Which we totally just were, everybody who cares about that world should take a minute to read dude's recent State of the Hiphop piece Grind to Get It: Rap's Recession. Breihan talks about how the changing economics of the record industry (and the down economy in genereal) is effecting the majors, the role of mixtapes and videos, and the integrity-vs-profile of regional rap scenes, from Drake and the Freshman 10 on down to G-Side:
Back in the days when a major label would swoop in and sign most of a local scene's leading lights, the sound of that scene would slowly bleed its way into the mainstream; think of the vogue for screwed-and-chopped vocal samples, for instance, in the wake of the Houston scene's popularity. These days, though, the local scenes become their own little echo chambers. The people making music in all these localities seem to be making music for their friends, for kids on their block, for their Twitter followers. None of them is actively disparaging the idea of commercial succes— this isn't crust-punk or something— but it's also not like circa-05 Houston, with everyone expecting a big contract and burnishing off rough edges accordingly. Now that major labels are barely bothering to release rap albums anymore, you have to dig to find this stuff. But if you do bother to dig, there's plenty of gold out there— maybe more than ever before.
It's a good read—and it sounds like if Pitchfork had been all up on Shabazz Palaces a little earlier, Seattle's hiphop scene could have made a pretty good case study (and such an easy segue from the Freeway/Jake One joint).