Frank, Kendrick, Earl & My Quest to Save Throwaway Albums - DJBooth

Frank, Kendrick, Earl & My Quest to Save Throwaway Albums

Regardless of how it's labeled or presented, we have to acknowledge good music.
Author:
Publish date:
bright-spots-on-throwaway-projects.jpg

Maturity is a quality that was nonexistent on all the early Odd Future records. They were kids being kids—silly, obnoxious, offensive, and rebellious. It was a phase that helped them to become popular, but also a period in time behind most of the members—even Tyler has grown up a bit since their early success. The one member who has matured the most is Earl; he's a completely different artist than the one who released a critically acclaimed mixtape in 2010. He was 16 then, maturity is expected once you blossom from an adolescent teenager to a young man. His music has become more honest, transparent, and self-aware. The release of I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside was the beginning of the world being introduced to a new and improved Earl.

During the press run for IDLSIDGO, Earl gave an excellent interview to NPR. He spoke about his mother, the creative process behind the album, growing up, and more. Within the interview, he mentions that he made an album for his mother, a project called Solace. He describes it as something done quickly at his home studio. Months later, without warning, Earl tweeted a YouTube link to a 10-minute song titled "Solace." It's described as, "Music from when i hit the bottom and found something." The album never made it to iTunes, never made it to Apple Music, and was never promoted again. Unlike the heavy applause that followed IDLSIDGO, "Solace" went mostly ignored, unmentioned, and treated as if it never happened.

"Solace" lacks the polish of a major release—it’s dirty as a mechanics fingernails and more personal than a drunk sinner sitting in a confessional. Earl isn’t worried about proving his prowess, as all the bars rapped on "Solace" are painfully honest—a man staring down his reflection. “When they drag me out the gutter mail my ashes to my mother,” hit me like an uppercut from Liu Kang and a flying kick from Shang Tsung. The entire album is filled with a transparency that’s ghostly—almost too personal, nothing is held back, nothing is sugarcoated. If you heard Earl’s “Balance” a few months back, the music is made from a similar perspective, but even deeper. The mornings after too much drinking and not enough eating, too much writing and not enough sleeping, I found my own personal solace within the mix of raps and instrumentals on "Solace." After the release of “Really Doe,” there was genuine excitement for new music from Earl; I could only wonder how many of those eager fans didn’t know "Solace" existed.

"Solace" falling from the public’s eye falls on Earl’s shoulders. It’s possible that the album was truly for his mother—who he cites as the influence for his transparent approach to making music. What happened to "Solace" is very similar to what happened to Frank Ocean’s Endless, an album that was completely eclipsed by the release of Blonde. Endless was the music that scored Frank’s architectural short film that can be found in its entirety on Apple Music. The music was never officially released; there’s no stream of Endless, the music wasn’t even able to chart on Billboard. It was soon cursed with the description of a hoax, an album crafted to help Frank escape his Def Jam contract. It failed to be seen as a real album and was soon discarded to the side as a lesser peasant in the company of Blonde’s royalty.

Finger pointing doesn't help, but it’s entirely Frank’s fault that Endless hasn’t been well-received. Unless you were tuned into Frank’s workshop you probably don't know that Endless even exists. What’s baffling about this predicament is the fact that Endless is full of good music. The song “Wither” is a beautiful ballad, the kind of Frank song that’s reminiscent of his Nostalgia, Ultra days. “Slide On Me,” “Sideways,”—reason #151 why we need a Frank rap album—“U-N-I-T-Y,” and “Comme des Garçons” have all been in constant rotation since the album release. The previously-released “At Your Best,” along with “Rushes” and Rushes To,” are songs that shouldn’t be overlooked. Before the album even had a chance to be fairly judged, it was misrepresented as something that shouldn’t be seen as a standalone album. Again, I can blame Frank for how this album was handled, maybe it’s what he wanted, a visual album that stayed visual; sadly it appears as if he treated the album as an orphan. If you’re able to discover an audio rip of Endless, I recommend revisiting—its no Channel Orange but there are some gems shining in the shadow cast by Blonde.

The mind of a music fan is interesting. How a project is packaged truly affects how its received. When I searched untitled unmastered. on Twitter, I saw countless users praising the surprise Kendrick album, and even more hailing the eight track project as a bunch of throwaways. Their judgment of the album is difficult because their perception is that the songs weren’t good enough to make TPAB or the forthcoming follow-up. The media, myself included, saw the material as songs that Kendrick was sitting on. It’s only after months of listening did I realize that untitled unmastered. aren’t throwaways, but an album specially crafted to be introduced on television and then released. Kendrick practiced a new form of marketing with untitled unmastered.―who needs music videos when he introduced the songs on television and who needs the radio when Lebron James is assisting with social media marketing? The project may be shorter and less intricate than his previous releases, but Kendrick put a lot of thought into these songs and tying them all together with “Pimp Pimp” as a recurring epistrophe. No interviews came after the release of untitled unmastered., so we have no idea what Kendrick hoped to achieve with the project, but I don’t believe these songs simply didn’t make the cut. And if that really is true, “Untitled 02” just proves Kendrick’s throwaways are better than the best efforts of most rappers.

Is the Social Experiment titled playlist on Chance The Rapper’s SoundCloud considered a collection of incredible songs or loosies that didn’t make Surf or Coloring Book? I still enjoy songs like “Home Studio,” “Lady Friend,” “I Am Very Very Lonely,” and “Israel.” These songs may not be attached to a bigger project, but it doesn’t take away from their quality. I've been listening to Childish Gambino’s Kauai album, a project from 2014 that was connected to the STN MTN mixtape. Since the two tapes were reviewed as a single entity, I feel like they weren’t able to live as separate projects. Kauai is more R&B and pop-fueled, vocally Gambino’s best singing is on this album with songs like “Sober, "The Palisades,” and “Poke.” Donald didn’t promote the album much, but any rollout is lackluster when your previous album came with a screenplay.

Bottom line: marketing matters. How music is presented to the world still matters. As consumers, our job is to simply consume—we will eat what’s delivered on a golden plate before a new spread is left on the clean floor. Frank and Earl, Kendrick and Chance, even Gambino all delivered projects in a non-traditional way and the reception wasn’t quite like their other works. No interviews, no major marketing, no touring and barely any visuals. Yet, how music is released shouldn’t dictate how it’s received.

Regardless of how it's labeled or presented, we have to acknowledge good music, and all the music in this article is damn good. Don't let these albums and music die as discarded, forgotten throwaways, not when they are so much more.  

***

By Yoh, aka Maturing Yohbino aka @Yoh31

Related