The Maturation Of…

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

  • RJizzle

    Tru Tru

    but i miss the old kanye. i think dudes losing his mind tho. After College Dropout he was my favorite artist, now he’s on my “I cant stand” list.
    Common took an album off to do party songs and it sucked. Thats what ppl liked common for, he was droppin that knowledge.

    • blaktwan

      Co-Sign on that Kanye shit.

      • venemez

        agree on the Kanye… from the producer to the rapper.

        Old Kanye> New Kanye

        • http://www.myspace.com/emcdlthemusicprofile EmCDL

          Man I don’t know what ya’ll talking aobut I thought that Common album was dope…not as good as his more knowledgable albums but he was just having fun…it ain’t always good to be serious all the damn time…muthafucka have a heart attack in this bitch LOL

  • Avenger XL

    Let me say the key problem with what you are saying up here is not the misuse or fans forcing growth on “artists” it is actually forcing artististic critic on commerically driven entertainers.

    Now I am not going to get into what qualifies as art because that is waaay to subjective. But I think it is safe to say that the rappers you mentioned as well as most mainstream rappers are so effected by sales that true artistic pursuit becomes compremised. They are better businessmen who see a need and exploit it than artists expressing some pain or using this music as therapy. They are just a bunch of guys following a blueprint no pun intended with jigga. So the question is why are reviewers forcing a artistic critic on something that is so largely formula driven see Em’s new video. Jay will not explore much further than what he does sonicly and honestly he doesn’t need to. I would love to see a clever wordsmith like him explore more but I understand that true artistic growth is organic and it is not a artists place anounce he/she is growing but they just do it. Plus as I said what is the need of growth if you are really just trying to satify the palettes of the fickle 106 and park crowd? That is a pure sales/capitalist endvour and art has little to do with it.

    • http://www.myspace.com/maxprofit Max Profit

      It’s the constant struggle between MONEY and ARTistic value. The best rappers can grow in a way that actually helps both.

      OutKast is a perfect example. Every time they took the music to a new place they would sell more albums (except for Idlewild)

      • Zulu1925

        @ Max Profit

        OutKast and their acceptance by “heads” is revisionist history. More than a few hardcore hip hop fans were clowning them when Stankonia initially dropped – folks couldn’t wrap their minds around the B.O.B. song/video or Andre’s evolving wardrobe (or his name change to Andre3000). I agree that their undeniable talent saw them through the nay-saying, but not everyone would have survived dropping two unconventional singles (Ms. Jackson) in a row to lead off the marketing of a rap album. Nor, do most artists have the clout to avoid the execs overruling their decision and forcing them to drop a “safer” single.

      • RJizzle

        i loved idlewild real talk.

  • avenger XL

    testing
    Let me say the key problem with what you are saying up here is not the misuse or fans forcing growth on “artists” it is actually forcing artististic critic on commerically driven entertainers.

    Now I am not going to get into what qualifies as art because that is waaay to subjective. But I think it is safe to say that the rappers you mentioned as well as most mainstream rappers are so effected by sales that true artistic pursuit becomes compremised. They are better businessmen who see a need and exploit it than artists expressing some pain or using this music as therapy. They are just a bunch of guys following a blueprint no pun intended with jigga. So the question is why are reviewers forcing a artistic critic on something that is so largely formula driven see Em’s new video. Jay will not explore much further than what he does sonicly and honestly he doesn’t need to. I would love to see a clever wordsmith like him explore more but I understand that true artistic growth is organic and it is not a artists place anounce he/she is growing but they just do it. Plus as I said what is the need of growth if you are really just trying to satify the palettes of the fickle 106 and park crowd? That is a pure sales/capitalist endvour and art has little to do with it.

  • Worley

    “Growth” is way overrated. Artists need to start seeing themselves as commodities or a “brand.” Quite frankly, when I buy Coke I don’t want to taste Sprite. Likewise, when I buy Jadakiss I don’t want to hear no damn R&B. Stay in ya lane. Do what you do.

    Yes, we are human and not one dimensional. However, the market dictates that you be one “brand” and remain that “brand.” Otherwise, people get confused and the artist looks phony as sh*t.

    • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

      Worley,

      Brands need to evolve and grow too. You think Coke is using the same formula they used back in the days? Hell no, back in the days Coke actually had coke in it. Plus, just look at the packaging and logos, them shits change every few years. (Like the new Pepsi logo, clearly a ripoff of the Obama logo). Over time, everything needs to change and grow.

      • Worley

        My friend you are talking about packaging not content. Yes, Coke no longer has coke in it because it is illegal. However, remember Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke, etc? All of them never became as popular as the real coke. Coke is still it my friend.

