Take a look at the comments section of any of Travis Scott’s recent Instagram posts and you’ll notice something almost immediately: thousands upon thousands of fans ordering Scott to “Drop AstroWorld.”
In the age of streaming and playlist curation, this sight has become increasingly common. In order to maintain relevance and mainstream appeal, artists feel required to release as much music as humanly possible in the hopes that a track or two will make a splash. Nevermind that Scott released Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho, a full-length joint project with Migos rapper Quavo, less than seven months ago—fans want new music now.
As a result of this insatiable need of fans to constantly be fed new tunes, those musicians who would prefer to both stay out of the public eye and take their time crafting material in order to meet the expectations of such overly demanding fanbases are being challenged like never before. For those rappers who simply want to make music on their own terms and schedule, these fans’ perpetually ravenous appetites can create feelings of inadequacy or inferiority.
Denzel Curry’s latest release, “CLOUT COBAIN" (or rather, "CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13A1N"), the third single from his upcoming, long-delayed new album TA13OO, is an overt—yet entirely necessary—attempt to buck this trend. Curry has been transparent about this issue before, and how it has negatively affected his own mental health. In March, he indicated the desire to take a break from rap to focus on self-betterment. He explained the decision on his Instagram Story:
”Truth is, I feel weird about a lot of things and trying to give people answers to solutions when I'm still learning myself. I always focus on the negative when I shouldn't… I know you guys only want me to release music and you will receive it but as of now I'm not fucking with anything."
In May, during an interview with HOT 97’s Peter Rosenberg and Laura Stylez, Curry elaborated on his disinterest in the constant battle for influence that social media has fostered, otherwise known as “clout chasing.”
“Like, what the fuck is that?” Curry asked, laughing. “‘Oh, you just tryna suck my clout.’ Clout this, clout that. N*gga that shit imaginary! Fuck that shit.”
The culmination of these sentiments is embedded within the dark and brooding “CLOUT COBAIN,” as the Carol City rapper's very first line sets the tone for the entire track. As Curry sings, “I just wanna feel myself, you want me to kill myself,” he invokes the struggles of the modern artist to conform to an artificial persona, an identity focused on constant output and the tireless pursuit of relevance rather than creative authenticity. Alluding to the temptations that arise from succumbing to this derivative public image, Curry continues, “I stay low so my demons don’t acknowledge me.”
Similar to many of his contemporaries—such as Logic and Cardi B—Curry is grappling with the sheer weight of fame right before our eyes. Yet, he refuses to do so passively. As DJBooth has already covered this year, there is an obvious disconnect between fans and artists in terms of the quality and amount of music that listeners demand, and what those artists are willing—or simply able—to provide. Ultimately, this has pitted the two parties against one another in a lose-lose battle of perpetual dissatisfaction. When musicians are inevitably unable to meet such lofty expectations, they perceive their efforts as insufficient or undesirable. At the same time, fans are left feeling frustrated and betrayed.
In the final verse of “CLOUT COBAIN,” Curry emphatically reinforces his disappointment in this mentality, and delivers a personal vow to overcome it:
“Gotta be aware of the wicked, the time will be ticking / Them n*ggas still clocking on me / Lord as my witness, I handle my business / You n*ggas ain’t never ball-blocking on me”
In the context of longer albums and larger streaming counts, it seems reasonable to believe that listeners will continue to expect constant output from their favorite artists. But if we as fans, the lifeblood of the hip-hop community, care about the sustainability of these rappers’ careers, or more importantly their fundamental well-being, we must respect an expression of frustration or an appeal for change when we encounter it.
“CLOUT COBAIN” is an unsettling journey into a troubled mind, but a valuable reminder of our responsibilities as listeners.