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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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