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RIAA Raids Mixtape DJs

January 18, 2007

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In a major development in the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) quest to stop what they believe to be the bootlegging of music, the Atlanta office of mixtape king DJ Drama‘s Aphilliate Music Group was raided Tuesday by police.

DJ Drama and Aphilliate partner DJ Don Cannon were taken into custody along with 17 other individuals and 50,000 mixtapes as evidence along with all computers, bank statements and even their cars.

Mixtapes are an integral part of hip-hop culture, and numerous artists have gained fame from their distribution. But the “tapes,” which are actually distributed as CD-Rs, are often illegal, and that’s what prompted the surprise raid by the RIAA.

However, the arrests have raised questions about the validity of the charges, by fans and professionals.

“These guys weren’t selling official barcoded albums, like the type you buy on 125th Street in Harlem, but should be buying from a legitimate retail store,” said one music industry professional under the auspices of anonymity. “The artists were apart of the creation process on most – if not all of the Gangsta Grillz.”

Record labels have always used the important DJ‘s to help promote the records. For the most part the records they put out are given to them by the labels. This arrest now calls into question whether major labels will continue to utilize mixtapes as promotional tools.

DJ Drama, who recently took home four trophies at the Justo’s 10th Annual Mixtape Awards, is largely considered the top mixtape DJ and has catapulted and revitalized the careers of Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne, respectively, and there are those who consider that taking him down only makes him a martyr of the mixtape movement.

One thing s for sure: the Hip-Hop community has immediately responded to the raid and arrests. A graphical image of DJ Drama emblazoned with “Free Drama & Cannon” has begun to spread across the Internet, through message boards and artist’s music pages.

The RIAA has probably pegged the high-profile Drama to cool the illegal distribution and sale of copyrighted CD-Rs, part of a larger campaign that also involves small-time retailers and street shops. But will this turn against them? Only time will tell.

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