Drake And Nas Showed Why Nostalgia Always Wins In Hip-Hop

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In July, Nas released his long-awaited Lost Tapes 2 project. Two weeks later, Drake decided to figuratively dust off the tapes with Care Package, a collection of loosie singles that the Toronto artist rounded up for release on streaming services. Two of the rap game’s most revered figures culled from the well of nostalgia with generally successful results. Drake’s compilation went No. 1 on the Billboard charts with 109,000 first-week units sold, while Nas’ album was generally well-regarded by his core fanbase.

Drake has so many more singles that he could conceivably drop off another Care Package or two down the line. Nas has already said that he has enough songs for lost Tapes 3 and 4 in the pipeline — and it’s a great idea. Both artists have shown two different ways to play into rap fans’ nostalgia. What’s the best way to make sure your music gets heard in a culture with a short attention span? Sometimes, you have to get their attention again.

And Drake isn’t the only artist who has reams of singles that fell between the cracks, he was just the first major one to compile them for streaming services. His impact on music is so powerful that fans didn’t just acknowledge that Care Package was available to listen to at their leisure, they listened as soon as it dropped on August 2. The first-week sales figures outpaced that of many brand new releases.

The album was the talk of social media the night it was released, earning almost as much attention as Drake’s steady stream of fresh projects. His fans not only had fun reminiscing over the bars on “Jodeci Freestyle” and “4PM in Calabasas,” they re-engaged lovelorn tracks like “Trust Issues” and “I Get Lonely” with new ears. For those who were 18 or younger when “I Get Lonely” dropped in 2010, sentiments like “why are we wasting our relationship on a relationship?” from “My Side” cut so much deeper after a decade of love and heartbreak.

Last week’s top 50 rapper list bonanza revealed how deeply feelings are tied into how people evaluate their music. Some fans created lists that weren’t about accomplishments and accolades as much as the emotions and memories tied to certain rappers’ catalogs.

Drake played into that dynamic perfectly with Care Package. He reminded devoted listeners of his ties to old flames and other unforgettable moments, but also enticed younger fans to give new listens to tracks that may not have properly registered with them several years ago. The album’s success is a message to prolific artists like Lil Wayne, Future, and others to corral all their loosies and breathe new life into them by placing them on streaming services. One way to beat today’s culture of ephemerality is to simply reintroduce certain music when the time is right.

Or, of course, they could just pull from the vaults like Nas. Lost Tapes 2 differs from Care Package as an album of previously unheard material, but it’s just as focused on nostalgia. Nas could have easily called both of the Lost Tapes projects whatever he wanted, but he purposefully played into his own legacy by subtly showing fans that the tracks come from the same time periods that their most beloved projects were created.

Artists with Nas’ wealth of experience frequently deal with fans clamoring for music that reminds them of previous eras. Why not give it to them if it’s possible? Going to the vault is a better recourse than being a part-time recording artist creating halfhearted music. For instance, ask many of Eminem’s former fans if they’d rather have his B-sides from 2000 or poorly regarded projects like Revival and Kamikaze. It’s almost a certainty that Kanye West has seven songs in the vault better than his recent Ye album.

Some songs don’t see the light of day for good reason, but it’s hard to believe that legendary artists like Nas, Jay-Z, Kanye, and others wouldn’t be able to put together 15-track bodies of work spanning decades. Even younger artists like Future and Young Thug are rumored to have hundreds of tracks in the vault — with dozens of Thugger’s tracks leaking on several occasions. Producer Southside has said that the Super Slimey trio didn’t even release their “hardest” songs on the album. Why not give them to the fans?

Musicians, like all artists, have the luxury to produce forever — but some of them shouldn’t. Whether it’s artists getting burned out, becoming too involved in other endeavors, or simply losing touch, some veteran acts are better off pulling from the vaults like Nas did. Newer artists could stand to take cues from Care Package and compile their loosie singles for streaming services. Both approaches are strong ways for artists to get the most mileage out of their creations and offer presents from the past.