There’s so much rap music dropping every Friday that albums from 2018’s first quarter feel like distant memories. It’s not just that there are more hip-hop artists than ever, so many of those artists are turning up the dial on releases. Whether it’s young artists like Gunna and Lil Baby trying to entrench themselves or established stars like Migos striking while the iron is hot, so many artists are flooding the market in a chase for streams and lasting relevance in this accelerated music climate.
Artists have to know that their work is not being fully digested by fans and journalists feeling under the gun to give every project in a given week an obligatory listen or risk falling behind. Label executives have to be aware of that as they greenlight a deluge of projects every month — they’re virtually engineering artist fatigue.
While there are some younger millennial and Generation Z listeners who are accustomed to the streaming era’s inundation and see no qualms with demanding more from artists, there are other fans who are simply exhausted with the realization that too much music can be a bad thing. The popular adage is that listeners have a low attention span that necessitates more music, but perhaps they’re mired in a chicken-or-egg relationship with a music industry immersing them in content.
Halting the whirlwind of brief album cycles begins with the artists. Migos’ Offset is set to (eventually) release his debut solo album this month, following up solo releases from fellow Migos’ members Quavo and Takeoff. The trifecta should be a crowning achievement given the anticipation fans had for Migos solo albums just a year ago, but it feels anticlimactic after a two year run of constant output by the Atlanta trio. Just a year after their star-making Culture album, it feels like they’re on the downward side of the figurative mountain and need to let the public miss them.
Their circumstance reflects an inevitable trajectory for any act that floods the market with music that reflects less-than-optimal care. Quavo and Takeoff’s solo albums, like Migos’ Culture II, were panned for being too monotonous. They rested too comfortably on the laurels of their wearing formula of triplet flows and repetitious hooks, and the middling reception showed. The Atlanta trio won their place on rap’s steeple by feeding the beast of ephemerality with assembly-line efficiency, but that’s also how they could lose it if they don’t become more conscientious about delivering strong projects with more than the occasional banger.
Whereas Culture II songs were created in between 20-to-45 minutes, certain tracks from Travis Scott’s Astroworld were curated over as many as 50 sessions. Travis’ attentiveness paid off, as Astroworld is one of the most appreciated bodies of work this year. There’s no reason why the talented Migos — whether collectively or individually — couldn’t utilize their network of the game’s hottest producers, find a focused executive producer (perhaps La Flame himself) and take time on a momentous project of their own to stamp their impact on 2019 like Culture did 2017. Another great album would do more for them — or any artist — than a hoard of hastily released projects. It would also be a message to upstarts aspiring to be them to not simply Drip Harder — but drip smarter.
Lil Baby and Gunna are two of rap’s rookies of the year, following in the prolific footprints of their Atlanta predecessors. They’re steadily ascending with a growing catalog of subwoofer candy that shows off their melodic tendencies. After their joint Drip Harder project dropped in October, they could have regarded the generally positive feedback as a capper to a breakout 2018 — but instead, one used it as momentum for one more project, and the other almost did the same. Lil released Street Gossip on November 30, and Gunna said in October that he was planning to drop Drip Or Drown II for before the year is out. Their fans may be clamoring for new music now, but how will the public receive it this time next year if they release another three projects in 2019 — including two in a three-month span? Will they be able to keep the creative juices flowing by following the prolific path of artists like Migos, Future and Young Thug?