The Lost Age of the Full Album Experience

It’s a question that’s been talked about, written on, and argued over to death: Has the evolution of the Internet been an asset or a detriment to music? More specifically, to hip-hop music?

Now, I’m not going to set out to try to answer this here. The answer is as layered as my second favorite kind of cake (I see you ice cream cake), and as complicated as George Steinbrenner’s legacy (R.I.P.). With that being said, I’ll touch on a few of the ramifications.

I think it’s great that anyone with a computer has enough credentials to be a rapper. But I think it sucks that anyone with a computer has enough credentials to be a “rapper.”

I think it’s great that fans can discover artists in new and more numerous ways than they could in the past. But I think it sucks that many talented artists get lost in the shuffle.

I think it’s great that you can get music for free. But I think it sucks that artists are having lower sales. However, I think it’s great that this can give them more incentive to do live shows.

From a personal standpoint, though, there’s been one aspect that sticks out as one I truly don’t like, but it’s become one I can’t avoid.

Today is Tuesday, and that means it’s album release day. It’s meant that for I don’t know how long, but definitely as long as I can remember. I grew up in the Internet age, but even so, there were plenty of Tuesdays (or, really, any day of the week) where I would hit the store to cop an album. I’d rip the plastic exterior with relative ease, then usually get frustrated by the sticker over the top and/or bottom of the case. Once I won that battle, though, I’d pop the CD in my discman (yikes), hop on the bus (what up 39), and listen to the record from front to back. Or, as I got older, I’d wait till I got home and throw it on my iPod, computer, or in the stereo. But the result was the same: Listening to an entire album for the first time and having it all be new, save for a single or two.

Earlier today, I just got my hands on an album that’s coming out in the next week or so, and although I’m excited to listen to it, I’ve already heard more than half of the songs. Literally. And while those songs have all been dope, I’m a little disappointed.

I’m not disappointed in the artist, nor the album, just the situation. And it’s not a unique one, although having heard half the album is a bit much. In this current climate, it happens a lot. Songs leak, we listen. We get the album, we know many of the songs. Our opinions on the albums are shaped by this.

And I’m not criticizing entire album leaks. Those are nearly unavoidable today. My gripe is with listening to that entire leaked album and already knowing tracks 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13. There’s something about listening to an album fresh; something about consuming a project as an entire body of work.

Again, no one is really at fault here, it’s just the way things are. Songs get posted on sites, and how can we not listen? We’ve all been waiting for that certain feature from the album, or that artist-producer combo, or whatever the case is. Why shouldn’t we click, download, listen, repeat?

There have been rare recent occasions where I’ve tried to avoid doing this, hoping to listen to an entire album fresh for my first experience with it. It’s tough.

Shortly before the release of L.A.X., many of the tracks from Game’s third LP leaked. My boy would text me, “Did you listen to ‘Letter to the King?’” My answer was no. I wanted to, but I didn’t. I wanted to check out the album as a whole. I remember him half mocking me, half expressing his jealousy. In the end, when I finally listened to L.A.X. in its entirety, which was my first listen for most songs besides “My Life” and one or two others, I thought it was a dope album. I probably would have felt that way regardless, but my first listen to it from front to back, as well as a few subsequent, was truly an experience.

I did the same for Nas’ Untitled, with similar results. There are only a few other widely anticipated albums with abundant track leaks that I’ve tried or been able to do this with. Like I said, it’s hard. And half the time, I don’t even want to do it. Oh, Drake and Jay-Z? Fuck it, I’m in.

To me, a great album is an experience. A full experience. And splicing up that experience can often times take something away from it.

But, alas, this is the life we chose. What about y’all? —Adam Fleischer

  • http://XXLMAG.COM INTERNET BULLY

    NOBODY MAKES ALBUMS ANYMORE JUST A BUNCH OF SINGLES TOGETHER… BUSTA BIG BANG RED MAN RED GONE WILD THE LAST ALBUMS I HEARD INTERLUDES AND ALL…

  • http://Pierzy11@gmail.com Pierzy

    There’s a part of me that agrees. With mixtapes inundating us on a daily basis, it’s possible to hear most of an album before it drops…and if there is an album I’m especially waiting to hear, I’ll do my best to NOT hear those songs until the album drops. iTunes is also to blame – selling individual songs at a time, which is why I can’t blame Jay for removing “American Gangster” from selling tracks individually because he believed it was a full concept album (even if “Ignorant Shit” was 2 years old and didn’t really fit).

    However, I don’t think it’s a lost art, especially with artists that don’t really sell (although, like I’ve said before, I think the singles off “Recovery” fit better into the overall flow of the album than they do as stand alone singles). Skyzoo’s “The Salvation” is a full album experience and I don’t think those are dead, they’re just not from artists that sell.

