Silence is a dangerous option in an industry where voices are doing their utmost to be heard. Those that get too quiet risk losing the very ears they worked so hard to obtain.
Frank Ocean has made more noise in movie theaters than he has on the internet this year, the empty promises of an album has left more than a few fans sour. Adele also went missing without a trace for what felt like an eternity, now we see the results of her return, the rejoicing reaction that the public displayed is equivalent to the cheers of the mushroom Kingdom when Princess Peach emerged from Bowser's castle unharmed.
This is far from common, a lesser talent wouldn’t even make it to the back of a milk carton, destined to be the next face on VH1’s Love & Washed Up. What we often see in hip-hop are artists escaping to the cave only to re-emerge with a plethora of material, believing in bombarding listeners with more music than trying to engross an audience with the mystique of mystery. Metro Boomin gave his take on quality over quantity on Twitter, citing Future as the influence that currently has so many mixtapes raining from the heavens. It’s true that Future’s mighty resurgence is largely due to his flood approach, but he’s far from the first flood, something that Metro later acknowledged once his followers tried to drown him with responses. It does make you look back on all the artists that have benefited from giving more instead of less.
The blaring sirens of a firetruck is the sound of urgency, a warning that something big is coming fast and it would be in your best interest to let it through. Looking back, Lil Wayne proclaiming his return on “Fireman” over thundering sirens perfectly symbolizes the speed and urgency that his future music would be released with. Tha Carter II was the beginning of his flood, one that would wash over the mainstream and underground. The albums and features kept him in the conciousness of those that were strictly radio junkies but it was the mixtapes that truly made Wayne’s run momentous. They would come one after another and each was a must listen. From the underrated Lil Weezy Ana Vol. 1 to the Empire leaks, collecting Wayne’s music was like trying to capture every Pokemon, you had to have them all. Whatever songs were hot at the moment were turned into punching bags, beats were beaten breathless by his endless barrage, he had the stamina of an Olympic sprinter and the wordplay of a top tier rapper. Through his mixtapes Wayne reinforced the title as “Best Rapper Alive." While you can argue if he was the best, from 2005 to 2009 I can’t think of a rapper that worked harder or released more music. To reach the success of today, Wayne needed the mixtapes, it was The Dedications and The Droughts that assisted in making Tha Carter III the album that took him from underground alien to bigger than E.T.
During Wayne’s mixtape rise, Curren$y Tha Hot Spitter was a regular feature, Young Money was still a growing label and he was a much more promising rapper than Mack Maine. He released one single, “Where The Cash At,” and continued to promise fans that an album was coming. It never came. In 2008, on the Dedication 3 skit, “The Dos and Don’ts Of Young Money,” Wayne clowned an unnamed rapper for only dropping one song which lead him to being dropped from the label. Without Young Money, I thought Curren$y was finished. Surprisingly, the rapper clowned for being lazy would restart his career with a vengeance and become notorious as one of the hardest working rappers on the blogs. Spitta flooded the internet with mixtape after mixtape, album after album, he found his voice, refined his style, and created a brand that people wanted to be a part of. Instead of taking industry beats, Curren$y sought out producers for original music, putting him in the company of Ski Beatz, Monsta Beatz, The Alchemist and Harry Fraud, producers that gave him a sound that matched the cool he was selling. Being dropped from Young Money was the blessing that lead him to starting Jet Life Records, with a work ethic unlike any stoners glorified in teen movies Curren$y took over the internet and then took over the road. Finding his own wings allowed him to fly instead of glide on the back of Wayne’s wave. He is still going strong, releasing music at a pace that could rival almost any rapper.
Gucci Mane has become an Atlanta rap legend for an output of music that transcends all logic. While in prison he has released more music than when he was free. Before his bid, Gucci had already cultivated an underground audience, mixtapes like No Pad, No Pencil, Birdflu, Trap God and The Burrprint along with the countless others kept those that demanded more Gucci well fed. He was able to flirt with the idea of being the next street rapper to crossover while his core continued to enjoy the music that would make radio cringe. Gucci never tried to be Jeezy or T.I., I think that’s why the streets never turned their back on him. While the singles from his albums still cause uproars in clubs, it’s the countless mixtapes that have kept those begging for his freedom patiently awaiting his return.
No man wants to be shot, no rapper wants to be dropped from their label, sadly, both happened to 50 Cent in the year 2000. The buzz and controversy that was built from “How To Rob” wasn’t enough to keep him on Columbia Records. When the industry shunned him, 50 went underground and found solace in the mixtape circuit. The 2002 Guess Who's Back? mixtape inaugurated 50’s return and eventually lead to his dealings with Eminem and Aftermath/Interscope. In a matter of months he returned with 50 Cent Is the Future, bringing DJ Kay Slay, DJ Whoo Kid, and DJ Clue together to prove he had the stamp from the gatekeepers. Instead of robbing rappers, he took their beats, and raised awareness why he would be next to blow. The mixtape was one of three that came out that year. No Mercy, No Fear and God’s Plan came just months later, each tape contained at least 15 songs. The mixtapes, along with signing a million dollar deal with Aftermath and the single “In The Club” all assisted in creating enough attention to make Get Rich or Die Tryin' a commercial success. By pushing that much music 50 made it known that he wasn’t waiting for a warm welcome into the industry, he would kick the door down before looking for any handouts.
It’s a big gamble attempting the flood tactic. It’s like a race, if you use up all your energy in the beginning, you are bound to feel the strain toward the end. Lil Wayne is nowhere near the rapper he once was, could it be that fatigue is what ultimately brought the Martian back to Earth? It’s impossible to sustain that amount of consistency without a dip in quality. The gas does run out. Today, Southside said that Future has nine more projects ready to go - nine! No man can keep that level of output up for long.
And what happens if the high volume releases fail to catch on? Gorilla Zoe released 28 mixtapes in 28 days, not a single one was able to put him back on people’s radars. XV once released one song during the day and another at night for 40 days, that's 80 songs total. Insane concept, pretty good songs, but failed to break him to a larger audience. Are you prepared to make 40 more? More music doesn’t always mean a bigger audience, that’s why it’s such a gigantic risk. It only works if you can temporarily break through without diluting your product. Also, the market changes so often, dropping freestyles over industry beats in 2015 won’t guarantee you the success of Wayne in 2007. Future’s success is very similar to The Weeknd. Both dropped three projects, in a very close knit time frame that showcased some of their best music. They both had a sound to claim, one that could call their own. OG Maco is another interesting example, he broke into the game with a record and flooded the internet with tape after tape in an attempt to drown out the idea of “U Guessed It.”
Pacing is important. If you look at some of our bigger stars, the likes of Kanye, Jay Z, Eminem, Jay, Kendrick, and Cole, everything is spaced out, they allow themselves room to create, give their albums room to make a lasting impact and find creative ways to stay within the public’s good graces. Drake has proved this year he’s the master of balance, being able to release high volumes of music without being so overwhelming that his audience is drowned. It’s about finding that balance, understanding the gift and curse of more versus less.
So will you be the light sprinkle or the heavy downpour? Choose wisely, because both the flood and the drought can kill.