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2018 has been a watershed year in Hip Hop

We’ll look back to this year in the distant future and declare it a game changing year. The reason I say this is because well over a dozen MCs and producers released multiple projects within one calendar year. Worth noting is that these weren’t releases just for the sake of being releases. These were actually good quality projects that in the past would have made sense to be released one or two years apart.

Dave East released “Paranoia 2” and soon after released “Karma”, then his collaborative album with Styles P, “Beloved”. Styles P himself has released a total of 4 projects this year. Roc Marciano released 3. Royce Da 5’9 released 2. Freddie Gibbs released 2. Curre$y released 3. Westside Gunn released 3. Future released a couple. Zaytoven released a couple… and the list goes on and on.

I have a theory. I think because we’re living in a time where attention is the biggest currency, most artists see dropping multiple projects in a year as one way of staying on consumers radars. Nowadays music is so fleeting. With so many artists releasing music, it’s hard to stay fixated on one release/artist when literally the same day or a couple of days later, another artist of a similar pedigree will also release their project. This is also evidenced by how short albums have gotten this year. By no means a novel idea, it’s however a strategy that seemed to really be prevalent this year. It’s well documented that Kanye released a slew of short albums this year. Phonte also released a very concise album which he aptly referred to as “an album for people with shit to do”.

By extension, the surprise album device also further illustrates how much of a commodity attention has become. Incredibly huge artists use this to try and catch music listeners off guard and drop albums with little to no promotion so as to capitalize on the surprise and sell as much records as possible while they’ve gotten their attention. The Carters dropped “Everything Is Love” in this fashion. Eminem also dropped “Kamikaze” in this fashion.

However, all these strategies aren’t new. It’s the dropping of multiple projects that I can say was more noticeable to me as a fresh new approach. Which got me thinking, locally… is anyone doing that?

In comes A-Reece and The Wrecking Crew. I could be wrong but I think these are the only artists consistently releasing music in such voluminous amounts in SA. A model that seems to be working in the U.S. The question is, will it work for A-Reece and company? On the one hand, some people might see this as a sure way of having people get tired of your music. But there’s no denying that there’s something to be admired in seeing these cats consistently push the envelop and release really good quality music at such a rate. Between “Long Lost Letters (L3)”, “Thank You For Nothing” & “And I’m on Only 21”, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in SA releasing that level of shit in a space of months. Not forgetting all the singles that have come out of that camp.

 

Other artists still use the tried and tested one album releases and milking them by focusing on pushing singles. This is a strategy that clearly still works as seen by how AKA is still riding off the release of his now platinum selling album “Touch My Blood” by the chart topping single “Fela In Versace”. Other artists are trying their best to repackage themselves and attempt to “shift the culture”, whether that succeeds is an entirely different discussion.

Ultimately, the biggest take away for me this year is that artists have to keep reinventing and finding new ways to stay on top of their game. In 2018 the lane is open to do whatever you want to do as an artist. The middle-men have been cut out and the power and control is in the artists hands as to what they want to do as far as their music is concerned. It’s equally exciting and troubling to see these different artists moving different and doing their thing. Some artists saturate themselves in the market. Some starve the public off themselves, only to appear when they see fit. Either way, 2018 has been an exemplary year of the million ways to get the bag in Hip Hop.

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