        • Detroit P

          @Worley

          I don’t know if you do or dont, but You sound like you know nothing about business. As Incilin stated, Brands change all the time..packaging, marketing, Logos, advertisement, slogans..that is all part of the Brand…a brand is also measured in width and depth…width being the amount of different varieties of products the brand offers…depth being the different variations of one product under the brand…..A Brand that only does one thing is not looked at as a strong brand…Brands that do a variety of things are the strongest i.e. GE, Apple, Disney…..Artists who can competently show versatility are the strongest…Artist who continuosly do the same get boring….in terms of Jadakiss, he cannot competently show versatility(some people just can’t or don’t know how)…so yea he should probably just stay in his lane at this point

  • Pierzy

    I think the ultimate example of this is what happened to Dre after he left Death Row. Upset by what was happening with Suge and ‘Pac and the “coastal beef,” he decided to move on create more positive records. Remember? He said no more gangsta rap. How did that turn out?

    Then, as Dre freely admits, he signed Eminem, who told him that the NWA/Chronic music is what Dre does best, and thus 2001 was born.

    Dre, you could argue, evolved and, seeing what happened, DEvolved and went back to his roots (content-wise; the music kept evolving).

    ———–

    Mase is another example. He came back and tried the positive, grown-up thing and no one wanted to hear it. Then, he tried the “Murda” thing with G-Unit and no one wanted to hear that either…

    • clovito

      @pierzy word. usually fans don’t respond to growth well especially when we’re used to our rappers talking about one subject so well. If the clipse stopped rapping about coke and more about paying bills and wearing suits that just wouldn’t work even if that was what was going on in their lives. At the same time, we want rappers like rick ross to stay true to who they really are instead of being stuck in the past and rapping about a lifestyle that no longer exists? it’s a cycle.

      @avengerXL the ambition/necessity to sell records ruins a lot of music and a lot of businesses overall. unfortunate. I’m always conflicted about writing album reviews and critiquing something that’s so subjective

      • Pierzy

        What up Clovito…

        Yeah, I’m not even saying I completely agree that I don’t want artists to grow, but it’s pretty much been proven that people don’t want evolution most of the time. I’m one of the few people that likes Wu-Tang Forever better than Enter The 36 Chambers.

        But you make a great call with Clipse – that might be the best example. If they try something different, their fan base will leave them.

  • General

    I am one hip-hop fan that does like to see “growth” in artists. Unfortunately most fans just want them to do the same ol same ol shit-See posts above.
    Alot of people complained that TI’s new CD was too comercial when in reality to me he actually put together his most well rounded CD that he has done, comercially and street.
    Someone above mentioned Jadakiss, but it has been Jadakiss lack of ability to grow and put together a well rounded CD that has kept him from reaching that next level. Jadakiss is easily one of the top 5 MC’s, but I don’t know that he will ever be able to break out from just bein a cat that can spit a hot 16, which is fine for him.
    50 Cent is an rapper that to me with all the hype has shown absolutely no growth period since he broke out.
    I agree about Dre though, he failed when he tried to show his growth and was only accepted when he went back to doing the same ol shit, because mainly hip-hop fans are not willing to let artists truly grow. Its kinda sad

  • Chris Cash

    Fuck individual growth i want Hip- Hop as a whole to grow the fuck up. How long can you rap about money, cars , clothes, etc…
    How can one grow in a youth driven genre of music? All the mature artist dont sell records so they mature naturally because you know broke people are more aware to whats going on in the world, but when you selling records its know reason to grow up because you living the life. Just my opinion.

  • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

    You cannot force growth but it must occur or else your music will become stale. Perfect example: The Game. He’s been doing the same songs for 5 years, it was hot for a while but now it’s just just boring. Same story for Eminem and 50 Cent, both guys with lots of talent but keep on making the same songs.

    “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”

    ^^^ Being “arrogant” and “too eager to please” is exactly what immature men are. You saying that just proves the point that Bow Wow has a lot more growing up to do. I hear the new Vibe has Bow Wow talking about just that.

    Natural growth can be a problem too, as you point out for Jay and Pierzy points out for Dre. (Mase might be a “forced growth” situation).

    The best example of true growth in hip hop is 2pac, who naturally progressed from militant Ice Cube/Public Enemy wannabe, to an artist willing to bear his soul on “Me Against The World” to a chart topping hit maker on “All Eyes On Me” But even he wasn’t immune to being forcing himself into a “thug life” image that he never really lived.

  • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grand$

    Growth is a natural part of all aspects of life. If you take hip hop out of the equation & use your hih school reunion as an example, not one person wants to show up @ that shit as the same cat they were when they were 18.

