One thing we all know so well from the rap game is that Throne never comes without hounds on your tail. First of all, we’re so proud of one (1) Tyler, The Creator for debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 with his record-shattering “IGOR.” No other rap album has made it to the top without any co-producers.
In his wake lands DJ Khaled with “Father of Asahd” at second place. Suffice to say, the king of producer tags and guru-esque positivity did not take this debut lightly. He took to his Instagram stories to launch an ambiguous, spirited rant about a topic you’re welcome to assume is about. The rant included such claims as “I make albums so people can play it. You actually hear it. You know… turn the radio on, you hear them playing it… not none of that mysterious shit.”
We hear him loud and clear. DJ Khaled’s mad pressed. The man whose empire is built on radio banger hip-hop lost out to a more musically diverse yet admittedly less pop-oriented artist. While he thrived on his guest-laden songs of summer, Tyler had Cherry Bomb, Flower Boy and IGOR — all three sounding so far apart, but exploring different aspects of his musicality. No musical approach trumps another, yes, but Tyler’s win is a win for the road less taken. The mainstream vs. authentic narrative is always pushed year in and out. More recently you’d see this as Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s characters’ artistic differences in A Star Is Born.
The thing is, what’s authentic or artistic isn’t mutually exclusive from what’s popular. Artists like Lorde and Chance The Rapper are unconventional approaches to what we know as pop that are undoubtedly true to the core. A lot of this thinking may stem from our circa-2012 Tumblr-sourced hate for the likes of One Direction, and Bieber. (This was when a lot of us were in our emo band phases…) Selling your sound out for more streams is a touchy line where some artists are actually just growing up and trying new things. The success of “IGOR” is living proof that artists can change up their sounds and try different approaches and still be loved for it.
“IGOR,” in its lack of that club or radio X-factor is a testament to the music-loving consensus’ readiness to gobble up more concept-oriented releases.
Another silver lining from the rant is the commentary it provides for producing albums. The album as an art form can somewhat be a lost cause in the radio-oriented arena. Some releases end up being four to five singles and a filler track or two for length, and others straight up lack cohesion or thematic connection. Take Katy Perry’s “Prism” or Drake’s “More Life” as examples of albums that only serve as vessels for their banger singles. We went through a few years of not being ready to consume albums as a whole. Look no further than Kendrick Lamar fans feeling the lack of solid, sociably playable tracks on “To Pimp A Butterfly” compared to “Good Kid M.A.A.D City”. “IGOR,” in its lack of that club or radio X-factor is a testament to the music-loving consensus’ readiness to gobble up more concept-oriented releases. DJ Khaled wanting to get plays with his songs, or entertaining people is an equally respectable approach to producing music, but Tyler showed us it’s not the only way to make it big time.
Lastly, the discussion caused by DJ Khaled points to the future of the streaming business. His album actually should’ve debuted at no. 1, but a deal bundling his album download with purchases of his branded energy drink was disqualified. This took away around 100,000 streams from his official tally. Tyler also engaged in the album-bundling practice, offering his album along with his clothing merch. Sure, many artists have already argued over which merch-album deals are more legitimate than others, due to these playing big parts in chart performance. Hopefully this clash serves as the last precedent needed for the music industry to define what counts as album sales, or not. Marketing is integral to the product, but let the albums speak for themselves. It’s the key to even further democratizing the new age of music chart and award success.
All we want is to ask our favorite artists: Is this it? Can you do better? The music will keep on coming, and artists will keep on vying for wider reach, and higher accolades. Guys like DJ Khaled could come up with as many tracks for the people as he wants, but so can guys like Tyler who want to come up with mysterious shit. But for something that people “don’t hear,” his mysterious shit’s doing pretty darn well.