous volumes in his Beach House series, both of which were released for free download in 2012 and 2013 respectively, BH3 will be released as an album, available for stream and digital download.
"Beach House 3 is Beach House the album,” he told writer Rob LeDonne. “Mixtapes are dead, by the way. People don’t even have CD players anymore.”
While Ty is right, the idea of a "mixtape" in 2017 by yesteryear standards is completely dead and buried, the reason has nothing to do with CD players going the way of the cassette tape player before it. Rather, the mixtape era kicked the bucket as a result of the proliferation of on-demand streaming.
When physical sales started to decrease and digital sales increased, mixtapes still existed as free downloads. But when digital sales began to decrease and on-demand streaming increased, mixtapes transitioned from free projects—many of which featured rappers jacking the most popular beats—into original bodies of work, identical to a full-length album with all original production and ripe to be monetized.
Besides, in 2017, mixtape vs. album, free vs. for sale, it's all meaningless. Chance's "mixtape," which was not released for digital or physical purchase but monetized through various streaming platforms, earned him a GRAMMY award. Kanye's 2016 album, The Life of Pablo, which is currently available for digital purchase but at the time of its release was only available as a limited digital download, was certified Platinum by the RIAA in April, becoming the first album in history to achieve a million album equivalent units solely based on streaming.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter if a project is labeled as an album, a mixtape or an EP. The only thing that matters is if the music is any good.