What is an album anyway?
Lil’ Wayne released a new album this past weekend… That’s pretty much it.
Lil’ Wayne released a new album this past weekend… That’s pretty much it. Yes, it featured some of his best work since Carter III. But to call it a good album, you’d need to be a hopeless fanboy. Funeral could have been a great album, but at 25 tracks, it feels bloated. Many of the stronger tracks feel too long. Wayne’s album falls victim to the era in which he reigned. The one era in music when quantity out-valued quality.
At the latest Grammy Awards, an EP won the best reggae album award. In recent years, mixtapes have won in Grammy categories. Currently, a 2-minute pop song is acceptable for commercial radio play. With an industry going more and more towards streaming services, the first 30 seconds of a song is far more important than the last 2 minutes. Unless an album is trying to express something at an epic level, there is no excuse for an album to be over an hour in length.
Every song on a project counts. If a song doesn’t fit the theme of an album, it can be released elsewhere as a digital single, on an EP, playlist or mixtape. That is a good thing. Super-long albums have always been a pet peeve of mine.
There have always been exceptions, but 20-60 minute albums have generally been the norm in the music industry. Longer albums appeared in the late ’90’s as major record labels tried to justify the inflated prices for CDs.
Lil’ Wayne peaked in the early 2000s as an artist. Back then, double and triple CD albums were the norm. Buying an album became less about a fully realized project at a reasonable length, and more about hit songs surrounded by music best left as demos produced to fill an album up to the gills with mediocrity. For Wayne to have produced classic albums in that period of time is truly impressive.
You could even argue that Wayne fought against lengthy projects. His album Carter III features a svelte 16 tracks. That said, most creative people eventually become influenced by the period of time that they reached their creative pinnacle. Maybe it’s an attempt to rediscover something. Who knows?
Fans hope that an artist finds whatever it was that made past projects special. The artist tries to appease their fans, but only reach mediocre results. Wayne isn’t the only rapper from his era in rap struggling to create quality work. Eminem has only been slightly more successful in creating quality work recently.
Hip hop has never experienced this. Our greats die or disappear. They don’t hang around. This is the first generation to do so in a real way. Hopefully, they figure it out; shorten their albums and create new classic projects. The culture could use a renaissance of mature artists. Preferably, without 20+ song albums.