The Notorious B.I.G. has two (official) studio albums and zero mixtapes. Sure, there’s been an influx of material surfacing since his death over 15 years ago, but it’s all been mostly unofficial leaks. So, most of his catalog that we’ll remember comes from his retail albums. Had Biggie survived, it’d be interesting to see how he’d adapt to the internet age. Would we see a couple mixtapes every year or would he fail to change in terms of keeping the quality aspect of hip-hop alive?
In the digital era, music is so effortlessly disposable. It’s like how we set out trash and recycle bins on the curb every week or so, we just do it out of habit. Every week, there are several mixtapes released from known artists. Once a couple months to half a year pass, those same artists repeat the process. Racking up projects has become sort of a rite of passage in this game before you finally achieve the goal of being able to walk into Target and see your album on the shelf. When compared to every other genre, hip-hop is the only genre that does this. Toby Keith will never release a free album in his career. KISS didn’t feel the need to drop a Rock mixtape ever. This model of music has surely helped, yet damaged the industry as we know it.
The help decreased the amount of people who complain about music being in a bad space. Oh, you don’t like “All Gold Everything”? Turn off the damn radio, hop on the internet, visit a couple blogs and give a new artist a chance. Every blog, in one way or another, posts artists you’ve never heard of before. Some are exceptionally great, and not just a political move to keep Def Jam or Gucci Mane’s publicist happy. Everyone listens to someone new they don’t like, but at least that artist got a chance over a listener just turning on radio and playing the same single again.
Damage comes from a lot of trash music being produced and then not being placed where it needs to be (see: recycling bin). Those artists getting all kinds of love can and probably has made some kid say, “I can do that too. Let me rap now,” not understanding much of the game. Still, in this sense, the pros outweigh the cons. Quality music is always being made, but not always at the speeds that our microwave known as the internet requires it.
We shun artists like Jay Electronica and Andre 3000, who are constantly keeping us in suspense in hopes that they release a new album. This is the old model at work. Us, as fans, have already etched it in our minds that those two in particular will release a quality body of work because they haven’t flooded Datpiff every so often. The craving just stays on the tip of our tongues even when 3 Stacks popped up on a guest feature or Jay Elect has a couple drinks late at night and hops on Twitter for a rant. To answer another question that always comes up, yes, they’re abusing the waiting time worse than the DMV. A kid can only wait so long on Christmas morning before acting eager and waking up his parents. This is how we’re reacting as we @JayElectronica and tell him, “yo, we need that album asap, g” or “come on, stop bullshitting and put Act II out.” Lord only knows how long Andre would want to have a Twitter if he created one.
Even artists who put out memorable projects feel like they need to still remain consistent. Rick Ross put out an album, a compilation with MMG and two mixtapes in 2012. Not to mention all his guest features. Rich Forever overshadowed God Forgives, I Don’t. But then you see artists like Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore who are just riding off the success of their albums, good kid, m.A.A.d city and The Heist respectively. They’re doing world tours instead of stressing on how to follow-up with another album. It could be the difference in the type of fans that are very loyal to those two as opposed to Rick Ross who more or so shares fans with other artists in his bracket. This could be why he feels like dropping a lot in fear of being forgotten.
The internet is in a predicament right now too. Blogs will refuse an up and coming artist a post for a mixtape, song or video that’s months old, which has forced those on the rise to have to stay consistent. It doesn’t leave much room to fully promote, and that’s a big issue. What might be a quality piece of work gets overlooked because of a date. Then, if the artist does grow and achieve success and a fan base, fans have a hard time catching up because there’s a countless scatter of music to listen to.
A change is not coming. Anybody who follows hip-hop knows there’s a problem. It’s like America or Earth, though. Things are getting worse in those scenarios, but our culture is just flooding at rapid speeds with good and bad music; confusing the listener who has to choose what to listen to while scrapping the other choice because of time. This winds us up with artists with low level skill sets getting six figure deals at the major label, while other MCs struggle as a full package to get where they deserve to be. Hip-hop is a lottery, and we try our best to give who we feel would flair best in this business the edge to win. Some make it, some don’t. Spreading this information is just like talking about global warming. We know it’s happening but it doesn’t seem plausible to change at this point.