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Jadriena Solomon @24Jaded

Jadriena Solomon @24Jaded

How digital music streaming has helped and hurt new album releases

Digital Album Streaming: a beautiful boost or plummeting pitfall? Well it depends on how you use it

The first half of 2018 has seen album releases from the likes of J. Cole, Nipsey Hussle, Tory Lanez, Nas, Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z; all with various rollout plans to the lack thereof. Nicki Minaj announced her album, Queen, in May for a June release. Beyoncé and Jay-Z released Everything is Love seemingly out of nowhere, and then there were albums that dropped under an executive producer who didn't seem to give much notification to the artists themselves, cough. (I'm talking about... yes, you guessed it! Kanye West.)

Digital streaming of music has given both the artist and consumer a one-stop shop. Artists no longer need to advertise on billboards, bus signs or conjure up elaborate marketing plans. Music executives no longer have to announce albums and songs months in advanced and retail stores are not stocked to capacity with copies of physical CDs needed to match shopper consumption. Depending on the caliber of artist that you are, you don't even need to bait your audience into wanting your album with pre-released singles. All you have to do is make sure it's available on all streaming platforms on the day that you say it will be. Or, you don't even need to say a day.

I'm guilty of crediting Queen Bey for bringing the art of the hasty release into the genre of R&B and Hip Hop. Many people, like me, forget that it was actually her husband, Sean Carter, who started the trend. Released on July 4, 2013, Magna Carta Holy Grail took to listeners ears after only being announced two weeks prior in a subtle commercial for Samsung that premiered during the NBA Finals.

VIDEO featuring Jay-Z promoting Magna Carta Holy Grail

"All these other things have been introduced to the world -- the internet and all this technology, and all these things. How do we operate within all that? We don't have any rules; everyone's trying to figure it out... that's why the internet's like the wild, Wild West. We need to write the new rules for what's going on right now... The one thing I wanted to do was have that fireplace or radio moment... I wanted everyone to hear the album at one time."

Unfortunately, Samsung lost out on the ordeal when the app they paid for to stream Jay's album crashed and the project was almost instantaneously available on other digital streaming platforms. Nonetheless, the attempt was seen.

What we'd call an L, Beyoncé followed suit with and turned into a W, a surprise release of her self-titled visual album that took the world by complete force. Beyoncé was exclusively available on iTunes for its first week, was accompanied by visuals for each track, earning Yonce' over 80,000 copies sold in the first three hours and ultimately a number one album debut. (Queen Bey also saw similar success with her release of Lemonade, accompanied by a full-length film where Hov's, iced tea, 4:44, debuted at number one with various short films to accompany each track. The most successful of which, "The Story of O.J.", reached over 70 million views.

But the ability of Beyonce and Jay-Z to make us look is due largely to the equity and caliber of artistry they've come to be known for, not just in the exclusivity of their work alone. As listeners and consumers, we have a solid expectation of the quality of work they'll deliver and therefore have no problem rushing to whatever medium they decide to release from.

However, many artists are not so privileged. Even prior to Beyonce's self-titled visual album release, Kanye West tested the waters with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's 34-minute film, Runaway, amassing over 22 million views to this date, and decided to take that same triumphant energy and innovation into his February 14, 2016, release of The Life of Pablo. The result was not so great. The rollout of the album was plagued by constant title changes, routine Kanye twitter rants, and revised track lists. The only thing that seemed to be happening right was that West had a Yeezy Season 3 fashion show planned at Madison Square Garden where he would premiere the project for all those in attendance, right? Wrong. The album premiered three days later on Tidal, with alterations unheard of by the crowd in attendance at Madison Square Garden. Even months after the release, the album was still undergoing changes with its finalized version coming on April 1, 2016.

And now here we are. The Carters’ surprise release, Everything is Love, and Kanye West announcing and embarking on his executive delivery of five albums in five weeks. The results have been everywhere from successful to... not so much. Pusha T's Daytona soared in the midst of rap beef between himself and Drake. Ye was welcomed by a lukewarm reception, but still managing to debut at number one, while Kids See Ghosts featuring Ye and Kid Cudi was quietly released and debuted at number two while NASIR featuring Nas peaked at number five.

However, the rockiest rollout yet was Teyana Taylor's K.T.S.E. The singer took to Big Boy's Neighborhood on Power 106 to explain that the album will be re-released due to label miscommunication and samples not being cleared in time. Acknowledging that songs on the album were literally cut short, as well as the label's mistake in setting a release date and listening experience all before the album samples were even cleared.

VIDEO: Teyana Taylor on Big Boy’s Neighborhood

Teyana has taken the public misstep like a champ, acknowledging the helpful critiques she's received from those who have listened thus far. A similar attitude is now generally required of artists in the digital age of album streaming, its boundless limits should remind artists to propel themselves into a new realm of creativity and innovation. Ultimately instilling in them the ability to embrace the body of work that they have while remembering, it’s not fully what you do but how you do it.

