I knew Kevin Gates had a following, but I didn't realize just how popular the man was until his Islah album put up the kind of superstar numbers usually reserved for pop stars. His January debut sold over 120K in its first week, meaning Gates only barely got edged out by Adele and Rihanna for the number one album in the country. Well goddamn then.
You'd think that his label would be eager to strike while the iron was hot and get at least one more album out this year, but as the Smoking Section reported, that's far from the case.
Why would the label block Gates from putting out new music for the remainder of the year? On the surface it doesn't make much sense. The label's not likely concerned that the quantity's going to affect the quality of his music. It may be a factor, but it's hard to believe this is an artistically-driven decision. Ultimately labels are in the business of making money from music, so why prevent an artist who just proved he can put big time numbers on the board from making you more money by releasing more music?
The obvious way to answer that question would be to reach out to a rep at Atlantic Records, and so I did. Unfortunately he very politely, but very adamantly, refused to comment at all despite my repeated attempts, so you're stuck with my best guess.
Here it goes...
I haven't seen Kevin Gates contract, but unless it's extremely unconventional, he's under contract with Atlantic not for a set amount of time, but for a set amount of albums released before he can seek a deal elsewhere. What constitutes an "album" under those terms though isn't always cut and dry. The label understandably demands approval rights to prevent an artist from handing in three "albums" filled with goat-noises and trash can drums to get out of a contract. But the label can also use that leverage to block albums they don't like for whatever reason, or keep an artist locked into a contract.
For examples, see Lupe's Lasers fight with Atlantic, 50 Cent's refusal to release a new Young Buck album to keep Buck shackled to G-Unit, or Frank Zappa's legendary move of handing in five albums at once, then winning a court case against his label, Warner Brothers, by succesfully arguing that each and every album was good enough to merit release and he had fufilled the terms of his contract with them.
So from the outside, the only explanation that makes sense to me is that Atlantic knows they now have a certified star in Kevin Gates and they're not about to let him rack up rushed album releases that count towards his contract. They'd rather keep him under contract for as long as possible and make sure they can maximize every now-precious album release they're going to get from him, even if it means waiting a year.
The good news for Gates fans though is that in the year of our lord 2016 there's nothing stopping him from skirting around his contract, simply calling his upcoming Murder For Hire 2 album a "mixtape" and releasing it for free without the label's involvement, the same way a frustrated J. Cole once released Friday Night Lights as a "mixtape" when Roc Nation refused to release it as an album. The music industry isn't any place for the timid or easily discouraged, good thing some artists never get tired.