    Is OJ Da Juiceman’s album an “experience”? No. And that has nothing to do with the industry or sales…it’s due to the artist himself.

  • Chris S

    nice article.

    ever since i sampled The Cool on the MTV Stream before it came out i have always tried to wait for the album to come out before i listened to the sings. B.o.B’s album was incredible the first time through (and still is) because i waited on the songs, except for Airplanes cuz that was too good.

    i did the same thing for Relapse and Recovery and the songs sound way better within the context of the album.

    i think it’s on the listeners to have the discipline to wait for the album to be released. it is much better when you can listen all the way through for the first time

  • adam

    No doubt, P. I hear what you’re saying. Sky’s album is sick. I still listen to it. “The Opener” is my shit. That album is an experience. Unfortunately, I don’t know if it was “widely anticipated,” which is how I made sure to classify things in the third to last paragraph.

    And again, I’m not saying every album is an experience. Some aren’t, cause they’re not that good. I said great albums are an experience.

  • DV8

    “I’d rip the plastic exterior with relative ease, then usually get frustrated by the sticker over the top and/or bottom of the case.”

    I have been able to break into “things people break into” with more ease then trying to open CD’s. I started using a razorblade.

    I enjoyed the last 3 Roots albums without hearing a single track previously. I love the experience of listening to new entire works but at the same time catching that new hot track is great to.

  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    Three words. Intergity, Discipline and Morals. We as fans have to have more integrity.

    we love music BUT like crack, the value is being depricited because its being cut sold cheaper while the big bosses still make the big profits. Its one thing to listen to an artist album BUT to never buy or support any artist full album is ridiclous. its stealing.

    Discipline. although songs are leaked have the discipline to wait on the full ablum. its not that full albums aren’t coming out with the exception of a few one hit wonders BUT we must have discipline as fans.

    Morals. Imagine life without the internet. If we keep stealing, it will be regulated heavily. New laws are currently being created against the internet. we must have a better sense of morality. all of our values are dying because of the freedom of the net.

    drake, the roots, eminemn, meth and redman, wu massacare, ob4cl2, bp3, the clipse, b.o.b. and jadakiss all made great albums recently. u have to give music a chance. thats the great thing about art.

  • c-walk

    Very true words!

    I do the same thing with any album that I buy. Never listen to more than 2 songs (the singles) before buying it. I do that with any Eminem, Kanye West, and Chamillionaire albums.. as well as any other album that I know I’ll be buying.

  • swype-matic

    Wanna know how to solve this problem? Don’t download every mixtape that comes out, and don’t click on every link that says “brand new ______ 2010″. It’s pretty much that simple. I always make sure that I never hear more than two songs from an album that I know I’m gonna buy. I guess it’s cause I like bein’ able to drive to best buy,etc, pay for the album, and put my headphones on and listen to it from start to finish…without skippin’ any tracks, bouncin’ around or anything. That’s how you get the full album experience. Not just uploading/downloading it and hittin’ shuffle on your ipod.

  • M. Baby!

    We have to support our people unless we’re gonna fall off. Napster and the internet really messed up the game. Artist aren’t spending a whole lot of time on tracks, whatever pops up in their head, that’s what they say on a track….that’s sucks. I personally do not like to hear any tracks off of an album before it comes out unless it’s on the radio. I wanna take it back to that feel of copping an album on the first day and being shocked. I wanna read the credits, thanks yous, see pics, and etc. You don’t get that with downloading. With all of this leaking I look at it as being a good and bad thing. It’s good in a sense that artist get a chance to expose themselves and get a shot at making some money and blowing up. It’s bad because people are just copying each other styles and sounds. No creativity. But that can lead to a good thing because people will get tired of hearing auto-tune, swag hop, and etc and it’ll create a demand for artist to step up their game and make some real Hip-Hop music/albums. I see it slowly but surely going back in that direction….but we gotta support the artist that really put their hearts into an album. If not, they gonna just fall back because it’s not worth all the politics. OBCL2 should’ve sold as much as Drake did + more, everybody was anticipating it, but it didn’t because Rae didn’t come with a catchy beat and hook and people downloaded it….meanwhile Drake is on his way to trying to reach platinum status, that’s wack…and the sad thing is his album is not even worth all of the sales. It’s sad when u can’t even tell the difference between your mixtapes and album cuts. I see why a lot of people download because sometimes the albums aren’t better than their mixtapes…so why pay for an album when your mixtape is better and free. I think they need to slow down on the mixtapes. Take a break, tour or something, and then come back. The best in the game now, Hov, Nas, Kanye, Jeezy, T.I., & even Ross don’t have to drop a mixtape every month to stay relevant…they know how to separate themselves from the competition and make a great album. If you heard a mixtape from Jay-Z every other month and then when his album dropped…u wouldn’t be that excited to go cop it. Sorry for the long comment…this sad state of Hip-Hop gets on my nerves dog.

