Home » d21 Archive

The Digital Troubadour

Posted on 29th March 2008. One Comment

Email This Comment Email This Comment

The marriage of Internet and music could often be said to be rather uneasy. However, as young people rely on the Internet more and more for their musical needs, there has undergone a revolution that has legitimately taken on music TV and radio as the principle media outlets. Podcasting has empowered a whole generation to collaborate, critique and succeed in an accessible format that can now realistically compete with traditional media.

At the forefront of this podcast medium is Dex Digital. As founder and host of The Mixtape Show, the series has grown from humble beginnings to being the biggest in its urban genre, and has been recognised by Q magazine as the best music podcast on the Internet. Now, with a very respectable global audience, industry recognition, and award nominations, Dex is considered by some as an authority, if that’s possible, on how internet music media can stand apart and compete, if not undermine, the old guard.

Are radio and TV “dead”?
On some levels, no. TV, Radio, and if you want to go back further, newspapers will always have a place in mainstream media because people like to be spoon-fed information so, strictly speaking, I don’t expect any of them to “die” very soon.

TV and radio are dead to me, though, and they’re dead to a lot of the younger generation, because we’ve stopped expecting innovation from those platforms. Everything that can be done on those two platforms has been done over and over again. We know instinctively that when the next big thing comes, it will be online; and I have a feeling that this generation’s future leaders will be people who got the vast majority of their information and entertainment online. If there are fresh and exciting things that can happen on TV or radio, they will either not happen because the Big Media-controlled industry won’t allow it, or they will happen, but be rough approximations or be totally dependent on incorporation of new media, like the Youtube debates.

How has The Mixtape Show grown and developed since its debut?
The show has definitely gotten more listeners, which is great and I truly appreciate. When I first started the show, I was really just in it for the freedom it afforded. I was coming from college radio and I really just wanted to curse on the air. It was just like a late-night college rap show. I wasn’t really thinking progressively at that point.

I think the real growth and development in the show has been just the show getting progressively weirder and weirder. Not just the skits, like the 5-minute diatribes from fictional racist CEOs, me getting shot by the KKK and arguing about rap with Stoner Jesus, or the Soultronica sci-fi space drama stuff – but the music. I play stuff that no other quote unquote rap DJ would play because it’s non-traditional. It’s too weird, or not “hard” or “gangster” or “backpacker” enough. I think the real success of this show has been just feedback and encouragement from listeners that lets me know that I can pretty much go wild and they’ll support it. Were it not for that support, I don’t know where I’d be right now.

Do you find that Industry types are much more willing to connect with you now the show is so popular?
Yes and no. Yes, because a lot of people want to be a part of the show. Some great labels, like Shaman Work, have opened their vaults to me – anything I want, they give me and I can play it. I’ve gotten offers, all of which I’ve turned down, from a lot of major record labels. That said, I think there are very few people in the hip-hop world who actually understand how new media works – both in the technical and theoretical sense.

Where I think I’ve had some success is that while the tech community has figured this out, hip-hop as a whole hasn’t. It’s sort of weird, and there are notable exceptions, but I’ve found that what used to be the most progressive genre of music – hip-hop – has a pretty major constituent of people that do not understand or really try to embrace new media. Sometimes I’ll be trying to arrange an interview and the manager will step in and ask why I’m not putting it on the radio – when realistically, the podcast has more reach than most major market college radio stations. Or I’ll offer a famous producer a guest mix spot on my show, but his people will ask for money (which I refuse to pay because I make no money off this show) – then he’ll go down the road and guest spot for free on some tiny college radio show. Hip-hop is stuck in the past.

The rock kids get it, the electro kids get it, but too much of the hip-hop world is just wilfully ignorant about new media. Either rap changes with the times or a significant part of it dies along with the rest of the major labels.

Not that I have a problem with that. I’ll just continue to work with progressive people and progressive music.

What would you say has been most important factor in building this kind of medium?
For me, honesty and openness. Honesty – you can lie to people on radio and TV all day long, because that’s just part of the format. If you lie to somebody on the internet, they will call you on it right away. So payola is right out – which pretty much automatically solves a lot of the problems that exist with old media.