 

- Jadriena "Jade" Solomon

@24Jaded

  • Published in Music

Here's something for Hip-Hop to ponder

"Hip Hop's Year of Dangerous Living Put the Accused on the Charts", was the title that graced the critic's notebook section of The New York Times' website on January 5, 2018. The article kicked off the year by acknowledging the previous one that awarded rap musicians with high accolades despite their less than decent deeds; calling all professionals of the music industry to make better decisions in their free time and vying for fans to become more morally conscious of the artists they support.

And maybe rightfully so, Hip-Hop's 2017 brought immense success to the troublesome likes of rappers Kodak Black, 6ix9ine, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and the late XXXTentacion, rewarding all with either lucrative record deals or singles that graced the Billboard Hot 100's Top 50 despite their very public bad behavior. Ultimately laying a welcome mat for a tumultuous 2018 (see: 6ix9ine versus Chief Keef, Rich The Kid versus Lil Uzi Vert.)

But perhaps the biggest feud to come of all this is the question of music versus morality, seen most recently after the tragic shooting of XXXTentacion. As fans, fellow rappers, and social media reacted to the news, this was the question that plagued conversation and sparked major uproar from social media users to various radio and podcast platforms and personalities. Joe Budden took to his very well-known podcast, The Joe Budden Podcast and explained his disappointment with Hot 97's Peter Rosenberg who announced XXXtentacion's death on talk radio and proceeded to introduce him as a figure that was "no angel." He also cited figures like Complex's DJ Akademiks for instigating the poor behavior of rappers and commodifying it on social media, to which Akademiks shortly after responded.

VIDEO: RIP XXXTentacion | The Joe Budden Podcast 

 

The reactions are split. Yes, in the event of death it truly is insensitive to chalk up a person's life to their actions, especially when it was cut short by violent tragedy. But, it sparks a question that is worth to be pondered. In life, can we separate the personal actions of artists from their musical accolades and musicianship? And if we choose not to, are we doing an uncivil disservice to humanity?

 

VIDEO: RIP XXXTentacion: How Will He Be Remembered?

 

To properly ponder this question we have to acknowledge many facets, one being the open door policy that the genre of Hip-Hop has always employed, and why it has come to be. Why I call it an open door policy is because it has always been welcoming of all, regardless of an individual's background, moral compass or lack thereof (R. Kelly was and is still repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct, Bobby Shmurda rose to fame and a number 1 single with a murder confession - don't tell me it's not, let's just call a spade a spade.).

So, why is the Hip-Hop genre so accepting of violence? It didn’t start out this way. However, in simplistic terms, it is because as hip-hop evolved, many of its constituents came from and still come from a place of systematic disadvantage. The art form of Hip-Hop and the culture grew as an outlet for residents of the inner city. Those whose neighborhoods were plagued with poverty, infested with drug trafficking, and a hyperactive gang and police presence. The cycle of mistrust and injustice birthed street entrepreneurs, those who hustled to make a better living despite their disadvantaged circumstances and carried that same mentality into the world and profession of Hip-Hop (Jay Z, Notorious B.I.G., etc.)

And that's not to mitigate the action of violence, repeated domestic violence, and the selling of drugs, it's to speak to the fact that the genre of Hip-Hop is comprised of individuals shaped by the absences, and disadvantages of their environments.

Gangsta rap made folk heroes out of men and women who risked their safety to bend the rules and prosper as outlaws.

The greats presented crime as a political act, a means of leveling a playing field that always operated on a severe tilt.

They gave voice to the struggles of the disadvantaged and illuminated a way out for the daring.

- Craig Jenkins

Because of such, the home of Hip-Hop is a zone of limited chastisement to be enjoyed "free of moralizing." We dismiss those with open murder, sexual misconduct, battery cases and more, with simple statements like "you've got to separate the art from the artist." We become selective in memory, prioritizing their accolades over their conscious pitfalls, abandoning the duty of accountability.

But at what cost, and at what detriment? Are there really any at all?

- Jadriena "Jade" Solomon

@24Jaded

  • Published in Music

Why I had to swallow my pride (and discomfort) and listen to Kanye West's "ye"

I'll be real honest. I didn't want to give Kanye West my .089 cents for streaming his new album, Ye, via Tidal. Nope. Not the same man who said slavery was a choice. Not the same man who practically made a martyr of himself through songs that detailed the African American experience, like "Jesus Walks", or whose word vomit included simple yet contentious statements like "George Bush doesn't care about black people," not the same man who then turned around and endorsed the warped Trump-developed slogan "make America great again."

