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Mysterious 'Elephant Mixtape' Project Continues After First Cassette Found

CHICAGO — If you've happened upon a mixtape in an unexpected place around the city, a Humboldt Park delivery driver is expecting an email from you.

He's the anonymous mastermind behind "Elephant Mixtapes," a music-sharing project he launched last month on a whim.

He hid "about a dozen" unique mixtapes across the city at the beginning of February, each including a note requesting the finder drop him a line with their thoughts on the track list.

"I just thought it'd be fun. I was thinking, 'I wonder where these tapes are gonna go?' So that's where the website started," he told DNAinfo.com.

Each tape features an eclectic mix of songs from his personal collection, stocked with "bargain bin" finds from his days working in a record store.

Check out a playlist from the first tapes hidden as part of the "Elephant Mixtapes" project, created exclusively for DNAinfo.com Chicago.
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DNAinfo/Lizzie Schiffman

"Something my dad told me when I was a kid was that a true music fan respects all genres of music," he said, explaining his thought process in assembling the collections of widely differing songs. "If you really like music you're not just gonna listen to punk rock only.

"Each genre has something good to offer, so I've tried to always listen to everything."

After a few weeks with no word, he started posting hints, such as: "This infamous rock club doesn’t see the bottle half empty nor half full," on the website where he tracks the project.

He'd hoped to scatter a new batch of tapes each month, and compile the stories he received as the tapes were found. In late February, he took a lap to visit his hiding spots, and found that most had been claimed.

"It has been a little frustrating that I haven't heard anything about the ones that aren't there anymore, but at the same time, what can you expect?" he said toward the end of the month. "I think people are more interested in seeing the stories that are posted rather than writing them."

He was considering shutting down the project when he received a note from Rachel Davis, a WGN-TV producer and blogger, who had been following his clues and found her first cassette on Feb. 27 at Logan Hardware.

Exactly as its creator had hoped, Davis said the mix exposed her to a lot of new music.

"There was a lot of really old stuff and a lot of instrumental music, a lot of foreign, instrumental stuff, so it was super obscure," she said. "There were a few songs that I actually did like. I think that's kind of the point of it: You may not like most of the tape, but at least you leave with a few bands you want to check out."

Davis wrote about the experience on her blog, "Off The Grid," and said she already followed Elephant Mixtapes' instructions, recording her own mix to replace the original.

"It's such a cool way to get music out there, to get people to listen to new music and maybe music that's not necessarily super mainstream," Davis said.

Early feedback on Elephant Mixtapes blasted the outdated technology for making the game inaccessible to anyone without a cassette player, the project's creator said. But Davis said she loved the format and hopes the project will take off.

"I think there's just something cool and nostalgic about making mixtapes," Davis said. "I definitely want to decorate a new label for mine, and then I'm planning to hide it."

Elephant Mixtapes sent DNAinfo.com a track list of songs from the February mixtapes. Check out our exclusive playlist.