It’s so hard to say what my favourite mixtape ever is but I’ll have to say that the most influential, and the one that put me on game, and this might date me – I don’t know if people are going to think that I’m weak for this – but it has to be DJ Clue’s The Professional. It felt like an album to me, it wasn’t one of those mixtapes you got from round the block or was lo-fi or bootlegged.
The Professional had original records and it put me on to people DJ Clue broke, like Fabolous, or new Busta Rhymes joints with the Flipmode Squad like ‘Whatever You Want’. That’s what’s cool about mixtapes in general – getting exclusive stuff and breaking new music.
To me, The Professional was the most professional example of what a mixtape should look and sound like, and from that, I started messing with the Kay Slays of the world, and DJ Whoo Kid and Funkmaster Flex, where you would discover songs you wouldn’t find on albums. That goes to show how important the mixtape is.
I remember listening to The Professional on the school bus hearing “Desert Storm!” in my headphones for the first time sitting two or three seats from the back and hearing Fabolous. I was probably in sixth or seventh grade, 11 or 12 years old.
The tape definitely came into my life at a significant time. I didn’t start picking my own music until I was 10, 11 and 12 years old and I feel, at 12, that was the most significant time in my life where I thought I knew everything, and I was developing my own stuff.
Before that, I was just listening to stuff that was around the house; my mom loved Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire and jazz. My dad loved Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and that kind of stuff.
That was around the house and I grew up with sisters too; my oldest sister listened to Tevin Campbell, Color Me Badd, Mariah Carey, and Tess (my other sister) was playing No Doubt. There was all of this going on in my house and then I started to gravitate towards rap music, like the DJ Clues and the Jay Zs. I remember listening to ‘Money Ain’t a Thang’ by Jermaine Dupri, which was a big record for me too.
I remember the cover to The Professional also – it had the hand with the diamond chain that had the Desert Storm question mark on it, and its iconic! Its minimalism but very hip-hop; you have the DJ Clue emblem but at the same time it just as well could have been a really cool street art photograph.
I had a physical copy of the tape as well, and I think I still have it, in my book of CDs that’s in my parent’s attic.
In terms of songs I love “It’s My Thang ’99” with EPMD, Redman and Keith Murray but the one record off The Professional that I go back to a lot is ‘Whatever You Want’ – there’s an interlude before that song where DJ Clue is trying to get Mariah Carey to say something and her voice sounds so sexy.
Then it goes to ‘Whatever You Want’ and Rah Digga just murders it. I love posse cuts, especially with mixtapes, with multiple MCs on the joint. Flipmode’s on ‘Whatever You Want’ was great, along with EPMD and the rest of the Def Squad. But ‘Whatever You Want’ was original and just for that mixtape and I know I can always put it on in a DJ set and it would go. *starts humming and beatboxing ‘Whatever You Want’*
If I had to put a price on The Professional I would pay $10.99, nothing too crazy, but it’s weird putting a price on music. It’s not one of those things that are priceless to me, it just reminds me of where I come from and how I got ushered into rap music.
But people are treating music like its free, like songs grow on trees, and they don’t. They represent fully fleshed out ideas and I know we’re in an interesting place in terms of pricing music, but I think $10 for an album is fair.
If I had to describe the mixtape in three words…… Clue! Clue! Clue! Desert Storm!
Words by Asher Roth.