“Albums are Dead. And Streaming Killed Them.” is the title of a new collaborative EP being released by Nas & Frederich Nietzche.
But all jokes aside.
Here is my explanation:
This reality, or my perception of it rather, is not necessarily a bad thing. Albums are just EPs with a bunch of fillers that artists are typically too egotistical to remove and executive producers are too inefficient to recognize.
What is bad about the streaming era, however is the payout for artists. There must be legislation granting artists greater leverage over streaming platforms which are basically the unmerited capitalists of the artistic laborers. Keep in mind, rich capitalists are arbitrary owners of resources, rich entrepreneurs are crafty workers and innovators.
Once upon a time ago people bought albums. There was no Spotify or Apple Music. iTunes somewhat changed the game, but still, you could buy singles or full albums. You weren’t overloaded with millions of artists and streaming them each for .007 cents per song with a monthly subscription. Since you paid $10-15 for an album, you were more likely to listen to the whole thing, get your money’s worth, even if that meant listening to the “filler tracks”.
Streaming ended that process.
The album is dead. The artist now is the album.
Because of easier and more disposable accessibility, fans can choose to skip over tracks after 15 seconds in without feeling guilt for wasting money. What’s one song to a billion others?
Take Drake’s Scorpion, for example. If it were up to me, I’d have the album condensed into the following records:
- God’s Plan
- Blue Tint
- Mob Ties
- Can’t Take a Joke
- In My Feelings
- Is There More
No disrespect to Drake. That’s one of my top 5 artists. And his producers are incredible, particularly 40, who is also of Palestinian descent, like myself, and has inspired much of my sound.
The same applies to Kamikaze. Em is my favorite artist ever. I think if he had condensed Kamikaze to the following tracklist, it would have been even more enjoyable. And maybe if he added two more tracks, although I know he didn’t want to put a “diss track” on the album.
- The Ringer
- Lucky You
- Not Alike
- The Storm
Kendrick Lamar hasn’t had a solid piece of rap material since Section .80. That’s an unpopular opinion. Even to him. I love him, but to me, there were about 5-7 songs off Section .80 that could have been condensed into an EP.
- Fuck Your Ethnicity
- Hold Up
- Chapter Six
- Poe Man’s Dreams
- Kush & Corinthians
- Blow My High
The same applies to good kid m.A.A.d. city.
- Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe
- Money Trees
- Poetic Justice
- Backseat Freestyle
- m.A.A.d city
- Swimming Pools
- The Recipe
Since then, the only stand out tracks by Kendrick have been Humble & DNA. To Pimp A Butterfly was conscious, but musically it didn’t do it for me.
You see what people don’t understand is socio-economics. A lot of decisions are made based on the technology and social, political and economic conditions of the time. Albums were a byproduct of all of those influences up until 2012, when streaming really kicked off. Now that you are exposed to a plethora of artists – some of whom you aren’t even interested in – and now that you can skip over tracks at your discretion without a sense of guilt for wasting money – streaming has turned the artist into the album, and has officially replaced the album with the EP & singles. Like I said, the only bad thing about this is that streaming services need to pay more per stream. A lot more. Or else they’ve become the “new record labels”, along with the editorials and blogs that pretend to care about quality but perpetuate the cycle of promoting what is already known.
The last album I bought was Magna Carta Holy Grail. I enjoyed it. But there were definitely some fillers. 4:44 had two good songs in my opinion, The Story of OJ & Marcy Me, which were magnificent. Everything is Love wasn’t my cup of tea, except for Ape Shit, although, I think it would have been just as hard without Jay on the track, ironically. No disrespect, again.
Just so you can get an insight of what I listen to, here are my top 10 favorite hip-hop artists of all time. A little context.
- Lil Wayne
- Kendrick Lamar
- 50 Cent
- Mobb Deep
J Cole is climbing up the ladder. But that’s only cause of K.O.D., No Role Modelz & Middle Child. I need more of that. And maybe he’ll end up on my top 10. Just a “critical opinion”.