From DMX to DaBaby: A Brief History of Rappers Releasing 2 Albums in 1 Year

Is it a good idea to release two albums in a year?
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From DMX to DaBaby: A Brief History of Rappers Releasing 2 Albums in 1 Year

DMX struck gold in 1998 by releasing two chart-topping albums in the same year, a formula many artists have tried to replicate with varying results. Releasing multiple projects in a single year has become more and more popular in the streaming era, but the jury is still out on whether or not the strategy is a solid one.

As an artist, can you give your fanbase the best possible product if you’re already thinking about the next project upon its release? Is your fanbase simply grateful for the abundance of content?

To answer these questions, we decided to take a look at the most celebrated rappers (and Frank Ocean) to release two solo studio albums in one calendar year. We also looked into why these artists flooded their fans with new music and whether the decision paid off.

For the sake of organization, we separated artists into four categories: 

  1. Strike While the Iron’s Hot
  2. Sorry for the Wait
  3. Too Many Styles for 1 Disc
  4. Volume Shooters

Editor‘s Note: We did not include group projects, mixtapes, compilations, or posthumous albums (hence 2Pac’s omission).

1. Strike While the Iron’s Hot

Momentum is the name of the game in this category. All of these artists hit the jackpot with their first release, and so they doubled down, trying to capitalize on their popularity by releasing another album within months of each other. 

DMX [1998]

DMX’s debut album, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, released on May 12, 1998, was the most anticipated hip-hop debut since Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle in 1993. DMX more than lived up to the hype, as the album sold a quarter-million copies in its opening week. His unrelenting energy and passion helped make the Yonkers emcee one of hip-hop’s biggest stars. 

It’s understandable why Def Jam wanted the second release in ‘98, just before Christmas. It’s also understandable why DMX recorded the project so quickly.

DMX’s second release, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, released on December 22, 1998, was an even bigger commercial success than It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, selling 670,000 copies in its opening week. Though Flesh didn’t receive the same acclaim as X’s debut, the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and houses one of the greatest songs in the rapper’s discography, “Slippin’.”

So, was it a good idea for DMX to release two albums in one year?

Yes. Two No. 1 albums in one year, both of which have since been certified multi-Platinum by the RIAA. It’s hard to argue with those results. DMX’s first five LPs would debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Ghostface Killah [2006]

While many of his Wu-Tang groupmates produced underwhelming third and fourth albums in the mid-‘00s, Ghostface Killah was riding an unmatched wave of consistency. On March 28, 2006, Ghostface released his fifth solo LP, Fishscale, a critical darling that also had the second-highest first-week sales of his solo career. The psychedelic coke rap album includes some of Ghost’s most creative storytelling of his career, so it’s no surprise Def Jam okayed the release of a sequel later that same year.

More Fish, released nine months later, on December 12, 2006, was as carefully thought out as its title. The disappointing drop had all the tell-tale signs of an apparent fourth-quarter cash grab: remixes, previously released songs, and only a handful of solo tracks.

So, was it a good idea for Ghostface to release two albums in one year?

No. For ten years, Ghostface was the most consistent member of the Wu-Tang Clan. All of his solo records were great, up until More Fish. Trimming down the best moments into an EP or saving some of the better songs from More Fish and using them for a 2007 release would’ve helped to keep that streak alive.

DaBaby [2019]

Charlotte, North Carolina rapper DaBaby, the favorite for the 2019 Rap Rookie of the Year award, followed DMX’s blueprint from 1998 closer than any other rap artist in recent memory. The 27-year-old, born Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, didn’t have the same hype entering ‘19 that the Ruff Ryders rapper had in 21 years ago, but both talents made their grand entrance with the same intensity and energy. DaBaby broke out with his top 10 single “Suge (Yea Yea),” which propelled his debut LP, Baby On Baby, released on March 1, 2019, to a Gold certification. A little over six months later, on September 27, DaBaby released his sophomore album, Kirk, which debuted at No. 1 and cemented his status as hip-hop’s next big star.

So, was it a good idea for DaBaby to release two albums in one year?