    Granted, the industry & the “market” don’t really allow/accept an artist to expand their horizons & venture outward, but is that a good argument for why it shouldn’t happen?

    I don’t see a problem with moving forward. If a fan stop liking the product because the artist feels a need to mature or evolve, I’m more prone to say that it’s the quality of the music that’s turning them off as opposed to the artist themselves. True, it’s a lot of emphasis put on image, but @ what point does that image go from boy to man if that’s what taken place; a boy growing into a man.

    I like to know that “Rappers” aren’t ageless superheroes trapped in a time warp. Just like I like to know that my fav rap dudes go through bullshit just like I do. Hip hop can be very dehumanizing (in a sense), so why not “keep it real” as they say?

    Some artists just can’t pull off the “all grown up” thing, but those are less artist, more image. There’s a big dfference between the two.

  • El Tico Loco

    Basically we want the progression to come naturally, people can tell when is forced and is better for artist to come out the gate showing versatility so that they are not pigeonholed to a time warp, something ringtone rappers and most new artists haven’t grasped.

  • KLETEWOOD

    Is there a difference between growing as an artist, or, adapting to the new trends?

    Lil Wayne hasn’t grown up. He’s adapted to the trends. His Hot Boy track “Clear Da Set” was a hardcore song for a young dude. Bow Wow could never get away with a track like that. However, Wayne can still spit all types of shit. “I feel like dying” is a perfect example of adapting to his growth and trend of doing so many drugs….Even with his new song “YES” with Pharrell, that track is banging….but, Waynes grown or adapted to that RED culture. Don’t get me wrong though…Wayne throws out some trash too.

    E-40 is another example of a dude that never really progressed. He’s adapted to different “Bay Area” cultures…but, he never show’s that he’s 40 years old and his son (Droop E) produces his tracks. E-40 has 10 albums. He tried to grow up with “The Ball Street Journal” and that shit flopped. If E-40 would have stuck to the script on this last album…he would have atleast gone gold.

  • Zulu1925

    3rd try…

    This is a very complex topic with a number of different angles/issues. The aspect that leaps out at me is how the circumstances of the audience helps to color the perception of “growth.” I identify with Jay-Z moving from Mitchell & Ness to “button-ups” to introspection because during his “growth,” I, too, moved from the hood to college hi-jinks to corporate America to marriage. If you haven’t made that progression, then the newer music is wack and you yearn for another Reasonable Doubt. The best art is born of an artist displaying his/her particular truth. Sometimes, our favorite artists’ paths diverge from ours – it doesn’t make their expression any less real, the connection you feel just isn’t as strong. But, what makes us so arrogant and self-centered as to think that OUR truth is the REAL truth and expect artists to conform to what’s going on in OUR lives? If you’re living the struggle, then hardcore music and lyrics are probably what you identify with – but, that doesn’t make everything else wack in comparison.

  • Zulu1925

    Test

  • http://foshiggadale.blogspot.com Foshiggadale

    To me, personally, I agree that rappers need to be more confident in their own formulas…..one of the reasons that some of the more lyrically deficient southern rappers win is because they adhere to a formula, album in, album out……..Jeezy hardly ever raps to females and has never really made that all-out pop record, outside of “Soul Survivor” or “Go Getta”, Plies makes a whole album of reality-style rapping and always gives his singles to the bigger R&B acts, Rick Ross spends his entire albums rapping about cocaine over the best beats his budget can afford and with as many guests as possible

  • corlione39

    UHH YEA YALL H8T WEN N ARTIZT GROWZ LOOK HOW THEY TREETD MY DUDEZ KRISS KROSS WEN THEY GREW UP!!! I MEEN COME ON IDK BOOT THA YELLOW 1 BUT THA 1 THAT LOZT ALL HIZ HAIR COOD RHYME CIRCLEZ ROUND ALL THEZE GAARBAGE ACTZ 2DAY!!!

  • Ryne Rich

    i dont get hte point..
    1. the average hip hop fan wouldnt know what it is to grow in hip hop
    2. what artists say their actually going to evolve? i dont know so i guess that makes me an average hip hop fan.
    3.you want your favorite rap artists rapping about the same shit over and over every album they put out? not changing tempos music all that shit that comes with production.
    4. jay z is always growingg nowadays
    5. i dont think bow wow was a good example, dude doesnt even make his own music? how would he know what its means or is like to artisticlly grow.
    6. maybe as artists ideas are running out, so therefore no homo they switch music generes or sing.
    7. 808s heartbreak was the only album kayne made that could sniff or see college drop out

