The word “evolution” is used a lot – too much sometimes – by artists and labels in the context of albums. But how important is it to the average fan, really? It’s cool to listen to an artist’s entire catalog and note their progression, whether it’s for better or worse, but I’d rather see a natural evolution than one that’s contrived for the purpose of promotion. When artists talk about maturing in the span of two or three years, it usually comes off fake.
Yes, some people actually do experience life-changing events that alter their perspectives and thus they wish to rap or sing about that on record. And I understand the pressure to “grow.” But does an artist really have to do it from album to album? We force it on them sometimes when we argue in reviews that “yeah, the album is dope but where’s the growth?” Some people just don’t change that much in between album releases. When they try to claim that they did, it shows.
Growth doesn’t always make sense. People hated when Jay-Z showed his age on Kingdom Come (and Ludacris on Release Therapy). Other times, it’s the type of “growth” where it’s hard to tell if the artist is really evolving or just needs something to rap about. Take Bow Wow. We did a feature on him in our June issue in which Ben Detrick wrote: “Bow Wow inspires neither love nor hate. Only towering disinterest.” Funny and true. Dude has been growing up for like the past five years, yo – isn’t he an adult yet?? For a while now, he’s been trying to prove his talent to us and to show that he can talk about grown man bidness like sex and strippers and sex with strippers, but in the process Bow Weezy often comes across arrogant and too eager to please. Dude can’t win. In the story, he says, “A couple years ago, I couldn’t be talking about no stripper pole. But like any other young man, I couldn’t wait ’til I was able to walk into a strip club. I couldn’t wait to tell my fans.”
I think some artists tend to get caught between wanting to do the same ole shit and wanting to try something different just to show us that they can. I’m not sure why artists think they have to go through this evolution thing (R&B singers are some of the worse culprits). It’s a process that happens to everyone but it’s one that should be natural. If Kanye, whose first two albums were full of substance, wants to take an album off to just do party songs, he should be able to do that (in other words, Graduation was a dope album, let it be). You can’t force growth, right? —clovito