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Remember when auto shows used to be fun? When automakers courted their clients in earnest, rather than whatever high-handed cringe they do now with the catering to TikTok youth or whatever it is? Ok, I’m being an old man, but back when I was a kid, it felt like those big corporations were a bit more ambitious about finding out what young people liked. And Toyota’s ostensible “youth brand” Scion once had its finger firmly on the pulse of up-and-coming music.

Scion was in touch with what the young people liked. In the early aughts, Scion courted young people interested in DJs and more underground music; less about that super-produced, super-engineered pop music of the early 2000s. At auto shows, it handed out promotional CDs with mixes from legit DJs with tracks from artists who most certainly wouldn’t have been known to the average new Toyota buyer back then.

The year 2004 was an exciting time for prepubescent elementary school me, and my brothers, much older than I. We all watched Fast and Furious, played Tokyo Xtreme Racer or NFS Underground, we read Initial D mangas. My older brothers, at the time in their early 20s, brought me along to the auto shows like Hot Import Nights or the Cleveland International Auto Show. We’d gawk at the concept cars or mingle and ask questions about someone’s builds. We’d get freebies from automakers stands, and my brothers at the time were target clients for Scion — being young 20-somethings with disposable income, mind you.

Neither of them had any interest in the xA, xB, or tC, but that didn’t stop us from taking all sorts of free crap from the Scion table. Little kids like free stuff, even if they don’t know what it is, and nine-year-old me took a Scion CD Sampler. I thought it would be a computer game, or have some images or something. After walking away from the booth, I realized it was a mixtape — Scion CD Sampler Volume 9 by DJ Haul & Mason.

Scion’s Mixtape CD Samplers Absolutely Slapped
I absolutely spent $6.00 to get one of these babies. Image: eBay Screengrab

I liked the music. But like any nine-year-old, I didn’t know much about music, and Scion wasn’t handing out free video games, so after about a month the Scion CD disappeared and I didn’t care to find out where it went.

When researching for this blog, I searched for the CD’s tracklist, wanting to remember what was on it. I remember liking the music, but I couldn’t remember any artists or specifics about the tracks. Were the tracks actually good, or was I just blinded by fond memories and nostalgia?

Nah, there are some gems on it, and 9-year-old me knew what he had here. There’s RJD2, The Foreign Exchange, Jaylib (a product of J Dilla and Madlib; Madlib is also on this glorious album), artists I wouldn’t discover again and get into until I was in High School or College. And yet here I was, at the age of nine, bopping out to the hottest beats of 2004. That mixtape goes. I mean, it bumps. It’s a genuinely good DJ Mix, full of good Hip Hop beats downtempo electronica, and maybe a sprinkling of Acid Jazz. Scion made at least 26 of these mix CDs, all of them with off-the-beaten-path bangers on them.

I can already smell the comments in my head, “Oh Scion sold to old people! Young people didn’t want weird-looking Toyotas!” Uh-huh, keep saying that. People are still quoting that Reuters article that queried vehicle registrations which to their credit in the article, does not account for parents registering vehicles for their kids, for instance. Toyota insisted that Scion’s median age was somewhere in the mid to early 30s. Whatever the real answer is, distracts from the fact that these Scion mixtapes absolutely bump.

It looks like somebody shared this whole thing as a Spotify playlist, so please, plug in some headphones and enjoy.

COVID seems to be on the downswing, and people are starting to imagine what a post-COVID future will look like, and it seems like the traditional auto show or trade show might be a casualty. That’s a shame, I’m finally in this industry and y’all are shutting down all the things I found fun. 

Maybe that Scion mixtape spirit can make its way back somewhere. What would be on a new Scion Mixtape? 100 gecs? SOPHIE? Some random Hyperpop act? It’s fun to think about those things.

Meanwhile, my editor found what looks like a Scion mixtape from as recently as 2010, which you can jam to right here:

And by the way, if you’re on Spotify and want a fresh batch of even more playlists, find our profile and rock out. The Car Bibles playlist selection gets pretty diverse.

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