Fuck Yo Album Release
As a music journalist of sorts, I find myself scouring blogs and websites and whatever else I come across to find new music and other content from the hot artist at the time. This is the world we live in with the web and the litany of content flooding our feeds. Keep up with everything hot or fall behind and be the nigga in the club doing the Dougie in 2016. Take a minute to picture the guy hitting his Dougie while “1 Night” plays in the club right now. LOL. Anyway, anyone who’s a member of the online community understands this pursuit of new heat. But for an early 90s born audiophile like myself, the transition, though swift, into these fragments of art broken up by the alluvia of other music constantly alimenting our lives from the coagulate works of art that brought us close to an artist, is still hard to cope with.
While singles predicated my affinity for an artist (they still do) as far back as I can remember, a rapper never became my favorite based on singles alone. It was something about delving into an artist, growing familiar with their voices and cadence and their city. Doubt anyone can disagree but still. Over the last several years though, the album has largely been on the decline. Even in the mid-2000s, which I would describe as the mixtape era, singles were being packaged together with other singles and one-offs to create one body of work that, though incohesive, was still reminiscent of an album with tracks mixed together and unified by a DJ hosting throughout the tape. As of late, even the record breaking DJ has lost the juice accrued from giving us the hits of the summer before the radio could and mixtapes these days don’t even mean what they once did. We’ve entered a new era with Web 2.0 that has led to the widely recognized sentiment “Fuck Yo Album Release”. Fuck your release date, your promo campaign, the 11-16 other tracks that aren’t singles, and the obsolete horse you rode in on cause one-offs run this shit now.
It was a bit chilling seeing Lyor Cohen giving Young Thug game re: his music releasing habits and Thugger vehemently reject what was once conventional knowledge; put your best songs on one album, drop it, watch the world go up in flames.
While Lyor still has the eye for talent and locking on to what the web wants, even the wizard failed to realized what Thugger and Friends already knew; fuck an album. That’s why “Hy!£UN35.” hasn’t dropped yet. Lyor aptly called the singles Thug is known for dropping “orphans”, as they get produced never latching on to substantial and fall to the wayside. But when they’re hot, they’re a sicker cohort than the Lord of the Flies crew or Delivery Xpress from Futurama. Metro Boomin tweeted earlier this year that artists should be doing the same thing the day Thug dropped Slime Season 2. (insert metro tweet)
All I’m saying is, I wish that everyone would put out more quality music over the quantity. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
— Metro Boomin (@MetroBoomin) November 9, 2015
Perhaps it’s because as a producer, Metro, who puts heavy effort into creating a track, is not so caught in dropping a hot song and watching it fizzle. He seems to understand the perks of playing the long game and what this deliberate delivery might do for an artist’s rep. It’s a big picture type of thinking that has been pushed ashore while the fragments enjoy the lively stream of rapid waters until they are no longer being checked for. For as raw as the Makonnen one-offs are or the Drake-Rih Rih collabs that incite flames can be, neither of them compare to an album. Not just a regular album, either. Not just the piece made group of tracks that were mix and mastered best and chosen by the label. The album, in its highest sense, is the concept album. This method of presentation is all that stands in the way of fragments coalescing to dominate our music-listening experience.
808s was my first concept album . The idea sounded so grand and impressive; a mix of songs and ideas that coalesced into one grand work with an underlying theme! How fucking amazing! I sat in the back alley of my apartment complex with the album and some blunts (and some homies that disappeared as I slipped further and further into the album). ‘Say You Will’ is one of my all-time favorite songs to this day and the seamlessness of the track with all of the other platinum tracks made for one of the best one-hour collections of music ever. After that, the infatuation with these harmonious bodies that took on personas and influenced the culture was untameable. While the concept album was something that happened within the underground scene more frequently and in other genres, mainstream artists hardly ventured into this territory marking the release of 808s a monumental occasion for the masses.
Kanye has been able to make such splashes throughout his career due to his music releases chock full of conceptual music. 808s impact -and MBDTF for that matter- was not lost on the future sound of music and for good reason. A single release has never able to do so. Later, the concept album would be taken on by The Game with Jesus Piece before the unleashing of Kendrick Lamar and GKMC, TPAB, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and even Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise. I’ve previously shared my thoughts on these albums’ impact on the music and the world. Their influence is steeped in the fact they took on concepts and created such a splash. Views is the latest album of the sort to use this method to engage listeners on a deeper level. Drake was quoted saying he wanted the four seasons of the 6ix represented on the album which made for a nuanced sound that delved deeper into Drake’s psyche when we thought we knew it all. October’s Very Own was also quoted saying he thought music should force the listener to elevate to the artist’s level to form a more high-brow understanding of the music.
This challenge of rising to the occasion and digesting an album is more satisfying; we stand to appreciate something more after investing some of ourselves into it. Concept albums are no different. With this storyline to follow, a piece of music becomes more like a movie or episodes in a season of our favorite show. What was touched on lightly on one track becomes the subject of another and the connections made between the two render the piece more tangible. This ability to be close to a piece of art is what initially attracts us all. And the relationship forged with a concept album is what elevates an artist to one willing to listen closely.
Still the allure of a single, catchy tune is formidable and the battle between the two types of releases will only swell as we move further into the digital age. Plus, the battle is bolstered as the affinity for artists like J. Cole and Kendrick grow while an artist like Anderson .Paak ascends to his apex. Will one ever win? I, for one, hope not. TPAB can only materialize the struggles of minority so much before I slip into a depression and I can only go on rapping about Pandas and Uber before feeling kinda… simple. Moderation is key.