New music release day has only been Friday for a couple of years, but it’s already becoming harder and harder to remember the time we all got excited for Tuesday instead. While Uproxx’s Steven Hyden has already laid out the case for returning to that day to make things easier for music fans and critics alike, it looks like some artists are already taking matters into their own hands, forcing us all to acknowledge an alternative day: Thursday, or if you live on the west coast, Wednesday night at nine o’clock. Of course, those potential trendsetters have all been rappers, because hip-hop has always led the way.
Last night (or this morning, depending on how you look at it), both Kevin Abstract and Rico Nasty released new albums after very different promotional rollouts. While Abstract’s Arizona Baby received almost a full month of build-up, releasing piece-by-piece on consecutive weeks until the full project dropped, Rico simply announced that her Anger Management the day before with an Instagram post that read: “Anger management drops tomorrow at midnight.” While they have plenty in common, the two projects also diverge in pretty significant ways: Though both artists have seen their respective buzz levels swell plenty over the last year or so, both appeal to slightly different youth demographics and make wildly different styles of music. However, both also came to the same conclusion: Thursday is a much smarter release day than the usual Friday drop.
This Friday, TDE’s Schoolboy Q is releasing his much-anticipated follow-up to 2016’s riveting Blank Face LP, Crash Talk. Not only does Crash Talk have the full weight of the Interscope promotional machine behind it, but Q is also a well-established, A-list artist who is associated with one of the three biggest names in hip-hop today. Not only that, he has an established track record of quality albums and hit singles, appearing on Billboard‘s Hot 100 multiple times over the years with songs like “Studio” and “That Part” and features on inescapable viral hits like Tinashe’s “2 On.” Who would want to compete with that?
Although both Kevin Abstract and Rico Nasty boast boisterous, heavily invested fanbases of their own, they very likely lack the same name-brand consideration of Schoolboy Q and Top Dawg Entertainment. Imagine the conversation going something like this: “Schoolboy Q has an album coming out this week.” “Who?” “Schoolboy Q. He’s on TDE.” “What’s TDE?” “You know… Kendrick Lamar’s label.” “Oh yeah!” Three degrees from greatness can buy an artist a lot of “Oh yeahs,” which can translate to a lot more streams come Friday morning, which could effectively overshadow the buzz for a newer, younger artist with a slightly more niche sound. With those unconventional approaches to rap music, the more established artist usually wins out in the streaming wars — just check last year’s chart performance for Brockhampton’s innovative album Iridescence or Rico’s genre-twisting Nasty mixtape against any of the big-name albums that were considered disappointments, like Drake’s Scorpion or Nicki Minaj’s Queen.
By releasing their new albums a day earlier than the marquee album of the week (and the impending attention onslaught that is the three-hour Avengers finale) Kevin and Rico ensure that their own projects can get a little love, picking up streams and possibly word-of-mouth throughout Thursday so that their fans have plenty of time to take in and talk about the music before social media discussion is dominated by Schoolboy Q and Marvel movie spoilers. It’s a smart strategy that more up-and-coming rappers should think about adopting, and seemingly have. Last week, Chicago rapper Supa Bwe also took advantage of an early week release for his comeback EP Just Say Thank You, avoiding a global release day that included Jaden Smith, Lizzo, Shy Glizzy, Tech N9ne, and, oh yeah, Beyonce.
Friday is already cluttered enough with so many new projects from so many genres, it’s impossible for a generalist to keep up, let alone a completist or connoisseur who wants to stay abreast of everything. But right now, Kevin Abstract and Rico Nasty aren’t worried about the insane traffic jam that tomorrow will bring, because today, they’re basking in the praise of their new project releases, riffing with fans online, and resting assured that they won’t get lost in the mix. The old adage was right: The early bird really does get the worm — and the early release gets the streams.