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Do you remember the last time you actually bought a CD?

That might be a struggle for some of you. What about the last time you bought a full album from iTunes? If you can’t remember, it’s really okay. You’re not alone.

The industry is changing, and with the uprising in social media, blogs and file sharing sites, fans aren’t as inclined to go to the store to purchase an album when they can get it for free online in the comfort of their own homes. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Some might argue that leaks and piracy have been the main catalyst for the recent decline in the music industry, but I’d have to disagree.

People today are just as interested in music as they were in decades past the only difference is the accessibility is much higher. For a genre like R&B, who some might argue is completely dead, mixtapes have become a platform for artists to truly create the music that they want, without input from big brother major labels.

Traditionally a staple in the hip-hop community, mixtapes have given new life to R&B world, and given fans the music that they have been craving. The best thing about it, is that everyone wins. Fans get the free music, artists get the buzz, opportunity to tour, and depending on how well things go, could possibly earn themselves GRAMMY’s.

While it bodes well for independent artists to showcase their talent, mixtapes have given major artists the opportunity to express themselves more freely. Take Trey Songz, for example. Before releasing “Ready,” the album that catapulted him into the national spotlight, he released a mixtape entitled “Anticipation” via Twitter. Today some argue that the mixtape may be his best album to date. Made entirely of original music, Anticipation gave the R&B purists what they needed before the commercial-heavy studio album hit shelves. On the same token, Chris Brown’s last two mixtapes spawned monster singles that earned him GRAMMY nominations this year, and number one spots on Billboard charts.

So who’s got next? There are plenty of artists to watch, but I picked three mixtapes that are absolute must haves. Check them out below.

Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra
As a member of the newest, and most talked about hip-hop collective in the country, Odd Future, Frank Ocean’s probably the next to blow up in a major way. While wildly successful on his own terms as a songwriter, (working with artists like John Legend and the great Beyoncé) Frank’s solo mixtape has created a massive buzz on the Internet and in the streets. A combination of the sounds of Ryan Leslie and Andre 3000 (in my opinion) “Nostalgia, Ultra” has quickly become one of the most heavily played projects in my iTunes. Tracks to check out: “We All Try” and “Songs For Women”

DL: Frank Ocean – Nostalgia, Ultra

The Weeknd – House of Balloons
No, that’s not a typo. There’s so much mystery surrounding the artist that simply refers to themselves as The Weeknd. No one’s really sure if it’s a group or just one guy…but regardless, their mixtape, House of Balloons, has gotten the co-sign from fellow Toronto native Drake. Tracks to check out: “High For This” and “The Party & The Afterparty”

DL: The Weeknd – House of Balloons

Terrace Martin & Devi Dev – The S*x EP
Now this one is a bit different. LA native Terrace Martin is a saxophone and piano playing singer & rapper. The S*x EP combines jazz with a little R&B and hip hop for one of the smoothest projects you’ll hear in a long time. It boasts features and production from heavyweights like Hi-Tek and 9th Wonder, and appearances from R&B artists like Lloyd. Perfect for date night, or just a late night cruise through the city, the S*x EP is worth the download. Tracks to check out: “With You” and “Climax”

DL: Terrace Martin & Devi Dev – The S*x EP

Happy Listening!