Rap Albums: An Obsolete Format?

One of the few things you can count on 50 Cent to do nowadays is keeping you entertained, albeit in a lowest common denominator kind of way. Even when he himself is underperforming in the music realm, you can always expect a cheesy interview, cornball straight-to-DVD flick, hoodrat-inspired music video with the rest of his G-Unit members or, per usual, him making a mockery of his musical adversaries. This week’s target would be Fat Joe who, after only pushing 17,000 units of his surprisingly good and actually underrated albumThe Darkside Vol. 1 (not 5,000 as Curtis originally proclaimed), was clowned as if he’s the first and/or only artist to have done so in this climate.

This coming from a guy who didn’t even have no nann promotional push for his last album because it had no legitimate singles to begin with. But whatever.

In perhaps an unintentional way though, Curtis brought forth an interesting facet of rap: how, no matter how much critical acclaim an album receives, rap albums are hard-pressed to move any kind of units these days, which will always bring forth the matter of if rap albums are even needed anymore.

In many ways we’ll always need a rap album. There’s really nothing like having an entire body of work from an artist, especially when – if they hit a creative groove so to speak – they’ve created a dope work of art that will stand the test of time. An artist’s goal of making the arguably classic rap album is probably why rapsters still make albums today, even if more often than not the end result is something far from the term “classic.”

On the flip side, there’s that nagging issue with albums not selling at all. While some will tell you otherwise, I’m sure some artists will care if they spend a lot of their time and finances putting work into something they feel is a quality product, only for the shit go double myrrh or something meaningless. A moral or personal victory may sound nice, but you can’t pay your bills with those.

With the world even more immersed in all things digital, making an album is as simple as point-click-shoot, and mixtapes drop every day. In many cases, an artist’s free project ends up surpassing the stuff they’re trying to sell in terms of sheer quality. What would be the point of selling a bad album when the mixtape will suffice? I’m looking in your direction, Jadakiss. Someone explain to me how his first The Champ Is Here mixtape is still sonically light years ahead of all of his major label releases, please.

The battle between rap album relevancies will always remain. Sometimes we need them and sometimes we don’t, but at the end of it all it’s up to the consumer to decide if an album will be more meaningful to them in the long run.

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  • LOL

    Why you mad nigga / roflllllllllllll

  • http://www.twitter.com/EASTSIDESTEVIE EASTSIDESTEVIE

    Totally disagree with you

    It’s not Rap Albums that’s losing relevancy, it’s the music industry.

    Not when you got a kid like Wiz Khalifa who sparked a nation wide buzz off a mixtape. Not to mention he was selling out theaters in every city.

    It seems like all an artist has to do now is drop something digital and eat off their shows.

    The music industry is trying to do everything in it’s power to let us know we still need them, and we definitely don’t. It TRIED to destroy the entire Hip Hop/Rap Genre, and in the long run is ending up destroying itself.

    Bloggers replaced the Mixshow DJ. No one cares what Funk Flex cares about your record. Shit is changing big time.

    Shout outs to the dudes from Napster.

  • techwon

    meka, it’s an obsolete format, it’s that in jadakiss’ case of trying to cater to a broad-base of fans instead of doing him and making the fans love him for him rather than the singles with Mariah Carey. i think if you look at the underground rap scene cats like El-P drop an album every 5 or 6 years and it does well with the college crowd, because they do preform, they do put good quality while sometimes i feel with mainstream they feel like oh if it ain’t with drake it’s not a hit. i think Ghostface is an example putting out quality over quantity rapper who yeah he’s got a catalog at the same time dude knows how to get u, look at his R&b project didn’t do well sales wise but did good enough to earn a gold plaque. so i think depends on how you see it.

    Techwon

  • http://www.youlovesomethingexplosive.com Fudopi

    I think eastsidestevie pretty much said it. 7/10 people (urban people) knew who curren$y was before he even made Pilot Talk, make a mixtape, get famous, perform a show, get paid. I think that’s basically the new music industry. I’m gonna hate to see the day CD’s totally exit the game though, because actually buying an album and having a hard copy kills downloading shit.

    Really though I think it was better a few years ago when music wasn’t so accessible. I’m in high school still, and every kid who downloads a fruity loops torrent and buys a $40 microphone at circuit city think they’re a rapper now, talent is not needed. which is a shame to see, and honestly I think that’s gonna become one of the biggest negative things regarding hip hop in a few years.

  • http://poeticassasin.com blackbruce9

    The formula is dry, I feel that is what it comes down to — for far too long these artists are doing the same formula and it isn’t going anywhere – Wiz is doing his thing because he is Wiz, he has his team, his way of music and it works for him — even when he did the track with Ross, it worked because he kept his style — A lot of artists stay stagnant for so long and when they try to change it is too late

  • http://poeticassasin.com blackbruce9

    And what are these big labels needed for anyway — These artists that continually talking about how much money they have – the jewelry and the chains, why don’t they save up some money and do their own thing— just for example, let me pick a name — (Gucci Mane) If your brand is already so big, you have your core fans, after your 2-3 album deal is up, why do you have to re sign with a label ? the fans could care less what label you are signed to, they just want the product — get ur ass a website, a video team, a marketing team and do the stuff urself —

  • CX

    There’s a number of variables that contribute to rap album sales hurting. You still got artists complaining about labels controlling what goes on their albums, which partly leads to better music making it to their mixtapes. Not to mention the obvious digital outlets allowing music to be found for the freeski. But why is it that rap seems to be the only genre really having this problem? Blame the fans? Maybe. Granted rap is probably the only genre that you see artists making mixtapes in, but it’s up to fans to want to purchase album releases for their favorite artists. Artists will have more twitter followers than records sales nowadays. Twitter’s free.