But because I am a student of the culture, and because West has been the public figure to fearlessly declare statements that many have dared not, I had to delve deeper and well... decide. And when I say decide, I mean decide on a lot of things...

Nine years after the passing of his beloved mother, Donda West, and a month after his wife Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris, Kanye West was admitted into the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for stress and exhaustion. Today, West refers to that period of his life as the "breakthrough" rather than the "breakdown." This is not surprising. The man we've come to know as Ye' has always exhibited the personality traits that he endears the most: pride, confidence, and egocentrism. Seldom have we seen an insecure or vulnerable Kanye West. And frankly, that is why many have come to love him.

KANYE WEST VIDEO: The Codes Of Self Esteem 2016 - The Life of Pablo


For someone like myself, who's known Kanye West more largely through his televised rants and candid moments rather than musical accolades (i.e.: The College Dropout, Graduation, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, etc.), it’s safe to say that Kanye West lives for and basks in his ability to create shock value, his access to publicity, and most of all the security of his ego. Therefore, I don't believe that anyone can really say they're surprised when Ye' vents his mind.

VIDEO: Kanye West's Craziest Moments


However, being surprised and deeply hurt or dispositioned by Ye's comments are two completely different calibers of reactions. With statements like slavery "sounds like a choice," consecutively implying that blacks have presently perpetuated their own oppression, and publicly proclaiming his admiration for President Donald Trump because he managed to accomplish what many said he couldn't, Kanye has successfully infiltrated and divided his own fan-base, leaving the giant question of: are we canceling Ye' or nay?

Through press runs to promote his album, Kanye has done two major sit down interviews, one where he flew out The Breakfast Club's own Charlemagne tha God during the creation of his album Ye, and another with Los Angeles' own Big Boy at his album listening and release party. Initially, I was not highly intrigued to listen to either interview. And the album? Well, that wasn't even a thought. Why should I give my streaming money/viewership to someone who said slavery was a choice? However, as much as I was infuriated and displaced by his statements, actively perpetuating ignorance wasn't the solution to take either.

Of those who actively became turned off by his statements, were fans who had fallen in love with the ideology West had entered the game with and created a following from; pro-black rhetoric that marked albums like The College Dropout and Graduation. His recent abandonment of such led many to ask, was Kanye ever really black-enlightened? Were these ever really his true feelings? Or were they the rhetoric of writers, and/or the marketing plans of the team behind him?

VIDEO: Is Kanye West's ‘ye’ Good or Bad? | For The Record


In his sit down with @CThaGod, Kanye acknowledges that he did begin his career with an authentic voice, one that veered off due to the pressures of the industry; acknowledging that what inspired “Ye” was his heavy desire to go against mass opinion and proclaim his rediscovery.

VIDEO: Kanye West / Charlamagne Tha God Interview

Ironically enough, after the interview with Charlemagne was taped, Kanye made the decision to go back into the studio... and totally scrapped the entire album to start again from scratch. Leaving many to wonder, was Ye beginning to understand the extent of the feelings he had hurt with his rhetoric? Or was this simply a cleanup plan for the mess that he had created?

However, there are many on the other side of the fence that would agree with Ye. They agree he should have the freedom to speak his mind, believe what he wishes to believe, and not be held to the unholy standard of a role model (This is ironic from someone who calls himself Yeezus, but okay, let's go with it.).

What Ye values more than what he is saying, is his freedom to be able to say it. However, many miss this facet because the shock value of what he is saying becomes more compelling and distracting than his love for just wanting to speak his mind (and have us all listen of course). West prides himself on his ability to remain vocally honest while holding a position of privilege as a celebrity, and having publicly divulged his diagnosis with bipolar disorder. He simply basks in his ability to operate within that realm.

Though we'll never really know West's true feelings on Trump and the actions of his presidency thus far, when asked about the President and his campaign, Kanye stated, "when he was running, I felt something... the fact that he won, it proved something... it showed me that anything was possible." One thing that we do know for sure is Kanye's admiration for Donald trump stems from the fact that he sees something in him that resonates, connects with, and mirrors himself.

However, although we've reached this conclusion, there are still many questions that remain unanswered: will we ever really know for sure if Kanye was once genuine to the African American plight? Can we actively judge a man who's openly declared his battle with mental illness? Are we canceling Kanye? And if not, does this come down to a larger discussion of the African American community's inability to reprimand one of their own ala Bill Cosby and R. Kelly, a very large question at this time?

At the end of Charlemagne's interview with West, he asked, "What would College Dropout Kanye--if he was looking at pictures of Kanye now, what would he say?" To which Ye replied, "I think he'd be happy, satisfied, and he would believe it... This is a version of a College Dropout Ye'."

- Jadriena "Jade" Solomon

@24Jaded

  • Published in Music
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