Openness – people know that they can contact me directly any time. My e-mail, AIM, and phone number are on the front page. I’m going to get kind of nerd status here, but Web 1.0 was really just an extension of Radio and TV, sort of a Gutenberg effect. You put up a page and told somebody something, they read it and nodded in agreement or shook their head in disagreement, and then they closed the window. Web 2.0 is more of a conversation. I say what I like, and listeners do the same thing. I bring in friends to do guest mixes and interviews. Listeners have a direct effect on the show – a lot of the stuff I will put on is material that has been sent to me by people who listen to the show.

Do you see a probable convergence between the mainstream and indie media? Could you see a time when The Mixtape Show is syndicated to Radio or TV? Would you ever consider this?
That’s possible, and things like this have already happened to me and to other new media forms, like the Youtube debates I mentioned. My show has been played on a few stations, but not syndicated anywhere major yet. I think it is probable, though, as mainstream media starts to flail around aimlessly for content that will keep the populace engaged.

I could see my show syndicated on XM, say, but that would be like watching TV with your eyes closed – you’re getting only half the experience. Where’s the interaction? It’d be like that part in A Wrinkle In Time where they accidentally travel to the two-dimensional planet and get the air choked out of them. Regressing to an old media format is enticing because of the “legitimacy” that radio or TV offers, but I think relying too much on that just stagnates the new medium.

Could you, with the internet becoming the premier source of entertainment for younger generations, foresee censorship of music on the internet? Is there a place for censorship of offensive material in music online?
No. There is no place for censorship of “offensive” – whatever that means – material in music online. If it happens, it will be the US’ fault and I actively encourage everyone in the world to make sure by any means necessary that this does not happen.

What has been the biggest highlight since starting the show? Are you expecting any particular successes in the future?
The biggest highlight was the Jena 6 show. I put up a blog asking for people to ring up my phone and leave a message with their thoughts on the case. Within 48 hours, I’d gotten dozens and dozens of calls, from the US, Canada, UK, South Africa. I put together a show featuring listeners’ voices over a collection of instrumentals. It’s sort of weird to call it a highlight because that’s not an episode I like to listen to. It was at once depressing, because of the subject matter, and encouraging. I was actually really afraid that nobody would call, so it was just an amazing feeling to give people I respected as artists and just everyday people, a chance to voice our collective opinions.

The future – well…I’m leaving for Japan in two weeks. I managed to con the Japanese government into giving me a full ride scholarship for two years, studying rap music at Waseda University in Tokyo. The Mixtape Show isn’t going anywhere. There will be changes and evolutions, but I’m pretty excited and optimistic about this. I should be having a lot more free time on my hands to produce audio and video shows, so that is something I’m looking forward to.

Finally, what do you love most about the internet?
I should probably say something about the democratization of media and the real potential that such freedom of expression allows, but I’m going to be honest here. I love lolcats. Lolcats were hilarious before everyone else found them. 4chan and 2chan are terrible, but hilarious. I think that random internet memes are the future of humor. I love how the internet is just full of stupidity that you can laugh at. Also, I love that I can get on youtube and spend hours watching videos of people playing nintendo games that I could never beat. I spend a lot more time doing that than I should probably admit.

Catch up with Dex and The Mixtape Show series @ www.mixtapeshow.net

One Comment »

  • the mixtape show rap / hip-hop podcast » Blog Archive » What up, I’m dead (author) said:

    [...] Iain Haywood interviews Dex Digital, podcast supremo* and founder of the internet music phenomenon T…: I was interviewed, forever ago, on Durham21, which is apparently like an online college student mag on steroids. This is seriously the most ridiculously well-written and designed student site I’ve ever seen, so being on here is sort of an honor, I think. It’s mainly me being all self-important and egotistical, but it might be funny to read, because I actually meant most of what I said. I am usually on the other side of the mic in an interview, so I appreciate how well this one was done. Thanks to Iain for taking time out to do the interview. [...]