A good debut album for any new artist is literally one the most daunting things to create. So why is it in hip-hop when an artist puts out a great debut album we expect the same results with every time they release new music?
Can they live? It’s almost like they’ve raised the bar so high and producing similar results is the only option. What about pushing the envelope and being creative? Is evolution not something artists should aspire for? It’s like the inner conflict between pleasing your fans/record label and making art indicative of where you are in that space and time. One can only imagine what that pressure must be like. When I think of great debut albums I think automatically of Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt and Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg. But the one album that is the gift and the curse in hip-hop in my opinion is Black on Both Sides by Mos Def.
That album is nearly flawless. It’s celebrated and debated by many a hip-hop fan. Mos Def’s career has constantly taken a left turn away from hip-hop full time with movie roles, social-activism and label drama at Geffen/Interscope. Regardless of all those variables, his talent is unquestionable. I think he set the bar so high with his debut that fans won’t accept lesser. And make no mistake, he’s had good to above-average albums/music after it, but the complaint comes up so much that I had to speak on it. I get the sense some people are waiting for Mos Def to drop BOBS part II – which won’t happen but in the same breath anything less than those results feels uncivilized?
Artists cannot replicate a debut album because the same factors involved in creating that art cannot be done twice. It’s not like lightning in a bottle. Creatively an artist is not in the same head space, inspired the same way, or around the same things that help shape their earlier work. So for fans to want the equal results is an exercise in futility. Who Jay-Z was at 26 when he made Reasonable Doubt definitely isn’t Jay-Z at 40 who just dropped Blueprint III. It also it begs the question of whether why we won’t allow artists to evolve ? Why wait for Mos Def to create another BOBS pt. II when what he’s making now is more current to the times we’re living in? N*ggas want my old shit, buy my old album © Jay-Z
You work your entire life to create your first album. You probably also work that much harder to have the same freedom to recreate the same magic, but not the same art. I think as fans we have to temper our expectations or completely remove them to be able to accept our favourite artists to evolve at their craft. After the success of a debut album, there are so many things that come into play that work against that creative freedom unless you’re an independent artist. With all the elements of artist packaging that go into follow-up albums like; a marketing budget, catering to a target audience, what is said artists trying to portray, etc., creative freedom is something of an uphill battle at best. I think musically good art can (and is) still being made, but to act like other variables are not in play is foolish when you consider artists on a major. Debut albums are an introduction, if done well they’re hopefully a sign of things to come. Good music in my opinion is about a connection to the art and/or a connection to the artist because of that art. Are you in it for the long haul?