Must today’s rappers release multiple albums a year to stay relevant?

Unless they go by the name Drake, every rapper under the sun is engaged in a never-ending competition to maintain relevancy. With over 200 rappers whose name starts with ‘Lil’, it’s a race to see who gets to steal the limelight from the previous rapper-of-the-week. A method that many have chosen to adopt is the releasing of multiple projects in a single calendar year.

Rappers that have done this in 2018 alone are:

  • Lil Yachty (Lil Boat 2, Nuthin’ 2 Prove)
  • Westside Gunn (Supreme Blientele, Hitler Wears Hermes 6)
  • Young Thug (Hear No Evil, Slime Language, On The Rvn)
  • Migos (Culture II, the three solo albums from each Migo)
  • Logic (Bobby Tarantino II, YSIV)
  • Future & Juice WRLD (Beast Mode II, Goodbye and Good Riddance + WRLD ON DRUGS)
  • SOB X RBE (Gangin’, Gangin’ 2)
  • Blocboy JB (Simi, Don’t Think That)
  • Rae Sremmund (SR3MM, Swaecation, Jxmtro)
  • Freddie Gibbs & Curren$y (Freddie, Fire in the Clouds + Fetti)

Along with many more that have not achieved mainstream appeal, with most of them choosing to spread their releases out across the year. Even Kanye West, one of the biggest artists in hip-hop, will be dropping his second album of the year with Yhandi in November.

Albums do not have the staying power that they used to have. Rarely does an artist get to have a project that clings on to the upper echelon of the Billboard 200 after its first week. Brockhampton, after their meteoric rise with their Saturation trilogy in 2017 (which they released within a 6 month period), obtained the coveted #1 spot with their 4th studio album – Iridescence. A laudable milestone for the group, with fans and journalists alike applauding them for their achievement. Yet the album fell to the #88 spot in its second week and dropped even further afterward.

Hype alone cannot guarantee an album’s success when that commodity is passed along each week like a generic trap beat. Of course, a hit song will be able to significantly extend a project’s lifespan (see Drake’s Scorpion, Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys and Juice WRLD’s Goodbye and Good Riddance), but not everyone gets to be the next Cardi B. Hence, giving birth to the trend of rappers throwing everything at the wall, in hopes that something from their many projects is able to stick with listeners.

However, this creates a bleak outlook for the outliers that choose to take their time with the art they create. Noname – who released easily one of the best rap albums of the last decade with Room 25, was heralded as one of the best rappers alive by Rolling Stone, a claim not to be taken lightly. Though the project sent waves amongst the bubbling underground hip-hop scene and got the acclaim it rightfully deserved, it was quickly forgotten after being overshadowed by Brockhampton the following week. An album that should be considered a ‘modern masterpiece’ just ends up lost amongst the shuffle. It is a very depressing look at the way we consume music, so much so that, in a now-deleted tweet, Noname even threatened to quit making music altogether due to the underappreciation that fans now have for the art form.

Rap legends like Eminem had to release two albums within the span of a year as well. Surprise dropping Kamikaze in 2018, following his 2017 flop – Revival. Even artists that have long proven their commercial viability run the risk of being forgotten by time. Though the reason for his quick comeback was to alleviate fans’ fears after dropping a steaming turd, it does serve as proof for the need to reestablish himself after Revival easily settled as the lowest-selling album of his career. No longer are artists given the benefit of the doubt after their misguided attempts; the longer the time taken to formulate a decent rebound, the louder the talk of being ‘washed up’ becomes. There is no room for error left when it comes to listeners that have forgotten how to forgive (see Lil Yachty’s Teenage Emotions).

Hip-hop fans have been spoiled this year. Not only has the quantity of albums increased, but the quality has also been top-notch as well. Our expectations have been raised exorbitantly and with it, comes the unreasonably high standards that we set for any rapper that attempts to warrant our attention.

So the unfortunate reality now is the need to swarm every social media site, YouTube comment section and Reddit thread with their work. If it worked for Travis Scott, it should work for everyone else too…right?

 

 

 

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