Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Artist integrity

For this post, if I happen to repeat some things I've said in a previous post, I want to apologize for it up front. Everything is still related in many ways. This post is largely inspired by the topic I did on Slaughterhouse yesterday. The short version of it is that Slaughterhouse's new album "Welcome To Our House" is a HUGE departure and step down from their first album. Not sure what direction they were trying to take with that album, but it certainly does not fit their style. One of the most important things, in my view, is the integrity of an artist. I've recently mentioned the term "stay in your lane", and I stand by that statement.

Now, aspiring to have mainstream/commercial success, as well as the platinum sales or better nowadays is like a gift and a curse. The gift is of course the success that comes along with a hit record, but the curse (which has far more greater consequences) is that you risk alienating your core fanbase in the process. Is achieving the aforementioned success worth doing such a thing nowadays? Since I already touched on Slaughterhouse in a recent post, I'll use Jay-Z as an example. From "The Black Album", there's a very good song titled "Moment Of Clarity", he mentions:

I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars
They criticized me for it yet they all yell "HOLLA!"
If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be
lyrically, Talib Kweli
Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
But I did five mill' - I ain't been rhymin like Common since

I noticed this change too, BUT, even in the midst of all the commercial success, 
Jay still made thought provoking, captivating music. An album like 
"The Dynasty Roc La Familia" was an excellent piece of work where 
EVERY song didn't sound like "Give It 2 Me"you know. And again, it's nothing 
wrong with desiring more success, but you shouldn't totally change your sound 
just to get it. 
Remember when I said stay in your lane? I feel that's what artists should do.
Can you imagine if someone like Rakim went in a different direction after releasing 
the classic "Paid In Full" album in 87? Or what about O.C. changing any 
and everything about his lyrics and flow after 94's "Word Life"? 
And speaking of underground artists, one thing I've always respected about
Saigon is that even though his "Greatest Story Never Told" debut was 
completed years before it's 2011 release, he dropped from Atlantic Records 
because he refused to go in the direction that THEY wanted for his album, 
never mind the fact that artist should be free to come up with his/her own 
material and express themselves how they see fit. I respect what most record 
labels stand for, but the last thing they should do is tell an 
artist how they feel an album should be made, point blank. Lupe Fiasco
is another good example. While "Lasers" is his most successful album to date,
it's also his most disappointing, as that album is the direction his label 
wanted him to take, and it was a complete 
step down from "Food & Liquor" and "The Cool".
I still have aspirations to enter the music business in the future, but at the 
end of the day  (first and foremost), I'm a fan, and it's very disappointing 
when high caliber artists change their sound and style (and largely fail) 
for mainstream success. It also doesn't help when said artist(s) release 
a follow up album and claim "I'm taking it back to the essence" or 
"I'm going back to what's real". Well, you shouldn't have stepped away from 
what brought you to the game in the first place, 
and you shouldn't be surprised when your former core audience doesn't 
buy into your claims. Evolution in music is a very good thing, 
but not when it forces you to depart
from your original sound.

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