The bulk of the Hood Internet’s discography exists in the intangible world of Internet mixtapes housed on its website. That’s by design, and it may not be there forever.
With the exception of the 2012 studio album, FEAT, and the odd remix commissioned by artists like Tobacco (with whom the Hood Internet will co-headline at Spirit on March 25), the mashup material by the Chicago-based production duo —Aaron Brink (a.k.a. ABX) and Steve Reidell (a.k.a. STV SLV) — is not available in any physical form.
The digital-only model has become increasingly common among emerging artists, but for the Hood Internet, it’s methodology born of necessity. Since any given Hood Internet composition is pieced together from the work of other musicians, its output exists in a legal gray area. The use of the blog as a distribution medium allows the duo to cut and run as needed, removing content should that be requested.
“It was 2007 when we put the site up and it was just its own … MP3 blog at the time,” Reidell recalls. “It was a ton of repurposing, a ton of straight-up theft of other people’s material.”
The two realized that while their mashups skirted legality, they could easily release tracks without getting into trouble. “I was into computers when Napster hit, and smelled the [digital-music] revolution that was to come. [I] always thought that record labels could try to put an injunction on this, try to stop this, but it’s the Internet. There will [always] be another way to get this stuff out,” Reidell says. “So, a few years later when we started doing this thing, there was never really any worry about the legal repercussions of it. We made it a … point to not sell the very clear bootleg set we were making, but there was never really any fear that we would be hit with the legal repercussion for that. The time for that had passed.”
From the duo’s inception, Reidell and Brink knew they were mapping their own territory. Like any artists working in a sample-based genre, the material from which they draw says as much as the way they choose to frame that material. With nine mixtapes to their credit, they are comfortable and confident in their methodology. Unlike artists like Girl Talk or Negativland — who weave elaborate pastiches of short samples and found sounds — the Hood Internet employ a more minimalist approach, using fewer elements to yield bolder juxtapositions. On “So Hotline,” Giraffage & Slow Magic’s “So Cute!” bathes the vocals of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” in neon light, giving what was originally a standard exercise in R&B a roiling, transgressive edge.
The online model that Hood Internet has followed for the better part of a decade is now the norm for emerging artists seeking a wider audience. Music’s shelf life is now brief because the shelf is mostly gone. Each new release pushes previous releases further toward the bottom of the page.
But while attention spans are shortening, a digital-only release doesn’t necessarily condemn a song or album to obscurity. “If you think about some of these huge records from the last year … Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap doesn’t exist in hard copy except for some bootleg versions that managed to end up on some chart, like, that’s how hot it was. But they never pressed anything on [a physical format],” Reidell says.
And while the Hood Internet has stayed ahead of the curve, there may come a day when its model loses functionality. “It is an ever-changing form. We have a Soundcloud page that we can no longer access because of however many counts of copyright infringement,” Reidell says. “It’s hard for things to not leave a digital footprint in some way or another. But maybe there will be a point where someone is like, ‘Hey, I’m looking for this’ and they can’t find it [even] if they’re still using a file-sharing network. ... Then, I guess it’s out of print.”