  • Arrogant_Al

    when it comes to growth and a rapper…it depends on two things, his fan base, and i he can be creative enough….and what i mean by creative enough is the fact that he can make just as good of music as he’s made in the past, people like new shit……basically. I Can’t put it annnnnnnyyyyy other way if i tried. If you can switch lanes and come with something catchy, hot and NEW/DIFFERENT…..you will grab NEW FANS, yeah we know some fans might won’t like the new shit, but that’s were the creativity really kicks in, where you can still connect with your old fans and still make new music, now that’s hard to do…..not many rapper’s can jump ship from their old style and still keep their old fan base, unless your new stuff is off the meat rack.Who say’s you can’t jump back and forth either? why can’t T.I. o from trap muzik to paper trail and then JUMP back to trap muzik…..lol since his situation is now different thats a bad example…but ppl get the point.

    like jay can’t go back to reasonable doubt, hell he tried with American Gangster, Like Nas can’t make another Illmatic/stillmatic with the crazy stories and wordplay…….

    • El Tico Loco

      It can be done Ice Cube did it. I know kids that liked Raw Footage and it prompted them to check out his other albums and he still has his day one CIA and NWA fans, plus he still on the big screen with a whole different set of fans on top of that. Queen Latifah could pull it off too if she started spittin again.

  • $ykotic

    You have to grow. There are no two ways about it.

    But once you put LIMITATIONS on yourself/career you cannot change it. The Clipse are a perfect example. Although good at their D-tales they cannot GROW.

    The industry right now doesn’t really want growth anyway. They want maximum return on minimum investment.

    I tell my dudes don’t rap. Make relative music and rhyme over it.

    But this thread reflects the long argument of the rapper vs emcee. The emcee grows.

    And the need for a contemporary hiphop lane.

    JayZ/NaS/Common have a growth within the game that also reflects their fan bases’ growth.

    Yet we can see there is no growth in the new jack formula. Only change.

  • macdatruest

    It’s funny cause my guy always talking about something like this to explain why he like Jay-z. he be using Fat Joe as a counter example he be like he hate Fat Joe cause he grown as fuck and he wear his hat cocked like a stupid lil’ fat kid and act like he still sell crack, But Jay-Z selling weight, he talk about moving up in the dope game to a boss respect level like he did with the rap game. I guess some people like growth, and I guess some aren’t afraid to show growth

  • Kabelo

    Jay and them niggas cannot grown in they music, because people wanna hear them talk about what they talked about when they released they first album, he did change his grown man shit talking about real life struggles like Katrina and niggas wasn’t checking for him, Nas, 50 and Luda did that too, check out Tuesday’s blog “Rappers’ Worst Albums”
    Word!

  • Avenger XL

    I know alot of people say dre tried growth on the Aftermath album and Jay tried growth on the kingdom come album and it was poorly recieved. But it wasn’t poorly recieved because of the subject matter. It was poorly recieved because it was lackluster worked compared to rest of their catalog. The efforts seemed half hearted and the production was mediocre on most of the efforts. People will except change from an artist as long as the quality is there to back it up. You can’t just jump on this first cutting room floor group of beats and slap something together and call it an album with growth.

    Also Electric Circus by common was an example of an artists expirementing and in a way that isolated many listners that Album could have been a lot better had it been thought out better placing a hip-hop asthetic on trippy down tempo sounding elctronica but for what ever reason they went down the path they did and isolated hardcore fans and making few new ones in the process. I could second guess many missteps by hip-hop entertainers in an attempt at so called growth. But I go back to my original point that hip-hop is so driven by commerce that money motivates the creative process too much in these albums and don’t forget we are not creating Quincy Jones/rick rueben producers anymore and that would be producers with the vision to provide the correct soundscape for an artists whole album. We are a single driven/microwave culture that want mixtapes every five minutes and new singles almost every week. But I still think it is a matter of critiquing a commerce driven form of entertainment like a classical source of art. Art speaks more to the human experience while what hip-hop has become provides more of an escape from the human experience or sensationalizes various aspects of life. There are some rappers that still place a high artistic asthetic throughout their music though here is my list and last word I promise.

    MAinstream:
    Kanye West
    Common
    OutKast
    Mos Def
    The Roots
    etc…

    Mid level:
    MF DOOM
    Ghostface
    Scarface
    camp lo
    EL-P
    2mex
    Brother ALI
    Atmosphere
    etc…..

    Indie underground
    There are tooo many to name this is the breading ground of the artistic risk tackers because they are not so constained by money because they are starving LOL.

  • Silky Johnson

    I liked Kingdom Come, real talk…I don’t think it was half as bad as people made it sound.
    Go back and listen to it with an open mind, it’s better then most shit out these days.