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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

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photo by lindsay beyerstein


Here we go again

Cracking Down on Mixtape CDs
Published: January 22, 2007

Not long before Christmas, Jeff Baker, the chief of police of Morrow, Ga., a small town just south of Atlanta, and one of his officers were walking through a local shopping mall when they happened to pass a kiosk hawking rap music CDs. One in particular caught their attention.

The CD was “Tha Streets Iz Watchin,” with songs performed by the rapper Young Jeezy and, as Chief Baker recalled, it did not carry the name or address of the owner of the music copyrights, as Georgia law requires. Rather than arrest the kiosk vendor immediately, Chief Baker said, “We’d rather go after the source of the material. And at that point we had no idea what the source was.”

Any rap music aficionado would; the creator of the album is DJ Drama, whose real name is Tyree Simmons, arguably the nation’s most prominent producer of mixtapes, the name given to popular but largely unlicensed CDs stocked with yet-to-be released rap hits and free-style rhymes.

And many more people now know: last week, local authorities, working with the recording industry’s trade association, stunned fans and music executives alike by raiding DJ Drama’s studio in Atlanta and arresting him and a fellow D.J., Don Cannon, on racketeering charges. Investigators seized more than 81,000 allegedly pirated CDs and say the pair were producing unlicensed recordings and selling them without permission.

The raid sparked an outcry among many rap fans. But it also threatens to throw into public view the recording industry’s awkward relationship with mixtapes, long an integral element of rap culture and now commonly for sale on street corners, Web sites, many independent record shops and occasionally big chains.

Even as industry-financed antipiracy squads hunt for unauthorized recordings, senior executives at the major record labels privately say that they have courted — and often paid — top D.J.’s to create and distribute mixtapes featuring the labels’ rappers as part of efforts to generate buzz.

The record industry seems intent on alienating their audience

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