Can the economy fix hip-hop?
This was gonna be a fairly monumental fourth quarter for rap music, back when it was just gonna be a new Kanye West album and a new Jay-Z album, both supposedly produced by Kanye West in their entirety.
Most years, you might just get a new Jay-Z. And a lot of the production might be by Just Blaze, who apparently lost the plot shortly after he did that song “Breathe.” Or worse, by Diddy’s new team of hacks, Sean C and LV.
But the next thing you know, it began to look likely that Fiddy Cent might have not only a new album, but also a new film, his directorial debut, set to drop in time to compete with the new Kanye album. This despite the fact that he got embarrassed in their last sales competition. I guess he figured, at the very least, he might sell more albums than he would otherwise. You saw what happened with that last G-Unit album. (Remember that shit?)
Then it was announced, just the other day, that Eminem is supposedly also gonna have an album ready in order to drop during the fourth quarter, and that it, along with with the new Fiddy album and Dr. Dre’s Detox, is gonna form some sort of three-headed Aftermath monster designed to return that label to relevance. Though it isn’t clear whether or not those three albums are gonna be cross promoted with one another, or if that’s just what Tony Yayo has been going around telling people.
You know he suffers from delusions of grandeur.
Anyhoo, what the fuck is going on here? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that the TIs made a few phone calls and explained to mofos that this putting out a new album whenever you feel like shit isn’t gonna fly anymore. Not with the state that the music business is in these days. From now on, you’re gonna have to start putting albums when we say so. Or else, you can go fuck yourself.
How else to explain the fact that so many artists now are either taking less time than ever betweeen albums, or are releasing new material for the first time since forever? Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was all by design.
Jay-Z, the rapper whose mind has been most warped by the tall Israelis, has been doing this shit for years now, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt his bottom line. There’s been a new Jay-Z album every year since he came back from retirement. And back in the day, sometimes there’d be even more than that. There’d be those dumbass collaborations with R. Kelly, and live albums, and soundtracks, and so on and so forth.
But that was back when it didn’t matter as much how often you put out an album. It was just an option, if you had some sort of flaw, due to upbringing, where you can’t say no any time anyone tries to offer, except, maybe, when there’s some sort of gay sex act involved. Now, however, it might be the rule.
Putting out a new album every year, I mean. Not sucking another guy’s dick for some money. (God forbid the economy should get that bad.) I guess we’ll see, in the next few years, if there really are more and more albums by the few marquee names left in rap.
If there are, it’ll be interesting to see what effect it has on the game, both businesswise and creatively. Businesswise, you’d think this would almost certainly work out well for the labels, but who knows? I’m just a guy who went to business school. The artistic end of it is, of course, another story.
Some of these guys are obviously gonna chafe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the first one is Kanye West. One of the few meaningful tidbits I managed to glean from the coverage of ‘Ye’s album listening party in LA the other day is that it was suggested that Kanye was told by the label that he would have to prepare some sort of fourth quarter release, and that 808s & Heartbreak is what he came up with, and that now he’s promising yet another new album as soon as next summer, since the TIs’ response to 808s and Heartbreak must have been something along the lines of, “What the fuck is this bullshit?”
It makes you wonder just how bad 808s & Heartbreak is gonna be. Maybe it’ll spring a leak in the next couple of weeks, and we can find out for ourselves. He’s already been playing it for mad people, in the press and what have you. It can’t be long before one of them does the right thing with it, can it?
Hopefully, it really is the botched abortion of an album I’m thinking it might be, and it fails miserably, and it sends out a message: If you wanna record some ol’ bullshit, fine. But do it on your own time, and on your own dime. From now on, if you want people to devote the time and the resources it’s gonna take to make your album succeed in the marketplace, you’re gonna have to bring your motherfucking a-game. The economy is in no state right now for people to be listening to you whine about your personal problems.