    • swype-matic

      You don’t have to be sorry for any comment, cause you tellin’ the truth.

    • kenny

      RAEKWON SHOULDA MADE THAT ALBUM A DOUBLE ALBUM . IT WOULDA BEEN GOLD BY NOW

    • Clever

      @M. Baby! Your so right, I couldn’t said it better myself. I know I went to soundclick, I have an account and page, but I just haven’t put any music up. Because I want to perfect my craft. But I’ve heard some awful music on there. Auto-tune gimmick, trying to make a quick dollar, its getting old. Hip-Hop is Art of Expression, don’t ruin the Painting.

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  • real talk

    It’s true. I’m waiting for J Coles album. I’m going to buy the album, and wait to hear it fresh. I haven’t bought one in years…

  • http://deepcvesh.com Chaid

    I tried to stave off the waves of pressure to download recovery, but it was inevitable that I heard a few songs. In the end though, I got through to the full album experience as I refused to dowload anything but the singles.
    Its the way that you view an album. Is it a collection of songs or is it one fine piece of material that fits together. All the great albums are the latter, and I would put Cudi up there in the full album experience for Man on the Moon.
    Music is coming out before it is released. Its inevitable with today’s technology and it isn’t going back.

  • Curtis75Black

    I still listen to music fresh. I don’t fuck with downloads or leaked music for that matter. Its funny saying this but “Im Old School” !! At the age of 34, I want to hear a whole cd or project at the same time the way the artist wants it to be heard. There’s no problem hearing a song or 2, just to see where the artist is going, where his head is at but, I still check for that tuesday !! We have to support our music because this genre is doing down the drain.

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  • @B_WIZZ78

    I FEEL YALL ON THAT> GOOD READ. WELL CHECK MY ALBUM OUT.(LIKE YOU DIDNT KNOW THAT WAS COMING LOL) RIGHT NOW MY SINGLE IS OUT ON iTUNES
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  • http://jamal7mile.blogspot.com Jamal7Mile

    Co-sign the majority of the comments. An album is one whole product with one barcode. Like ff1one@yahoo.com stated, use some discipline when you know your favorite artists are about to drop some product.

    “I think it’s great” that I can fill in a lot of blanks on old albums by YouTubing them. However, I consider ‘digging through the crates’ an artform that shouldn’t be forgotten either. It’s a beautiful thing to go to a record store, see an album that catches your eye for whatever reason, cop it, play it at home, and realize that you’ve gotten more for your money when you discover hidden gems on the record (or tape/cd/whatever). Sometimes you strike out (bad album) but that’s just part of the game/digging. YouTube should only be used as a compass for truly digging through the crates.

    • http://quebishop.deviantart.com qp

      However, I consider ‘digging through the crates’ an artform that shouldn’t be forgotten either. It’s a beautiful thing to go to a record store, see an album that catches your eye for whatever reason, cop it, play it at home, and realize that you’ve gotten more for your money when you discover hidden gems on the record (or tape/cd/whatever).
      ——-
      Cosign

      Going in to Best Buy or wherever and just buying random cds, when you got the extra dollars, based off of album titles or cover art or just because you heard the name somewhere is so great to do. Like you said you do strike out, but 8 times out of 10 you will enjoy what you’ve bought. I’ve discovered RJD2, Modest Mouse, Regina Spektor, and countless other artists solely based on a chance buy.

  • http://xxlmag.com Ben

    What happened to this website? 3-4 yrs ago this site was the shit. Stop with the “is the internet killing music” talk.

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  • Chuck Dane

    When Recovery leaker, having only heard the Pinks song and Not Afraid, me and 3 of my buddies hopped in my pristine 01 grand am, plugged in the ipod, packed a bowl and bumped it front to back, hearing all the songs except the two listed above for the first time.

    This was one of the best musical experiences I have ever had, and although after listening to it a few more times through I withdrew my declaration of greatest LP of all time, I still think it will be one of those albums that I keep going back too.

    nice read!

  • beaver

    thank u for this blog..
    i gotta have more discipline..
    great blog..

  • http://j-mace.deviantart.com Shawty J

    Hearing the songs prior to the album’s release generally have no effect on me, usually because I still want to hear how the songs come together on an album. Despite this, for the most part I don’t listen to leaked material if I’m already planning to buy the album.