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  • http://www.youlovesomethingexplosive.com Fudopi

    Then again, looking back at it…

    1. Nobody gives a shit about fat joe anymore. Kids wanna hear Wiz, Curren$y, Big Sean, Kanye, and people who are actually hot. Fat Joe’s run ended years ago.

    2. As much as I like Big Boi/Outkast, he didn’t sell well because of bad marketing, and most of these young kids know who outkast and andre 3 stacks are, but they don’t even know anything about big boi, which I always thought was weird.

    But what I’m getting at is, most of the time when meka/media bring up bad album sales, it’s from irrelevant artists. Drake went platinum, people love drake, drake is what’s hot right now. Eminem is still number one on the charts weeks later. People love eminem. Back in like 2001, artists who weren’t insanely popular could still sell an album to their small following and the people who bought albums to find out about artists, now that small following/people looking to find out just download there album, and less popular artists have rough album sales.

  • Will

    Albums and newspapers are in the same predicament… In the internet era, everything is accessible, so anyone can be a rapper with an uploaded mixtape onto datpiff.com, freelivemixtape.com, etc

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  • KillaMilla

    This concept is nothing new. I’ve been analyzing hip-hop since late ’89. Most great or creative artist don’t sell because of mainstream appeal. Most regular people just wanna hear beats and simple lyrics. Or my favorite reason; record companies taking away from the artist on being creative and pushing their limits due to just making something basic just to make money (lupe’s situation as well as a slew of others)

    But on the flip-side you can be a mediocre artist and be popular on radio/video but end up selling shit!(Fat Joe and Curtis!!) its a tricky situation at best.

    But I do get why most artists mixtapes are outstandingly better than their label albums. The artist gets to rhyme/sing creatively without being pressured by the record company to be “accessible”. Most artists are just dying to be themselves on their major but afraid of low record sells, pressure from the company again, backlash from fickle fans and no air play on wack ass radio stations.

    For example. Take Wale-”More About Nothing” Mixtape. The shit is dope! Just like the first one. But his debut, which is dope also, but not quite as diverse on topics as the mixtape. He sold low as hell with a great major debut. But take someone like Trey Songz or B.O.B. both of these artists mixtapes are better than their majors but they sold well on the major in the public.

    New Age Urban Music will always be fickle because its a microwave type of business now. Until more artists start standing up for their creativity like Kanye West does. We will always have artists with wack ass majors and dope ass mixtapes!

  • Trin

    the problem with albums is one artists dont know how to make them like they just releasing retail mixtapes there is no glue to the LP.

    and too Leaks and too much music from an artist kills anticipation. ppl always say if its dope the leaks wont hurt it i dissagree when 7 outta 12 tracks leak it leaves you less anxious for the real album.

  • zak

    How do they count the people who previewed tracks from the album on itunes and only downloaded a couple of tracks? They did not buy the whole album but just the songs they like. We need to count music sales, not album sales. I think this will be a new model (not the only one though)for selling music. 50 years ago it was the same thing. Artist released 45 singles, no albums. Unless you have a concept that it very well executed it makes no sense to release an album. The model of 2 hot tracks buried in an album of garbage is definitely dead. I wonder how an artist would do releasing 2-3 GOOD songs a month?

  • HellNaw

    Meka – i’m pretty sure you’ve made this exact observation before.Is it a follow up or a slow day in NY?

    Just sayin’

  • right

    meka step it up you’ve jumped the shark. take a week off and get back in the gym. you’re jordan in a wizards jersey right now

  • Notorious AGC

    Another YawnFest from Meka, you better watch it, two more posts like the ones youve been force feedin us and people will turn on you FAST.

  • http://www.DjRyB.com Dj RyB

    Zak,
    That’s a good point. I was just going to say something similar. It’s a singles game these days. Right now it’s about the radio hit but I think if artists just released 2-3 good songs every few months or so, that might work out well for them.

    It doesn’t have to be a huge single, it just needs to be a good song that people will buy. If you look at an album in iTunes, you will notice that most of the sales are coming from only about 4-5 songs (based on the Popularity bar).

    The new singles format would almost be like they are slow releasing an album over the span of a year but instead of releasing garbage and album filler all at once, they can just release the best stuff. You would end up getting new music from your favorite artists consistently, instead of having to wait a year or more to hear anything new.

    Plus, album tracks tend to sound dated by the time they get released but if they had the chance to update lyrics or just scrap songs entirely for something fresher, they might keep their overall song sales more consistent over that time.

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  • YoUtopic

    I think that commercial records with three hot songs a bunch of filler is going to become obsolete.

  • flavorblade

    The listening mediums are changing. When I’m home I primarily listen to music through my YouTube playlist. If something new really impresses me, and gets it’s own mini-playlist, I may think about going to the store and buying. A few years ago instead of buying I would just rip it down from Limewire, but I paid the cost anyway by what it did to my computer.

    Right now I still need albums for my car. However I don’t need C.D.s. I rather start buying music on a usb; if it can be just as cheap. Stick it in once and have stored on my car stereo mememory. Easily port it to any electronic device.

  • http://www.newraporder.com New Rap Order

    speaking of dope albums yall should check out Faro-Z “Only Built 4 Afro-Cuban Linx”. Banga!!!
    http://www.rapperfaroz.com

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