The Album Sucks — Admit It
This is what it comes down to: If you truly love an artist you can accept when they have flaws and not just praise everything they put out simply because you are a fan of their music.
There is a difference between accepting anything an artist puts out and actually supporting them. Many fans — or Stans, or yes men — accept whatever the artist puts out, and unfortunately these same type of people are often within the artist’s team, too. Those close to the artist may not want to hurt their feelings — or their own pockets. When an artist does not have someone on their team to push them to reach their highest potential, they end up doing a disservice to their supporters. This, in turn, causes people to sometimes just stop listening to the artist as they feel they have been let down personally. These situations can be attributed to a single or two… or in the worst cases: a full project.
When you truly support someone — whether they are a big name artist, someone on the come up, or someone you know personally — you should be able to be 100% real with them. This includes being able to admit you don’t like something. As seen on Twitter all the time, it’s become common to call someone’s work outright trash without pointing out why you think it’s trash. This is simply following the crowd with the ignorant and contagious mob mentality. Often, people have not even heard the project they are calling trash and thus truly and simply have no right to speak on it. If an artist checks social media to see the various responses people are having to their work, things like this might get to them and give them a false view of what people truly think. Of course, they’ll find people who are enjoying it in their mentions too but how do they know if those people are yes men or not? Or, how do they know if the people calling it trash are just a part of the trolling community?
When an artist prides themselves in making “all kinds” of music, they are going to excel at some kinds more than others and this is expected. If one sound is just not up to par, the listener should be able to admit this. I’d like to bring in an artist I believe is an excellent example of this scenario: Logic. Logic has branded himself as making “turn up” “boom bap” “real” and “flexin” tracks. However, the issue is his “turn up” tracks he’s put out lately are not on the same level as his “real” tracks. Now you might be saying “well, obviously”; but the fact is, he’s made “turn up” tracks that were still high quality for that lane. When your career is built around your lyricism and you fall short, no matter what “vibe” you’re going for, people are going to hold you to a certain standard.
Logic has begun to fall short of his own standard recently and there have been multiple responses to this. Of course, on the surface the main critique is “he fell off”, while the main defense became “he’s just having fun”. What this defense fails to realize is that “having fun” does not mean the content should get pass for a lack in quality — it is not at the level he set himself at. This discussion reached its peak with Logic’s most recent album Confessions of A Dangerous Mind. The level of anticipation for this album was at an all time high, as it was his first project (not including the Supermarket Soundtrack) in months that wasn’t a part of a series he had already begun. Upon its release, many people began to call it his worst album so far and even one of the worst projects of the year. Many felt that his subject matter was too simple for his own standard, and he essentially became the type of rapper he would look down on in his previous work. People criticized his bars as lazy, annoying and just plain bad.
Of course, die hard fans defended it, and a number one debut on US charts definitely worked as a formidable shield. The album is reported as earning less than 25,000 ‘pure album’ sales, and just based on numbers alone (which do matter in this discussion) there was obviously a decline in sales from his previous albums. Those who defended and saw no flaws in it dismissed critics as “haters” (much like Logic himself does), but a large majority of these “haters” were already listeners of his music and were just voicing how they felt they had been let down. This is what it comes down to: If you truly love an artist you can accept when they have flaws and not just praise everything they put out simply because you are a fan of their music.
Another great example is Chance The Rapper’s debut studio album, The Big Day. Being that this was Chance’s album debut, of course the standards were once again very high following his solo mixtapes The Coloring Book, 10 Day, and Acid Rap and other collaborative projects. Unfortunately, criticism for the album came before it even released due to a delay in the release of the project itself. Fans were also expecting this project to be Good Ass Job, as produced in collaboration with Kanye West, but this ended up not coming to fruition.
Upon its release, many people talked about how they did not even finish listening to the full project. They said they stopped before even getting to the halfway point and didn’t even bother to skim through the other tracks; they criticized his flailing attempt at multiple musical styles; and of course…how much he talked about his wife. In its defense, fans blamed this on fans wanting to hear the ‘same old ignorant’ topics instead of ‘a black man talking about loving his wife’.
This is not the case for most people. People have to understand that when you choose to go into positive topics within rap, the execution of the material will dictate how people respond to it. In Chance’s (latest) case, his execution of bars about marriage and family was simply just surface level, and that’s the issue most people have with The Big Day. It’s not that they don’t want to hear it — it’s that they don’t want to hear it the way he did it. Stereogum’s Tom Breihan wrote “The Big Day is not a disaster. Instead [it’s]…merely a big shrug, a general sigh of disappointment…Things would be so much better better if it was a disaster…A disaster would’ve probably been better for Chance, too. It might’ve given him the chance to reset, to change his own narrative… Instead, The Big Day will just curdle everything. Close your eyes, and you can just see Chance passive-aggressively tweeting about the critics who were out to get him.” Breihan summarizes, “If the rapper in question doesn’t find some way to develop, to shift tracks, all those once-delightful party tricks stop working.”
In some cases an album is actually good, but people trash it upon its initial release — only to completely change their mind and gain a new perspective as time goes on. Such is the case with A$AP Rocky’s Testing: It debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200, showing that there were a significant amount of people who were feeling it somewhere — but by its sixth week, it was far out of the Top 50, and falling fast. Even at its initial release, many people criticized it for trying too hard to be “experimental”, and said that the rollout, while creative, only led to disappointment. However, a year later, this conversation completely shifted, and many of the same who had condemned Testing changed their perspectives. This just shows how when an album is not as accessible as most it sometimes takes time for it to be appreciated.
Rocky admitted to GQ that he was discouraged by the initial reaction to Testing, saying “After I put out my album and I felt like the masses didn’t get it at the start… And I guess initially, I was like, man, did my crowd, did my cult following forget how to mosh? How to slam dance, how to fucking crowd surf, how to go all out?”
Us listeners and hip hop superfans are still consumers for the artists’ product, music. When you‘re not satisfied with a product you buy, you share your opinions on social media and tell your friends or loved ones to stay away from it, right? The same understanding should be applied to music fans. Our opinions shouldn’t be dismissed so easily, especially the sincere fans of an artist or genre.
When disappointment comes from a company we know and have supported for years, we feel some type of way right? Artists are not immune. We expect quality music. We deserve quality music. When we don’t get it, we have a right to make our voices heard.