Albums delays in hip-hop

Mason Arneson, Editor-at-Large

My friends and I stayed up for hours, huddled up at my friends house trying to keep warm. It was just a week into autumn, but it was still chilly enough that we needed blankets to halt the cold. 

Under any other circumstances, I would either be fast asleep or stuck in a bottomless YouTube rabbit hole from which there is no escape. But that night was not just any night.

This group had congregated in my friend’s basement for the sole purpose of listening to the new Kanye West album, Yandhi, which was set to release just minutes after the ending of the premiere of SNL’s 44th season.

And release it did not.

I was outraged every time I refreshed the Apple Music app and a clear disc with a greyish-purple stripe didn’t appear under the “New Music” section. After an hour of futile attempts, I called off further attempts of checking up on the whereabouts of a new Kanye album and turned in for the night.

While I was somewhat heated about the lack of a brand-new project from the Louis Vuitton Don, I came to realize that despite having to wait awhile for a finished product, delaying the release of a record has some benefits.

Allowing for a longer break between recording periods can instill a different creative streak in artists and can produce new styles and musical ideas.

Legendary hip hop act A Tribe Called Quest took an 18-year hiatus between albums, culminating in a politically relevant record, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, that debuted at the pole position on the Billboard 200 albums chart, showing that the fans hadn’t forgotten about ACTQ.

The cliché adage which says “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” also applies to musical delays. When an artist steps away from the limelight, the amount of hype reaches a fever pitch and the clamoring for more music intensifies. Frank Ocean took four years between the release of Channel Orange and Blonde, a lot less time then Tribe, and fans flocked to streaming services by the millions to get a taste of more music.

Ocean provides most of the evidence as to why delays work in favor of the artist. The former Odd Future member’s work is a luxury that comes few and far between, and every new track that he is involved in, whether it be a solo or feature, is an event that gets music fans hooked.

On the other side of the spectrum, if the public gets new music from a specific artist almost on a daily basis, their discography can become bloated and contain more filler than the essential tracks. Artists who drop their work at this rate risk oversaturating the market and their releases become less of a special event.

Exhibit A of this phenomenon is the East Atlanta Santa, Gucci Mane. As I was browsing through his catalogue on Apple Music, I decided to make a quick tally of all his projects. I counted up an astonishing 92 albums, mixtapes, collaborative efforts, and other miscellaneous releases, many of which were unknown to me.

While Gucci has accumulated a strong fan base and has a couple smash hits to his name, my hypothesis is that he’d be even more revered if he came out with fewer projects with more hits instead of throwing dozens of mixtapes and albums and hoping that they stick.

Many artists like Gucci Mane have projects that come and go like the seasons, and the lack of hype can bury their work under a pile of other, more substantial efforts. 

This is not to say that there aren’t artists who can put out projects in quick succession. Lil Wayne and Jay-Z are experts at putting out work every year or even every season and making waves critically and commercially.

But in conclusion, it doesn’t matter if an artist releases new music every second of every day or if they wait half a century to put out new music. All that matters is the quality of the music, so artists should take as much time as they need to make their best music.

But in all seriousness, Kanye, we deserve Yandhi.