We all love full albums. We can all pretty well agree that there literally is no better feeling than sitting down with a complete, concise and entertaining album that is consistently good without any skips. You know the types of albums that demand you to listen to the whole thing because you almost want to see how it ends? The albums that feel more like a rapper’s diary read out loud over a beat than actual music. You guys can probably name a few off top – so can we. And if you’re really into those deep album cut crafted LPs, you’re in luck because a ton of rappers these days have opted to focus their energy more on the “no singles” approach in attempts to deliver what most hip-hop fans want; the storybook album.
Now, of course the politically correct response to this change in the game would be that ALL hip-hop albums should follow this formula because “it’s better for the culture” but what about the radio single?
There was a time when radio single, or singles in general, could make or break a career. I guess they still kind of can but there has been a noticeable paradigm shift in hip-hop where no one seems to be focused on crafting that “hit” record – not because they don’t want to necessarily, but because they don’t have to. We have seen countless albums have tremendous critical and commercial success without the momentum building single that once used to be the deciding factor on whether or not your album would make it off the shelves.
So does the radio single still have a place in hip-hop? It may not right now, but it should.
People often forget, or choose to forget, that hip-hop also lives in the club, or on the radio, or at a party or anywhere in which excitement is part of the mix. Sure, it can live in your headphones while you lay on your bed contemplating the meaning of life – but hip-hop is also made to bring people together and the radio single can make that happen.
I should probably clarify what I mean by “radio single”. I don’t mean that EDM song with a Pitbull verse that gets played over a million times during your drive home from work. I don’t mean that one incredibly catchy song that gets way too overplayed to the point where you can’t even fall asleep without having it become the soundtrack to your dreams every night. No. I’m talking about those singles that make it on to radio for a reason; because they are good.
We’ve become a little too over sensitive and quick to deem anything on the radio as bad, just because it’s on the radio. That isn’t always the case. Was ‘In Da Club’ a bad song just because it was the hottest thing ever on the airwaves for the majority of a year? If I’m not mistaken, Biggie’s ‘Juicy’ was made for radio and I think we could classify that as one of hip-hop’s greatest songs ever. There have been songs throughout hip-hop’s history that are game changing records because they were such smashes. Rappers are defined by their albums but also by their ability to make music that people gravitate towards on a major level. Just like there is an art to making a complete album, there is an art to making quality hit records on a consistent basis. It isn’t easy to do and lord knows every rappers tries to make music that the masses will like – even though they don’t always like to admit it.
Like, do you not get a certain sense of pride when ‘Trap Queen’ comes on mainstream radio? I know I do. Radio singles have the ability to bring everyone to hip-hop’s table instead of just those of us who know it in and out. For me, having a one-eyed rapper from New Jersey out spin Taylor Swift is the best thing since sliced bread.
This also applies to songs that don’t necessarily make the radio. Just the idea of hit records is what hip-hop thrives on. I’m not saying that we everyone’s albums should always be full of random hits with a hundred features per song but would you really want to see French Montana try and make the equivalent of good kid, m.A.A.d city? Probably not. If French can consistently give me ‘Pop That’ type songs to serve as the anchor on my summer BBQ playlist, then I’m a happy camper.
Hip-hop is all about balance and in the current climate of the rap game, we can’t forget that hit records, if done right, can help the genre rather than hinder it.
Long live the hit record.