Yes. In a previous era, DaBaby would’ve likely pushed Baby on Baby for the entire year, releasing more singles and music videos. Remember, “Suge” peaked four months after the LP came out. Instead, he capitalized on the success of the album by delivering another full-length record.

2. Sorry for the Wait

The Sorry For the Wait category features artists who released two LPs in one year because their label delayed their first album, or they were inactive for some time.

Frank Ocean [2016]

Frank Ocean faced immense scrutiny from his fanbase after taking over four years to release a follow-up to his breakthrough debut, channel ORANGE. Frank went mute after delivering one of the most acclaimed projects of 2012, only occasionally posting updates to his Tumblr page, where he teased the coming of his anticipated sophomore LP in July 2015.

After more than a year of waiting, on August 19, 2016, Frank mysteriously released his second LP, Endless, via a video stream of the artist constructing a staircase. The visual album was as confusing as it is frustratingly elusive, only available on Apple Music and only in the visual format. But while fans had to wait 1,501 days for Frank’s second studio effort, his third, Blonde, arrived mere hours later.

So, was it a good idea for Frank Ocean to release two albums in one year?

Absolutely. Not only did Frank fulfill his contract with Def Jam by releasing Endless, which allowed him the freedom to create and distribute his music however he wants, but he also dodged major backlash from his fanbase. 

Fans’ appetite for Frank Ocean music would likely not have been satisfied with the experimental and fleeting Endless, an album comprised mostly of sub-two-minute tracks. The more traditional Blonde, on the other hand, is widely considered one of the best records of the decade and feels like the more appropriate follow-up to channel ORANGE.

Nas [1999]

In 1999, Nas was one of the biggest rappers in the game, and he had big plans for his third LP, a concept album that would span two discs, titled I Am… The Autobiography. Unfortunately, 13 songs from the release leaked online, prompting Nas and his label to push back I Am.... When the album finally hit stores on April 6, 1999, it was only a single disc, but Nas promised to release the second half of the album later that year. 

On November 23, 1999, Nas released his second album of the year and his fourth in total, Nastradamusbut rather than releasing the original material that he earmarked for The Autobiography, the Queens legend called an audible, opting to record all-new material. Some of the unreleased songs would appear later on his lauded 2002 compilation, The Lost Tapes.

So, was it a good idea for Nas to release two albums in one year?

Probably not. I Am... earned Nas his second consecutive No. 1 album, but the material was a step back in quality from 1994’s Illmatic and 1996’s It Was Written. (Yes, I know, the album houses “Nas Is Like” and “NY State of Mind Pt. 2.”) Fans and critics would’ve likely been more forgiving of the underwhelming I Am..., had Nas delivered a better product on his fourth go-round. Instead, he rushed out a second release. Nastradamus is not only one of Nas’ worst projects, but it gave rival JAY-Z ammo for their eventual beef.

3. Too Many Styles for 1 Disc

Over the past two years, both Big K.R.I.T. and Drake have released double albums, showcasing differing styles on separate discs. Sometimes, this strategy proves useful (Big K.R.I.T.’s 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, released in 2017) and other times it results in a needlessly long and self-indulgent affair (Drake’s Scorpion, released in 2018). This category highlights rappers who ran with this concept, but instead of issuing a double-LP, they put out two entirely separate projects. 

Nelly [2004]

In 2004, Nelly was still one of biggest rap stars on the planet. After earning multi-Platinum plaques for his first two albums, the St. Louis native went with a Guns N’ Roses-style approach for his third release, delivering two albums in one day. On Sweat, Nelly highlights his high-energy, anthem-producing style, while the complementary Suit displays his smooth, sexy side. Nelly executed both forms well, but did we need to 24 tracks over to discs?

So, was it a good idea for Nelly to release two albums in one year?

God, no. In selecting songs from both LPs for the appropriately-titled compilation album Sweatsuit, released on November 22, 2005, Nelly essentially admitted the decision to split the album in two was a mistake.

