Before the notebook that sits in Kanye’s studio was crammed with autographs, a procession of visitors eager to prove to history that they were there to watch Kanye tweet, when it was just the tracklisting I noticed something. He wrote out the titles of 11 songs broken up into 3 acts - “No More Parties In L.A.,” “Real Friends” and “Wolves” are all included, but “Only One” and “All Day” are missing. Those two songs weren't SoundCloud throwaways like “Facts,” both were handled and released as official singles, complete with massive public performances. They are far from his best work, they aren’t the biggest hits, but they are good songs and certified gold singles. Their absence is very telling of this album’s transformations, it is now a very different project than the one Theophilus London said was complete back in August. The songs that indicated that Yeezy season had begun won’t be there at the finish line, abandoned singles that no longer have a home.
Kanye’s current album rollout has been mind numbing. I’m not even certain what the title stands for and we are two days away from the alleged release date. Rihanna knows a thing or two about rollouts from hell, Anti finally arrived two weeks ago after much anticipation and all the promotional singles were missing. “FourFiveSeconds” kicked the year off, “Bitch Better Have My Money” was anthem status this summer and “American Oxygen” received praise from critics and has over 60 million YouTube views for its music video. She promoted, performed and pushed these singles like an artist hungry for a hit. It’s possible when Kanye stopped overseeing her album as executive producer the singles from his supervision no longer fit. Still, the three songs didn’t even receive the pity deluxe album placement. “BBHMM” alone was given a rather royal treatment - the video trailer was premiered during the BET Awards, she performed it during the 2nd iHeartRadio Music Awards, at March Madness Final Four in Indiana, on Saturday Night Live and even was used to prank Jimmy Kimmel on April Fool's Day. Big records aren’t always remembered for being big deals but it’s surprising how they were just left behind.
There's a big difference between a single and a loosie, one is an hefty appetizer to prepare you for the five course meal while the other is a light snack to keep the roaring stomach at bay. There’s been countless singles who disappeared after being on the radio for months. These singles are like children that the artist left on our doorstep and never returned for, little orphans who have been abandoned.
J. Cole’s first Roc Nation supported single was early 2010's “Who Dat.” It’s an early look at how he attempted to bridge the lyricism that brought him attention to a radio-friendly catchy melody to broaden his horizons. It fell rather flat, almost a year later the more commercial and corny “Workout” was released as the lead single. When Cole’s debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story,was finally released, “Who Dat” only appeared as a bonus song on the iTunes edition. Kendrick’s “Recipe” got a similar treatment. I was surprised that such an excellent single that did moderately well at getting Dot on the radio would be absent from the tracklisting, but it's largely due to GKMC's narrative. It’s one of the many bonus songs, despite being a single it’s been years since I’ve heard “Who Dat” or “Recipe.” No love for lead singles that don't lead artists into the promised land of commercial prosperity.
Detox is an urban legend that will forever be remembered as hip-hop’s Abominable Snowman, but like all myths there was a rare sighting that made us believers. “Kush,” which started off as an impromptu leak, was later officially released as a single in November, 2010. A video was shot, all signs pointed that the doctor was ready to unveil his Frankenstein. “I Need A Doctor” was the second single that came months later and was far more successful. Eminem and Skylar Gray assisted in Dre reaching 2x platinum status but another plaque on his wall wasn’t enough to relinquish the bigger monster.
Before it was public knowledge that Cash Money was keeping Wayne’s Carter V locked away like a princess in a castle guarded by Birdman, he released “Believe Me” (incredible), “Krazy” (solid but not better than D'usse ), "Grindin" (forgettable) “Start A Fire” (already forgotten) and "Gotti" (play it if you haven’t). Three mixtapes later and no album, I’m certain these songs won’t make it to any album and instead end up buried underneath his immense catalog.
