In modern music criticism and discussion, we throw the word classic around with the same sense of purpose that an old man tosses stale bread to pigeons in a park. I’ve thoughtlessly drooled it after a few too many drinks with friends, formed retorts to arguments with it in emails to my TSS family, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve even written it on these very digital pages once or twice. Enough is enough.
Determining whether a piece of art is a classic, whatever that even means anymore, requires two elements, thoughtful meditation on the work and time. Time will always reveal. So we bring to you today a group of albums that were all critically acclaimed upon their release—some even receiving the instant classic label—that, after some time, aren’t passing the smell test. Each writer’s picks are our own, so please direct your venom at the appropriate target and let’s discuss 13 albums that didn’t age well.
Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne
This self-important ego trip of a record isn’t what anyone would call “bad.” But it’s definitely not good and it’s certainly not great. For a release from two of the industry’s finest and an album title that claims royalty, it was a let-down that hasn’t held up well. Okay, “Gotta Have It” still hits and “Otis” can slide by. But from Jay-Z’s out-of-date references to Kanye’s embarrassing pop culture nods, this mediocre record will be in dollar bins within a few years. Mary K & Ashley aren’t even listening to it anymore. — Holly H.
Andre 3000 – The Love Below
The highs are pretty damn high on Andre 3000’s half of the last Outkast album. “Prototype” is a certified classic. “She Lives In My Lap” sounds as fresh today as it did a decade ago. And “A Life in the Day of Benjamin André” is some of the best autobiographical rapping in hip-hop history. But tell me, when’s the last time you gave “Behold A Lady” a spin? How about “Dracula’s Wedding?” Even the hit single “Roses” smells a little funny after 10 years. The truth is about 15 of the album’s 20 tracks have yellowed and faded in a way that hasn’t afflicted Big Boi’s superior offering, Speakerboxxx. — Greg Whitt
T.I. – T.I. vs. T.I.P.
Coming off his star-making 2006 album King, T.I. had all sorts of momentum leading into his fifth studio album. T.I. vs. T.I.P. had a high-octane first single (“Big Shit Poppin’”), some memorable album cuts (“My Type”), and a buzz-worthy, suspected Lil Wayne diss from Jay-Z (“What What You Say To Me”). But it’s clear now that we probably got a bit swept up in the Kang’s excellent mid-2000s run. Six years later, we’re a lot less inclined to forgive the overindulgent tracklisting, the Wyclef Jean songs, and the truly bizarre bi-polar concept at the heart of the album. Suffice to say that I still regularly mock a friend who suggested at the time that T.I. vs. T.I.P. deserved to be ranked somewhere among the great Southern rap albums of all time. — Samir S.
Lloyd Banks – The Hunger For More
G-Unit albums were fun, weren’t they? At the time, it was easy to talk yourself into the hype – and, to this day, “On Fire” and “Work Magic” are very respectable. But Banks’ debut just sounds flat nowadays, especially compared to the similar efforts of Young Buck and The Game. — AJ
Drake – Thank Me Later
Don’t get me wrong – Drake’s debut album boasts more than few good songs (it didn’t get 4.5 cigs for nothing) and its replay value held up pretty nicely for a while. If anything, the album’s downfall is really a credit to Drake. It’s just that he’s gotten so much better – as a rapper, as a singer, as a writer – that a lot of his early material just sounds vastly inferior by comparison. The hashtag rap style he was favoring at the time – which thankfully shriveled up and died not long after the release of Thank Me Later – is downright cringeworthy, and even some of 40’s production work sounds thin and static in hindsight. — Samir S.
Ghostface Killah – Fishscale
Fishscale is still one of the best Wu-Tang albums to drop in the last ten years, but that speaks more towards the Clan’s waning presence in the industry than anything else. What once felt like such a refreshing album just doesn’t compare to Supreme Clientele, Ironman or Bulletproof Wallets. Not that many albums do, mind you, but for a project that got plenty of spin when it dropped, there’s little incentive to return. — AJ
G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
Boy did “Mercy,” “New God Flow” and the “Don’t Like (Remix)” promise us a great album, and the energy of those standouts even made us feel like we had one, for a while. But, man, when was the last time you listened to Cruel Summer? How many times did you press the skip button? What was supposed to be a great crew album eventually felt like a bunch of loose Dark Twisted Fantasy throwaways beats and lazy verses from G.O.O.D artists we didn’t want to hear. In the end, what you have is a random collection of ill-fitting collaborations that didn’t even match the standard set by Kanye’s G.O.O.D Friday collection of random ill-fitting collaborations. — Bansky
Nas – Untitled
Nas’s Untitled garnered multiple 5 Cig debates when it dropped summer of 2008. With the impending historical election, and so much going on economically at the time, it was supposed to change the trajectory of Hip-Hop and bring it back to it’s rebellious, message-bearing roots. But five years later, the album’s fallen quickly below even what’s considered the standard for a Nas album. On some charts, it may not even belong in the upper half of his catalog. With all said and done, Untitled winds up a better-than-average project, but needless to say, far far away from the classic, game changing album it was intended to be. — Raj
Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day
So yeah, I’m enjoying this fresh crow sandwich right now considering my favorable take on MOTM in 2009. My problem with MOTM has nothing to do with the album’s production and everything to do with Cudi. His amateurish singing, so-so rapping, first-world agonizing over cleaning his room and self-esteem just sounds so…frustrating. These beats deserve better, dammit. — S. Cadet
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – BTNHResurrection
The first of Bone’s comeback-themed albums was played religiously during my high school era. Yet, considering the amount of vices my friends were getting into back then, it shouldn’t surprise me that an album where the standout tracks are “Ecstasy” and “Weed Song” stood out so much then and doesn’t hold up today. — Beware
Jay Z – Vol. 3… Life And Times Of S. Carter
Vol. 3… Life And Times Of S. Carter released to universal acclaim in 1999, as the closer of the album trilogy. But over the years, the only song that anyone really talks about is “Big Pimpin.” The UGK-assisted track is all that remains of this album. And with an arsenal of producers at his helm, including Timbaland, Swizz Beatz and DJ Premier, one would have imagined that more records could have better stood the test of time. — Raj
Bun B – Trill OG
Blaming the Source for Bun’s third album falling off is somewhat legit. Although the 2010 LP from Port Arthur’s favorite son was far from poor – “Just Like That” and the DJ Premier-produced “Let Em Know” still get burn – the project got the first 5 Mic Rating from Benzino’s former publication in five years upon dropping and generated a bunch of lofty buzz as a result. Anyone who bought the album thinking, ‘This has to be at least a 4 or 4.5,’ ended up with a 3 to 3.5 cig project instead and expectations were immediately lowered from there on out. — Beware
Nas – Stillmatic
Maybe it was the circumstances that brought about the sequel to one of the greatest albums of all time – the most epic rap feud of all time, doubts of Nas’ ability to make great albums any more, El Nino, who knows – but when stripped of the story lines, Stillmatic sounds as uneven as any of Nas’ albums. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that God’s Son ages better. I honestly don’t think Stillmatic gets so much acclaim if Nas hasn’t had so many struggles right before it dropped. — David D.