  • http://hotmail Salford G

    2bh, a cuple ov weeks ago. if any ov u r feelin the UK scene and have heard ov Giggs (won a BET award not so long ago), go cop that! its called Let Em Ave It, craaaaaaaaaaaaazy! im a big fan ov his n apart from the bonus tracks, i had only heard 1 ov the tracks previously! it dusnt happen very often and this case instantly shows the advantage of not hearin them b4 as i woz grasped from beggining to end

  • DJ Postman

    I absolutely agree with this post. A great album is one that you can put into your CD player (yeah that’s right, I’m still rocking the CDs) and go from beginning to end. My favorite albums are the those that have that ability. Though Drake and Eminem’s albums leaked weeks before their actual release date, I still wanted to wait to get that authentic feel of getting all the songs at once. I don’t know how all these albums are getting leaked, but it’s not good for the music industry and definitely not good for hip-hop. I just hope that when Detox finally does get a release date that it doesn’t end up getting leaked. That would just ruin the anticipation of waiting 11 years now.

  • http://www.iap-tv.com Harra$$dadon

    Listen to T-rocs new album “Life lessons!” its exactly what a real nigga orderd! story songs, hard core , emo. got it all! promise da chit will get to you! check it out. http://www.rocksolidmusiconline.com

  • OneTime4YourMind

    I agree my man
    Albums are and should be full experiences.

    When Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 leaked, I was waiting and anticipating it for so long like many of us, I only wanted to listen to the singles but it was so hard not to just search the leaked tracks on YouTube and peep the flavor ya dig? And I’m very glad that I didn’t because that’s what made my purchase that much better that’s why I only listen to 2-3 non-singles before buying an album or else if I knew 3-quarters of the record like you said it wouldn’t be as exciting therefore it having an “Ehh” or “already heard it” feel.

    New fresh music is what excites the fans and it’s up to them if they want to spoil that feeling

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  • TT

    AF, good ish. Way more comments than you regularly got on SLAMonline!

  • DJ NITTI

    I really, really miss the days when an album’s release day meant something. This current system devalues the music and makes it disposable. Back in the days when you had to wait on the album there was anticipation, hype and since you had to buy it you valued it more. In those days popular songs would define a particular era in your life now it’s just another track on your iPod.

    It seemed like the whole world was waiting on release day for some albums and on that day going to the record shop early with your homies and then driving through the hood blasting it all day was like a celebration. It’s just not the same now.

  • Ay 2 Z

    Gotta agree with this one. I Always used to grab a CD from the store and just sit down and listen to It front to back. Now when an album drops i usually hesitate to buy it because I’ve already got half the songs anyway. than again I saved money avoiding B.o.B’s albums and just jamming his mixtapes lol

  • caino

    l still sit down with the album l know l am going to buy and listen to it front to back (OBCLII, Distant Relatives, Recovery) l will also do it when Lasers finally hits stores, everything else l just pillage from the internets.

    Tho the last album l got whilst digging in the crates was Lupe’s The Cool, l got it didnt expect much and it blew me away!

  • Mi

    that last official Joell Ortiz brick bodega chronicles album–full disc listen, blaq poet blaqprint–full disc listen . . . last few years that’s all that comes to mind, oh, smif n wessun the album

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  • vips

    The full album experience MUST come back in some way. Yesterday I bought my first cd (drunk) after years of downloading. The loss of focus due to the internet was just too messy in the end.

  • simmy

    oh please, 50 cent made a full album last time out and yall shitted on it. 2 commercial songs, and the rest were raw.

    what was the problem most people stated? it had no replay value. which in other words they wanted more commercial songs, and for it to do well on the charts. fuck you guys with your backwards logic. i agree theres not many full albums anymore, but yall niggas pick and choose who you want to listen to which limit your catalogs. monkey see monkey do

    • swype-matic

      People shitted on it cuz it was a shitty album. It had one hot song [Hold Me Down], 4 decents ones, and the others were just bland cookie cutter ass songs mixed with other shit that just doesn’t hit you like a “Patiently Waiting”, “What Up Gangsta”, “Baltimore Love Thing”, or “Ski Mask Way”. Mostly just filler material with not replay value, but if you enjoyed it, more power to you.

  • Eliam

    Australian hip hop albums. Only place I go for real hip hop. I’m sick of cliches.

  • ff1one@yahoo.com

    hip hop isn’t dead and yes its underground because its too many zombies. you have too many hip hop or rather rap artist that are copy cats. they follow the trend. they make the cool song. you got hip hop fans who buy what they are told to buy vs taking chances or buying into a concept that was sold and deliverd for the art not by a greedy exect. these exect are willing to market anything. for example, the white t. a clean white t is a style that became famous by d boys who could change into one real quickly. the first mistake is that a short cut is the easy way. the second mistake is that a song was made out of it vs encouraging everyone to be different. that is similar to mc donalds selling ribs. pork at that price? get real. pork is bad enough BUT u can see mcdonalds eventually marketing chitlings. they will sell anything. hip hop fans will buy anything.