A little more than a year ago, D’Angelo made his triumphant return to the music world with the critically acclaimed Black Messiah. It had been just shy of 15 years since he released the beloved Voodoo. Despite the extremely long hiatus, D’Angelo was immediately welcomed back into the public consciousness. He gave a powerful performance on Saturday Night Live, and the music world at large was extremely grateful to have him back. It speaks a lot to just how much staying power D’Angelo has that he was able to essentially vanish off the face of the Earth for a decade and a half and immediately be welcomed back with open arms.
For most artists these days, the exact opposite is true; if you stay out of the public conscious for too long, you run the risk of losing your career. In the age of Twitter and Instagram, reactions are immediate, and there is a seemingly never-ending race to keep the public-at-large thinking about you. If you fail to keep up with the ever-evolving zeitgeist, it could leave you behind at any moment.
Perhaps the best example of how an artist can get swallowed up in the immediacy of the social media world would be Meek Mill, who memorably fared poorly when he started a feud with Drake this past summer. After making the rather serious charge that Drake uses ghostwriters, Meek faced an onslaught of diss tracks from Drake, and had no immediate response. When he finally attempted to come back with a retort of his own, the reviews were less than stellar. The general vibe was that Meek had tried to start a fight with someone bigger than him, and promptly had his lunch eaten.
But while Meek was certainly embarrassed by the whole fiasco, it is worth noting that in a different era, things might have gone down a lot differently. When Jay Z and Nas were engaged in one of the biggest rap beefs of all-time, Nas had months to respond to “The Takeover” with “Ether.” Meek had days to respond to Drake, perhaps even hours. He was unable to work under the strict time constraints of the modern era, and he suffered dearly for it. It’s telling that the only reason this humiliation didn’t end his career is that he was able to re-enter the public’s good graces when “Lord Knows” was used in one of Creed‘s most memorable scenes. That’s basically rule #1 these days; if you can stay in the public conscious, you can stay famous.