If a rapper falls off and doesn't stream it on Instagram Live, does anyone know they fell off?
The answer to this cryptic riddle and the answer to what it actually means to fall off are tackled below as we posed the question to DJBooth Managing Editor, Donna-Claire Chesman, and DJBooth Senior Writer, Yoh.
Their conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
yoh [12:37 PM]
Hi, Donna. Good afternoon.
donnacwrites [12:37 PM]
Good afternoon, Yohsipher.
yoh [12:37 PM]
What's on your mind today?
donnacwrites [12:38 PM]
Tricky question, ha. I am thinking about the rise and fall of fame. It all happens so quickly now, and I wonder, we are so preoccupied with how to get on, but what exactly does it mean to fall off?
yoh [12:44 PM]
Falling off is a concept no one considers possible. Why would they? Once you reach a certain height of notoriety, the top of fame's mountain, the idea of plummeting from such a peak doesn't seem fathomable. What often hurts artists, is the disconnection between where they were when pursuing the dream, and where they end up once accomplishing what they sought. That's why vision is important. Artistically, you have to see ahead—to know where you're going and to know where you want to be both as a creative and celebrity. Let me backtrack a bit, though. How do you define falling off? Who is a recent example that fits your definition?
donnacwrites [12:51 PM]
Falling off comes when you exit The Conversation, but even that is so ephemeral. I'm not sure people can truly fall off anymore unless they stop releasing music of their own accord and leave the spotlight. Otherwise, with the way the internet works and the way building and connecting with fans works now with social media, it's quite difficult to fall off because you'll always have your bubble with your fans. I don't have a recent example of an artist falling off for that reason, but what I do want to bring to your attention is J. Cole's "1985 - Intro to 'The Fall Off'" title. What does that make you think of—J. Cole and falling off?
yoh [1:05 PM]
Visibility and connection are factors that exist in the internet space. For example, in 2016, MadeinTYO had a huge boost in visibility thanks to "Uber Everywhere" and his placement on the XXL Freshmen list. Since then, he's slowly fallen further from the world's radar. He's put out records, but they didn't connect. That goes into J. Cole's "Intro to The Fall Off." He puts emphasis on how longevity is the result of talent meeting consistency, not following trends and riding waves. Cole says the kids, who are into following the current fads, will eventually grow out of their interest. They'll move on. Money slows up, concerts become scarce, and you're remembered in the past tense. If you can't stay hot in music, well, there's reality television. It describes how momentary being a popping artist can be. I'll say, even talented artist can cool off.
Do you believe that falling off commercially and falling off artistically should be boxed together? Asher Roth is an excellent artist, but after his 2008 frat-rap hit "I Love College," he fell from the world's radar after departing his major label. There was music—incredible music, actually—but without the machine, he fell deeper underground. He didn't fall of artistically, but that vacancy in visibility can be considered falling off.
donnacwrites [1:11 PM]
We have to bifurcate falling off exactly so. There is visibility and there is quality, and within the box of visibility, there is mainstream and fan-based visibility. As in, how you're viewed in the mainstream, or not viewed, is one type of falling off. That's the case of MadeinTYO, though we can both agree that he still has fans that care about his music. The same can be said for Asher Roth. He still has fans who care for his music.
Now, with a hit, the question of artistically falling off is a bit different. We never know which song is going to be The Song, so for Asher, his "I Love College" hit was a pretty distinct artistic low. Though he's never achieved such a hit again, his music has tripled in quality. For MadeinTYO, the hit he made is on par, quality-wise, with the rest of his output, so we cannot really gauge if he fell of artistically, but rather can suggest he stagnated. Which makes me wonder, which is worse? Stagnation or falling off?
yoh [1:26 PM]
There are instances where stagnation still feeds an audience who are hungry for more. I'm certain there are fans who would've loved if Asher stayed in the "I Love College" lane. Drake, for example, isn't artistically daring. You can say he hasn't progressed beyond the blueprint created between classic mixtape So Far Gone and heralded sophomore album Take Care.
Yet, Drake has been consistent. Rather it's with hits, solid projects, or a strong guest verse. Consistency can create a second chance to break out of the stagnancy prison. When you fall off, it's a significant drop; there's less attention, less excitement. It's harder to recover, and often reinvention is necessary—which can be a blessing in disguise. 2 Chainz had to recognize changing his name from Tity Boi was the only way to begin again. Falling off can be a sign to start anew. Self-awareness and the desired results matter in both cases.
donnacwrites [1:29 PM]
When you're consistent, there's still a spark to your music that you're riding out. When you're stagnant, you're just going through the motions and the work is passionless. To break out of that, you have to recognize that something is awry and really force yourself to start again. That same energy has to be carried over if you fall out of the public eye. Everything moves so quickly, you have to really fight to re-earn attention. I think you're right that self-awareness is the key to overcome falling off, stagnation, or any other trial of the music industry. You have to be honest with yourself before you decide to press on. The rest comes in time.
yoh [1:41 PM]
I see stagnancy as a ceiling to overcome. JAY-Z's Blueprint 3 and Magna Carta Holy Grail are stagnant albums. The broken ceiling is 4:44. If his thirteenth studio album wasn't a marked improvement over the two prior projects, Hov would've been criticized for falling off. Do you believe we should be patient with artists? Should they be given time to work through the motions before the public labels them a fall off?
donnacwrites [1:46 PM]
Do I think we should be patient? Yes, my patience is generally high. But the public is ruthless and things move too quickly for us to dally on a specific artist if they are not delivering. That's why building a core fan base is so important, because those are the people who will give you multiple chances and spread the word when you break your ceiling. No artist can always be hitting home runs, but the way casual listeners consume music, if it's not a home run, it might as well be a dud.