Street King Immortalwasthe last album 50 Cent was working on prior to leaving Interscope and what he claimed as the reason behind his departure. He didn’t appreciate how the label handled the release and promotion of his five singles. These weren’t throwaway street records, 50 wanted this to be a huge project and he fell painfully short. From 2012-2013, 50 released “New Day” with Dr. Dre and Alicia Keys, “First Date” with Too Short, “My Life” w/ Eminem and Adam Levine, “Major Distribution” with Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy, and “We Up." Alicia Keys, Eminem, Adam Levine, those aren't tracks meant for mixtapes, if they can't get you commercial success there’s very few options left. The street king may be immortal but these singles were DOA. I think 50 still has intentions of releasing an album under the same title but it's hard to believe it will include those quickly-aging records.
“Black And Yellow” was Wiz first huge hit but it wasn’t the first song that got him radio recognition. In 2007, he signed a major label deal with Warner Bros while under Rostrum’s umbrella. During his two years there, only one single was released, “Say Yeah.” It’s nothing like what Wiz sounds like today, it’s a strip club party song with a Eurodance-esque beat that’s sampled Alice Deejay's "Better Off Alone," which is probably why it reached number 20 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart. The video is hilariously cheesy, you see a young Wiz with a short cut, no visible tattoos and not a single paper plane. There might be one weed reference the entire song. Practically a completely different artist than the superstar he is today. Parting ways with Warner probably saved him from a career of making music that sounds like it belongs in Jersey Shore instead of Half Baked.
Usher’s 8710 was originally titled All About U with “Pop Ya Collar” as the first single instead of “U Remind Me Of.” This was during the Napster days and before the album’s release some songs were made available for download through the controversial platform. The leak sent Usher back to the studio, recording new music and reappearing with a new album title. “Pop Ya Collar” was huge overseas, number two on the UK charts, but it failed to make a big impact in the States. It was added as bonus song on 8710 but only for albums released across the pond.
It’s a bit surprising that two singles with features from Nicki Minaj failed to make albums. Sean Kingston hasn’t had a hit since 2007’s "Beautiful Girl," but he’s been close a few times. One of the more memorable singles was “Letting Go,” a fun, dance record from 2010. Getting Nicki was perfect, this is around the time of her breakout period, the record peaked at #36 on the Hot 100 and was also placed in Australia, Italy and New Zealand radio rotation, but when Sean’s Back 2 Life LP finally was released three years later, “Letting Go” was nowhere to be found.
Rick Ross has a great history with Young Money, “You The Boss,” his 2011 single with Nicki Minaj, is a song I remember hearing far too often but despite reaching number 5 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songschart, the record was absent from God Forgives, I Don’t. Not even as a Best Buy bonus track. I was a bit surprised, it was definitely a record that seemed to be a lot bigger than it was.
Some singles you're silently glad never took off or were assigned placements on an album, “Jockin Jay Z” can be forgotten forever. No rapper does it like The Game, I found an old article by Jayson Greene that traced every failed single from his 2011 The Red Album. Over 10 singles were released before the album drop but only “Pot Of Gold” featuring Chris Brown and "Red Nation" featuring Wayne made the final cut. No one misses those other eight singles, I doubt you can even name them.
The single is changing, especially in the digital age. Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was one of the biggest records of last year but it’s currently uncertain if it should be considered the lead single from Views From The 6. It’s level of impact goes beyond being a single, Drake turned the song into an event. The same can be said for “Summer Sixteen,” are we sure this isn’t just another teaser? What separates “Summer Sixteen” from being the next “0 to 100”? Once you receive a GRAMMY nomination for a song that wasn’t released as a official single, didn’t receive a video, and didn’t destroy the charts then the game is changing. It’s also worth noting that due to the internet, Drake’s entire IYRTITL was able to chart on Billboard, the same goes for The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness. I still believe a song that’s not attached to a bigger project or a monstrous smash will be a very momentary sensation.
Consider this article an orphanage where lost singles abandoned by their parents can come and be loved once again. At least here they'll always have a home.
Editor's Note: It seems that there was another single released from Wiz through Warner Bros called "Make It Hot" produced by Johnny Juliano. There's a reason this one has been forgotten.