yes, this has been talked to death everywhere in the mastering community. It is a recent trend and it's not. it started with vinyl, then radio then cassette, now CD. all formats have had their level wars and now we are in the middle of a battle. I spend a lot of time trying to get my levels hotter and still sound good because that's the single most requested thing i get. Everyone wants it loud. sometimes i get them to turn it down but most times i don't. Hell i spent all day last saturday trying some new things to sqeak out another db (in fact i think i've spent most of last year doing this). It's a complex problem that might not go away until it gets worse. More than half the sessions I do are about level and not quality. It's not just rap and rock either. i did an album last week where the meters never dipped, nailed to the top, that was before i did anything and they still wanted it louder. It seems to get worse by the month. As the big guys find ways to make things louder, so must I to get certain business. Granted, It's my decision whether or not to play the game. sometimes i do and sometimes I don't. My job is to give what the clients want but at the same time look out for them as well. I'll push the envelope if that's what they want but if it's really going to far then I'll also tell them, show them, explain to them, but they ultimately have the final decision.