Lil Wayne [2010]

Lil Wayne cemented his status as one of the biggest rappers alive when Tha Carter III went Platinum in its opening week in June of 2008. For his next trick, Wayne opted to indulge his guitar playing with the creation and release of Rebirth. After a handful of delays, Wayne ushered out his “rock” album on February 2, 2010. The 12-track, 47-minute project proved to be the musical nadir of his career. Seven months later, on September 27, Wayne released a more straight-forward hip-hop album, I Am Not a Human Being, which by all accounts was unremarkable, but still a notable improvement over Rebirth.

So, was it a good idea for Lil Wayne to release two albums in one year?

Unequivocally, no. It’s hard to follow up an album as popular as Tha Carter III, but Wayne gave us two examples of what not to do.

4. Volume Shooters

This category features “rise and grind” rappers, the artists who live in the studio. These acts may not aim to release timeless classics, but they are sure to give their fans a project every few months.

Curren$y [2010]

After parting ways with Lil Wayne’s Young Money in 2007, Curren$y spent the last few years of the ‘00s delivering a steady stream of mixtapes and independently-released albums. By 2010, the New Orleans native had created a strong following, thanks in part to earning coverage across popular blogs, culminating in an appearance on XXL’s Freshman cover. 

Six months of hype culminated on July 13, with the release of Curren$y‘s third studio album, Pilot Talk. One-time JAY-Z producer Ski Beatz handled most of the production on the album, which was the first release on Dame Dash’s newly minted DD172 label. Five months later, Spitta delivered the sequel, Pilot Talk II. Same primary producer, same label.

So, was it a good idea for Curren$y to release two albums in one year?

Yeah, I’d say so. Curren$y has built much of his reputation on regularly releasing new material. While you could make a convincing argument that Curren$y‘s tendency to drop multiple projects every year causes some of his better work to get lost in the shuffle, he mastered the balance of quality and quantity in 2010.

Rick Ross [2014]

Rick Ross is no stranger to putting out a couple of projects in a year, but he often packages the releases together as a hype-building mixtape leading up to a studio LP. In 2014, he switched up that formula, releasing his sixth album, Mastermind, in March, followed by Hood Billionaire in November. From the outside looking in, there didn’t appear to be any apparent reason nor a strategy for the delivery of a second record, other than “Why not flood the streets?” Fair enough.

So, was it a good idea for Rick Ross to release two albums in one year?

Nah. Mastermind and Hood Billionaire are both solid records, but each contains a heavy amount of filler. Had Ross combined the best material from both albums into one full-length, it would put up a fight with Teflon Don as the best full-length in his canon.

Future [2017]

Future saved his career in 2014 by releasing multiple projects—mixtapes Monster, Beast Mode, 56 Nights—during a single orbit around the sun. Not including DS2, released the following year on July 17, Future’s output since then has been a bit of a mixed bag. And yes, that includes FUTURE and HNDRXX, a pair of LPs released in consecutive weeks in February 2017.

So, was it a good idea for Future to release two albums in one year?

Kind of. Both albums debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, performed well commercially and received relatively positive reviews, so it’s hard to say Future made the wrong call. But in putting out two full-length releases at 17 tracks a piece in back-to-back weeks, Future missed an opportunity to deliver a single, signature body of work.

E-40 [2010-2014, 2016]

If you were to assign the ‘10s output NBA equivalent of E-40, you’d have to go back 50 years to the 1960s, when Wilt Chamberlain was averaging damn near 40 shot attempts per game. Even then, the comparison falls short. While the Bay Area legend may have put out the equivalent of 40 shots in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016, one could argue that he didn’t once average the hip-hop equivalent of 50 points per game. In all six of those years, E-40 manufactured and distributed two-to-three albums not only within the same year but on the same day, all with a hearty serving of 14 to 20 tracks apiece.

So, was it a good idea for E-40 to release two albums in one year?

Man, I have no idea. E-40’s work ethic is unmatched, but he often undercuts his output by dropping a multitude of LPs on the same day. The innovative wordsmith’s peak position on the charts has dipped with each series of releases, and only two songs across 14 albums managed to reach the Hot 100 (“Choices (Yup)” and “Function”). This deep into his career, though, 40 has already cultivated a die-hard following. He can release music whenever and however he wants.

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