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Here’s a Playlist of Some of the Earliest Pirated MP3s on the Internet

Celebrating 20 years of ripping MP3s.
Image: Flickr/Rubbermaid Products

Everyone remembers the first song they downloaded illegally. Mine was Avril Lavigne's seminal faux-angst anthem "Complicated." I used KaZaA and it took an entire day. But have you ever wondered what the original pirates—the people who ripped their CDs and distributed them online—were listening to?

So you no longer have to lay awake at night wondering about the answer to this extremely important question, we put together a YouTube playlist. It consists of everything that appeared on a 1996 release by original pirate crew Compress 'Da Audio, or CDA, including what many believe is the first song ever to be ripped to an MP3: Metallica's "Until It Sleeps," which was ripped 20 years ago today in 1996. Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at security firm F-Secure, tweeted out the tracklist.


On this date 20 years ago: The first known MP3 rip of a song ('Until it sleeps' by Metallica) is released.
— Mikko Hypponen (@mikko) August 10, 2016

Back then, the real action in the pirate world went down among groups of pseudonymous rippers who released their goods under the banner of whatever collective they happened to be a member of. There was CDA, but there was also the Digital Audio Crew and Rabid Neurosis, just to name a couple. It should be noted that some folks argue that the first MP3 rip ever was probably by a little-known group called Digital Music Audio, which one first-hand account pegs as operating in 1995.

So, what were these guys (they were almost certainly guys) listening to? Probably about what you'd expect, honestly.

There's a lot of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine. But there are a few tracks on there that I, personally, will fuck with. For example, Weird Al Yankovic's classic "Amish Paradise," and Culture Beat's buzzy tech house burner "Mr. Vain."

Listen below: