Wale Drake, Promise to Deliver:

The fourth quarter in the music calendar is a critical time for three hip-hop artists as they plan to release their albums. One artist is trying to find redemption, another is attempting to avoid the sophomore slump and the last is trying to put himself in an elite class of rappers.

The first to release his album on Nov. 1 was Maybach Music Group artist Wale. After his debut album Attention Deficit became infamous for selling only 28,077 copies in the first week, he’s been on a mission to prove doubters wrong.

Since signing to Rick Ross’ label, he started working on his new album Ambition. To promote it, he’s been doing videos of him in the studio working on music and going on tour to show fans how motivated he is into making sure his second album succeeds. With songs like “Lotus Flower Bomb” with Miguel and “Focused” with Kid Cudi, the project is an upgrade from his first album. 

Drake’s second album, Take Care, was originally due on his birthday, Oct. 24, but because three songs had samples that had not been cleared by a deadline, the album was pushed back to Nov. 15. The buzz of the album has been huge all year because Drake has remained consistent by releasing solid songs like “Dreams Money Can Buy,” “Marvin’s Room,” and “Trust Issues.” He’s also been featured on two hit records with DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One” and Lil Wayne’s “She Will.”

His last album Thank Me Later, was a commercial success by going platinum, but it did not live up to the standards of his legendary mixtape So Far Gone.

 ”In no way am I not proud of it, but I think I got caught up in making it seem big and first-album-ish. I was a bit numb, a bit disconnected from myself. I wasn’t able to slow down and realize what was going on around me,” Drake told Rolling Stone magazine in July.

If everything goes the way he predicts, his album will be contending for album of the year regardless of genre.

With two weeks left in the year, Ross will release his fifth studio album God Forgives, I Don’t on Dec. 13. The chatter of those who have heard tracks that may appear on the album have been nothing but spectacular.

DJ Khaled called the album “A classic-in-the-making” to MTV News and Drake compared Ross’ latest work to the seminal debut albums of The Notorious B.I.G., Ready To Die, and Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle, on MTV. With Ross’ impeccable beat selection and his improved lyricism, maybe a classic album is not too much to expect from the Miami-based rapper.

The fourth quarter in the music calendar is a critical time for three hip-hop artists as they plan to release their albums. One artist is trying to find redemption, another is attempting to avoid the sophomore slump and the last is trying to put himself in an elite class of rappers.

The first to release his album on Nov. 1 was Maybach Music Group artist Wale. After his debut album Attention Deficit became infamous for selling only 28,077 copies in the first week, he’s been on a mission to prove doubters wrong.

Since signing to Rick Ross’ label, he started working on his new album Ambition. To promote it, he’s been doing videos of him in the studio working on music and going on tour to show fans how motivated he is into making sure his second album succeeds. With songs like “Lotus Flower Bomb” with Miguel and “Focused” with Kid Cudi, the project is an upgrade from his first album. 

Drake’s second album, Take Care, was originally due on his birthday, Oct. 24, but because three songs had samples that had not been cleared by a deadline, the album was pushed back to Nov. 15. The buzz of the album has been huge all year because Drake has remained consistent by releasing solid songs like “Dreams Money Can Buy,” “Marvin’s Room,” and “Trust Issues.” He’s also been featured on two hit records with DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One” and Lil Wayne’s “She Will.”

His last album Thank Me Later, was a commercial success by going platinum, but it did not live up to the standards of his legendary mixtape So Far Gone.

 ”In no way am I not proud of it, but I think I got caught up in making it seem big and first-album-ish. I was a bit numb, a bit disconnected from myself. I wasn’t able to slow down and realize what was going on around me,” Drake told Rolling Stone magazine in July.

If everything goes the way he predicts, his album will be contending for album of the year regardless of genre.

With two weeks left in the year, Ross will release his fifth studio album God Forgives, I Don’t on Dec. 13. The chatter of those who have heard tracks that may appear on the album have been nothing but spectacular.

DJ Khaled called the album “A classic-in-the-making” to MTV News and Drake compared Ross’ latest work to the seminal debut albums of The Notorious B.I.G., Ready To Die, and Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle, on MTV. With Ross’ impeccable beat selection and his improved lyricism, maybe a classic album is not too much to expect from the Miami-based rapper.

Wale, Drake and Ross are all in different parts of their careers, but if their albums hold up to the expectations, they will all be on top of the hip-hop world going into 2012.

 

 

Drake takes care of the masses on sophomore album

What do you get when you mix 90s southern hip-hop and 90s R&B with a Canadian rapper/singer? You get Drake’s second album Take Care, which puts the artist closer to his goal of being on top of the hip-hop world.

The album starts with a hypnotic groove produced by Drake’s engineer and main producer Noah “40” Shebib. On the opening track he claims “Second album, I’m back paving the way, the backpackers are back on the bandwagon like this was my comeback season back, back in the day.” Drake is very aware of his critics who claim he is not “hip-hop” enough because he sings and talks about his emotions. He wants all his detractors to know that he is on a mission to show that he can rap just as good as anyone active in the industry.

On the next track, “Shot For Me,” he’s in singing mode while boasting about how he made his ex-girlfriends the women who they are and how they’ll never find anyone like him. How charming.

The third track of the album, “Headlines,” is also the first single from the album and it is a celebratory record about where he’s come from and the direction he is going in. The first feature of the album appears next on “Crew Love” when R&B artist The Weeknd comes and steals the show from the former child actor. Since The Weeknd released his first mixtape in March, Drake has been an avid supporter and seems to be very influenced by his fellow Canadian. The Weeknd helps write five records and assists on producing two tracks on the album and comes away looking like a future star through his work on Drake’s sophomore effort.

The only clunker on the album happens to be the title track featuring pop star Rihanna. The record is a remake of a Gil Scott-Heron record that was redone by British producer Jamie xx. The production of the record does not flow with the direction of the rest of the project and Drake seems to just coast through the song without saying anything interesting.

Following this misstep, is the drunk dialing anthem “Marvins Room” that was leaked this summer by the Young Money/Cash Money artist. The song still holds its own and deserves to be on the album. Immediately after the track is over, an interlude “Buried Alive” performed by Kendrick Lamar appears. On the spooky record, the Compton based rapper discusses when he first met Drake and how he motivated him to become successful quicker, but to be cautious of the fame and vanity that comes with it. It is not a coincidence that the song following this is titled “Under Ground Kings,” which features a southern feel to the production and has Drake rapping about the great life he lives.

The next two songs follow a similar format production-wise and have a YMCMB member on each. The first, “We’ll Be Fine,” has Birdman, who luckily only talks on the end of the record. The other record, which also is the second single, from the project “Make Me Proud,” featuring Nicki Minaj is an anthem for women who are doing positive things in their lives.   

The second half of the album begins with Drake rapping as hard as ever on legendary hip-hop producer Just Blaze’s sample driven track. The record, “Lord Knows,” features hip-hop heavyweight Rick Ross and, when he appears on the track, the beat changes perfectly to make his rhymes sound more potent. Solid records like “Cameras/Good One Go Interlude,” “Doing It Wrong,” which has Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica on it and “The Real Her,” featuring Drake’s boss and mentor Lil Wayne and another standout verse from Andre 3000, follow in order.

The last four records on the standard version of the album shows Drake’s versatility as an artist the way he switches styles and remains himself the whole time. “Look What You’ve Done” is an ode to his mother, aunt and uncle and he’s in storytelling mode and makes one of the most personal records in his young career. The record ends with a message from his grandmother about how proud she is of him and how she is grateful for the help he’s given to her.

Lil Wayne appears on the again on “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)” and the track shows Drake using a rapid-fire flow with Wayne spitting one of his best verses since coming out of jail. “Practice” takes Southern hip-hop legend Juvenile’s classic record “Back That Azz Up” and successfully turns it into a ballad. “The Ride” has The Weeknd handling the singing while Drake reflects on his rise to prominence and the journey he went through. The album ends here on the standard version, but the deluxe edition of the album comes with two more records, “The Motto” featuring Lil Wayne, and “Hate Sleeping Alone.”

The main strength of the album is the sequencing and the production. The album is so cohesive it seems like if you put the album on shuffle on your iTunes, everything will flow perfectly. Drake continues to improve as a rapper and his songwriting is already on an elite level. Take Care has to be in the conversation of hip-hop album of the year with Watch the Throne by Jay-Z and Kanye West.

Attention Deficit

Internet has done various positive things for hip-hop artists like making their music more accessible and increasing the interaction with their fan bases. But has it almost destroyed the value of the hip-hop album?

At the turn of the century, more albums began to leak before the release date. Record labels have looked for solutions to stop the problem but they have been unsuccessful thus far. Instead of purchasing the albums when they are released in stores or on iTunes, many people decide to take the route of acquiring the music for free. In turn, something that was once viewed as an event has just turned into another release.

Another thing that distorted the value of the hip-hop album is the reinvention of the mixtape. Previously, a mixtape was for DJs to do things like premier new records from popular artists, rare freestyles, or to blend popular beats of other genres of music to rapping. In 2002, 50 Cent changed the game by making his own mixtapes and rapping on the popular hip-hop and R&B records at the time. This trend was then used by many rappers and, most notably, Lil Wayne who used mixtapes to rise to the upper echelon of hip-hop today.

Since then, many artists have been criticized by fans and for having a better mixtape than their actual album.

Some would argue that an album is harder to make because the label wants artists to make certain records to appeal to the mainstream which, in turn, would alienate their true audience. This is a valid point but it is also why an album should be viewed highly. One album can make an artist a legend and takes them to the heights of hip-hop history; one mixtape will have you relevant for a while but it does not have the same lasting power.

In the era we are in now, we can get anything quicker. Fast food, 24 hour news cycles, Wikipedia and Google, have made us less patient. In the past, an artist could come out with an album every two or three years and still remain relevant the whole time. Now, most artists try to release an album every year because hip-hop is not like any other genre. Because the majority of the audience is young, their attention spans are shorter and artists can come and go within months.

To try to stop themselves from being forgotten, artists will release mixtapes or songs almost monthly to stay around, which causes a flooding of music and then an album gets lost in it. If artists did not have the pressure from record labels to force out an album while they were relevant, they could focus more on the album to have the best possible quality. Instead, most hip-hop albums today sound rushed and do not have any cohesion. 

An album should be a viewed as a work of art. The process of opening the package, looking through the booklet to look at song credits, photographs and the track listing should be used to enhance the moment of finally listening to the album. Instead, projects are being shared online by people all over the world for free.

If artists could take their time and make the music they wanted, the album could rise back to prominence. If not, the once hallowed moment in an artist’s career can be forgotten.

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