mixtape

or mix tape

[ miks-teyp ]
/ ˈmɪksˌteɪp /

noun Music.

a recording on a cassette tape, CD, or digital medium, consisting of music or songs selected by a single person: My boyfriend made me the greatest mixtape for my birthday.
such a recording consisting of music or songs personally selected by the artist, usually a hip-hop artist: His mixtape from a live performance helped propel him to stardom.
a recording consisting of blended or recombined tracks, or a series of tracks with smooth transitions, especially one created by a DJ.

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Origin of mixtape

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does mixtape mean?

Unlike an official album, a mixtape is a more casual assortment of songs, organized by a listener or created by an artist.

Where does mixtape come from?

The art of creating mixtapes began in the 1970s, when cassette tape recorders became available in the home market, giving music fans the tools to mix and match songs from different albums, thereby creating their own “album” (a kind of proto-playlist) on a handy, portable cassette. 

The phrase mix tape dates back to at least 1974, where it appeared in Robert E. Runstein’s Modern Recording Techniques. The phrase mix tape soon became common enough to become its own, unhyphenated compound noun, mixtape.

By the early 1990s, the term mixtape meant a collection of otherwise unrelated songs that an individual had organized onto one cassette tape. Later in the decade, it became popular for D.J.’s to sell homemade mixtapes, collecting various artists together.

Around the same time, a different type of mixtape became connected with the burgeoning rap scene. Artist 50 Cent, who sometimes claims to have invented the mixtape, popularized a type of music release where he took the songs of other artists sans lyrics, rapped over them, and released these tracks as DIY mixtapes. 50 Cent’s impact here was huge, as according to DJ Drama, “there’s the mixtape game pre-50 Cent and post-50 Cent.”

In recent years, these homemade, lo-fi mixtapes have been largely replaced by polished, clean, studio-quality releases that artists put out between albums. Though the term mixtape traditionally referred to an old-school cassette tape, it now means any assortment of music compiled by an individual, whether that mixtape is on a tape, a CD, an SD card, or even a digital Spotify playlist. Mixtapes tend to have a conceptual or lyrical theme.

How is mixtape used in real life?

Anyone can make a mixtape, just by compiling a playlist of various songs. However, artists can also make their own mixtapes, even featuring original music. In this context, what separates a mixtape from an album is that mixtapes are more casual, homemade assortments of music, put together by the artist themselves, and often free for anyone to listen to.

In contrast, albums are generally official studio creations. Often, an artist might “drop their mixtape” onto the internet in the months leading up to their new album, hoping to generate new fans for a full album’s release.

More examples of mixtape:

“Good news for Drake fans: the rapper says he’s working on a new mixtape.”
—Mitchell Peters, Billboard, July, 2016

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for mixtape

British Dictionary definitions for mixtape

mix tape

noun

a collection of songs or tunes by different performers, selected by an individual and recorded on an audio tape, compact disc, etc
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012