What sparked it is artists' apparent rush to inundate the public with as much music as possible as quickly as possible, compared to making a long career with the lasting impression of, gee... making good music?
Since I am a student of music in general, not only hip hop, this post will cover many different directions in music, not just rap.
Once in an interview that I cannot find around the time that Lover's Rock came out (which was in 2000), Sade was asked why, if she is so wildly talented and popular, does she not release more music than she does.
Her response was to the effect of her doing it out of respect for artistic integrity... As a writer and performer, she is UNWILLING to put forth anything short of the best that can be presented given the circumstances under which the music presented can be created. With a career spanning 30 years (16 of which presenting recorded albums), she has given us "only" 6 studio albums and one live one. Still, though, for her paltry rate of release, she has sold 50 million copies worldwide and is still a goddess of her genre.
For her 6 albums in 30 years output, we will call her average 5 years per release and readily call that one of the longest periods that one can shy from the spotlight and come back to IMMEDIATE attention and praise. Perhaps not all is lost, and people actually ARE considering talent when it is there on the table to be presented, as opposed to just a pretty face.
[Phlip note - and at 51 years old, God knows she still has a pretty face]
Even following ten SOLID years in which I cannot name a single thing she did musically, she came back onto the scene earlier this month with a new album, which I very positively reviewed.
For comparison's sake, you could take the careers of Rihanna (4 albums in 5 years), Beyonce (3 in 7), Mariah Carey (12 in 22) and throw in Mary J Blige (9 in 20, due to breaks for drug use and domestic violence, both as a victim and perpetrator) for good measure and you have 28 albums released over a combined 54 years of career time, effectively DOUBLING Sade's output with none of the fundamental talent.
"Talent," you ask?
Try working with a live band/bands, writing your own lyrics and avoidance of scandal on the whole and entirety. Try having a career where the
I could go on, but comparing necessary output to respect gained, earned and maintained in the industry speaks for itself. The haste to have an album out is easily supplanted by having serviceable skill. Closest I can think of off of my head would be Alicia Keys, but even she has a 4-in-10 average, along with that nasty little homewrecking thing... That and I am WAITING on the day she poses buttnekkid.
Being the hip hop disciple I am, I stop to think of artists who spread their careers out without an overabundance of releases over their careers while maintaining a semblance of respect among their peers and fans, while actually maintaining a career... Big Daddy Kane has 6 solo releases in his 26 year career. On the other side of that are people who I will not name who drop every year on average if not literally. I will not name names in this one since I have only but so much time and I would be dropping a BUNCH of names, not too much unlike The Game.
The point I was going for before I went off on a tangent on the last post was how people seem to feel some need to flood the market with product, whereas there was once a time where they would work at a more relaxed pace in the name of making genuinely high-quality product. There was a time where someone actually looked to make a career of making music which would sustain itself for the duration, as opposed to making a WHOLE BUNCH of money as quickly as possible on a gimmick and getting the fuck out.
My question, though, was "why?"
What good reason does one have for being so short-sighted that they would sell out a surefire future in the name of an immediate smash and grab?
The answer is actually quite simple and can be answered with a look into the actions of those who are and have been doing it the biggest over the past, say... 5-6 years, maybe a bit more?
Snoop Dogg has 10 albums in 17 years, not including group efforts...
Lil Wayne has 8 retail albums in 10 years and a metric shit ton of "official" mixtapes (11 since 2003 according to Wikipedia), not counting the 3 or so I have downloaded this year.
Jay-Z (uh oh, I will be accused of 'hating') has 12 in 14, going not to mention the collaborations with R. Kelly and Linkin Park.
T.I. with 6 releases in 7 years before going to jail in 2008.
Kanye Zest with 4 albums in 6 years.
From a place in an industry where each above claims to be the "best," we can look to each of the above and make note that EACH released at least one (3 or 4 in Jay-Z's case, depending upon whether or not you cound Blueprint 2.1) album that should have been held back, one would HOPE that they would sit back and have the artistic integrity to actually consistently BEHAVE like the best. To his credit, Jay-Z has maintained that quality for the most part, comparing classic albums to overall number of releases, of which Wayne and Kanye can each only claim one against the rest of their catalogs. T.I. might be able to call 2 of his such, depending upon who you ask and how objective they are with their preferences as to WHERE geographically their hip hop comes from. On the worst end of that is journeyman Calvin Broadus, who has one classic, one okay-at-best album and EIGHT fucking GROANERS!!!
On the other side of that are people like...
Ice Cube has 8 solos in 20 years, with one on the way.
Eminem with 7 releases in 14
Redman who has 10 releases in 20 years
Outkast - 14 years, 6 albums, unless they do come with another this year.
No need to go any further in on specifics, you should get it by now... Notice how the artists who, at least on average, take time between releases catch less bricks per capita? We understand that the attention span of the average (or even above average) hip hop fan to be shorter than that of a fan of some other genres of music... To that end, I will not opine on that which I do not listen to, so you metal and country folks can look into this on your own damned blogs.
That being said (except that last sentence, of course), I am full willing to understand the need to strike before the buzz gets too cold. What I prefer, though, is to use an approach that at least respects your ability as an artist instead of whoring out your product before your last got too cold... How many people own 808's and
That much being said, an average of about one release every other year should set you quite right, upping the average any more than that makes the public QUITE tired of you quicker than under normal circumstances.
DMX - 8 releases (if you count his hardcore/gospel tandem release slated for this summer), 12 years... To do you one better for the point of this post, 4 of those came in about the first 2 ½ years, then he got ice cold and had expended all good material, then got all cracky and fell the fuck off. Does ANYONE actually miss him? The focus should be on that first 2 years, though. I cannot name the lead single off of any album after the first 3 off the top of my head and I am only guessing when I say that there was some version of "Damian" and "The Prayer" on any of them, since there was one on each of the first.
[Phlip note - correct me if I'm wrong, I know some people LIVE to do such things]
In my opinion, the "get it all out now" approach is generally employed by those who honestly doubt their abilities to stay, and would like to milk the cow for all they can as soon as possible and get out of it. Compare someone who "works a job" to an individual who "has a career," if you see what I mean... The dude with a job will behave as if he will be there for a finite period of time, while the cat with a career will behave with the mind on what he will do while his body of work in total continues to sustain him for the long haul.
The difference is a cat with a shitty little savings account and barely paid rent to a dude with a 401k, retirement accounts and insurance policy and a mortgage. Are you looking to next year or into the next 10?
Not quite sure how applicable the old adage "art imitates life" is to this situation, considering that what SOME of these folks consider to be "art" and the creation of such IS their job (or career).
Michael Jackson's "kids" will eat on the strength of his SOLO catalog alone, which was ONLY 11 albums (one yet unreleased) over the course of THIRTY EIGHT years! Say what you will about the man, he was about the art as much as he was about the business that was born of his art, with mind on the now AND the future. I guess all that Joe beat into him growing up wound up being worth it.
We all know that my major focus is hip hop music, but this is a conversation that transcends genre, applying to music in general. The larger questions to be asked are
- Is the inundation of releases -- retail and 'mixtape' --actually good for the music?
- How earnest are these people in their flooding the scene with their stuff?